Happy 241st Birthday!

July 4, 2017 v4 p26

Today we celebrate the Fourth of July, the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  If the Founding Fathers were to look at our country today, would it be what they envisioned?

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The First Amendment to the Constitution outlines some of the most basic freedoms that our country ensures.  Those include the freedom to establish and practice religion, the freedom of speech and the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the Government to change laws that they don’t agree with.  The Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Both of these documents are the framework that our country was founded on.  Over the course of nearly 250 years, they have stood the test of time.  It is what holds our country together, and it could also be what ends up being the downfall of our great country.

There is still a big push for the separation of church and state.  There should never be laws enacted that prevent any person from worshiping in whatever manner they see fit.  There should never be laws enacted that force people to believe or worship things they don’t believe.  But is there a need to remove God, or faith, from the way we govern our lives?  Over time there have been many forms of government that have tried to force their ideology on its citizens.  Following World War II the Russian empire set up Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.  Many of those governments tried to force the Russian Orthodox religion on their people.  Most countries didn’t have the ability to fight against their religious oppression.  It was Pope St. John Paull II that led the way in his home country of Poland to fight and ultimately bring down Communism.  He repeatedly fought for his fellow countrymen to be able to worship how they wished.  Despite opposition from Russia he was able to visit his home country and hold numerous events.  These lead to concessions by the Communist government to allow the people of Poland to worship as they did.  That was followed by the eventual downfall of communism in Poland.  That was followed by the rest of Eastern Europe and most of the U.S.S.R. to break apart from Russia and begin to worship freely.

In the Old Testament of The Bible we are told over and over again of stories of tyrants trying to force their beliefs upon people of faith.  The Jews were punished for their sins and exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon.  It was during this exile that their faith was tested repeatedly.  In the Book of Daniel we are told the story of his three friends.  While King Nebuchadnezzar was forcing the Jews to worship him, there were three who refused.  They were sentenced to be burned at the stake for their disobedience.  It was through their faith in God that they were saved and not harmed once the furnace was set ablaze.  The King recognized that it was their God who had saved them because of their faith.  From that point on the Jews were allowed to peacefully worship in their own was without fear of harm or persecution.  This lead to the eventual release of the Jewish people and them being allowed to return to their homeland of Jerusalem.

What does all of this have to do with the United States?  I have seen a disturbing trend happening in our country over the past five years.  In a country that was founded on Christian values, we are living anything but that.  In Galatians 3:28 we are taught “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”  This does not mean that we should persecute others for believing differently that we do.  This does not mean we should force our beliefs on others.  In John 13:34 we are taught “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have love you, so you must love one another.”  That’s pretty plain and simple.  Jesus wasn’t speaking in parables when he said this.  He not only told us that this is how we should treat each other, but he lived it as well.  It’s something we have all gotten away from lately, even though this same basic principle is taught in every religion, and applies to those who don’t believe in faith.

There needs to be a shift in the mindset of most humans.  It is rare today to find someone who is willing to step out of line and address this issue.  We’ve become a society of people who are immune to what is happening around us.  We’ve taken an attitude of not wanting to get involved in anything if there isn’t any benefit to ourselves.  That isn’t what Jesus taught us to do.  He taught us to take the time to help others.  He taught us to go out of our way to help others.  He taught us that the way to Him is through our love for one-another.  We need to focus on more of that.

If we truly are a State that separates government and faith, then why is God so rooted in our government?  The Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “One Nation under God.”  One of the most popular patriotic songs about our country is “God Bless America.”  On our money is printed the phrase “In God We Trust.”  Every once and a while I will see posts on social media referring to the removal of the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance.  I see that this is an issue from time to time.  What I don’t see is protests or bills being introduced in State or Federal Government to make that happen.  If this is such a big issue of keeping God out of our government, then why isn’t it happening?  And if this isn’t such a big issue, then why aren’t those who wish to keep God, or faith, in our government doing more to make sure it stays?

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While you’re grilling with friends and family, enjoying a few adult beverages, and watching fireworks this weekend, ask yourself if we’re still what our founding fathers envisioned 241 years ago.

I’d like to finish with this prayer:

Father, how wonderful it is to enjoy the privelages available to those who live in a free country.  We give thanks for those who enlisted and served in our military, fighting for and maintaining our independence.  And how glorious it is to enjoy freedom from sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, on our behalf.  Our lives, once enslaved to sin, now enjoy the freedom from that which once held us captive to Satan’s bondage.  We live in victory because You have set us free and we are now free indeed.  Thank You, Father, for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of Your Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins!

Amen

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