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Covenant promises

In this day of easy promises, there are some you can bank on

Issue: "Columbine: Teenage martyr," May 8, 1999

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed" (Psalm 112:1-2). During the next two months, as we have days honoring mothers and fathers for their work in raising children, we should keep this promise in mind. In the writing of biographies, great men are praised for their greatness. Sometimes even parents are praised for their contributions. But God and His promises do not usually receive the credit. One reason may be the challenge of understanding God's covenant promises and how they work themselves out mysteriously from one generation to another. God promises blessings to children of believers, yet He has no precise formula for how he will fulfill those promises. Consider a couple of examples. William McGuffey (1800-1873) was never elected president of the United States. But his influence over the nation was great. He wrote textbooks that dominated education for a century. Even today, they continue to be republished. His McGuffey readers challenged students academically while emphasizing character qualities and scriptural principles such as sowing and reaping. McGuffey's ancestors, Reformed Presbyterians, left Scotland for America in 1774. His grandparents moved to western Pennsylvania, joining with others in making a covenant to follow the Lord. McGuffey was born in 1800. He grew up in Ohio, where he learned at home using the Bible and the New England Primer. He went on to teach and preach, but his name will always be associated with his textbooks that were first published in the 1830s. Although McGuffey was a diligent and skilled teacher and writer, credit must also go to his parents and grandparents who had received from God covenant promises on his behalf. Another man whose words have had considerable impact was Henry Luce (1898-1967), the founder of Time and Life magazines. His magazine empire, now merged with CNN, no longer carries his conservative, anti-communist ideological stamp. But at the peak of his influence, the magazines had a major role in making anti-communism the dominant viewpoint in America, in both political parties, after World War II. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, it may be hard to grasp the threat that this empire posed for Western nations and freedom of worship 50 years ago. The Soviets took over Eastern Europe and had designs on the rest of Europe. Soviet agents were aggressive in the United States as well. The communists won the war for control of China after World War II. North Korea invaded South Korea. The communist vision was expansionary, with true believers confident of victory over the Christian faith. Many influential Americans were attracted to this vision. Luce saw a different vision. He had an appreciation for American freedom, having grown up in China. Luce was a key figure in influencing top political officials, including presidential candidates, to take the threat seriously and develop American strength to oppose the Soviet designs. The stifling of religious and political freedom under communism would have been devastating to the advancement of Christ's kingdom. God can always overcome obstacles, but He used Henry Luce and his vision to maintain freedom for the gospel in the United States and many other parts of the world. Where did he gain such a vision and why did he hold it with such conviction? Much of the answer must go back to his parents, who were missionaries in China. They were part of a generation of Christians who had a burden for the evangelization and discipleship of that nation. Their son did not always share their evangelical zeal. He divorced his first wife and remarried. He was not able to train leadership to succeed him and carry on his worldview. Perhaps that had something to do with his partial abandonment of the commitment of his parents. But in his time, Luce was a giant in journalism, like the children of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what America needed to do. Some Christian parents today are training future William McGuffeys or Henry Luces. Others are training boys and girls who will be giants in their future families, although not in the history books. But promises like Psalm 112:2 always will be fulfilled in the sovereign ways chosen by our Lord.
-Russ Pulliam is editor of the Indianapolis News.

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Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.

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