A time to recall the
freedom we enjoy as Americans
July 4th is not just another day on the calendar. It is a day we should cherish, a day on which we should find time to give thanks to God for the freedom we enjoy as Americans.
If we are wise, we will teach our children the sacred meaning of “Independence Day” lest they view it as merely a holiday devoted to barbeque, fireworks, watermelon, flag waving, parades, concerts and family gatherings. When we give thanks on the fourth for our tasty ribs and sweet watermelon, we should also praise God for the favor he has shown our nation from its beginning.
reading this will be quick to shout me down for ignoring “the separation of
church and state.” However, they fail to understand that to acknowledge God’s
sovereignty is not to reject the principle of separation of church and state.
It is to affirm the abiding truth that all men, and all nations, are
accountable to God.
Washington, our first president, would have thought it preposterous to remove
all references to God from the halls of government as some insist upon doing
today. He would oppose those who wish to remove the phrase “one nation under
God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Consider Washington’s own words: “It is the duty of all nations
to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful
for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
Washington’s faith in God is a matter of record. Here, for
example, is a prayer from the collected works of the first president:
“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and
work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart
by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son,
Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy
appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life.
Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the
knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”
President John F. Kennedy may not have left us many prayers but
he will be long remembered for these words: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can
do for you - ask what you can do for your country. . . ." Kennedy’s
speech writer may have “borrowed” that idea from a speech made in 1884 by
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. -- "Now It is the moment
when by common consent we pause to become conscience of our national life and
to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and
to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return."
That is a good question to ponder on July 4th – What
can I do for my country? There is much we may do! We may build bridges of
friendship and respect rather than denigrate and scorn others. We may become
champions of civility in a society that is infected with epidemic rudeness. The
need for civility in America is unequaled in our history!
To practice civility does not mean
that I must agree with everyone or that I condone the behavior of those who
ignore biblical principles. It does mean that I will refrain from conduct that
employs bitterness, rage or violence. It means that I will stand my ground
without vilifying those whose opinions about God and country differ with my
own. I must remember that my freedom to believe as I choose is the same freedom
that allows my neighbors to disagree with me.
In recent years I have been privileged
to join more than one hundred men and women who are committed doing all we can
to restore civility and tranquility to America. We desire to restore the
practice of kindness toward others in a nation that is being torn apart by
hatred and ill will. The civility crisis in America threatens to deny us the
“more perfect union” that all good men prize.
In addition to the practice of civility, we can and must pray.
If we can find time to enjoy the lake, barbequed ribs, fireworks or a baseball
game, we can surely find the time to pray.
is a matter of record, for which we should offer thanks to God, that our
founding fathers did not seek to establish a nation separated from God but a
nation that would bring glory to God. For example, Ben Franklin, one of our
more prominent founding fathers, appealed to President George Washington to let
every assembly of the new government begin with “prayers imploring the
assistance of Heaven.”
Franklin reminded the president that in the beginning of the
contest with Great Britain they were so aware of danger that “we had daily
prayer in this room for Divine Protection.” Those prayers, Franklin insisted,
“were graciously answered by a Superintending providence” whose favor was
given. Then Franklin asked a question which we need to answer in our own day: “To that kind providence we owe
this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our
future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do
we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?”
Franklin went on to affirm his profound conviction that “God
governs in the affairs of men.” Then, though not a preacher, Franklin reminded
his good friend, the president, of the scriptural warning that “except the Lord
build they labor in vain that build it.”
Declaring his firm belief in this scripture, Franklin issued this
warning which we should surely heed in our time: “I also believe that without
his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than
the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local
interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a
reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may
hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments
by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.”
Standing then on the shoulders of Ben Franklin, I implore my fellow Americans to pray on this fourth of July for the wisdom to live as people accountable to God so that our nation may continue to bring glory and honor to God and remain known to all nations as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” And may all our prayers be drenched with heartfelt thanksgiving for God’s abundant favor! + + +