Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sounding the Alarm

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Thanks to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, everyone has heard of the “midnight ride of Paul Revere.” But few have heard of Israel Bissel, a humble post rider on the Boston-New York route. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, Bissel was ordered to raise the alarm in New Haven, Connecticut. Bissell began his journey in Watertown, Massachusetts, just to the west of Boston. He reached Worchester, Massachusetts, normally a day's ride, in two hours. There, according to tradition, his horse promptly dropped dead.

Pausing only to get another mount, Bissel pressed on and by April 22 he was in New Haven—but he didn't stop there! He rode on to New York, arriving April 24, and then stayed in the saddle until he reached Philadelphia the next day. Bissel's 126 hour, 345 mile ride signaled American militia units throughout the Northeast to mobilize for war.

“To arms to arms, the war has begun” he cried as he entered each hamlet, village and town. Sleeping little, eating sparingly, changing horses frequently, he persevered and sounded the alarm. The exhausted and disheveled Bissell delivered the message which was to change the course of this country. After his journey, Bissell enlisted in the Connecticut regiment and would eventually become a sergeant under Colonel Erastus Wolcott, signer of the Declaration of Independence.[1]

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Israel Bissell

I think Israel Bissel’s example offers a challenge to Christians today. America is in a fight for her life against so many things—a culture that disregards the Word of God, the disintegration of the family, the destruction of unborn life and a mounting economic debt. According to a recent Reuters Poll, 73 % of Americans feel that our country is headed in the wrong direction.[2] However, many followers of Christ in this country aren’t sure how to stem the tide.  

What our country needs today more than ever are a few faithful men and women who will pray for the nation and continually “sound the alarm” that if our nation doesn’t repent then we will self-destruct. If we don’t make it known to our country that, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34) then who will? We cannot expect another elected official to bring “hope and change” to our nation. We need Christians who aren’t afraid to be politically incorrect and lovingly tell others that the Gospel is our only recourse.

Essentially, this was Jonah’s job. You’ll remember that at first Jonah was reluctant to go to the wicked people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. However, after being persuaded by a giant fish, Jonah cleaned the seaweed off his back and proceeded to preach God’s impending judgment to the Ninevites. The result was the greatest revival in Old Testament history.

The Bible reports, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). Amazingly, God postponed the destruction of this sin city. Now truthfully all Jonah did was buy these people some time to repent, because God eventually allowed this city to crumble in 612 BC. But the catalyst for this national revival and the salvation of a few was the actions of one prodigal prophet.  

God is a God of wrath, but also of mercy. The Lord’s desire is not to nuke as many people as possible but see as many as possible repent and accept the cross of Christ. “'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).   

Although we cannot stop the decay of our nation we can be salt and light and, like Jonah, delay that destruction. We can’t save America, but we can save Americans by living out the Gospel. By acting as a preservative in a decaying culture we may be able to buy some more time for those who still have not repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Savior.

There is a tidal wave of evil that this threatening to overwhelm our country. If we sit on the sidelines, we not only ensure the destruction of our nation, but consign countless souls to an eternity of separation from God. It is time for the Church to stand up for righteousness and shine brightly with the Gospel message.[3] Perhaps we should amend Bissel’s words from “To arms, to arms, the war has begun,” to this clarion call, “Repent, repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Mark 1:15). Will you join me?       

[1] “Voices of the Revolution: The Five Riders” <http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/the-five-riders/>
[2] Steve Holland, “Most Americans say U.S. on Wrong Track,” Reuters, 10 August 2011 <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/11/us-usa-poll-idUSTRE7794EX20110811>
[3] Robert Jeffress, Twilight’s Last Gleaming (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2011), 33. 

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