It was no light matter, what those 56 men did. They risked death, for indeed they had just signed their own death warrants. And when we remember them on this 4th of July, we remember what they did for this country, and why they did it. We remember the freedom they fought for by signing the Declaration of Independence, the freedoms we still have and fight for today.
Many of those freedoms are highlighted in the Bill of Rights; the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, which governs this nation. These amendments are often mentioned as what sets America apart and makes her governing different from other nations in the world. These freedoms are guaranteed and cannot be taken away by the government. They were important, because they were what the founders felt was lacking from the British rule they were under.
The First Amendment guarantees that, “Congress shall make no low respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” How fortunate we are to live in a nation where we may freely practice whatever religion we desire! In whatever manner we choose!
This was not always the case and, in some countries, certain religions are still forbidden today. Sometimes even worshipping the wrong form of the religion can lead to your death! The Founding Fathers knew this, for many in the New World had left England due to religious persecution for refusing to worship as the State demanded.
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.”Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:6-16, ESV)
We are extremely fortunate in America that we have our religious freedom, for throughout history, religious freedom has been a rarity. Daniel - and the other Israelites - did not always have it. Jesus and His disciples were persecuted for their beliefs. Early Christians were not welcomed in the Roman world. Even today, there are many parts of the world where Christians must hide their faith and their worship - and face death if they are caught.
We can go to church every Sunday without fear. We can go to church everyday without fear! Yes, things have changed in the past years - we are no longer allowed
to publicly pray in school or have prayer before major sporting events - but we are still allowed to offer up our personal prayer.
This 4th of July, enjoy the fireworks and BBQ! Enjoy lounging by the pool, cold drink in your hand! Enjoy the day off from work and time with friends and family! But take a moment to remember and celebrate the freedoms of this nation. The freedom to worship! And pray for those who are not free. “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”
In the past several decades, respect for the Lord, our Christ, Messiah, and Savior, has greatly diminished. Where once it was common to pray, it has now become taboo. This past homecoming season, a picture was circulated online: a large group of high schoolers had went out to eat before the dance. The picture was of them joining hands in prayer. It was posted in celebration that there are still those among us, and young ones!, who remember to offer grace for the food they were about to eat. And the comments? Some, like the poster, found the image heartwarming. But many others could do nothing but deride these individuals for their choice to pray.
As Christians in America, we are fortunate. We have the guaranteed right to worship freely, however we choose. We may be ridiculed, we may be fewer than we once were - or perhaps the opposition has just grown louder. Organized prayer may have been removed from schools, sporting events, and other places - but our right to worship cannot and will not be encroached. We are fortunate, for not all individuals have that guaranteed right. Some face persecution, like Daniel in Babylon, for simply opening a window and praying.
Have you stopped to think about why and how we have that right? The right was and is secured for us in the Constitution of the United States, via the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” But it doesn’t stop there. In order for our rights to remain, the United States of America must remain a free nation. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the United States Armed Forces.
Throughout the last 200+ years, the Armed Forces has evolved from a loosely regulated, rag-tag militia who secured this nation’s freedom, to a well-oiled fighting machine. Individuals who have joined the military and serve this country by protecting it, are willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that you and I are able to continue to enjoy our freedoms and rights.
On Monday, May 28, 2018, we celebrate Memorial Day - one of several holidays throughout the year that honor our armed forces. On Memorial Day, we specifically honor those who have fallen, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation - their life. Husbands and fathers. Wives and mothers. Sons and daughters. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. Everyone who has fallen is someone!
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7, ESV)
These men and women who have offered up their lives so that we may continue to live and worship freely, are owed our respect and our honor. This Memorial Day, thank the Lord for those who are willing to make such sacrifices. Also remember their families in prayer, for the pain of losing a loved one is always there.
Sixteen years ago, this country united. It lived up to its name - the United States of America. Sixteen years. For a kid just starting school, its seems forever, For a high schooler learning to drive, it is a lifetime. For a recent college grad, it means change, from the past and for the future. For a middle-aged person, it is memories of a simpler time and a wonder of what is to come. For the elderly, it seems so short. Sixteen years can mean different things to different people at different stages of life. But for everyone, on this day, sixteen years ago is a day this country united.
On September 11, 2001, the United States of America was attacked by a foreign land. Their goal was to destroy this great nation, to strike fear into the heart of every American. It was the first major attack on United States soil since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 60 years earlier. The loss of life in both events was comparable - 2,300 in Hawaii and 2,966 in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, already beginning the fight back. They did not succeed. The United States of America rose up, united, and fought back; remembering those who died in that attack.
Sixteen years later, we are no longer united. It has been less than a year since the most divisive and ugliest election in recent history. Since the election, marches, protests, and rallies have occurred throughout America, often ending in violent conflict between opposing groups. Friends and families have divided and are no longer on speaking terms due to differing political and religious beliefs. We are no longer willing to listen to opposing views, to talk, discuss difference, and work together for the best outcome for all. I’m right and your wrong and need to be silenced has become the norm.
But hope is not lost. Earlier this year, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. Two weeks later, as flooding was still rampant is Houston, Hurricane Irma is poised to demolish Florida. And what was this nation’s response? For the most part, unity. The United States came together, united, to help those who had suffered and lost. Volunteers from all over the nation went to Texas and are planning for Florida, donating their time, energy, and resources, much as we did sixteen years ago, to help those who needed it. It happened without thought. It proved that when the worst came, this nation could still unite!
When remembering September 11, 2001, we are often somber, remembering those who were lost that day and those who lost their lives because of what happened that day. But in that devastation, we also saw the best of people, just as we have earlier this year. We do not know what the future may hold. We do not know what will happen 16 years from now. If we want a better United States of America, one that honors its name, then we have to start changing now!
Change has to begin somewhere, sometime, with someone! Why not you? And now! Wherever you are! “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32b-33, ESV)
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14-15, ESV) Begin where all Christians should begin addressing their problems - the Lord. Pray, as Jesus did at Gethsemane. Seek His guidance for your next move.
So put down the tiki torches and baseball bats. Take off the hoods and the masks. Put down your shields and weapons. It’s time to come together. Sixteen years is a lifetime away. Sixteen years is just around the corner. What will your legacy be in 16 years?
Happy Veteran’s Day!
Thank you to all the brave
men and women who have
served in the
United States Armed Forces!
Where Where You (When the World Stopped Turning)
Performed Live by Alan Jackson
at the Grand Ole Opry