Georgia History

SavannahSavannah is a wonderful place to visit. It is a beautifully preserved monument to the history of Georgia’s founding. I renewed my interest in the topic recently by reviewing Colonial Georgia and the Creeks: Anglo-Indian Diplomacy on the Southern Frontier, 1733-1763 by Dr. John Juricek, Professor Emeritus of History at Emory University. As a native Georgian and a Christian, I find some aspects of colonial history noteworthy and challenging.

In 1732, General James Oglethorpe, the planner of the much-admired City of Savannah, was among the Trustees receiving a charter from King George II for the new colony. Dr. Juricek explains that Georgia was intended to be “a refuge for the disadvantaged of England and Europe” and “where enslavement of blacks and exploitation of Indians were prohibited.” These great goals reflect Christian compassion and decency, if only our forebears had met them.

South Carolina provided generous support for our new colony, since these neighbors welcomed a buffer between them and the Creek Indians. By this time, the Creeks were familiar with Europeans, had established trading partnerships, and some had intermarried with the English. In 1733, at the recommendation of South Carolina Governor Robert Johnson, Oglethorpe selected Yamacraw Bluff to settle the first colonists and establish the City of Savannah. This was the location of an existing trading post and Indian settlement along the banks of the Savannah River. Chief Tomochichi was willing to accept the English and offer them land. From this initial encounter, Oglethorpe reported to the Trustees that the Indians wanted “to be instructed in the Christian Religion,” an admirable but overly optimistic idea.

The final authority for a land treaty rested with the various tribes of the Lower Creek nation which occupied what is now South Georgia and Alabama. During treaty talks, historic notes have one chief saying to the English, “I knew you were sent by Him who lives in Heaven, to teach us Indians Wisdom.” Perhaps these religious sentiments led Oglethorpe in 1735 to extend an invitation to John and Charles Wesley to serve in the new colony. Both were dedicated Christians, and John, an Anglican priest, believed his mission included the Indians.

It’s worth noting that the Wesleys and George Whitefield had become known as “Methodists” and were among the early founders of the evangelical movement. In 1738, Whitefield followed his friends to Savannah and served the church previously led by John Wesley. In 1740, this new Georgian was instrumental in the “Great Awakening,” a spiritual renewal among the colonies that soon spread to England.

Today’s challenge for Christians in Georgia is no different than in colonial days. Even if some of their efforts were flawed, the early Georgians did recognize Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Mat 28:19-20). That work is not yet finished, and Georgia is still a mission field as the world comes to us.

Dangerous Faith

We just passed the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorism that took American lives in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania in 2001. The same religious belief that inspired those events is still wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, forcing thousands of refugees to flee the murder and mayhem. As evil as this is, some people incredibly compare Christianity as dangerous too.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of wrote a book in which he made the case that Christians are the “American Taliban.” He makes a sweeping moral equivalence between the terroristic tactics of radical Islamists, and Christians embracing the morals Jesus taught and inviting people to believe Him.

Shepard Smith of Fox News apparently bought into this ‘haters’ theme more than once on-air. He chastised and mocked Christians as hypocritical for promoting traditional morality while rejecting Sharia Law as not applicable under the U.S. Constitution. That makes us dangerous and intolerant.

Laura Miller, founder of, and columnist for The New York Times Book Review was appalled to realize that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books are Christian allegory. She apparently concluded that the Christian themes that permeate the books are subversive. Perhaps she can’t reconcile her love of the story as a child with her rejection of Christ as an adult, but does that make the beloved Narnia author dangerous?

Richard Dawkins is a secular atheist author. He rejects a god who is “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal… capriciously malevolent bully” (The God Delusion). I’m happy to confirm that the Christian faith knows of no such boogie man. Mr. Dawkins’ writing projects and speaking tours take on the fervor of an evangelist trying to deliver his audience from what he sees as the dangerous trap of faith.

Is Christianity dangerous because it teaches self-sacrifice? What kind of world would it be if the greatest value was self-preservation or survival of the fittest? Is it dangerous because we recognize that our innate sense of morality must come from a Lawgiver that yearns for humanity to know Him despite our immorality?

Actually Christianity should be dangerous. The love of Jesus is a life-changing threat to selfishness, hatred, and evil. Faith in Christ is a threat to life without meaning, sin without forgiveness, religion without relationship. It attacks fear, anger, and loneliness. We can only hope that it leads to an epidemic of hope and healing of the human heart.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). Sounds dangerous.


Being Real

Let’s talk about Donald Trump. Stay with me. This is not about politics, elections, or candidates. But if you pay attention to such things, I bet you’ve observed the same thing I have about him.

To say he’s flamboyant and inflammatory is an understatement. He is willing to roil any demographic when given the opportunity. And therein, I believe, is the key to understanding the popular response to this non-typical candidate for President of the United States. The fact that someone may not like what he’s about to say apparently doesn’t enter his mind, nor stop him from saying what he truly thinks. You might call it being frank, or ‘real.’ Apparently a lot of folks like that in a political candidate.

Maybe some of us Christians could learn a lesson here. Do we try so hard to convey a winsome message that we aren’t being real? “God loves you and wants to bless you” is true, but let’s not leave that unpacked. It’s not the real message if that love doesn’t include God the Son dying a vicarious death on a cross because you are a Sinner (Rom 5:8). It’s not the real message if the blessing of forgiveness doesn’t include the possibility of persecution by those who hate that you’re a Jesus follower (Mat. 5:10-11).

Jesus was ‘real’ but he didn’t step into history to show us how to achieve a political goal. A wealthy man asked Jesus what he should do to inherit the Kingdom, an off-point question since it’s about believing first. But Jesus obliged and gave him an impossible task to do. When the fellow left crestfallen, Jesus didn’t chase after him with a challenge to believe; rather, he let him struggle with the impossibility of doing, absent faith (Mat. 19:26).

When Jesus talked about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many disciples left him. At the Feast of Booths, his teaching was so radical the crowd said he had a demon and the rulers wanted to seize Him. He was quite impolitic when he insisted on healing a blind man by the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, so the rulers wanted to kill him.

He knew many would not accept his statement, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (Jn. 8:58). They tried to stone him after that one. Same thing happened when he said, “I and the Father are one.” They knew he was making the audacious claim to be God (Jn. 10:30,33).

So you might be thinking Jesus had it coming. True, but not because of what he said. He had it coming by his own choice. It was for you. You are real to him, even if he isn’t to you. The humbling premise of the Christian gospel is that something is wrong with you, and you need a Savior. There it is, being ‘real.’ It’s not Mr. Trump’s job to stump that real message, that’s on us, brothers and sisters. Believe it!

Where Was God?

On September 15, 1999, shots rang out in the sanctuary of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas. A deranged gunman invaded the “Saw You At the Pole” rally for high school students who prayed at their schools’ flag poles early that morning. These youngsters faced what no one should: pure, murderous evil. Seven killed. Seven wounded.

Pastor Al Meredith could never have imagined what he was about to endure. In the course of a few days, he faced his own shock, rushed to the hospital, held the hurting, conducted funerals, answered the media. Then Sunday came. Ignoring the suggestions to cancel services, he preached a message that was literally heard around the world. “Where Was God?”

In a calm but earnest voice, he acknowledged the shocking news. Why? Why us? How could this happen? Where is God in all of this? If an all-powerful God really loves us, why did he let this happen? Why does evil abound?

He found the answer in Romans 8:28. “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He explained that believers have confidence that there are things we can know. The first is that we can know God, know truth. Simon and Garfunkel sang, “I don’t know what is real, I am blinded by the light of God and truth and right, and I wander…” And that’s the best the world has to offer.

Pastor Al explained further that God is in control, and can bend any evil to accomplish good. The proof? The most evil thing that has ever happened in the world was God the Son tortured and killed, but out of that came the most good the world will ever know: salvation for all who trust Jesus.

This verse is a promise with a condition. It is for those who trust Jesus, the called according to His purpose. The original word for church means “called-out ones.” We, the church, need each other, especially in crisis. Jesus calls you to love him and one another.

I recently contacted Pastor Al on the occasion of his retirement. I asked for his reflections on these 16 years since the tragedy. He said, “The darkness cannot overcrowd the light.” Remember, Jesus is “the Light of life” (John 8:12). He added, “God brings much good from our disasters.” The fact is, after the tragedy Wedgewood experienced such a great ingathering that it grew 50% in five years. He concluded, “God only uses broken people and broken things.” After all, Jesus said, “He who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mat. 10:39).

Where is God in your tragedy, your suffering? He is with you. He loves you. He is in control and can bring good from evil. He calls you according to his purpose. You can believe and trust Him, as the people of Wedgwood still do.

Sacred Work

I was there at the invitation of my Haitian friend, Manno. Far off the dirt road, down a well-trodden foot path, I sat with a little group under some coconut trees in a lean-to of palm fronds. I was in the country to help and to teach. But I was about to be schooled.

This Sunday school class was for illiterate people, so the lesson was simply the rote memorization of a Bible verse. Manno called a phrase and the class repeated. It worked for me as I still recall that Creole verse. The text exhorts the believer to work in order to have means to help the needy. It slowly occurred to me that this band of believers didn’t see themselves as the recipient of anything from me; rather their work was to benefit the less fortunate, despite their own poverty. I was ashamed at my condescension.

God created us to be productive and creative, as we are made in his image. Work is a blessing to our families and others, and meets a need of our fellow man, even if indirectly. If you don’t believe work is a blessing, ask the one who needs a job. The Christian is motivated by working as though it is for the Lord himself (Col 3:23). As we combine that with diligence, ingenuity, and anticipation, the blessing is passed along.

Since work is a blessing from God, it is our sacred vocation, even if it’s not income-producing. If you consider what is wrong in the world around you, and how that intersects with your resources or interests, you have found your calling. God made people “to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). God placed you where you are for such a time as this. Os Guiness wrote, “Many followers of Jesus today have not begun to wrestle with the full dimensions of the truth of calling because they have not been stretched by the real challenges of today’s world and by the momentousness of the present hour.”

All who have been reconciled to Christ are given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). There is no distinction here between the clergy and laity, for all share this ministry. Your God-given work is to bring the love, hope, and mercy of Jesus into your world, even your job, and that work is nothing less than sacred.

Was that Sunday class sacred work to Manno? Sure. But just as sacred was his work at the poultry barn for the nearby hospital, as he displayed Christ in his joyful and indomitable way with his co-workers and passers-by. If this poor Haitian Christian can find purpose and meaning in his life’s work, you can too.