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11/24/2014

THE CHRISTIAN ORIGINS OF OUR AMERICAN THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

America’s national “Thanksgiving” holiday is rooted in the nation’s Christian origins and the habit of its first immigrants to set aside special days for giving thanks to God for His goodness and blessings. This custom can be traced back to the Pilgrims who landed at Cape Cod in November of 1620, who periodically would set aside days in which to offer gratitude to God for His mercy and blessings. This custom was carried on by succeeding generations and found its way into the national consciousness and calendar.
The First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims who landed on Cape Cod in November of 1620 were devout followers of Christ who had left the comforts of home, family and friends to pursue their vision of a renewed and reformed Christianity. They were not whiners but chose to maintain an attitude of gratitude even through the most trying times, such as the winter of 1620-21 when sickness ravaged their community and half of them--about fifty—were taken away in death.
The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims after they gathered in their harvest in the fall of 1621, about one year after their landing at Cape Cod. Although their hearts were still heavy from the losses suffered the previous winter, there were at least three areas for which they felt particularly grateful to God.
1) With the arrival of spring the sickness that had immobilized the community and taken many of them in death had lifted. Their health returned, and although sad from their losses, they were able to apply themselves to carving out a home in the New England wilderness.
2) With the arrival of spring God providentially sent to them an English speaking Native American, Squanto, who became their interpreter and guide, helping them establish friendly relations with Massosoit, chief of the Wampanoag, the nearest and most powerful tribe in the region. In March of 1621 they had signed an agreement of peace and mutual aid with Massosoit, which resulted in both peoples moving freely back and forth in friendship and trade.
3) Through hard work and Squanto’s advice about farming and fishing (they were mostly townspeople and craftsmen) they experienced abundant harvests during the summer and fall of 1621.
Even though they still felt the loss of so many friends and family members, they could see God’s hand of mercy sustaining them in the preceding months. So after gathering in their fall harvest, which was abundant, Governor William Bradford designated a Day of Thanksgiving during which they would pause to offer up thanks to God for his mercy and blessings. They were not whiners. They knew what it meant to “count their blessings.”
Englishmen & Native Americans Celebrate Together
The first Thanksgiving was attended by an approximate equal number of English Pilgrims and Native Americans. After Governor Bradford announced the Day of Thanksgiving, word of the event soon spread to their Native American friends. So when the day arrived, not only were there individual natives on hand, but Massosoit arrived with ninety of his people, and five dressed deer to add to the meals the Pilgrims had prepared.
The Pilgrims did not seek to force their faith on the Indians but neither did they hide their faith. After all, in the Mayflower Compact they had stated that they had come to the New World "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith." One can only imagine the emotions that filled their hearts as, in the presence of their new Native American friends, they joined Elder William Brewster in lifting up their hearts in praise and thanksgiving to God.
The day turned out to be more than they could have imagined. Not only did they enjoy meals together with thankful hearts, but they engaged in shooting matches, foot races and wrestling matches. It was such an enjoyable time that the one Day of Thanksgiving was extended for three full days.
And yes, it is almost certain that there was turkey at the first Thanksgiving for Governor Bradford had sent out four men to hunt for “fowl” who returned with enough “fowl” to last them an entire week.
Thanksgiving for a Remarkable Answer to Prayer
The next recorded Thanksgiving Day among the Pilgrims was celebrated in the fall of 1623 after a remarkable answer to prayer that saved their harvests. Governor Bradford tells how the summer of 1623 was unusually hot with no rain whatsoever. As the blazing sun beat down day after day the land became parched and the corn, their primary staple, began to dry up along with other vegetables they had planted. Alone in the New England wilderness, it looked as though hunger would be their lot in the days ahead, and maybe starvation. It was a very critical moment in time.
Facing such drought and bleak conditions, Bradford called the Plymouth settlement to a day of “humiliation and prayer.” By “humiliation” he did not mean a groveling or self-flagellation, but a recognition and repentance for the human tendency to trust in one’s own human strength and ability rather than in God.
Their day of humiliation and prayer began like the many preceding days, very hot with not a single cloud in the sky. But before the day was over, God gave them, Bradford said, “a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them.” Bradford goes on to say;
For all the morning and the greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked . . . which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.
The Nationalizing of a Day of Thanksgiving
These days of Thanksgiving were observed by succeeding generations, but at various times in different places as deemed appropriate and necessary by the local inhabitants. As the colonists began to form themselves into a nation, these days of Thanksgiving began to be nationalized and made part of the national consciousness and calendar.
For example, the Continental Congress which met between 1774 and 1789 issued several calls for days of humiliation, prayer and thanksgiving. The first one was to be observed on November 28, 1782. The proclamation reads in part;
It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in times of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled . . . Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday the twenty-eighth day of November next as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.
Shortly after being sworn in as president, George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26, 1789 as a Day of Thanksgiving wherein all citizens should offer gratitude to God for His protection, care and many blessings. It was the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the new national government of the United States. The proclamation reads in part;
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
A Day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday in November was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. In spite of the fact that the nation was at war, Lincoln enumerated the many reasons the inhabitants of America had for being thankful to God. He wrote;
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that these blessings should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
The final Thursday in November, set by President Lincoln, continued to be the observed "Thanksgiving" until December 26, 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day form the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.
Concluding Thoughts
Examining the history and development of our "Thanksgiving" holiday makes us realize how far, as a nation, we have removed ourselves from the Christian world-view and faith of our Founders. This Thanksgiving Day our president will go through a silly formality and "pardon a turkey;" but the depth of faith seen in earlier proclamations, such as those by Washington and Lincoln, is glaringly missing. This is why we must pray for another Great Spiritual Awakening in our land. 

In spite of the fact that "Thanksgiving" has become secularized and commercialized, we as Christians must never forget that the day is rooted in the commitment of our forefathers and foremothers to maintain a thankful heart even through the most painful and challenging times. So this Thanksgiving let's count our blessings, "name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, ordained minister and founding director of "The Revive America Project," dedicated to seeing another great, national Spiritual awakening in our land. In his book, America's Revival Heritage, he has documented this nation's radical Christian origins, available from Amazon and his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

11/09/2014

UNDERSTANDING THE FALL, SIN & GOD'S AMAZING GRACE

Words such as "sin" and "judgment" are taboo in our politically-correct, post-modern world that refuses to acknowledge the reality and gravity of sin and evil. Many Christian leaders, in seeking to be acceptable and relevant in this culture, refrain from addressing these Biblical issues and, instead, keep to a positive "I'm OK - You're OK" sort of message. In their attempt to be positive toward everyone, some have even removed the word "wretch" from the song Amazing Grace. Instead of grace that saved a "wretch" like me it is now grace that saved "someone" like me. Sadly, in their preaching, Jesus comes across as a nice addition--like a 70 inch flat screen TV in your home or satellite radio in your vehicle--nice to have but not absolutely necessary.
If America is to see anther Great Awakening, we must recover the true Gospel message that shows how far mankind has fallen and how desperately we need Jesus Christ. A politically-correct message that refuses to acknowledge the extent and gravity of sin cheapens God’s grace, undermines commitment to missions, affirms people in their sin and provides fodder for heresies such as universalism. Such culturally-acceptable preaching may stir the feelings but will never change hearts. Such preaching may lead people to follow the preacher, but it will never produce disciples committed to follow the Lamb where He goes (Revelation 14:4).
All Have Sinned & Stand Guilty Before a Holy God
The Bible is very clear that, as a result of the fall, every person on planet earth was born into a fallen and rebellious human race and that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). There are numerous Scriptures that refer to this, such as Isaiah 54:6, which says, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. In his letter to the Romans Paul makes this point by quoting passages such as Psalm 14:2-4, which reads, The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.
Paul shows that Jews are guilty because, although they have God’s law and boast in it, they do not keep it. He argues that the law, in the end, serves to demonstrate the sinfulness of humanity and intensify the guilt. As a committed Jew seeking to keep every letter of the law, Paul realized the law was good and spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin (Romans 6:14). The law, Paul says, was actually given to bring about the knowledge of sin and humanity’s sinful nature, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God (Romans 3:19).
What about Gentiles who do not have the law? Are they off the hook? Paul shows that Gentiles, although they do not have an outward written law, they do have an internal law of conscience that accuses or excuses their behavior; which law they have not kept and are, therefore, also guilty. This is why he can say of both Jews and Gentiles in Romans 3:9b, they are all under sin. The well-known theologian, Millard Erickson has said, “To the question of who sins, the answer is apparent: sin is universal. It is not limited to a few isolated individuals or even to a majority of the human race.” As Paul says in Roman 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Condemned Already!
In other words, a sinful and rebellious humanity stands guilty before an infinitely holy and just God. This is why John, the Apostle of Love, would say, He who believes in Him is not condemned; but He who does not believe is condemned already (John 3:18). Condemned already! In other words, before Christ came, the verdict had already been given for the human race; and the verdict reads “guilty” and “condemned.”
This means that God would have been just and righteous in sending the entire human race to hell. That is what we deserved, for in the blazing light of an infinitely just and holy God there is no insignificant or trivial sin. There would have been no protests in heaven if God had so chosen. Every angel and heavenly creature would have agreed that it was the right and just thing to do.
God’s Amazing Grace & Love
But God, in His sovereign grace and amazing love, chose to make a way for lost humanity to be saved. In an act that staggers the imagination, God Himself came to earth as a human being, lived among us and then died a horrible death on the cross that we might be saved and spend eternity with Him. By this mind-boggling act He made it possible for poor, condemned sinners to be completely redeemed and become a part of His royal family. No wonder so many countless sermons have been preached and songs have been written about God’s amazing grace. No wonder this message is known as the Gospel, i.e., the Good News!
God Confronts the Human Race
Through this amazing act of grace, God was not only demonstrating His love, but He was confronting rebellious humanity. The Gospel message is not something to be dismissed or treated lightly. It demands a response. This is what Paul was referring to when he told the pagan philosophers and intellectuals at the Areopagus in Athens;
God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31; NLT).
The Motive for Missions
The question is often asked, “What about those who die without ever hearing the Gospel.” Now, there is only one Judge and it is not you or me; it is Jesus Christ. We are merely messengers. We do not assign people to heaven and hell. We must, however, be faithful to the message and it is clear from Scripture that those people are condemned already because of their sins.
This understanding is why Paul was willing to suffer shipwreck, imprisonments, beatings, stonings and deprivations in order to preach the Gospel to his lost and condemned generation. This is why C.T. Studd gave away his inheritance and a promising career as a professional athlete in order to give his life as a missionary to the condemned masses of China and then to Africa. This is why Lough Fook, a Chinese believer, sold himself into slavery; so he could be take the Gospel to the lost Chinese slaves toiling in the mines of South Africa. Christian history is filled with stories of such people who, moved by the love of Christ for a lost world, gave up their own lives to reach this world with the Gospel message.
Key to Revival Among Native Americans
This was the message David Brainerd preached to the Native Americans of New England where he saw such amazing awakenings in the 1740s. In his Journal Brainerd tells about a medicine man, well-known among the Delaware for his supernatural powers, coming into one of the meetings and being powerfully convicted by the message of his lost and condemned state before God.
This medicine man later told how for days he argued and fought with the Almighty over the idea that he deserved hell. He said he finally stopped fighting and told God that he was willing to be sent to hell, for he could now see that it was what he truly deserved. He said that when he yielded himself on that point and stopped fighting, an incredible peace came into his heart. Brainerd tells how he loved being in the meetings, listening to God’s word and fellowshipping with other believers, even though he was convinced that God would send him to hell (the key was that he had totally resigned himself to the will of God).
Brainerd showed him that, although he did deserve hell, he did not have to go there for God had provided a way for him to be saved through Jesus Christ. This former witch doctor was completely transformed and became a powerful evangelist for Jesus Christ. Interestingly, he lost the powers he had known and practiced as a medicine man. His testimony was, “When the word of God came into my heart, the powers I had known went out.” He found a new power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is able to transform the very worst of humanity.
Key to the Great Awakening & the Birth of America
This is the message the early church preached and it is the message of the preachers of the Great Awakening of whom the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, said, “The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening.” Their message of Adam’s fallen race had a democratizing effect on American society for it put everyone, rich and poor, slave and free, in the same terrible predicament with only one remedy for all—Jesus Christ.
Their message had a leveling effect on society and destroyed the class conscious aristocracy of the Old World. It was as Isaiah the prophet had said of the coming of the Messiah, Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low (Luke 3:5). The extent of the impact of their message is shown in Section 9 of the American Constitution where the Founders forbade the American government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress.

It is time for another Great Awakening in our land and we must not flinch from showing both the gravity of sin and its effect on the human race, and God’s amazing grace that has been made available through Jesus Christ.


Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and biblical scholar. He is also the founder and director of the "Revive America" Project, dedicated to seeing another Great Awakening in America. His books on "revival" and "spiritual awakening" are available from Amazon and and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html

11/04/2014

REVIVE AMERICA - NEW YORK

Renewing the Vision – Reclaiming the Hope
Dear Friends,
The first "Revive America" event in Schenectady, NY was a great blessing and I came away with a deep and holy sense of Divine destiny in my heart; with the deep sense that this message needs to be heard across the nation. I thought it was interesting, and perhaps providential, that the first "Revive America" event was held in the area that George Barna has identified as the most "post-Christian" area in America--the "Capital District of Schenectady/Albany, New York.
FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
On Saturday evening as I was speaking about the significance of the early written documents by the early Pilgrims, I showed the Mayflower Compact on the big screen. I had a definite sense that I was to lead the people in repeating the two stated reasons they had come to this land--"for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."
At the end of the service a young man talked to me who was so excited at what he had heard. He said, "I am attending a community college and taking a course on American History. The professor told us that the Pilgrims did not really come for religious reasons but for economic reasons. But it is there in their own words." He was overjoyed and said, "I am going to Regent University to study Bible and History and I want to teach this like you."

THE MESSAGE THAT BIRTHED A NATION
Sunday morning was so powerful as I spoke about the message of the Great Awakening. I identified seven points that were emphasized by the preachers of the Great Awakening, that led the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, to declare, "The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelist of the Great Awakening."  I saw lots of tears and many came forward for prayer for themselves and  for another Great Awakening in the land.

FORMER STUDENTS ATTEND THIS EVENT
I was pleasantly surprised to see former students in the meetings. Paul & Naomi Novik and their three children drove about two hours from their home near New York City. Paul and Naomi worked closely with Sue and me when we all lived in Tulsa. Paul was a a student of mine at CFNI years ago. He met Naomi, a native of New Orleans, when her family fled Hurricane Katrina and came to the DFW area (God brings good out of bad things). Giancarlo (John) De Luca was a student of mine at WIBI in Toronto and he rode his motorcycle about 400 miles to be in the meetings, and was a great blessing.

BOOK SALES HAVE JUMPED
It is interesting, and I think Providential, that sales of America's Revival Heritage have taken off since this event. If you do not have a copy of the book, it is available from Amazon and from my website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You can join me and others in praying for another Great Awakening in our land and around the world. You can consider becoming a prayer partner and pray with me for wisdom and God's Providential guidance in getting this message out to the nation and the world. You can consider becoming a monthly financial partner and help underwrite the expenses of this ministry. God is our Source and we look to Him, but He uses human channels to fulfill His plans and purposes.
I am your friend and partner for another Great Awakening; in your life, in America and around the world!

Eddie Hyatt
www.eddiehyatt.com

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