Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1777

The more I study and read about our Founding Fathers, the more I read the words they wrote, the more entertained I am by those who insist that all of them were godless existentialists or deists. It also makes me sad, though, because I know that most people today don’t take the time to read original documents; they believe the latest book or movie or talking head on Oprah or CNN.

While I am under no naive pretense that they were all faithful evangelical Christians any more than I believe that all people who faithfully attend church are actual believers, from the words written by their own hands, most of them seem to have had a pretty solid grasp on what they believed concerning their God and Savior. To make it a little easier for those who would like to read a little history concerning this Thanksgiving holiday we are about to celebrate, I provide for you the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued in 1777 by the Continental Congress of the United States.

November 1, 1777

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

The Redeeming Qualities of Edward Cullen

When I taught a middle school girls Sunday school class, we used to play what I referred to as the Good/Bad Game. I would describe something, usually a common situation taken to an extreme, and then identify what was good and what was bad. By taking a situation to its logical end and setting things in black and white terms of good and bad, it helps us make decisions in the all-too-common gray areas of life. It was an exercise intended to help them guard the intentions of their heart so they would learn to keep good things good by keeping them ordered correctly in their lives. It also was good to teach them how to find the redeeming qualities from any part of life; sort of a practical separation of the wheat from the chaff. It is a good thing to do because it keeps us from being blinded by the shortcomings of the things we like and prevents us from overlooking the good in the things we dislike.

I bring up the Good/Bad Game because I have been informed by some of my friends that I demonized poor Edward Cullen by only warning of the extreme danger instead of teaching girls how to enjoy this fictional saga in a right manner. In light of that accurate and constructive criticism, I offer to my readers the Twilight version of the Good/Bad Game.

If you enjoy reading Twilight because you enjoy creativity and good story line and you enjoy being transported to a different world for a time, that’s GOOD.
If you enjoy reading Twilight because it is an escape from reality and you wish it was your reality, that’s BAD.

If you’ve read it more than once because you missed some good details the first time, that’s GOOD.
If you’ve read it more than 5 times and have memorized large chucks to use as a comparison to all the men you date or because you can’t go to sleep at night without reading it, that’s BAD.

If you look for a boyfriend like Edward because he steadfastly protected Bella’s honor and refused to have a heavily sexualized relationship until after they were married, that’s GOOD.
If you look for a boyfriend like Edward because you want to find someone who so completes your soul that you would rather die than live without them, that’s BAD.

If you wish your husband was a little more like Edward because Edward had moments of endearing and self-sacrificial love, that’s GOOD.
If you wish your husband was a little more like Edward because Edward was willing to sacrifice even common sense and Bella’s health and well-being to ensure her happiness, that’s BAD.

If you think Edward demonstrated love toward Bella because he protected her from harm, that’s GOOD.
If you think Edward demonstrated love toward Bella by controlling what she wore and who she hung out with and where she went, that’s BAD.

If you love Edward because he met Bella’s physical needs and spoiled her a little to show his love for his lady, that’s GOOD.
If you love Edward because he sits in her room all night and stares at her while she sleeps, that’s BAD.

If you find yourself thinking that you are worthy of being treated well by a man and won’t settle for less because you appreciated Edward’s love and respect for his “normal” lady, that’s GOOD.
If you find yourself rejecting every guy who tries to pursue you because he just isn’t as perfect as Edward, that’s BAD.

If you’re really excited about going to see New Moon because it’s a night out with your girl friends who also enjoy the books and the movies, that’s GOOD.
If you’re really excited about going to see New Moon because all of your fantasies will finally be put to live action on screen, that’s BAD.

If you wish your husband would get into shape because he has a history of heart disease and diabetes in his family, that’s GOOD.
If you wish your husband would get into shape because he’s just not as yummy and hot as Edward (or Jacob, depending on which Team you’re on), that’s BAD.

If you recognize Edward as a type of Savior character and appreciate that a character like that should point us to our true Savior and make you thankful for his unconditional love and sacrifice for His bride, that’s GOOD.
If you recognize Edward as a type of Savior character and go out seeking a man to save you the same way, that’s BAD.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. And 95% of the people I know who enjoy the Twilight series are 99.99% in the GOOD on this game. My worry is for the 5% who miss the One to whom a character like Edward should point us. I stated in a previous post that stories like the one of Bella and Edward appeal to the hearts of women because we are created with a desire to be saved, and, deep down, we all recognize our need for a Savior.

So if you are one of those mature, grounded, believing women who enjoys Twilight for all the right reasons, take the opportunity to be a mentor to some younger ladies. Go with some girls in your youth group to see New Moon (again, by now, since it’s been out 48 hours—you know they’re all gonna go see it more than once) and then go out for coffee or ice cream and talk with them about that they like about it and why they enjoy it and what they can get out of it for their own lives and loves. Take the chance to engage their brains instead of allowing them to think they are passively enjoying “brain candy”. Don’t be naïve to think any of us take in entertainment and remain neutral to it; anything we passively take into our minds shapes our perceptions and outlooks on life.

Go forth, enjoy Edward (or Jacob) for all the right reasons, and guard your hearts against loving them for all the wrong ones.

Depression and Psalm 102

in Bible study last week I taught on Psalm 102, and our conversation drifted quickly to the struggle of depression and suffering. The following is an article I wrote to follow up our conversation. I hope it may be a helpful reminder and encouragement to those who suffer from times of depression.

First of all, there are many causes for seasons of depression. Whenever I experience a time of isolation or depression I ask myself four questions to evaluate it.

These are four reasons for suffering in the life of a believer (and I would qualify extended periods of depression as a form of suffering):

  1. Is this caused by sin in my own life? Is there something God wants me to do that I am not doing? Is there something God wants me to quit doing and I refuse? Is my depression caused by unrepentance and I am just far from God? Maybe you are depressed because life if not working out according to your plan. Maybe you are suffering because of poor choices you have made. If the cause of your circumstance is something you’ve done, is there anything you can do to improve the situation or do you just need to humbly accept the consequences of your choices and adjust your life accordingly?
  2. Is this caused by the sin of someone else? Am I suffering because of the actions of another? If so, what do I need to do to prevent resentment and bitterness from leading to sustained depression? Examples would be suffering abuse at the hand of someone else, suffering the consequences of someone else’s bad choice, like a spouse that chooses to leave the family or financial hardship brought about by poor decisions of another person.
  3. Is this caused by the presence of sin in this fallen world (natural disaster, disease)? If so, what can I do to lessen the suffering brought on by this situation? Maybe you experience seasonal depression that is triggered by a traumatic event in your life, or the death of a loved one or some other event. If you begin to recognize a pattern to your times of depression, talk with someone who may be able to help you identify a trigger and help you set up some preventative measures to lessen or end your times of depression.
  4. Is this a time of suffering with an unknown cause? If so, am I living in the truth that God is sovereign even when I don’t understand? Many times we overlook the things we can do to help improve our situations and our emotions; we have more control over our minds and our emotions than I think we realize sometimes. But when we take an honest look at our lives and we can find no reason or “trigger”, it may be that God is allowing a time of depression and suffering to prepare us for a time later down the road or maybe it’s to teach us something about Him or about ourselves. Or maybe we could be like Job and our suffering isn’t actually about us at all.

Second, I hope that no one thinks this post is intended to offer a quick fix to depression or other forms of suffering we experience. The truth is that there is no 3 step program to end suffering; sometimes we do all of the “right things” and we continue to suffer. Ultimately, we are to turn to God and worship Him because He is worthy to be worshiped and praised— whether we are freed from our suffering or not. This Psalm is not about how to end depression; the point of Psalm 102 is that we should focus our thoughts and our worship on God in spite of our depression. Job said, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.” If anyone had a reason to be depressed, it was Job! And depressed he was; he sat in his underwear, outside, in an ash heap, covered in boils, grieving the death of all of his children and the loss of all of his possessions. Yet through all of that he still praised God.

In his commentary on this Psalm, Spurgeon gives two lists for us to keep in mind.

First is the relationship between the afflicted man and prayer (Spurgeon’s words are in bold):

  1. Afflicted men may pray. Being in a time of depression does not somehow disqualify us from praying.
  2. Afflicted men should pray even when overwhelmed. In fact, I can’t think of a time when we need to pray more!
  3. Afflicted men can pray—for what is wanted is a pouring out of their complaint, not an oratorical display. God knows your heart, but He still desires you share it with Him!
  4. Afflicted men are accepted in prayer—for this prayer is on record. If God did not want us to pray in times of depression, He would not have recorded a lesson in how to pray when we are depressed.  

Second is a reminder of the things “unbelieving sorrow” makes us forget. Unbelieving sorrow describes those times of depression that are brought about (or sustained longer than they need be) by unrepentant sin in our own lives:

  1. We forget the promises of God.
  2. We forget the past and its experiences. Sometimes we are so focused on the present suffering we forget the healing and saving work God has done in our lives in the past.
  3. We forget the Lord Jesus, our life.
  4. We forget the everlasting love of God. This leads to weakness, faintness, etc., and is to be avoided.

Sometimes we have legitimate reasons to be depressed for a time: grief, chemical imbalances, trauma, stress. But by not working to combat the depression, we stay in it longer that we need to. Sometimes depression becomes our identity and then it becomes an idol. To prevent this from happening, we must continue to remember the things listed above so that the times of depression we cannot control to not last longer than they should.

The point of this post is to remind us (remind me) that we are to continue to praise God through our times of suffering just like we praise Him in our times of joy. Sometimes, the truest worship comes in the times of sorrow and pain and depression. It’s easy for people to worship in the good times; even Judas Iscariot appeared to worship Jesus when the money bags were full and the multitudes crowded around to see and hear Him. But to worship in the bad times, to praise Him in the midst of the storms of life, is to show the depth of your devotion and love for Him. And sometimes, just keeping the focus off of us and on Him, the times of depression just may not be as bad as they could have been. 

I hope this clears some questions people may have concerning depression. I have been known to overclarify things in the past, but I just want to make sure that everyone knows that I do not discount depression or the experience of depression. The Lord created us capable of having the emotional experience of depression which means we must learn how to use it for our growth and for His glory, and I hope conversations like the ones this hopefully begins will allow us to learn how to do that better!