Thinking Little is what Jesus did when he spent his first thirty years in quiet, obscurity, obeying his parents in Nazareth. It’s why he spent his three-year ministry training 12 disciples, and confined himself to a small area, in order to change the world.
In 1970, the author Wendell Berry wrote an essay called “Think Little”. He argues that in order to sustain the Green Movement over the long-term, it can’t just be something we expect Big Thinkers in government to fix. It’s got to be dealt with by personal change in how we live. “For most of the history of this country [the USA] our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. A better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little”. P.54. By Think Little, he means we need to stop hiding behind general, vague slogans, and get specific. We need to build our marriages, care for a garden, and switch the lights off. There’s nothing Christian about the essay. But I love the basic idea.
“Don’t Think Big. Think Little.” I wish Christians would adopt this mindset.
This doesn’t sound obvious, at first, does it? As Christians, we have all kinds of reasons to Think Big. Our God is Big, after all. Isaiah tells us “the nations are like a drop from a bucket” to him (Isa 40:15). The Great Commission is Big; Jesus sends us out to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The consequences are Big—people will spend an eternity in heaven and hell depending on how they respond to Jesus (John 3:16). Therefore, having big ambitions for Christ’s kingdom seems only natural. Surely, we want the little mustard seed to grow big (Matt 13:31-32)? Jesus is Saviour of the world (John 4:42).
But it’s precisely at this point that the danger of Thinking Big appears. It gets very hard to disentangle our promotion of Christ from self-promotion. Every Christian ministry knows this, if they’re honest. It’s scary how building platforms and “brand” have become part and parcel of our thinking. We feel the pull of the internet, and the size and scale of the audience it offers (especially among the young), and we’d love to harness it for Jesus Christ. But before we know it, our well-meant enthusiasm gets sucked into the hype of Big Thinking. Fads and bandwagons periodically roll through the Christian church. So-and-so becomes “the Next Big Thing”. The Think Big slogan doesn’t fit very well with the spirit of John the Baptist, who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
You Might also like
By Larry Ball — 2 months ago
Ultimately, evangelism is our only hope. A Christian nation must come from the bottom up (the hearts of a converted people), not from the top down (political legislation). Neither will it come from heavy-weight books. America must be discipled again with the gospel before we can begin to think about being a Christian nation. Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations (and not just a few elect from among the nations), and that includes America. Here is where we must begin.
The debate is hot as I predicted (Christian Nationalism – Dump the Term While We Still Can). Dr. Steven Wolfe has led the way with his book titled The Case for Christian Nationalism. Most critical reviews of his book have been hard-hitting (The Rise of Right-Wing Wokeism by Kevin DeYoung). I do not think the popularity of the book will survive. I hope Dr. Wolfe does.
The phrase Christian Nationalism sounds like a political movement. I suppose this is one reason I do not use the term. I prefer the term Christian Nation which is much more rooted in the Bible. The title “A Case for a Christian Nation” would have been more to my liking.
As I view the landscape of the culture behind the book, and the cultures behind the critical reviews, it appears to me that there are some fundamental issues missing in the whole discussion. Maybe it is my training in mathematics, but from all that I have read, I do not think those on either side are asking the right questions.
Let us deal with two main issues that are missing in this whole discussion.
The Definition of a Nation
Before the rise of modern America, defining a nation was not a difficult task. I think we have made things too complex. Maybe, because we live in America, we have become unable to define a traditional nation. The Bible assumes that we know what a nation is because it commands us to disciple them. Biblically, a nation was defined by four components – language, borders, religion, and common ancestry.
First, In Acts 2:6, on the day of Pentecost, each nation could be identified by a distinct language. Secondly, in Acts 17:26, Paul tells those on Mars Hill that God has determined the “times and boundaries” of the nations.
Thirdly, all nations have a god or a religion that determines their civil laws and culture. As Rushdoony said years ago, the source of law in any nation is the god of that nation. National customs and traditions are often the application of the religion of a particular nation. For example, Christmas is still a national holiday in secular America. In a post-Christian society, I suppose it is a holiday just too good to give up. My wife and I are the only ones on our street that go to church, but nearly everyone has their house decorated for Christmas.
Lastly, the word “nation” is derived from the same word from which we get the word “nativity.” It is the root word for birth. Nations or countries in history, before America was born, were formed from people with common ancestors like the nation of Edom, the nation of Ammon, or the nation of Moab; or from a common region of people who shared common traits, like the land of the giants (Anakim). In the time of Christ, Rome was an empire, but Israel was a nation. The recent world wars were fought by nations mostly defined by these four markers, perhaps except for America. Sadly, the mere historical recognition of this attribute today harbors the risk being called a racist.
Although originally the United States consisted of white Europeans, we have decided that we can dispense with the ancestor marker and create a land mixed with different ethnicities and nationalities. This is often justified by an appeal to the universality of the gospel. The universality of the gospel may be ideal for the church community, but in my opinion, the universality of the gospel cannot hold together a multi-ethic nation unless that nation is first a Christian nation.
America is still an experiment in process, and the last chapter of our history has yet to be written. We are becoming an Empire that holds subservient nations (ethnic groups) together by the force of law. Today, we define our nation by an idea (democracy will keep us together) rather than by the four attributes previously mentioned. Whether we can defy these four historical makers, we will see. Right now, with the rise of CRT, BLM, Wokism, and open borders, our future looks dim.
Was America Ever Christian?
To answer this question, we must go back and define some concepts (my mathematics background again). There are three markers in the United States that could be used to consider whether we were ever a Christian nation. I call them social, command, and legal.
First, socially America was indeed a Christian nation at her beginnings. Christian values permeated our people and our institutions. This is generally considered beyond debate. We do not need a new book pleading for something we want to be (a Christian nation), when we have plenty of history of what we once were (a Christian nation).
I remember not long ago when marriage was only between a man and a woman, abortion was illegal, and locally owned businesses were closed on Sunday and Wednesday evenings (for church prayer meetings). Church steeples still cover the landscape of our nation. These were a just a few of the many attributes that made us a Christian nation. Thus, from a social perspective America was originally a Christian nation. With the rise of Neo-Marxism coming out of our universities and the decline of the church, the Christian social fabric of our nation is dying.
Secondly, I use the word command to describe the structure of the American governmental system. Most state constitutions originally had a religious test in order to hold office which included oaths to the Triune God or to the Bible. When America was defined as a confederation of states with civil power posited in those states, America was a Christian nation.
The States were the loci of power. The States could command their people in accordance with their own constitutions and Christian principles. It is interesting to note that the State of Tennessee today codifies in its Constitution that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. However, in essence, this is null and void because state constitutions are basically irrelevant in the present system of civil government where the power of command is now lodged at the federal level.
As a result of the Civil War, the pivot point of the command component shifted from the States to Washington, D.C. With this shift, America ceased to be a Christian Nation. Thus, if we use the command component as a baseline, and the fact that at one time America consisted of nation-states, we can conclude that America was originally a Christian nation. With this change in the command component, we are no longer a Christian nation.
Thirdly, from a legal perspective, since the loci of command has shifted to the federal government, the United States Constitution is now the dominant legal document. It is the final reference point for all legal matters, as it is interpreted by the Supreme Court. Originally, from a legal perspective, America as a confederation of states was a Christian nation. Not so now.
It is my view that the United States Constitution was never a Christian document. We must realize that our founding forefathers had clay feet just like us. I believe George Washington (who presided over the Constitutional Convention) was a Christian man, but I think his commitment to the Masonic Lodge (with its unitarian god) was greater than his commitment to the Church. Ben Franklin, a prominent presence at the Convention, was a deist in addition to being a Mason.
James Madison (not a Mason) studied under Rev. John Witherspoon at what is now Princeton University, but he graduated with a commitment to the perspective of Scottish Realism and Natural Law (learned from Witherspoon). Religion was good for civil order, but Christian denominations served America best by fighting with each other. In his mind, this would keep them from establishing a national church.
Christianity so permeated society in early America that our founders could not foresee what would be happening in a little over 200 years. In predicting the long-term consequences of present actions, we all have our blind spots.
I believe this decision to become legally a secular nation on the federal level during the Constitution Convention was deliberate. There was a real disconnect between the lawyers at the Convention and the clergy in their pulpits. There was no reference to the Triune God of the Bible or his law in the Constitution. No religious test was allowed on the national level as it was required on the state level in most states.
Luther Martin, a delegate to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention from the State of Maryland, said of the debate on this issue:
“The part of the system, which provides that no religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, was adopted by a great majority of the Convention, and without much debate. However, there were some members so unfashionable (like Mr. Martin) as to think that a belief of the existence of a Deity, and of a state of future rewards and punishments, would be welcome security for the good conduct of our rulers, and that in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.”
Some argue that a religious test was not needed because the Constitution was intended as a procedural manual only (Rushdoony). Others argue that since the states had religious tests then none was needed in the U. S. Constitution (DeMar). Some, like myself, reject both these arguments. I think those who authored the Constitution knew exactly what they were doing. They were creating a secular national government based on what they conceived as Natural Law. Thus, welcome to modern America, the product of a secular United States Constitution.
A religious test in the United States Constitution would have made America legally a Christian nation on a national level, but our forefathers chose a different structure. With the rise of power in the hands of the federal government supplanting the state governments, America legally forfeited its status as a Christian nation. Legally, the God of the Bible no longer exists, and if he does exist, he is no longer relevant.
One Christian clergyman saw it all very clearly in his own day. In 1788 the Rev. Henry Abbot was a member of the North Carolina State Convention which was called to ratify the proposed United States Constitution. Representing his constituents, he spoke to the body of delegates and prophetically said:
“The exclusion of religious tests is by many thought dangerous and impolitic. They suppose that if there is no religious test required, pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans.”
His constituents saw the issues very clearly. Prophets indeed! The United States Congress in our own time has members who are homosexuals, transgenders, and Muslims. They are voting on laws to regulate Christian thought and action. Since there is no religious test, the concept of positive law (the law is what I say it is) has replaced biblical law in both judicial and legislative processes. This does not bode well for our nation.
Foundational definitions matter. This is what is missing in the current discussion on topics like Christian Nationalism. One thing is for certain, from what I call the social, command, and legal perspectives, America is no longer a Christian nation. The alarm is now being heard very clearly. Christians are dealing with grief, and are scrambling to do something about it. Some like Dr. Wolfe are writing books. Some, reluctantly, are adopting his terms. Others are attacking the writers of such books without offering foundational definitions.
Yes, ultimately, evangelism is our only hope. A Christian nation must come from the bottom up (the hearts of a converted people), not from the top down (political legislation). Neither will it come from heavy-weight books. America must be discipled again with the gospel before we can begin to think about being a Christian nation. Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations (and not just a few elect from among the nations), and that includes America. Here is where we must begin.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
By Geoff Chang — 1 month ago
Let your soul lose itself in wonder, for wonder, dear friends, is in this way a very practical emotion. Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship; being astonished at what God has done, you will pour out your soul with astonishment at the foot of the golden throne with the song, “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might be unto Him who sitteth on the throne and doeth these great things to me.”
The Christmas season is a time of rest and celebration. But it is also a time of great opportunity. The workplace is filled with Christmas carols and decorations. Family gatherings bring Christians together with their unsaved loved ones. Neighbors exchange gifts and host neighborhood parties. Opportunities to serve the poor and needy abound. In all of this, what better way for Christians to celebrate Christmas than by imitating the example of their Lord and serving those around them, and by dwelling on the love of the Savior? Spurgeon writes,
We citizens of the New Jerusalem, having the Lord Jesus in our midst, may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary ways of celebrating this season; and considering ourselves to be “holy work-folk,” we may keep it after a different sort from other men, in holy contemplation and in blessed service of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the new-born King is to us.
In his sermon, “Holy Work of Christmas,” Spurgeon unpacks Luke 2:17-20 and gives “four ways of serving God, four methods of executing holy work and exercising Christian thought.” What are four ways we can serve God during Christmas?
By Publishing Abroad What We Have Seen and Heard of the Savior
They had seen God incarnate—such a sight that he who gazeth on it must feel his tongue unloosed, unless indeed an unspeakable astonishment should make him dumb. Be silent when their eyes had seen such a vision! Impossible! To the first person they met outside that lowly stable door they began to tell their matchless tale, and they wearied not till nightfall, crying, “Come and worship! Come and worship Christ, the newborn King!” As for us, beloved, have we also not something to relate which demands utterance? If we talk of Jesus, who can blame us? This, indeed, might make the tongue of him that sleeps to move—the mystery of God incarnate for our sake, bleeding and dying that we might neither bleed nor die, descending that we might ascend, and wrapped in swaddling bands that we might be unwrapped of the grave-clothes of corruption. Here is such a story, so profitable to all hearers that he who repeats it the most often does best, and he who speaks the least hath most reason to accuse himself for sinful silence.
By Holy Wonder, Admiration, and Adoration
Let me suggest to you that holy wonder at what God has done should be very natural to you. That God should consider his fallen creature, man, and instead of sweeping him away with the besom of destruction, should devise a wonderful scheme for his redemption, and that he should himself undertake to be man’s Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed, marvellous! Probably it is most marvellous to you in its relation to yourself, that you should be redeemed by blood; that God should forsake the thrones and royalties above to suffer ignominiously below for you.
By Benjamin Glaser — 5 months ago
To go back to Jeremiah 32:38 it is because of the promise the people have of belonging to something bigger than themselves, “They shall be my people and I will be their God.” That is the source and foundation of all of our hope and peace. We belong body and soul to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we will have our needs met in no other. It is because of this majesty that we see the way the martyrs and the elders bow and shout at the foot of the throne of God.
As you likely already know the Lord’s Prayer is repeated, not verbatim for reasons we’ll get into here in a second, in Luke 11. Most of the content is the same, but the last petition (among other differences) which is in the prayer in Matthew 6 is absent from the latter. One of the things this teaches us is about how Christ intended for us to use the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not a mantra we repeat, but a model for the way in which we are to approach our Heavenly Father so it makes sense that they don’t match up one for one. Each in their own way gives help to our devotional life and grants support for hearts that are seeking to bring troubles to the Lord of peace.
With that being said I rarely, if ever, get into technical stuff in these lessons. It’s not really the place for it and not really why I do these bi-weekly devotionals. Yet, it is important at this point to know something about translations of the Bible and Q.107. If you have an ESV you’ll notice that the words used in Q.107 are completely absent. If you have an NASB you’ll see something like this: [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]. Now, why do I mention it? There are those (like the translators of the ESV/NASB and others) who do not believe that this last clause of the Lord’s Prayer is Christian Scripture. Without getting even further into the weeds here we all know that the English Bibles we use are translations from the Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament. There are two “families” of manuscripts that while agreeing 98% of the time have some differences, and Matt. 6:13 (plus John 7:53-8:11, 1 John 5:7, etc…) is chief among them.
As you also already know I prefer the KJV for private devotions and preach and teach from the NKJV on Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, etc… I do that for a reason, because I believe that the “Received Text” (see our Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 1, Section 8 for more info) which undergirds the KJV/NKJV is from the more faithful family of Greek manuscripts. I also believe that the word of God is inerrant not just in the autographs (the actual copies that the Bible writers wrote), but in the apographs as well (the copies passed down to us).