What is the Jerusalem of the New World?

Follow the Clues of the First Builders

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer. Like the celebration of Thanksgiving, these moments are reminders that the United States of America was founded around the cornerstone of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Whether we are talking about a nation, a business, an education system, a family or one’s personal life, there are fundamentally two ways to build: according to God’s blueprint or to according to man’s blueprint. To build according to human-centered blueprints is to reject the fundamental design of Jesus as the principle and only starting point for construction.

Site of James Fort

In my last post, I asked for reflection on today’s builders. Are the current leaders of our country building according to the divine blueprint or the human blueprint? From the earliest days, the people who pioneered this great nation sought to build according to the divine blueprint with worship of Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone.

Consider the founding of the Jamestown Colony and the oldest remains of a Protestant church building ever discovered in the New World. For many years the site of the first fort at Jamestown
was believed to have been lost to water erosion by the meandering banks of the James River. However historian and archeologist, William Kelso did not believe the prevailing theory:

Almost all the archaeologists and historians told me it couldn’t be done: find the site of the 1607 James Fort on Jamestown Island. No way. Clearly, they said, the fort site—the place of England’s first permanent New World settlement—was long lost, washed away by James River shoreline erosion. The lost theory made perfect sense. After all, the first settlers chose the island to seat the Virginia Company of London colony because the river channel was close enough to the shore to moor their ships to the trees. Since the area near the channel had long eroded away, the conclusion that the fort site went with it was hardly illogical. (William Kelso, James Fort, Lost and Found)

Using the earliest maps and common sense understanding of the core values and commitments of the earliest settlers, Kelso explored a theory which began with the Church as the starting point. In his thinking, the colonists would have placed the church in the center of the fort.

Like any archaeological venture, digging had to start where there appeared to be the best chance for success. Where was that? The one remaining above-ground relic of seventeenth-century Jamestown is a brick church tower. Early records made it clear that the original church was “in the midst” of the fort. It followed that if that tower in any way marked the midst of the fort, then digging between it and the river shore might just intersect the remnants of a fort wall. It would take a dedicated group of experienced archaeologists and field school students that first summer season to prove it.

We did.

(James Fort, Lost and Found)

For hundreds of years, the ruins of a brick church building have been standing on James Island as a big “X” marking the exact location of James Fort. Prior to William Kelso, no other archeologist or historian ever thought to consider that the James Fort could actually be surrounding that very church structure. Just let that sink in, prevailing archeological wisdom could not find the remains of the old fort because they never thought to locate the church in the center of the colonial community–but not William Kelso!

The Jerusalem of the New World

By using the church as the key point of reference, Kelso has uncovered “Ground Zero” for the founding of the United States of America. The brick church structure was an newer, bigger and stronger version of the older wooden church building that was built in 1608 when the fort and colony were first established. As such, the brick tower was acctually not the center of the fort, but it provided direction and the needed starting point to find the once lost James Fort. There was an earlier church building that was the central structure of the fort complex. In 2010, the Jamestown Rediscovery team uncovered its most important find as they excavated the first church structure ever built in colonial America.

Then in 2010 excavations uncovered remains of Jamestown’s substantially built church, the first Protestant church in America, and the church where Pocahontas, chief Powhatan’s favored daughter, married tobacco planter John Rolfe. Remains of the church included enormous postholes with impressions of upright timber columns exactly twelve feet apart found near, but slightly southeast of, the center of the fort. The holes defined a rectangular pattern suggesting an overall twenty-four-foot building width and a probable sixty-foot length.

The Jamestown church, built in the spring of 1608, was described as “a pretty chapel,” with dimensions matching the archaeology. The discovery of four perfectly aligned graves at the east end of the post pattern left no doubt about the building’s identity. These have to be the church’s chancel burials, traditionally the place reserved for very high status people. (James Fort, Lost and Found)

As the first Protestant church, this 1608 church could rightly be called the first pioneer mission outpost of Protestant Christianity in the New World. As William Kelso says, “This place is hallowed ground to the history of the United States and is in a sense the Jerusalem of the New World.” Exactly 400 years ago this past month in April of 1614, the history books tell us that John Rolfe and an Indian princess named Pocahontas were joined in Christian Marriage at that altar. A visitor to historic Jamestown can stand in the very spot where Pocahontas would have been baptized and married. I know this because my wife, Brooke and I have stood there! It is quite likely that my 9th Great-Grandfather, Randall Holt, and his young bride, Mary Bailey, were married on that very spot around the Christmas season of 1626.

Jamestown is the crucible of the American system of governance and common life. On July 30, 1619, the first representative legislative assembly and government of the New World would be established with the founding of the House of Burgess—they assembled in the choir of the James Fort church! That day twenty-two representatives were chosen to represent the voice of the people of the colony. During their six day session, they passed several new laws including prohibitions against gambling, drunkenness, and idleness, and a measure that made Sabbath observance mandatory. Oh my, how our contemporary society’s priorities have changed!

A Modern Day Tragedy

The whole story of the rediscovery of James Fort illustrates the modern day tragedy of contemporary American life. So many of the current leaders and builders of our nation simply do not see, believe or comprehend the clear signs posts pointing the way. As a body, our nation cannot seem to find its way because we do not believe the markers that point to the central reference point—the worship of Jesus Christ as Lord. Without centering community life on the Chief Cornerstone, we have no bearings or point of common reference upon which to build a common life together in true peace, justice and freedom.

The assembled body of Christ no longer stands as the central unifying structure in American cultural life. As such, we have forgotten our history and our roots and are in grave danger of repeating many of the disastrous errors of human history. Like many self-focused false builders of the past, we will stumble and fall over the rock of Christ to our own detriment.

They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. –Romans 9:32-33

We will either build with Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, or we will stumble and fall over him. God has established him as primary. It is for us to get with the program and align our lives properly around him. The founders and Ancient Planters of Jamestown, understood this simple fact of reality. For all of their own faults and failings, trials and tribulations, their own legacy in building remains clearly unearthed for all of us to see.

I am grateful for the good work and passion of William Kelso who has literally rediscovered for the people of this nation to see with their own eyes the foundational building stone of our country. Out of the ground, we can clearly see that the founders and pioneers of our nation put the worship of God through Jesus Christ as first order priority and central to their common community life.

William Kelso writes of his personal satisfaction in discovering the lost fort of Jamestown,

In fact, that rather crude and fragile English fort site is really my most treasured favorite artifact. From that place eventually grew the British Empire, spreading lasting traditions of democracy, rule of law, private enterprise, and the global English language. Life on a good part of the earth has never been the same. (James Fort, Lost and Found)

My history professor at the University of Florida, William Woodruff repeatedly taught our World History class that:

“The two most significant and pivotal events in all of world human history are the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the founding of the New World.”

Indeed, we see that these two key events of world history are intricately connected. The founders of the New World had Jesus Christ as their first principle. Faith in the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ is what primarily made the first Adventurers of the New World the men and women that they were.

Today, the current builders of our national common life have lost sight and memory of the foundation of God upon which our nation found its early strength and character. Even when they look for direction in the history of the nation they often miss its the central foundation stone. The general population carries on with daily life with only 15% attending church on any given Sunday. We would do well to dig deeper following the reference points and markers that will lead us to unearth the core and central foundation stone of life.

While the dynamism and success of the Virginia Colony can be attributed to a lot of different factors and contingencies of history, the central component of the colony’s common life is now indisputable as simple matter of fact. At the center of it all, the Ancient planters and founders of the most exceptional nation the world has ever known set the worship of Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone of their lives and community. How can we reform and renew our communities and common life around the same Chief Cornerstone?

What does that knowledge of our nation’s foundational stone evoke in you? Leave your reflections and comments here.

For Further Reading: William Kelso, Jamestown, the Buried Truth, William Woodruff, A Concise History of the Modern World

Marvelous Manifestation of the Lord

A Miracle in the Temple

After Jesus’ death, the Apostle Peter was preaching in the temple complex and a crippled man (he was lame from birth) was presented before the Apostles. In the name of Jesus, they healed the man and he immediately stood up and began to walk. When the chief priests and scribes heard news of the miraculous healing, they arrested the Apostles. Then, they brought them before the courts of the chief priests and all of them were gathered together, and they questioned them.

Acts 3-4

Here is the story from Acts:

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

“Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” –Acts 4:1-12

Like Jesus with the Parable of the Tenants (see the last post), Peter connects the power-proverb of the builder’s rejection (Psalm 118:22) with the Jewish leadership’s rejection of Jesus. Where Jesus
was more subtle, Peter makes the point absolutely explicit: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders.”

He takes the connection even further. Compare the proverb to the sentence which immediately precedes it:

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders which has become the chief cornerstone.

The good news of Peter’s message in the Temple is that the chief cornerstone has been established, set in place by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If the crucifixion of Jesus is the rejection of the stone, Jesus’ resurrection establishes Him as the Chief Cornerstone! In the last post, I concluded by asking the question. “But, what exactly did the Lord do that is so visibly marvelous?” The answer is: “God raised Jesus from the dead!” 

Peter teaches that for this reason there is “salvation in no one else–for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Following the resurrection, Jesus now has become the primary reference point and marker for the proper placement all other building blocks in society and life. His life is the starting point for all who would have life. By finding true alignment with the Chief Cornerstone, the risen Jesus Christ, people are saved–indeed the world is saved!

The establishment of the chief-cornerstone in the risen Jesus Christ provides a particular and exclusive means of salvation for the entire human race. For Peter and the Apostles it meant that their lives and their fundamental loyalties would be governed by Jesus Christ over the command of men. The Jewish priest forbade their continued preaching in Jesus name: Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied,

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” –Acts 4:18-20

The implications of God’s establishment of the Chief-Cornerstone are dramatic and absolutely significant for every person on the planet. It means that each one of us must ask critically important questions of our selves and the culture that is built up around us.

Today’s Builders

So let’s ask some important questions about our own community.  Think about and evaluate the current structures and systems that have been constructed in our modern day society. Consider the works of today’s leaders and builders. In considering the political systems, the education systems, the economic systems, businesses and corporations, have the builders of our day taken their reference point and bearings from the risen Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone?  Have the builders of our day said, “we will use Jesus as our singular point of reference for every single thing we construct? Can you identify positive and negative examples?

Where do you see examples of structures and systems that center on Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone? Do you see examples where the builders have sought to establish systems around alternative cornerstones? Can you identify the alternative cornerstones, even name them? Join the discussion and post a comment by clicking here.

 

A Driving Intensity

A Driving Intensity

An example in the Old Testament of one who was a great finisher is a man named Caleb. Caleb was one of the warriors of God who was with Joshua and the other spies when the Israelites first arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land.

It first did not take them forty years to get to the Promised Land. That may be a surprise to read! They got there quickly and crossed over the River Jordan with a group of spies. The spies came back from the Promised Land with a mixed report. Yes, they said, it’s everything that God said it was, a land filled with milk and honey. They brought back some pomegranates and some really great things – but then they also had a little bit of a scary report:

So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height… and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” –Numbers 13:32-33

The fear of the giants spread through the camp. Everybody started to grumble against Moses and Aaron, and said, “What did you do bringing us to this land just to get us killed?”

But two other men, Caleb and Joshua, said, NO. It’s ours. It’s a good land. Let’s go—God is with us! While everybody grumbling and whining about the difficulty of the task—Caleb and Joshua showed the character of finishers. So God sent the Israelites to do forty years of laps around the desert.

In the book of Joshua, you pick up back with the story of Caleb again. The Israelites had started to conquer the land under the leadership of Joshua. But they started to falter in their conquest of the land. Things started to get tough and the tougher strongholds of those groups identified by the spies were holding fast. The Israelites could not vanquish them and so they started to give up on these tougher assignments and these tougher jobs—they started to quit.

Caleb was by then 85 years old. Here is the character of driving intensity (This is all found in Joshua 14):

“You know that what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me? Back then I was 40 years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me to explore the land and I brought him back a report according to my convictions…” Hear the character of determination which Caleb manifest; he had convictions, “… but my brothers who went up with me and made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I however followed the Lord, my God, wholeheartedly, with single mindedness.”

“So on that day, Moses swore to me, the land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever because you have followed the lord, my God, wholeheartedly.” Caleb was saying this: Just as the Lord promised, it’s time for me to claim my promise. That’s basically what he’s saying. He’s kept me alive for 45 years since the time he said this to Moses while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today 85 years old and I’m still as strong today as the day Moses set me up.”

Caleb was as vigorous to go out to battle at age 85 as he was when he was 40. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day!

You heard him. Caleb was a finisher. I love the way the story ends. So Joshua blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance… and there’s this little parenthetical statement at the end of the story here (Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba, Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) Not anymore. It is called Hebron, because 85-year old Caleb went up there and defeated the mighty Arba and changed the name! How? Caleb had determination in the strength of the Lord. Give me those hills! Caleb was taking names for the Lord at eighty-five years old!

Do you have a driving intensity like Caleb? Do you yearn to finish what God’s put you on this earth to do! It does not matter how old you are, or how young you are! What matters is that you accomplish your call! What matters is that you have a fire in your bones that says “Give me that hill country!”

The Adversary

The Adversary

The evil one seeks to trap you and keep you from being productive in the work that God has called you to do. God is not the only one who has a plan for your life. Oh, we have an adversary, Satan, who has schemes, traps and tricks. He tries to get us off track and prevent us from completing the work that we have been called to do by God.

His primary tool is the temptation of self-sabotage. Remember when the Devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Jesus to throw Himself off? He challenged Jesus to take a suicidal self-destructive leap! How many times do we self-sabotage? The evil one does not change his tactics. He is always trying to move us in to self-destructive behaviors. The problem is that we fall for it.

Some of these temptations come in the form of opportunities, actually. They can be distractions. He tries to get you to do things in improper timing. Remember when Jesus’ mother tried to get Him to do the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and He had to say, “Mom, it’s not the right time?”

When Jesus was very clear with his disciples what He had to do, the work that He had been called to do? When he said “I am going to suffer at the hands of the chief priest and the scribes. I’ve got to go to Jerusalem. I’m going – I’m going to die and then three days later, I’m going to rise from the dead.”

What did His best friend say? “This should never happen to you, Lord.” In other words, “I’ve got some advice and my advice is that you should just call off the Crucifixion. That doesn’t sound like a good idea Jesus.” Those who love you the most can be like that– they’re looking out for you, but sometimes they can take you off task for fear of risk. Jesus threw Peter’s words off instantly.

Get behind me, Satan.

Yes, Peter was a friend, but at that moment, Peter was a friend speaking the Devil’s sabotaging words into Jesus’ life. His words come in the form of human solutions, earthly kingdoms, quick fixes, and even protective concern. Sometimes Satan’s sabotage comes through our own fears, our own avoidance of pain, hard work and struggle.

He is sneaky and tricky and he wants to tempt us so that he can stop us from fulfilling God’s call in our life, and he does it in very subtle ways. The bottom line for Satan is that he does not want us to finish. Don’t ever underestimate him or deny him. He does not want you to finish, he will stop at nothing to stop you!

“Save yourself,” they said to Jesus on the cross. “Save yourself if you are the Son of God.”

Rather they should have encouraged the One running the ultimate race on behalf of all humanity: “If You are the Son of God, finish the work that You have been called to do! Go Jesus, Go!”

The voice of Satan is always tempting and taunting you to quit. How is Satan tempting you right now to give up on the race that is set before you? What are the things that Satan is using, his strategies, the little temptations to sin in your life? What is he doing to distract you from fulfilling your call?

Let the words of James encourages you…

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. –James 4:7-8