Monday, February 10, 2014


When I was in school I learned that the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since the Pilgrims arrived millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a place where everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.

Unfortunately this isn't true.  The arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600's was a response to persecution they had experienced in England; But the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not tolerate opposing religious views. Their colony was a dictatorship that allowed no dissent, religious or political.

Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics were banned, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for standing up for their beliefs.

Ministers like John Cotton preached that it was wrong to practice any religion other than Puritanism. Those who did would be helping the devil. They believed they followed the only true religion so everyone should be forced to worship as they did.

The Puritans did not understand the principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others.

True religious freedom in America started with the vision of one man, Roger Williams.  He was a trained minister in England and took holy orders in the Church of England.  Because of his Puritan sympathies he had no chance of a job in the Anglican Church.  In 1631 he traveled to the New World to be with other Puritans.  In Massachusetts he was at odds with the authorities because of his belief that people should be free to follow their own convictions in religious matters.  

In October 1635 he was tried by the General Court and convicted of sedition and heresy. He was then ordered to be banished.  In the spring of 1636 Williams and a number of his followers from Salem began a settlement.  He called it "Providence" because he felt that God's Providence had brought him there.  He said that his settlement was to be a haven for those "distressed of conscience”.  

Roger Williams believed that any effort by the state to dictate religion or promote any particular religious idea or practice was forced worship. He colorfully declared that, "Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God”.

Most of Williams's contemporaries and critics regarded his ideas as a prescription for chaos and anarchy. The vast majority believed that each nation must have its national church, and that dissenters must be made to conform. Rhode Island was so threatening to its neighbors that they tried for the next hundred years to extinguish the "lively experiment" in religious freedom that began in 1636.

Are your feelings on religious liberty like those of Roger Williams, or are they more like the Puritans?  The Puritans definitely believed in religious liberty.  They just didn't believe in it for others.  If you haven’t thought much about religious liberty – and we seldom do if our liberties aren't being taken from us – spend some time today thinking about it.  

Do you really believe in religious liberty for those whom you disagree with?  What about other Christian denominations with different practices?  What about the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu or the Wiccan.  What about the agnostic or the atheist.  Do you believe in religious liberty for them?  

If you do believe in religious liberty for all, you will not make disparaging or hateful remarks about anyone.  John Wesley said, “Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God”.  

It is a good thing to do what we can to stand up to those governments that are trampling on the liberties of Christians around the world, but will we be as vocal when the liberties of others religions are taken from them.  If we truly believe in religious liberty we must be advocates for anyone whose liberties are threatened.

In the end it is all about the God we serve. The God I serve never forces the will or conscience.  He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  2 Peter 3:9 says , “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”.

God wants all to come to repentance, but he only wants the willing. He will not force us to come to him.  Free will to obey or disobey, love or hate, submit or rebel, is not only biblical but essential to man's relationship to God.  He wants us to love, obey, serve, and worship Him and to do so by choice: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve”, Joshua 24:15. God isn't glorified in any obedience, worship, or love that doesn't come willingly from the heart.

If God so freely gives liberty – even to do what is wrong – we should be willing to give religious liberty to all.  


Electrical power is one of those things that we don't spend much time thinking about. When we flip the switch we expect the lights to go on. When we come home from work on a cold day we expect the house to be comfortable. When we open the refrigerator we expect the milk to be cold.

When the power goes off we definitely think about it. It is about all we can think about. Last night our power went out. A heavy ice storm broke many tree limbs and damaged many power lines.

We went to bed and piled extra blankets on the bed to keep warm. When we got up this morning the power was still off and the house was cold. Our house is all electric, but we do have a kerosene heater. It had been so long since we had used it I wasn't sure that it would work. After a bit of maintenance I was able to get the heater going. We pulled our chairs up close to the heater and didn't move very far from it during the day.

We had no way of cooking, but my wife became a great kerosene heater chef and prepared some great lentil soup on the heater. We were able to heat water for hot drinks on the heater and also toasted some bagels. The lentil soup was so tasty. We had a great meal! We spent most of the afternoon sitting close to the heater and watching the bird at our bird feeders. The birds really appreciated all of the free food.

We lit our emergency candles and got out our hand cranked flashlight/radio combo. We didn't let our lack of power get us down, although the idea of a hot shower was appealing. We did wonder when the power would be restored. We knew that there were many lineman working on the power lines. We remembered the ice storm of Christmas 2000 when we were without power for 6 days. Although we were doing OK we certainly didn't want a repeat of the 2000 storm.

Once during the afternoon our lights came on for a few seconds, but then went right off again. We knew that the linemen were working in our area and we were hopeful, but several hours passed and they didn't come on again. I am very thankful for all of the hard working lineman who work day and night during these storms in very difficult and dangerous situations so that out power can be restored.

When the sun went down and it was dark we got out candles and battery operated lanterns. We had hoped for power by this time but had resigned ourselves to possibly sleeping another night in a cold dark house. We wondered how early we should go to bed. Suddenly we had lights again. But after a minute or two they went out and we were once again in the dark. Only a few minutes later the lights came back on and so far they have stayed on. Being without power for about 24 hours really makes you realize how much you rely on it and how much you should appreciate it and not take it for granted.

Just like we take our electrical power for granted, we also often take God's power for granted. We expect Him to love us. We expect Him to be there for us, but how often do we think about His power? I hope that my experience of being without power will remind me to not take God's power for granted. I want to say with King David, "But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress". Psalms 59:16


Several weeks ago we spent the weekend in Oklahoma City.  While we were there we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  The memorial honors the victims and the survivors of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building .

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the Murrah Federal Building and at 9:02am, an explosion destroyed much of the building, killing 168 people.

The site is now home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  As we walked among the 168 chairs that represent the lives lost I began to feel a profound sadness. The chairs stand in nine rows to represent the nine floors of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children who died in the blast.

The memorial is beautiful at night with subdued lights visible in the crystal bases of the chairs.  In front of the chairs is a reflecting pool between two twin gates.  Across the street from the Memorial, Saint Joseph Catholic Church has erected a white stone statue of Jesus that shows Him with His head bowed, standing with His back to the memorial, and with His right hand over his face. The words "And Jesus Wept" are engraved on the granite base.

I had wanted to visit the memorial because of my love for history, but never expected the experience to be so emotional.  That night sleep wouldn't come as I thought about those terrible events of April 19, 1995.  After I finally went to sleep, I dreamt about the bombing and woke up frequently.  I didn't sleep well at all.

The memorial had done its job.  You see the purpose of any memorial is to get us to remember the event and or people that it is memorializing.  Before that night when I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial I hadn't thought about the bombing for a long time. After seeing the memorial I was focused on the event and the people it represented.

A memorial is something that serves as a focus to help remember an event.  Are there memorials in the Bible?  There is a memorial right in the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 20:8-12 says,  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it”.

What are we to remember when we keep the Sabbath?  That God created the heavens and the earth.  When did God set up this memorial to creation?  Genesis 2:1-3 tells us, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made”.

On the seventh day of creation, God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  It is a memorial of creation.  Many people no longer believe that God created the world in seven days.   If we deny that God is the Creator, we have no reason to worship God.

One of the main topics of the book of Revelation is worship.  The first angel’s message in Revelation 14 includes a call to the world to worship God as our Creator.  Look at Revelation 14:6,7.  It says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’”  God wants a people who will worship Him as Creator.

To reject the literal account of creation as found in Genesis is to reject not only Old Testament worship but New Testament worship.   In Romans 1:24,25 the Bible says,  “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

When we deny God’s creative power we end up worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.   Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”  And Hebrews 11:3 tells us that, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”.  Faith is important to the Christian, and by faith we understand that God created the universe.

Creation is important; It is the reason we worship God, and the seventh day has stood as a memorial to God’s creative power from creation week until today.