Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11th - Christopher Columbus

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching
Fall Festival - No Rain
Hannah and her Dad Camping
Kari and her Class Camping
Bethany's Braces
Joshua and Cassandra's Birthdays

Text - 1 Peter 2:10...sort of...

We're going to briefly step out of First Peter to do a topical look at Christopher Columbus. Tomorrow is his day and his life has been so ignored and misrepresented that I think it will benefit us all to look into his life. 1 Peter 2:2 is also Hannah's favorite verse and she couldn't be here today, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to take a week off for something different. I think Hannah misinterpreted and took 1 Peter 2:1 a little too literally, it tells us to rid yourself of all Geil... (KJV)

What is Christopher Columbus famous for? The world will tell you it is for discovering the New World, and that's true, but what he is famous for in Heaven is his devotion to Jesus Christ and desire to see the gospel spread.

Columbus was born in Genoa Italy in 1451, his father was a wool-worker, which Columbus trained to follow, but Columbus wanted to be a sailor. His education is fairly spotty in detail, we do know that he learned Latin because all of the best nautical books were in Latin. Which other great book was in Latin at this time? The Bible. Columbus was put in an interesting privileged position to read the book that most people at his time could not read, and he took it very seriously. On one of his first trips he was in Greece, here was all sorts of political and religious unrest and if I had to put my finger on where Columbus got saved, I'd say it was either in Greece, or because of Greece that he would have looked deeper into his Catholic faith. Ironically, his first voyage to Greece was the closest he would ever get to India.

His profession of faith is, "I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous Presence."

He took his name, Christopher, exceedingly literally; this name means "The Christ Bearer" and he made it his life's goal to see Jesus Christ glorified through his life. His last name seems to have some Jewish roots, albeit we're not really sure what it means. Columbus claimed to be able to trace his lineage all the way up to King David. This may seem strange, but it is totally plausible, conservative Jews take lineage very seriously, and while David, Jesus, and subsequently Christopher would have been from the line of Judah, if you ever meet someone from the line of Levi, they can take you straight up the list of their genealogy to Aaron. Paul said don't get caught up in this, but it's neat that people are able to do it.

Columbus shares a similar last name with Columba who was a missionary to Scotland in the sixth century who converted the Picts. I wanted to mention him because with Columbus we're going to be discussing lots of science and the Bible, and Columba has writings about him that he encountered huge lizards, aka dragons, in Scotland. One of them almost ate his friend. Today we call them dinosaurs, and they certainly didn't live millions of years ago, but only recently vanished from the earth.

So, back to Columbus, the Italian. He was a Catholic, but his letters and journals are very biblical and I have very little doubt that he was saved. On the other hand, he went to Spain to try to get funding for a Western expedition to the Indies. The king and queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, were thoroughly Catholic and almost guaranteed not to be saved. One evidence is that they hated Jews, and they kicked all of the Jews out of Spain, which is ironic because Columbus was a Jew, albeit a Christian Jew.

If you research this, and I always encourage you to look into these things, you'll find some very flattering language to a "Queen" who many Catholics will want you to believe was Mary, but you'll find if you search it in context, that it was about Queen Isabella and her support of Columbus. One reason I feel that Columbus was actually saved is because even though he was a Catholic, he only worshipped and prayed to Jesus Christ and his Father. One of the ships they gave him was the Santa Maria, Saint Mary, but he didn't name her, she was named after her home port, which was called El Puerto de Santa Maria. Various crew members named her various things, the devout Catholics called her Elegant Mary, the heathens called her Dirty Mary, and others called her by the city she was made in, La Gallega. Interestingly, the name of the Santa Clara was changed to the Niña, which means little girl; the captain of this ship's name was Juan Niño, so it was a play on words.

While God can use pagans (Catholics and others) to do amazing things, I'm certain that Columbus disagreed with much of the Catholic faith and held to a more orthodox Christianity, albeit not perfectly orthodox.

In the 1400's, practically no-one believed the world was flat. Your text books are going to lie to you, because they hate God and the truth. We're going to talk about that more later. Columbus started to research a different route to China and Indonesia, a straight shot rather than going around Africa; few people believed it was impossible, but most felt that it was way too far to sail. And, if there was no land-mass between Spain and China, it would have been way too far to sail.

Columbus heard of a land possibly to the West so he decided to research it, and he did so both from the Bible, and from secular history. It started off when he heard of a body that was found floating across the Atlantic Ocean that was neither black nor white but seemed oriental. At this point, he realized that winds around the equator blew West, and winds farther north blew East, and he felt he could sail West on one and home on the other, no-one purportedly had thought of that before.

In his research he discovered a writing by Diodorus Siculus, a first century BC Greek historian, who recorded that he had heard of a very great island many days journey from Africa. A great scientist and a Catholic named Dr. Mirabilis in the 1200's believed that the sea between Spain and India would be navigable if the winds were right, albeit he never tried it.

Columbus started to search the Bible to see what it said on the matter. He had absolute authority that the world was round,

Isaiah 40:22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in...

Job 26:10 He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.

A circle of light would require a sphere, and so there was no doubt in Columbus', or most people of his day, that the world was round.

I'm fairly certain Columbus' favorite book was Isaiah, he loved and held to the frequent mention of all types of people in all different locations following after the Living God. Columbus felt like he was divinely guided by God to sail West to fulfill a prophecy in Isaiah 60. I don't know exactly how he picked this prophecy, because looking back, I don't know if I would ascribe him to it, but it's very interesting and it very well may be a direct prophecy of Columbus.

Isaiah 60:9 Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your sons from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.

Where is Tarshish? Tarshish is in Southwestern Spain. Where did Columbus sail from? Spain, specifically Palos, which is very near to where Tarshish was in Jonah's day, albeit they are not exactly the same place so it is dangerous to force this prophecy.

Columbus had seen enough islands in his travels; Ireland, Iceland, the Azores, the Canaries to believe that there would be islands across the whole ocean until he reached India. He also believed that along with the winds, he would have help by ocean currents which were largely unknown of at the time, and this would keep the distance from being too long because the speed of the ships would be faster.

Psalm 8:8 ...passes along the paths of the seas.

Similarly, in the 1800's, a sailor named Matthew Fontaine Maury read this verse and started to map the ocean currents and do more research on them. He is known today as the Father of Oceanography.

No one could accuse Columbus of lack of research, he would write, "I have met and I have had discussions with wise people, ecclesiastics and laymen, Latins and Greeks, Jews and Moors and with many others of other sects. To this I found our Lord very favorable to my desire and I received from Him the spirit of intelligence: in seamanship he made me abundant, of astrology he gave what was needed, and so of geometry and arithmetic and ingeniousness in the soul and hands to draw the sphere..."

Columbus approached the King of Portugal first, and after hearing his proposal, the king turned him down. People thought he was crazy for wanting to try. Columbus would later write/pray, "At this time I both read and studied all kinds of literature: cosmography, histories, chronicles, and philosophy and other arts , to which our Lord opened my mind unmistakably to the fact that it was possible to navigate from here to the Indies, and He evoked in me the will for the execution of it; and with this fire I came to Your Highnesses. All those who heard of my plan disregarded it mockingly and with laughter. All the sciences of which I spoke were of no profit to me nor the authorities in them; only in Your Highnesses my faith, and my stay. Who would doubt that this light did not come from the Holy Spirit, anyway as far as I am concerned, which comforted with rays of marvelous clarity and with its Holy and Sacred Scriptures."

So he went to Spain and they were all for his voyage, mainly for evangelization purposes, but also they wanted whichever islands that Columbus might discover. Queen Isabella sought help from the Vatican, stating the purpose of the voyage "To bear the light of Christ west to the heathen undiscovered lands." There was also a lot of money to be made, and certainly that is why some people were all for the expedition.

But, the king and queen couldn't pay for it because Spain was broke fighting a war against Muslim invaders. Columbus was going to head for France to seek financing there, which would mean whichever lands he discovered would belong to France, and also Portugal seemed to be changing their minds and were going to finance Columbus, but before that happened three wealthy Spanish men, all nominally Christian Jews, decided to fund Columbus' exploration for Spain. Ironically, it seems that one of their purposes was to seek a new land in which to evade the Catholic church. It is not clear whether they were born-again Christians, non-Messianic Jews, or atheists, however it happened, their goal was to get away from the Roman church.

So Columbus sailed West to go East. They found no islands for a long time and the crew wanted to give up. Columbus told them three more days and if they hadn't spotted land, they would turn-around. At the end of the second day, October 12th, 1492, they spotted land, an island in the Bahamas. They named it San Salvador, the Sacred Saviour. When they landed they met, after a brief search, a people that looked quite oriental, and so Columbus decided they were in India and named the people Indians.

Columbus instantly set out to making friends with the natives, giving them gifts and learning to communicate with them. His first journal entries after landing on October 12th were how important it was for Spain to send missionaries to these people. By November his journaling had changed slightly, he stated that he had begun to try to convert them, and he persuaded six Indians to return to Spain with him to learn Spanish, and possibly to return to their people as missionaries.

I can't sum it up better than Columbus the joy and monumental event that took place when the gospel was introduced to the new world, "Let Christ rejoice upon earth as he does in heaven, to witness the coming salvation of so many people, heretofore given over to perdition."

Columbus is the exact opposite of religious tolerance, he sought a direct route to send missionaries to a people who very much needed Christ. And while much evil came about to the American Indians because of the discovery, many have been saved by Christ and went to Heaven, which they never would have if the New World wasn't discovered. And America wasn't a utopia where everything was peachy. The people that Columbus first met were in imminent danger from cannibals who were systematically working their way around the Bahamas causing the extinction of whole people groups by eating them.

Likewise, later the Spaniards were able to conquer the Mayans and the Aztecs with very little manpower and violence, even though they were outnumbered by ridiculously huge armies. The reason was because many of the Mayans and Aztecs wouldn't fight for their leaders because their leaders were wicked and violent and made human sacrifices. Columbus did infinite good for the kingdom of God and for souls.

But in terms of tolerance, people hate him. One Indian Chief said of him in 1992, "Columbus makes Hitler look like a juvenile delinquent." So the Columbus you're going to be taught about in school, who loved wealth and titles more than anything, is not the Columbus of history who loved Jesus Christ and sought to see souls saved from perdition, Hell, for eternity. Columbus did like money, and sometimes he would go on mini-expeditions just in search of gold and spices. However, he used a great deal of his wealth to fund missionaries not to the New World, but to Jerusalem, and at the end of his life he had very little wealth remaining, but that is how he intended it. On money he would say, "He who has gold makes and accomplishes whatever he wishes in the world, and finally uses it to send souls to paradise."

So what do we learn?

First of all, the Bible is all about science. It is not science versus the Bible, it is science and the Bible versus enemies of God.

Second of all, education is great if you are putting it to action for glorifying God. Trigonometry was reasonably new in Columbus' day, yet without it there is no way he would have been able to find the same islands on his return voyage. Magellan would also use Trigonometry when he sailed around the world.

Third, Columbus used what he was good at to glorify God. He was a great seaman and navigator. It is said that his handwriting was fantastic, so much so that he was offered jobs to be a scribe. He also could have become a wool-worker like his father, but he took what God had made him best at and used it for the glory of God.

Forth of all, Columbus was a great Christian whose main goal was the evangelization of new people who had never heard of Jesus Christ. He took verses like Matthew 24:24, 28:19-20, and Mark 16:15 literally and seriously.

Fifth of all, tolerance is stupid. Lest people repent and turn to Jesus Christ, they will perish, and we need to be doing the same as Columbus did, seeking to convert everyone we run into, and refusing to compromise on the absolute truth of the scriptures.

Sixth of all, you can do pretty much whatever you want to with your money. The best place to invest it is in the kingdom of Heaven, where you use it to win souls into paradise. This is a running theme in my class and the Bible, that we only have one life, and it will soon be past, and only what's done for Christ will last.

Seventh of all, and probably most important, I'll let Columbus sum up, "No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Saviour, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His service."

In conclusion, after it became apparent that what Columbus had discovered was not India or China, but was indeed something quite different, he would sum up his whole life in one pithy statement, "God made me the messenger of the New Heaven and the New Earth."

God has likewise made you a messenger of the New Heaven and the New Earth, for without Christ, souls will perish. Find what you are best at and use it to glorify God in your body and your speech. Preach Christ at every opportunity, and trust in his sovereignty that the works you are walking in were prepared before time began so we rightly represent Christ to all the world, for until the gospel is preached to every nation, the end will not come. We want 1 Peter 2:10 to be true for all people groups.

1 Peter 2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Finally, challenge your teachers when they try to tell you Columbus was only in it for wealth, and that people thought he would sail over the edge of the world and die, tell them that is stupid and is willfully being ignorant of the truth. We'll talk more about this in Second Peter 3.