We have become a nation that has a tale of two histories. One that has a deep, rich, spiritual heritage that speaks of a Godly purpose and destiny that was born in the heart of this nation as it was founded, and another that is progressively seeking to distance itself from that, trying to pretend it does not exist.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…
These words from Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities, are hauntingly applicable to our present situation. America stands at the crossroads of human history, once revered and respected throughout the world for its exceptionalism, a gleaming “city set on a hill” as a beacon of enduring freedom, now reviled, its influence reduced, teetering on the brink of disaster. The eyes of the world are looking on, poised, wondering what choices we will make.
The American Dream
For centuries, this has been the land of the free, the home of the brave, a place of indomitable promise. Lady Liberty stands with her torch held high crying out: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And the immigrants of the world have streamed to these shores ever since. This was one place you could come to with the dream that if you worked hard and cultivated the land, you could actually have something that was “yours” and build a better life. That was the American dream—it said hard work mattered. It wasn’t going to be given to you, you weren’t entitled to it, but the opportunity was there. It inspired you to believe, to hope, to try. It said if you dared to dream, were willing to risk, you could create, innovate and dreams really do come true.
Is that dream dead? Are those days over? Sadly, some would say, “Yes.” With over 16 trillion dollars in debt threatening to throw us into an unrecoverable death spiral, a growing entitlement generation demanding their ever-increasing benefits be paid for by dis-incentivizing and taking from the economic producers, and a culture war raging so fierce it threatens to tear our union apart—I am sympathetic to why some conclude there is little hope. The laws of the harvest are clear: “…whatsoever a man sows, this he will also reap.”1 And in sowing to the wind for several generations, we are in danger of reaping the whirlwind.2 Those realities are all true.
The God of the Second Chance
Nevertheless, I would dare to suggest these same conditions may well present one of the most ripe opportunities for God to do something extraordinary! After all, He is the God of the Impossible, our Glorious Redeemer, the Grace-filled Reversal of Fortunes.
You only have to look to the Cross of Jesus Christ to know that He does some of His greatest work when it is darkest and it looks like all is lost. Now qualifies! He is still the only One who can create everything out of absolutely nothing—and that gives me reason for hope! Isaiah speaks of a coming day of darkness, but as opposed to hiding, we are called to:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; BUT THE LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Those days may well be upon us, and glorious days they will be. Why do I believe that? Because “where sin abounds, grace much more abounds!”3 Those are not words used to excuse, falsely justify or rationalize away anything, but Grace, the empowering presence of God to heal and bring change, is never more powerful than when and where it is needed most! And if ever there was a time we needed it, it is now!
America the Prodigal
America, very aptly, could be likened to the younger brother in the story of the Prodigal Son.4 But to understand that story as merely about two sons, who both were lost, one outside the house, and the other inside, is to miss the greater revelation. More correctly, it might be named “the story of the most Amazing Father you could ever have,” which is what Jesus sought to reveal most. America is guilty of utterly squandering its inheritance. Most assuredly it is in danger of severe chastisement, if not already under a measure of judgment. But, should this prodigal nation “wake up,” come to its senses, and seek to return—I have every confidence that it will be met with the overwhelming, restoring love of this most Amazing Father, a Father few of us have dared to fully encounter. “Oh, the party He will throw—you simply have no idea!!”
How do I know this? Unashamedly, I know the heart of the Father, and that is the source of my hope! Is God through with America? Not even close!
Yes, things are bad! The situation is grim. The remedy may be more than we are willing to embrace. But the chorus of the major and minor prophets would declare that all of history is moving toward a future day, the glorious finale of which defies description. Yes, there are dark days ahead, but there is an even more glorious future that is fast overtaking it, and that is what we have been purposed for. “Behold days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman will overtake the reaper….”5
There is an appointed season of escalation and a divine acceleration that will bring forth a harvest such as the world has never seen—and it would appear that those conditions emerge in the midst of when it is darkest.
Know this: evil does not win! It simply doesn’t. God can and will use it and our harvest of bad choices to drive us to a place of brokenness and humility, and in our turning—He will, with His overwhelming goodness, shower us with His love, wherein we are changed! Our best days are yet ahead!
Faith of our Founders
For the last nine months, a team of us, along with David Barton—arguably one of the preeminent Constitutional historians of our day, who owns one of the most extensive libraries of over 100,000 original source documents from the Founding era—have been engaged in one of the most inspiring and personally transforming journeys, rediscovering the forgotten history of the founding of America.
Being exposed to this treasure trove of little-known truth has been like what young King Josiah must have experienced as they dusted off the lost book of the Law6 and he discovered the true spiritual heritage that years of neglect and national disobedience had forgotten.
As a product of the public school system, this was not the history I was taught—quite the opposite. They had edited out just about any meaningful reference to God. The stories we were told were sanitized and scrubbed of any real spirituality—just names, facts and dates with little to no through line of any substance, no over-arching plan or purpose. The Founding Fathers were just a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and deists, right? Apparently not!
As I was introduced to a host of Founding Fathers I had never even heard of, their deep spiritual passion, their love for God, their consistent commitment to and reliance upon the Scriptures, I was amazed. This was not in our textbooks, but here I was holding documents and artifacts that clearly evidenced a deep spiritual heritage in this country. With a full contingent of required history in college, as well as a full Church history track in seminary, especially American Church History, you’d think I would have at least been exposed to some of this—but no! I knew none of it; I had never heard it before. That’s just plain wrong! Why is this not taught? How is it we know so little of our country’s history?
I was stirred with appreciation for their sacrifice, the persecution endured, hearing how the Bible first came to America. I examined one of the rare original copies of the Geneva Bible with the Reformers’ actual notes in the margin, challenging the notion of the divine right of kings, rethinking a host of societal issues. The dream of freedom had been awakened; the fire was lit and it would not be put out. Tyranny’s days were numbered.
Before the revolutionary ideas that graced the pages of our founding documents were ever penned, they were first preached in the pulpits of New England—the fruit of people searching and studying the Scriptures for themselves as they sought to discern how we should then live. I had no idea how central the Bible was to the unfolding drama—how it was forbidden by the English crown to be published in America, how copies had to be smuggled into the country.
America’s Spiritual Heritage
When I heard that one of the very first acts of Congress was to actually commission a publishing of the Scriptures in America so that the people could have free access to it, I was floored! Really? The very government that in 1962-1963 removed prayer and Bible reading from school, at its founding is the one that was desperately seeking to get it into as many hands as it could? So much for our popular conceptions of the separation of Church and State!
As they let me see one of those original Bibles, I realized that we have become a nation that has a tale of two histories. One that has a deep, rich, spiritual heritage that speaks of a Godly purpose and destiny that was born in the heart of this nation as it was founded, and another that is progressively seeking to distance itself from that, trying to pretend it does not exist. Given a generation of dominance in public education where God seems to have been edited out of the equation, we have now become a nation with spiritual amnesia. We do not know because we have not heard. That has to change!
The Founders’ Bible
A fire was lit in my soul that day, and what emerged was a vision for The Founders’ Bible: 2,272 pages of some of the most inspiring, insightful history and Biblical commentary from our Founder Fathers on a host of intensely relevant cultural issues that we still face today, integrated into a single study resource built on the Updated New American Standard Bible (NASB)—considered by scholars as the most accurate word for word translation of the Scriptures into the English language.
With David Barton as our signature historian, and a handful of others, writing over 200 major articles, The Founders’ Bible sets the record straight, unveiling the true and forgotten history of America’s founding, the source of what made this nation so great, inviting us to return to those foundations, and fan back to full flame the torch of liberty that is meant to shine as a light unto the nations. The Bible is “the rock upon which this republic rests!”
Never before has our spiritual history and the foundational understanding of our government and its founding documents been brought together and feathered into the actual Biblical text from which those thoughts and ideas were born. It is impossible to read this and not recognize that God most definitely had a supernatural hand in bringing forth this nation, and that His purpose in doing so still remains.
I don’t believe it is mere coincidence that 2012 marks the 50th year, the year of Jubilee, from when prayer and the Bible were first removed from our public schools.