5/6/78 – The Day That Changed History

The hand of Providence – isn’t that what history is all about? Even those with a distaste for history must defer once in a while to dates and events that have shaped what the world is today. Few people, however, are aware of the significance of the date of this day, May 6th, in the world as we know it.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, the island of England, once a Roman outpost, fell into turmoil, while wars raged throughout its small kingdoms, and the Danes, Scots, and Vikings invaded from the North. One by one, the small kingdoms of Essex, Sussex, Mercia, and Northumbria fell to pagan marauders. Christian buildings and symbols were destroyed, until finally, they came down to a small kingdom in the southwestern part of the island, called Wessex.

A young king named Alfred ruled over Wessex, and he struggled against these Norsemen, once even paying them to go away. But they returned.

During the winter of 877, he hid on an island off the coast, and when Spring arrived, he sent messengers to recruit men who wished to take up arms against the enemy. Overjoyed that their king was alive and well, an army of men came to pledge loyalty to Alfred. And it was on this day, May 6, in 878, at a place called Ethandun, King Alfred finally defeated Guthrum of the Heathen Army, thereby thwarting pagan rule of all of England, and establishing himself as King of the Anglo-Saxons, or King of England.

Alfred had the opportunity to kill Guthrum and his men. Instead, he had them all baptized as Christian and then spent a week teaching them Christian catechism before setting them free.

Alfred – the only true English king to ever be given the title “The Great” – set about to repair his beloved land. The destruction of monasteries across the decades had annihilated all education in the country. No one could read or write the Latin that was spoken. Alfred imported scholars who could translate biblical works and writings of the church fathers. He established schools for nobles and lesser men alike, and took a genuine interest in the welfare of his people. He set out to Christianize the country once again, rebuilding monasteries, reforming the legal system, and becoming a spiritual patron for the people.

By the time of his death in 899, England had taken on a different look, although war and plagues would continue to take their toll, and successive rulers would prove tyrannical, Alfred had established England as the most Christian nation in the West. His defeat of the heathens at Ethandun had been as important in Western history as Charles Martel’s defeat of the Muslims at the Battle of Tours. During the Age of Exploration, as Europe began to colonize, Christianity and Alfred’s civilized code were brought to England’s territories and colonies around the world, although not always as mercifully as Alfred had brought them to those he conquered.

So, where else does this great battle fit into world history?

A small port town in Wessex, called Plymouth, was set to be overtaken by the Vikings, had they succeeded; as Divine Providence would have it, they did not. And over 700 years after Alfred’s reign, a small group of Christians seeking freedom in the New World to worship as they saw fit set out from Plymouth, in a ship called the Mayflower. And they sailed into history. In Massachusetts, in 1620, they established New Plymouth, the second successful – and most famous – American colony. Today, Plymouth, England, still a port town in Devonshire, has the motto, “The name of Jehovah is the strongest tower.”

What different influence might England – and even America – have had if a Christian king named Alfred had not stood up against the pagan invaders of his nation? Fortunately, we don’t have to ask that question, but we can always ponder its answer and learn from its example.

Happy May 6th!

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Not Plan B

I am not Jewish, but the most important Person in my life is, so each year when Easter and Passover season come around, I cannot help but delve into the history (I love history) and significance of the Passover Seder, and how Jesus fulfilled every prophecy of redemption and every promise of reconciliation. And I fall even more in love with the God of grace, mercy, and restoration who planned for our redemption before He ever breathed life into Adam’s nostrils. Our salvation was not God’s “Plan B”! He had provided a way “since the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8). Before Adam was formed, Jesus knew what his mission was, and the plans were in place.

Before God ever said, “Let there be light,” He said, “Let there be a spotless Lamb slaughtered as the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.” (My paraphrase, of course). Before He planned for the life of the first man from the dust, He planned for the death of His only begotten Son on a cruel cross. Before mankind ever struggled with Satan, God had made plans for His Son to take on all of hell. The Giver of Life had already conquered Death. The One who had spoken light into being had addressed the total darkness of the sinful heart. The God of eternity had planned for that one single moment in time: a confession from our lips. And He waits longingly for that moment from every single person.

Our salvation and reconciliation were more important to Him than the creation of light itself, than the stretching of boundless skies, the containment of the roaring sea, the sculpting of majestic mountains, the weaving of the tapestry of the seasons, or the sounding of the symphony of nature. More than the stars He flung into their places and planets He placed in their ordained orbits, His plan to bring mankind back home to Himself took precedence!

Our salvation was not His “Plan B”. It was what He thought of above all creation. That is how much He loves us!

When we teach our children to swim, ride a bike, drive a car, we make plans first. Plans for their preservation. Swimming, riding a bike, driving – those are not our Plan A; preservation of those whom we love and cannot fathom living without – that is Plan A. You know your child, and know that he cannot swim his first time in the water. You make plans in advance to keep him alive. You send him out to swim across the pool, knowing that those plans will bring him back to you. He will not be lost.

And when He has sent us out to navigate the waters of life, how could we not return running to the God of Salvation, the Lamb of the Passover, knowing all that He has done to prepare for our return home? How could the words on our lips not be, “My God and My Redeemer!”? Before He spoke Creation, He spoke salvation. Before He ever spoke light, He spoke for you! You are His first love, and He can’t wait for your return!

The Unstoppable Machine

In today’s high-tech world, the wow factor is harder and harder to come by. People have seen it all, and some have bought it all. We have scarcely had time to adjust the settings of a newly purchased electronic device before we see a newer model advertised. The smartphone we couldn’t live without yesterday suddenly resembles an old rotary phone compared to today’s shiny new update. The wow factor, like so many things in our world, is now expendable and disposable.

But can I tell you about a machine that I guarantee really will Wow you? And the wow will linger. I’m certain of it! I promise, promise, promise this is not a sales pitch! (I am SOOO not a fan of sales pitches).

I’m learning more about this machine every day, and I never cease to be amazed. The role I see for it in the future is that of helping the Church carry out the Great Commission. I see it as helping us discover ways to feed the hungry and figure out the best way to end a war. I honestly believe it can help eradicate some of our most dreaded diseases. It can be used for so much good, should we choose. It is so amazing! I’m talking about versatility, flexibility, and multiplicity of uses.

You need a great camera? How about autofocus that can sense exactly what you need it to see, and constantly adjust to what is just right for you? It can record sounds for you anywhere you are, for as long as you need it to, and store these sounds for later recall. Which brings me to the memory capability of this piece of art. Oh, wow! How about the memory capability of more than one billion PC hard drives, with more connections than there are stars in the universe? All of that memory capacity is stored in a mere three-pound unit. It can learn and play games and store them for later. And it speaks! Oh, can it speak! It can converse with you, recite Scripture, poetry, humor, read books, sing songs, make stories come alive, you name it! It can learn languages and translate them, immediately adapt to flexion or duress in a voice, and actually read the emotional expressions of people and calculate the best response. It can go everywhere you are, and you will never have to put it in the luggage compartment of an airplane. It is without a doubt the most wonderfully made creation you will ever find. And it lasts for decades! There is no machine like this in the world. There never will be. It’s the human body.

God created us so amazingly complete and awesome, with billions of parts that work together to help us understand and change the world around us. The human brain is the most phenomenal creation ever known to mankind. Its abilities continue to baffle scientists.
Our brains weigh about three pounds. The part of your brain that helps you stand and walk, without having to think about left foot, right foot, is called the cerebellum. It weighs about 5 ounces! Jesus said, “Go,” and the great majority of us have that ability to get up and walk to someone with the news of Jesus! When we cannot go physically, we can go in spirit, through prayer.

Jesus said, “Look at the fields, they are white unto harvest.” We can’t even see with our naked eyes the millions of tiny neurons that allow us to lift our eyes and see the vast and teeming fields of billions of souls who need Christ.

Jesus said, “Give a cup of water in My name,” and we don’t even have to tell our muscles, nerves, and bones what to do to grasp a cup and offer a drink to a parched wanderer, or how to pick up a Bible and offer the Living Water to them.

Jesus said, “Pray that the Lord of harvest would send out workers.” And we don’t even have to tell our brains to form the words of a prayer on our lips. Our prayers pour forth from the cries of our hearts. “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Jesus said, “Listen and understand.” We have the most amazing memory system in the world. If our brain’s knowledge and memory were stored on CDs, the tower would stretch to the moon! Our ability to hear is present long before we learn to speak, but our ears are busy registering every sound and filing it away. We can hear the Shepherd’s voice and know that it is His. We have heard it before. He is speaking even today.

The human brain and body can withstand all kinds of hardship, yet still stand and testify to the glory of God. Yet we think our life is over if our phone dies in the middle of a text. What about the people who die without Christ?

No computer or smartphone, headset, or bracelet can ever replace what God has created us to do. Go, give, see, hear, understand, heal, forgive, live! Put down the electronics and go be human. Set down tomorrow’s antique and go share what is eternal. Cease bowing at the shiny gods of this world and bow at the feet of the eternal God. The world will never be the same!

Present Tents. Present Tense.

“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”                        — 2 Corinthians 6:16

My family enjoys hiking in the woods. When my husband and I were dating, one of our favorite things to do was hike the mountain trails in the woods near his apartment. We would spend hours taking on challenging trails, and hunting fossils in creek beds.

There is nothing quite like the sound and silence of the woods when you stop and just wait …and listen.

If you have hiked much at all, you know that at the end of a difficult trail, there are often those perfect clearings in the forest that just beckon you to pitch your tent, build a crackling fire, and stay for awhile, absorbing the wonders of God’s handiwork, like the brilliant stars that appear at night once you’ve escaped the lights and haze and noises of cities and towns. Those stars are more than holes in a canopy; the quietness of the forest and warmth of the fire more than just happenstance. They are the creation of our Heavenly Father. A gift for us to enjoy.

God has created this world for us, and us for Himself.  His ear is never deaf to us. His eyes never overlook us. His arm is never too short to reach us. He will literally move heaven and earth to get to us! There is no place He would rather be than in fellowship with us! He is not a distant and cold god made of stone or wood. He is the Living God, the One True God, who has chosen to make His home in our hearts!

The Psalmist said, “O, Lord, You have searched me and known me. You . . . are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:2&4 NKJV)

He knows us, yet He has chosen us as His tents, His dwelling places, here on this big blue ball we call Earth. He is with us. He IS, as in the present tense! And in the present tense, we are His.

As He dwells in these present tents, may we go and be to the world Jesus in the present tense.

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