PRAISE GOD FOR OUR FREEDOM

Today, Independence Day, July 4, 2016, we celebrate the fact that we are a free people.  We do not have the tyrannical rule of those who subjugate the people for their own profit.  We do not have the fear that our property will be confiscated if we disagree with the sovereign over some issue.  We do not have the fear that the government will prevent us from worshiping God according to our own beliefs and the Scripture.  Indeed, we don’t even have to give honor to those who guaranteed these freedoms for us.

Harold Wittenborn 1943
Harold Wittenborn, my father, loving Christian witness, and veteran of World War II. He has now gone to be with the Lord.

But on this day, July 4, we stop to celebrate all those who served to give us our freedom.  The soldiers who fought in the various wars, World War I and II, the Korean  and Viet Nam Conflicts, and a host of other conflicts around the world, both past and present.

Marine officer
My son, now retired from the USMC, was preserved by God through conflicts overseas.

We celebrate those who survived the wars and returned to their families, and we remember those who are no longer with us, whether they died on the battlefield or in the subsequent years since their service.

But, freedom without some standard, some constraint, some guideline is really nothing other than anarchy – everyone doing that which seems fitting (and profitable for) themselves.

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)

When we abandon the governing standard, we have undermined the very freedom that allows us to select that standard as our own.

I suggest that Scripture presents the standard that we should follow – the Old Testament Law of God as given to His hand-picked man, Moses, is the standard that shows us how we are to live.  It applies to those under the Law in the Old Testament and it applies as an indicator of God’s character to those of us who live in New Testament times, following Christ’s death and resurrection.

Flag
Old Glory flying high.

Today, it is right that we should honor our flag, our military, our Constitution and our Country.  God has blessed America with incredible riches, beauty and power.

However, it is also right that we offer our thanksgiving to God for the country in which we live.   The men who founded our Country had incredible vision and were confident that they had been led by the Hand of God in their decisions and focus for the new land.

President George Washington, in his first inaugural address delivered April 30, 1789, stated:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aides can supply every human defect; that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow citizens at large, less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Today, let us give thanks for the vision of our Founding Fathers and for the courage of the men and women who forged the way into the land, who established this marvelous country, and who preserved it, some with their lives, for freedom to be upheld and sustained for future generations.

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

Today, let us also give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for our sins so that we could be covered in His righteousness before God the Father Almighty.   His death and resurrection grants us freedom not only for the here and now but also for eternity.  His sacrifice granted us freedom from spiritual death, from sin, from the power of Satan and from the power of our sinful nature.

Father, we give thanks to You for this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s independence. The song “America the Beautiful” reminds us of your constant blessings on us. Your grace and your mercy have been given to us in full measure, abounding fully to your glory.  As we celebrate our independence today, may we be aware of your hand in the workings of our country and, moreover, may we be aware that true freedom comes only from You, and for that we give You thanks.

WHO IS HOLDING YOUR HAND?

Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee

There was a song that we sang in my home church when I was a child and the words went something like this:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

I believe the title of the song is “I know who holds my hand”. I have tried to find out who authored the lyrics to give credit where credit is due and all I have come up with is “unknown” as the author. I don’t remember the words to the rest of the song, but I know that the part I have quoted has been part of my being for many decades and has provided peace and comfort through its text.

My parents and me
My parents and me

So – Who holds my hand? My parents held my hands and took me to church, telling me of God, of Jesus and His love. But, both of them are now gone. Now, my loving husband holds my hand, but he, like I, cannot know what tomorrow may bring.

In our fallen, sin-sick world, there are times when situations come upon you that stun you into complete silence. Circumstances arise that you could not have imagined, and, if you had been told of them before they actually happened, you would have vehemently denied that such an event would even be possible!
But then it happens, and what was formerly unthinkable becomes not only possible but fact, and you are left with shambles in your hands, a hole in your heart, and confusion reigning in your mind.

U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.
U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.

One such situation arose in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday, July 16, when a gunman drove to a recruiting office and started shooting through the windows; he then drove to a Marine Reserve Center and started shooting, ruthlessly taking the lives of four members of the United States Marine Corps, one member of the U. S. Navy, and injuring a number of others before he was stopped by the Chattanooga Police. Men who defended our country in war overseas were gunned down in their own country.

U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.

They didn’t know when they left home for work that morning that it would be their last day on earth. Their families didn’t know that they were about to lose a beloved member of the family. Chattanooga didn’t know that the city would be rocked by the act of a shooter who killed indiscriminately that morning.

As we watched the news about Chattanooga, the similarity to the news from Charleston, South Carolina came to mind as we remembered the carnage at the Mother Emanuel Church just a few weeks ago.  Nothing can prepare you for such an event.   It was unthinkable until we had to face the fact that it was, indeed, a reality.

Empty platitudes are insufficient to offer a balm or salve for hearts that are ripped open by grief.   As we try to recover from the shock and enormity of the carnage, we must remember all the promises that we have in Scripture through the grace and mercy of our God and Father.

Who holds my hand? Who can give solace and peace when things fall apart? Who is Strength, Comfort and Everlasting Love?

It is my God, my Savior and my Comforter.

  • God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    • Old Testament: God is not limited in time, as are we. Indeed, He is the perpetual I AM. See Exodus 3:13 where God tells Moses that I AM is directing Moses to lead the people out of Egypt.
    • New Testament: This thought is reiterated in Hebrews 13:8 where we read: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
  • God is the lover of my soul.
    • Old Testament: Isaiah 38:17 reads: “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
    • New Testament: Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
  • God is also my Redeemer and my Savior.
    • Old Testament:
      • Job 19:25 says: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth….”
      • Isaiah 48:17 says: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.’”
    • New Testament:
      • Paul says in Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
      • John 3:14-16: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
      • John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

So, where do you draw your strength and comfort in difficult times? We who are Christians are called to be strength and comfort to those who are grieving, hurt and distressed.  We are to be the hands and feet of Christ as we live out our faith to others, especially during difficult times like these.  We can pray for them, comfort them, and provide assistance because even the routine things will be difficult for the families who have had their lives disrupted in such a brutal way. This is not to minimize the tragedy at all, but ultimately, the best thing we can do is to point them to Jesus Christ who is the Source of real comfort and peace here and forever more..

So, Who is holding your hand?

HAPPY 239TH BIRTHDAY, AMERICA – WE ARE PRAYING FOR YOU.

Yes, I know that today is July 5th and I am one day late for posting about our national celebration of independence – I should have posted this on July 4th.   But I couldn’t do it for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was that I could not come up with a way to express my thoughts this Independence Day.

Patriotic Trifle
Patriotic Trifle

As a family, we have a proud heritage as Americans. My paternal ancestors came from Germany, and my maternal ancestors originated in England. I am a Daughter of the American Revolution, meaning that one of my ancestors fought in the war for our freedom from the English King. My mother’s sister enlisted in The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during World War II and both of our fathers fought in that war, surviving by the grace of God so that we, their progeny, would have life and freedom from tyranny. Our son is currently serving in the USMC as well.

When I was a child, there was no need to discuss whether we could talk about God in school or in public arenas – America was identified as a Christian country; thus it was understandable that we would communicate with God, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Today, if you hear the name of Jesus on the television, in music on the iPod, on YouTube, or out in public areas, it is likely being used as a curse and not as the name of our Lord and Savior.

The opening lines of the Declaration of Independence declares that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” and we were taught that this foundational document recognized that God was the underpinning of our nation. Today, the “all men are created equal” is much talked about by advocates for change and in the media, but the role of the Creator in our country’s founding is ignored.

I fear that this 239th birthday finds our country’s Christian foundation in serious trouble. Indeed, it seems as though we are trying to eradicate all vestiges of Christianity from its conscience so that America will be turned completely away from Christianity. The argument, in very simple terms, seems to be that, since the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state, the church and especially the Christian’s God must not enter into the equation for resolution of any issue, consideration of any question, or discussion of any policy for the nation, or even for the individual or family. Thus, there can be no prayer to God in schools or at the athletic competition; there are no Ten Commandments in public buildings. The Bible is not taught as a book containing the Word of God … it may be moralistic but so is Aesop’s Fables.

The argument continues that the Christian’s God is not necessary because we are Americans … we can go to the moon or create babies in test tubes. We are independent, fully sufficient for anything … God is simply irrelevant and a waste of time. He is not necessarily dead (a philosophy popular several decades ago) but we certainly don’t need Him around and we really don’t need to worship a deity that is irrelevant.

The building for the Supreme Court of the United States
The building for the Supreme Court of the United States

The catastrophic shift in the accepted point of view was illustrated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision about gay marriage. The decision was hailed as a progressive move by some and was received with saddened hearts by many others.

Symbols of Justice at The Supreme Court Building
Symbols of Justice at The Supreme Court Building

I am an attorney, and I know that a single fact can change the result of a case or the fashioning of the appellate argument can focus the bench in various ways, depending on the argument. Thus, I am not going to analyze or comment on the decision itself.

My difficulty in fashioning my thoughts about Independence Day is based purely on what appears to be the systematic removal of God from our nation’s life.

In an article published on July 4, 2015 in the Washington Post and various other media, including The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, Newt Gingrich countered “Five myths about the Founding Fathers.” The first myth noted is that our Founding Fathers wanted to have a secular nation. Gingrich cites several of our Founding Fathers who firmly believed that God was the foundation upon which this country rested.

The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC
The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC
  • Jefferson who asked: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?”
The Washington Monument, Washington, DC
The Washington Monument, Washington, DC
  • George Washington who thought that religion was essential to supply a higher authority for the rule of law. In Washington’s Farewell Address he stated that “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
  • Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The politician who loves liberty … knows that morality overthrown (and morality must fall with religion), the terrors of despotism can alone curb the impetuous passions of man.” [My own translation of Hamilton’s quote is “when morality and religion are gone, so is freedom because we will have traded freedom for rule by a despot.]

I hate “gloom and doom” thoughts – I know my Lord is Sovereign. Even when I am confused and at a loss for words (which does not happen often, as you can see by the length of this post), He is in control and He has me in His hands, so I don’t have to worry!   But, watching my country turn its back on God is distressing.

In Jeremiah 11:14, when the people were being disciplined for trading God for the idols of the heathen societies around them, God instructed the prophet: “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble.”

It appears that this is what America is in the process of doing/has done. So, what as Christians can we do?

PRAY!

This is not a cop-out or platitude – it is a call to action. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In James 5:16, we read:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Prayers by the Christian sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, through His Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ, will accomplish much for our country.

The Presidential Prayer Team Seal
The Presidential Prayer Team Seal

For your prayer effort on behalf of our country, I would highly commend to you the Internet organization entitled Presidential Prayer Team. It is not a church and membership in their website is free. Here is a quote from their web page about PPT:

We are a national ministry dedicated to a focused mission of encouraging, inspiring and practicing PRAYER on behalf of our President, nation’s leaders and our troops. We also seek to be a catalyst in the development of a robust prayer lifestyle. We do this by finding and PROVIDING tools to encourage prayer – through email, web, mobile phones and other communication tools. Ultimately, we believe that prayer will TRANSFORM our nation, one heart at a time.

The website address is http://www.presidentialprayerteam.com/index.php. Please take some time and look at this website – it offers many historical insights about our country and God, and it identifies specific people and issues to be in prayer about for each day. If you feel led to pray for our country, you can sign up on this site and you will receive information to remind you to pray for America.

The Presidential Prayer Team notes that the Founding Fathers were not all Christians, but they “were firmly committed to biblical morality, to public prayer and praise, and to the conviction that God is the Creator of liberty.”

I challenge you to be a 2 Chronicles 7:14 praying Christian.

Blessings to you and our country.  May God bless America!