Monday, July 4, 2011

On this 4th of July America celebrates another birthday.  Americans across the land are hoisting their flags, marching in parades (unless you live in Tucson where it is 100+ degrees), preparing for BBQ’s, and setting off fireworks.  It still moves me to hear the lyrics, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.”  The reason is because God has indeed blessed America, the reason it has endured for over 230 years.  America is the oldest constitutional republic on earth.  It is for this reason that we all need to think seriously about this great and noble experiment in freedom.

This is why religious liberty is America’s first freedom.  The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution states,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 

 It is our nation’s first freedom not just because of its order in our nation’s founding documents, but because religious liberty and our relationship and responsibility to God is foundational to every other freedom.  The inalienable rights are granted by God.  Charles Colson wrote,

The references to God in the Declaration of Independence provide a foundation for an ongoing moral conversation within civil society.  And moral truths pervade our founding documents from beginning to end.  Without God as the source of all those moral principles, the public square would quickly revert to the law of the jungle.  British power would prevail.  The weak, the unborn, the elderly, and the gravely ill could be quietly terminated."

I’m talking about this because religious liberty is being imperiled both at home and abroad.  I want you to consider a number of things with me.  This is not a “political sermon” but truth that I want you to measure through the filter of the Word of God.  Remember King David’s words (Ps.127:1) “Unless the Lord builds the house [you can put nation here also], those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”


While America’s beginnings were not perfect, they were rock solid, and took their cue from a Sovereign Creator.  Anyone who wants to debate the reality of the roots of America’s godly heritage are being willfully ignorant of history, or trying to “edit” history later.  Jesus used the imagery of building on a rock when He said, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt.7:24, 25) I can see a picture of America in these words.  Government’s duty is not to try to create rights, but to simply protect those endowed by our Creator. 

I’d like you to consider just a few examples of this foundation throughout our history.  On May 17, 1776, Congress actually appointed a day of fasting and prayer for the colonies, so that they might by sincere repentance “appease God’s righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness.” 
The first thing George Washington did after being inaugurated was to stoop down and kiss his Bible, as an affirmation of the submissive spirit that he had to have toward the rule and authority of Almighty God.  John Adams, the 2nd President of the U.S. said it best, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.  For democracy to work, the majority of the people have to be religious and moral at their core, or it falls apart.”  Add to this the fact that many of our institutions honored God back then as well.  Did you know that 106 of the first 108 schools in America were founded on the Christian faith?  Did you know that Harvard and Yale began as ministry training schools–schools to train preachers?  What’s remarkable is if teachers taught this in our schools today, their job would be in jeopardy!

What about Abraham Lincoln, who is considered by many as the greatest President in our nation’s history.  On February 11, 1861, he spoke in Springfield, IL, and said, “In regard to this great book,” -and he held up his Bible- “I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man.  All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated to us through this book.  But for it, we would not know right from wrong.”  In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “After a week of perplexing problems, it does so rest my soul to come into the house of the Lord and to sing and to mean it, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.’  My great job and great glory in occupying this exalted position as president of the nation is that I am enabled to preach the practical moralities of the Bible to my fellow countrymen and to hold up Christ as the hope and Savior of the world.”  Taken as a whole, there was an unashamed resolve that our forefathers demonstrated.  They were unapologetic about faith in the Lord!  This is a far cry from the politically-correct, multi-cultural drivel we are being fed today.

A great, modern day lesson on freedom and religious liberty comes from China.  According to the Pew Research Center, 50 to 70 million Chinese Christians belonged to an unregistered house church in 2007.  They vastly outnumber members of the legal but government-regulated “three self” churches.  These house-church Christians are not rebels.  They love their country and want legal recognition, but not at the price of government control over their religion.  The Communist government views this growing Christian movement as a threat to its authority.  They tolerate churches that submit to government control, but churches independent of the state face serious persecution.  In the wake of recent persecution, 19 pastors from house churches across China are circulating a petition that urges the government to investigate its policy and treatment of the house-church movement.  It goes even further by asking for broader protection for religious freedom.  They claim freedom of religion as their “first and foremost freedom” (right out of America’s foundation).  Without religious liberty, they claim, a diverse society like China cannot “form a peaceful civil society, or bring about social stability, ethnic solidarity or the nation’s prosperity.”  These Chinese petitioners know the difference between being allowed to worship in state-regulated churches and being allowed true religious freedom — the freedom to live out their beliefs in all areas of life without government restriction.


I am deeply concerned about the condition and direction our nation is taking, because it is not a positive step, but a slippery slide to tyranny.  We’ve gone from being a God-fearing people who wanted religious freedom, who knew that God was sovereign and important, to a nation where we can hardly talk about God for fear of offending someone in these multi-cultural times.  Someone likened it to cracks appearing and growing in the foundation of freedom!  There is a definite spiritual dimension to this as the Psalmist recorded, “Why are the nations so angry?  Why do they waste their time with futile plans?  The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. "Let us break their chains," they cry, "and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

Over the last few decades, legions of skeptics have mounted a massive assault on these “self-evident truths.”  From prestigious law schools, to the halls of government, and especially in the Supreme Court, God is often banished from the public conversation.  It’s what I call a God-scrubbing.  The assault on God in public severely damages our republic.  If God is thrown out of history, we lose our basis for believing individuals have rights and dignity.  Without God there are not inalienable rights, no certain proof that liberty is better than tyranny.  Everything becomes a matter of opinion or power.  Listen, I’m not saying everyone needs to be a born-again, Spirit-filled, Bible-believing person, but, neither is God a curse word or Someone who has no place in the public square. 

The most recent example of this came from NBC’s final day coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament.  It began with a patriotic segment featuring children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to a video montage of past U.S. Open golf highlights.  In this taped vignette, the kids omitted from the Pledge the phrase, “under God, indivisible.”  The criticism came so fast and furious that NBC issued an on-air apology before the day’s programming was even finished!  Here’s what NBC’s Dan Hicks said on-air, “We began our coverage of this final round just about three hours ago and when we did it was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation’s capital for the third time.  Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that fear was edited out.  It was not done to upset anyone and we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”  Ah yes, another “non-apology apology” that said “we’d like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”  It’s not our fault, but you out there who are overly sensitive, well, we’re sorry.  The following day, Monday, they did go farther in their apology.  They said, “Unfortunately, when producing the piece – which was intended to capitalize on the patriotism of having our national championship played in our nations’ capital – a decision was made by a small group of people to edit portions of the Pledge of Allegiance.  This was a bad decision.”
This is an enlightening admission that this decision was made by a “small group of people.”  A small group of people who want to dictate to the majority of Americans on all matters moral and spiritual.  This is what we’re up against today. 

I think it’s also revealing that even our President is complicit in these kinds of omissions.  In a statement issued on Friday, June 17, 2011, President Obama declared that “LGBT [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual-trans-gender] persons are endowed with what he called “inalienable rights – and entitled to the same protections – as all human beings.”  Words right out of the Declaration of Independence, but conveniently omitting the word “Creator.”  The actual wording is “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”  How significant is that?  Well, if you omit or deny God the Creator, then who’s to say what or where or why these so-called “rights” originate.  I seriously doubt that the revolutionary war was fought over LGBT issues!  We all make mistakes, so I’m fully prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, a simply mistake.  However, this isn’t the first time.  This was actually the 3rd time this year that the President has used the “inalienable rights” language and omitted reference to the “Creator.”  Let me add that the amount of illustrations of things of this nature are legion today, and are almost weekly news stories.

How else to you explain three years ago the school board at Arlington H.S. in Massachusetts making the decision that there could be no American flags in classrooms.  They also stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  After a three year battle to get those things reinstated, the principal relented and decided the pledge could be said after school in the lobby area, so as not to offend anyone.  Like some kind of covert operation rather than gratitude, loyalty and a simple faith acknowledgment.  Our Constitution is under attack from all directions, even though it grants us freedom of speech!  Recently it came to light that Wilder Publications has begun printing copies of the Constitution and reprints of the Declaration of Independence with warning labels on them.  It reads, “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.  Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”  In other words, they really didn’t know what they were talking about back then, so take it with a grain of salt.  Three weeks ago in the Cape Cod area, the school board unanimously passed a policy for elementary students — yes, I said elementary students – to be able to distribute free condoms at school.  It even requires that school officials keep it confidential so parents will never know if their child has requested them.  Totally unbelievable!  It’s like it comes to us from the theater of the absurd.  The school superintendent says, “Well, the intent is to protect kids.”  If you think all of these are just isolated events, you are mistaken.  They are happening with more and more frequency; it is like we’re becoming a different nation.

I don’t know about you, but I am growing increasingly weary and upset, by so-called atheists or minorities who are supposedly hurt and offended, or feel their rights have been infringed upon by the mention of God in normal public life.  The latest were the group of NYC atheists who is “demanding” that the city remove a street sign honoring seven firefighters killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, because they say the sign violates the separation of church and state.  The street’s name is....“Seven In Heaven Way.”  But, the group is saying “there should be no signage or displays of religious nature in the public domain.”  One representative told Fox News Radio that his organization was especially concerned with the use of the word “heaven”...“we think this is a very bad thing.”  No, what’s a bad thing is, people like you who are ignorant both of our nation’s Constitution and history.  The word “heaven” is a bad thing?!  I wonder if they are as deeply offended by the escalation of profanity, vulgarity and incivility in media, entertainment and the public discourse.  By the way, much of this is fueled by the ACLU, which is a group of God-hating, and in my opinion, un-American communists.  Time won’t allow a full expose, but the phrase “the separation of Church and State” is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied statements used today by ignorant people, reporters and even jurists; who mistakenly think it’s part of our nation’s founding charter!  Just a hint, folks, it’s not found in the Constitution at all!  I’ll leave that for another time. 

My point, dear ones, is that religious liberty is under assault in our land.  (Ps.11:3) says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"  Those precious foundations that gave birth to our nation and have sustained us for over 200 years have been targeted by a relatively small group of agenda-driven people.  The other dangerous reality accompanying all this is that we have diluted what it means to be a Christian.  We have compromised and made it easy to be a Christian in name only.  So, instead of the resolve that made our nation strong, we have a relativism that makes “sincerity” the measuring rod of everything, and not truth.  (Jn.14:6) is still the bell-weather, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


This is a pivotal time in our country.  Even with all I’ve documented, I am still hopeful; but it is the kind of hope that God is giving us one more chance, and we’d better not blow it.  This is why the desperately-sought for renewal BEGINS ON OUR KNEES.  Paul the Apostle made that the first order of business in (1Tim.2:1-4) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Our responsibility is to pray!  Pray for those leaders who are in power; pray that righteousness would prevail; and pray all this in the context of evangelism.  The God “who desires all people to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.”  You see, you can’t restore something if you don’t know how it was built.  At the heart of the building of America, of this blessed nation, was God’s Word, prayer and holiness.  Our nation’s founding document declared independence from Great Britain, but with equal fervor, dependence upon God.  Expressing “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” the signers committed the American experiment to their Maker.  The spirit of 1776 was one of reverence and trust.  For the first two centuries of existence, our strength as a nation was our morals, not our manpower; it was our faith, not our finances.  (Ps.20:7) “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  Our hope is in God!  We look to Him for direction and guidance.  As families, churches, and as a nation, our politics can help us, but they’re not the answer.  Our government can help us, but government is not the answer!  Spiritual revival is not going to start in the White House; it’s got to start at our hearts and houses.

Let me close with prayer.  It is a prayer for our nation offered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 at a pivotal point in our nation’s history.  I’m going to give it to you exactly as it was prayed:

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten you, O God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us.  It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness. 
Amen and Amen!

Special thanks to material by Charles Colson, Dave Stone and Rob Schwarzwalder

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