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religious freedom

As July the fourth approaches, I am mindful of the freedoms we have in America. Our nation was built on the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Religious freedom is a large part of the liberties we enjoy.

Certain rights were held so highly by our founders that they decided to amend the Constitution and guarantee personal freedoms. The First Amendment would protect our ability to worship. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .”

The Establishment Clause prohibits Congress from creating a national religion. They cannot establish one faith for the people of America. This is how England and her colonies operated prior to the Revolution. Laws were in place to fine people who attended a religious assembly other than the Church of England. It allowed magistrates and authorities to shutter the churches of outlying religious groups. Clergy outside the Church of England could be fined for preaching, expressing their religious views, or sharing the gospel. Even people who allowed a religious assembly in their own home could receive a huge fine.

People during this time had little to no religious freedom. British law required citizens to attend worship services. Practicing your faith in a different manner or practicing a different faith, one not permitted by the government, could be grounds for your arrest, conviction, or execution. Our founders wanted to insure that America would not return to the ways of England by establishing a state church, and punishing people for practicing their individual faith.

The Free Exercise Clause reserves the right of Americans to accept religious beliefs and engage in their individual religious practices. The clause protects not just religious beliefs but actions made on behalf of those beliefs. In short, government should not prohibit people from practicing their faith.

As an American, I enjoy more religious freedom than a majority of people across the globe. I am a blessed man who can worship Christ. As a Christian, I have not been persecuted for my faith or forced to embrace another religion. My country protects me and my personal freedoms. Many Christians do not have the blessings of liberty that I know.

May God continue to bless the freedoms of our land and keep them in place, now and in generations to come.

prayer invite

Pray for Charleston and the Emanuel AME Church. Nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Wednesday night prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina.

Lord we cry out to you in anguish and pain.  This senseless act leaves us hallow inside.  All we can do is shake our heads and cry.  We ask that you comfort those who mourn the loss of family and friends.  May Christian men and women rise up to support each other in this time of despair.  Help us to remember that you are the strong tower we seek when times are tough.  Guide our hands and feet to respond in a Christ-like manner.

Dday

Remember the courage and sacrifice that moved our world in 1944.  Today there are only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II.  When you see a WW II veteran, always stop to say hello and thank you for your service.  May we always remember what they did on our behalf.

Wedding

June is a busy month for weddings.  As we enter the season known for wedding ceremonies, share your knowledge and experience with couples who want to tie the knot.  We all want them to have a strong and beneficial marriage that will last.

Some couples fall into the trap of spending more time planning the ceremony than discussing their married life together.  A wedding ceremony can last 20-45 minutes, but the marriage is intended to last for the rest of their lives.  In an age when 47% of marriages end in divorce, couples need to build a solid foundation for their marriage to succeed.

Here are some observations from my foxhole.

Get pre-marital counseling.  This is extremely valuable to couples before the wedding bells chime.  Counseling get help you to identify problems before they turn into issues down the road.  Counseling will also help in finding strong solutions that will not jeopardize your union.

Strengthen your communication skills.  You can learn how to listen to your spouse and speak effectively with each other.  This does not happen by accident.  It will take time, effort, and practice.  While better communication skills may seem like a catch phrase, couples who learn the skills can resolve issues more quickly and avoid serious fights.

Discuss roles and expectations.  What will married life look like after the ceremony?  Don’t expect this to take care of itself down the road.  Now is the best time to discuss expectations.  Topics should cover a wide range of issues to give transparency and depth.  Who will make the morning coffee?  Will you have a joint checking account?  Will you be a one or two income household?  Does your spouse plan to go back to school?  Where will you worship?  Marriage counseling is a great place to start or continue the conversation.

Learn how to fight fair.  Couples get into arguments.  That is a given fact of life. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.  Verbal fights, arguments, and conflict will happen.  I can’t prevent you from fighting, but you can learn to fight fair with each other.  Take the time to educate yourself on these skills. Learn what to avoid, how to cool down, and move toward solving the problem as a team. 

Strengthen your faith.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 shares, “a rope of three strands is not quickly broken.” There is incredible wisdom in having God as the third strand in your marriage.  Allow His love to surround you, teach you, and draw you closer to your mate.  Learn to follow God’s plan for yourself and your marriage.  Live within the covenant of marriage.  Make faith a priority in your marriage. Worship together and reach new highs through Christ.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment.  So it is important to discuss where you are going and where you want to be as husband and wife.  Make time to discuss your goals and plans.  This is an exciting time to chart out a direction for your future together.  Keep God at the center of your plans, and your marriage will continue to grow.

Memorial Day

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose.  Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 665,000 American service members have died in combat since 1775. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make.  They counted others greater than themselves.  They stood up to fight for a cause.  They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note.  It is humbling.  It is loving.  It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

2015AFDPoster

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.

The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.

These warriors demonstrate incredible sacrifice, selfless service, and devotion each day.  Take the opportunity to pray for a member of our Armed Forces and his or her family.

road

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Graduation ceremonies are just around the corner.  I can hear families and friends asking a litany of questions to the cap and gown crowd.  “What are you going to do now?”  “Do you have a job lined up yet?”  “Are you going to move to find a job?” As a culture and a society we place a great deal of emphasis on the jobs we perform.  While we need employment, it seems that jobs can quickly become an obsession.  Jobs can turn into an all-consuming entity that receives much more time than forty hours a week.  In fact, we place so much importance on jobs and employment that a person’s career can quickly become your identity. As Christians, we should note the distinction between one’s work and one’s job.  Paul was an apostle, a missionary, and a pastor.  What was his job?  He made a living as a tentmaker.  Which was more important, his work or his job?  The job was used so that his work could continue. J. R. R. Tolkien was a university professor. He made his living at the university. But when we talk about Tolkien today he is remembered as the author who gave us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  His life’s work surrounded the written word, sharing stories, and communication. Our work and our jobs are not the same thing.  As people of faith, our work is to be a Christian and to demonstrate that Christian witness here on earth.  We are to be like Jesus, no matter our employer.  Our work should surround us and what we do for a living.  There should be Christian attorneys, Christian journalists, Christian farmers, Christian factor workers, Christian school teachers, Christian politicians, and Christian social workers. Christianity is not a hobby, it is our life’s work.  You should not be a Christian on Sundays only.  That would mean being a Christian in name only.  Faith should be a devoted and integrated part of life.  We are to be consumed in the cause and work of Christ. No matter what your diploma says, your work is greater than what you do for a living.  Your work is greater than the job you hold.  Yes, your work and your job are totally different things.  May God help us as we pursue His plan for our life’s work.

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