“O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.” - Psalm 107:1-2 (KJV)
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” - Psalm 107:1-2 (NIV)
One of my great “Heroes of the Christian Faith”—a man who I admired for decades--was the late Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy (1930-2007), Founder and long time Pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Founder of Evangelism Explosion International (the first Bible ministry to be established in EVERY nation and territory on the planet). For many years he was Chancellor of Knox Theological Seminary, and was the Founder of the Center For Christian Statesmanship in Washington, D.C. He was also the Founder of theCenter For Reclaiming America, a nationwide network of Christian activists and Bible believers whose goal was to restore virtue to American culture.
Dr. Kennedy also founded Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale to assist Christians with the increasingly serious need for quality Christian education. He also started a Christian radio station in Fort Lauderdale, WAFG. He was also the author of a great number of Biblically and patriotically oriented books, many of which I have read. He had NINE university degrees, including several doctoral/PHD degrees, ALL of which were EARNED, not ‘conferred’ on him! One wonders what Dr. Kennedy did in his “spare” time. Hah! When Dr. Kennedy spoke, people listened and learned. I know that I did. How I miss his wisdom, his guidance, his patriotism, and his Christian statesmanship. Had he lived in colonial times prior to our first American Revolution, he would surely have been counted among the “Black-robed Regiment”, and rightly so!
If you are familiar at all with Dr. Kennedy’s life and accomplishments, you know that he was also a humble American patriot, not an extreme “nationalist”, a man who loved his nation and its founding principles, but who increasingly regretted what Americans—including American Christians—had cavalierly allowed to happen to our once strong and honorable constitutional republic. He often reminded his 10,000 members of Coral Ridge Church, plus the untold millions who listened to his radio and TV sermons and broadcasts (including my wife and I), that it was easy to blame the pagans, the non-Christians, the luke-warm Christians, the progressive/leftist followers of Satan, for all of the problems that are attacking our nation. But when he, and other Bible-believing pastors strongly accused true Christians, including those who call themselves “patriots”, of being the ones who were MAINLY to blame for allowing our nation to teeter on the edge of a collectivist Hell, one often heard “crickets” from them. Guilt can be a strong “silencer” for sure. I knew at those times that Dr. Kennedy might be speaking to others, but I shriveled inside when I admitted that he was referring to ME.
If you log onto djkministries.com, you’ll see a large number of Dr. Kennedy’s old recorded Coral Ridge sermons, all of which are amazing. My wife and I watch at least one of them every week, along with the ministry’s weekly TV broadcast, “Truths That Transform”, an excellent program itself. One of his old sermons that we came across was titled, “REMEMBER”, which he delivered years ago on a Memorial Day weekend. I’m going to base this article on that message from Dr. Kennedy, using my words as much as possible, but using his words or paraphrasing them whenever I must. Admittedly I’ll be copying them from his printed sermon that day, because I can never match his eloquence and brilliance. I’ll try to communicate his thoughts from that memorable sermon and do honor to his memory.
AMERICA: THE FIRST NATION WITH FULL RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
I’ve written before, here in The Times Examiner, about God’s “Providence” for mankind in general and for His people in particular. Dr. Kennedy often reminded his listeners that our nation, the U.S.A., was unique “because this was the first nation in the history of this planet that had freedom of religion”. Many people then, as now, failed to realize that truth, as though religious freedom was commonplace. It wasn’t then, and it still is NOT. Religious tyranny was the common lot of mankind over most of humanity’s troubled and barbaric history. A few nations, such as Great Britain and The Netherlands, slowly began to promote some degree of religious tolerance (not total), but only here in America did people experience full religious freedom for the first time in history!
Once a year, on Memorial Day, we as a nation (at least some of us) honor those brave countrymen and women who gave “the last full measure of devotion”, yielding their lives in what they were told, somewhat inaccurately unfortunately, was that they were giving their lives for their country, to “preserve freedom” and our way of life. Whether or not that was truly the case (especially after WW11), we as Americans and Christians increasingly seem to have overlooked the “One who fought the longest to give us what we enjoy most and who often is the most forgotten. In fact, there is a strange lament we find in Scripture that says, “My people have forgotten me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:21).” What a condemnation of the people of Jeremiah’s time—a condemnation that is ringing louder here in America with each passing year. If you deny that, you are part of the problem.
HOW HAS GOD’S PROVIDENCE WORKED IN HISTORY?
Dr. Kennedy told his congregation that “I would like to remember Him who ‘plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm’—the invisible hand of that One whose providence centuries gone by brought us to Plymouth Rock and established this nation of religious freedom that we have, alas, almost lost in our generation. Remember the providence of God, the unseen, the invisible hand of Him who was the real architect and general of our freedom.”
Many of our early leaders have acknowledged God’s providence for our nation. Back in 1778, General George Washington wrote a letter to one of his friends, saying: “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all of this that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more wicked that has not gratitude to acknowledge his obligations (of gratitude to God).” Only our Heavenly Father knows how many millions of people in this world, and sadly in our America, who refuse to give thanks to that One who rides upon the storm. Long before the British colonies became “America”, and for a long time thereafter, our people loved and worshipped this God of Storms, both as the One who created our nation of liberty and who brought about His miraculous deeds among humanity. For example:
- He opened the Red Sea (or Reed Sea) before the Hebrews who were fleeing from Pharaoh’s pursuing troops, then dealt justice to the Egyptians by closing the waters on them, thus ending the threat to those who would become “God’s People”;
- Another act of God’s providence occurred in 490 B.C. All of Europe and perhaps even North America, later on, could have become Zoroastrians, worshippers of Ahura-Mazda, had the Persian hordes under the Emperor Darius, who were invading Greece, been successful. But “The God of Stormy Rains caused the rains to fall…upon the plains of Marathon, which had a huge marsh that now was filled with water. The vast army of Persia was up to its knees in water, so the smaller groups of Greeks, who were mobile around the sides, picked that (Persian) army to pieces.”
- Ten years later the Persian army tried again, this time under the Emperor Xerxes, who sent both a huge army and a vast fleet to attack Greece again, in 480-479 C. “The navy of Greece was little prepared to deal with them, but the One who plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm caused the wind to blow and the waves to rise up and 200 Persian warships sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Even the huge Persian army was defeated (probably being demoralized greatly by the gallant stand of King Leonidas and his force of 300 Spartans (and several hundred other Greeks) at the famed Pass at Thermopylae (another of God’s providential acts (?), and driven out of Greece in 479 B.C. by the much smaller forces of the Greek city states who had banded together to resist Xerxes’ aggression. (Emperor Xerxes was the ruler of Persia who married the Jewish girl, Esther, whom our God providentially used to save the Jewish people in Persia from being rounded up and killed).
- Consider what began for Europe in the year 711 A.D., when the Islamic hordes from North Africa crossed over the Straits of Gibraltar, invaded the Iberian Peninsula, and soon conquered all of Spain. Within 20 or so years the Muslims had consolidated their conquests in Spain, and with a huge army crossed over the Pyrenees Mountains into Central Europe with the conquest of the European domains of the Franks in their sights. They rampaged and pillaged across two-thirds of what is now France, killing, looting, and destroying, until they came to the City of Tours, where in 732 A.D. they were met and resisted by the Frankish army of Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer)—one of my wife’s direct ancestors—with his much smaller army of Christian Franks.
However, the Muslim army was laden down with all of the stolen treasures, gold, silver, gems, etc. they had looted in Spain and in France over two decades. Facing the smaller Frankish army they seemed unwilling to fight, for they’d have to lose control of their loot. Their commanding general ordered them to put all of it in one place, and then for the next seven days both armies played a wait and see game, staring at each other across the plain. “Finally the Islamic general commanded them to charge. And so they came—this wall of Arab horsemen galloping across the plain. Then God sent a whisper. It was simply this: ‘The enemy is stealing our spoils’. First one column of horsemen reeled and turned to go back and defend their loot, and then another and another and another. Then the rest of the vast army, not knowing why the others were turning around, decided that a retreat had been called and suddenly the whole (Muslim) army reeled around and began to flee!”
Well, as my wife has recounted many times, it was then that her ancestor, Charles Martel (grandfather of the great Emperor Charlemagne—also my wife’s direct ancestor), attacked with his smaller force. At the end of that day’s carnage, the hordes of Islam had been thoroughly defeated, and the threat of Europe being conquered and forcefully converted to Islam ended until our time, when that same threat has re-emerged. But thanks to God’s providence, Islam withdrew from Europe for hundreds of years, thus allowing the Protestant Reformation to flower.
- Some time later, probably in the late 700’s or early 800’s A.D., but long before Columbus “discovered America” (another act of God’s providence), the forces of Islam determined to send a large fleet of ships across the Atlantic Ocean to discover what, if anything, was on the other side, and then to colonize any new lands discovered. “But He who plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm blew upon the waters, the waves rose up to Heaven and came down, and the entire (Muslim) fleet sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.”, and the “New World” was again spared from the Islamic scourge for centuries.
- Informed people know that Christopher Columbus was not only an intrepid sailor and explorer, but was also a staunch Christian who wanted to spread Christ’s Gospel to any new lands he discovered. His seemingly endless (to his crew) voyage of discovery in 1492 might have ended in disaster. Almost at the point of mutiny by his crew, he was heading for what is now Florida when God sent a flight of seagulls over his ship. The crew rightly believed that the gulls were headed for land, and they turned southwest, following the birds, and eventually came upon the Islands of the Caribbean.
- Most Americans don’t realize that had God’s providence not interceded, North America might have been “French” and French-speaking, rather than “English” and English-speaking. In 1606, fourteen years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the French government dispatched three groups of ships in order to colonize the North American continent. Strong gale winds and storms forced the first two groups to turn back, but the third group did make it to our continent, where they were dashed and many sunk upon the shoals of Cape Cod; therefore that French attempt was pulled back.
- Many years later, in 1746, the French king was still determined to establish “New France” on the North American continent, and to settle some sort of quarrel with the English, the Duke D’Anville amassed an armada of at least 64 warships and an army of 11,000 men, and sailed from French occupied Nova Scotia to attack New England, and especially to burn Boston to the ground. “But in a church in Boston, the Reverend Mr. Prince, the pastor, having received intelligence of the coming invasion, called for a time of prayer and fasting. He stood up before the congregation and began to pray earnestly. As he was praying, there suddenly was heard a sound. So startling was the sound that he stopped praying. The shutters on the church began to rattle and then the sound of a strong wind began. He prayed even more earnestly. The wind increased to a raging gale, and the (invading French ships) were sunk beneath the waves by the invisible hand of Him who is the Lord and God of Storms.”
NEXT TIME: God’s Providential miracles help establish our nation and preserve the life of General George Washington.