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Posts Tagged ‘fourth of july’

GBA

It’s okay to say, “God bless America.” In Jeremiah 29:5-7 we find some interesting concepts.  God says to build houses and settle down. God also says to seek peace and prosperity of the city. In the last verse, we are told, “pray to the Lord, for if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Here, we are encouraged to pray for the city. The governmental institution that controls and runs much of daily life. Even more interesting is the place of this suggestion, because the people were in captivity, i.e. Babylon. If Israel needed to pray for the cities, towns, and government while they were in bondage, perhaps we should pray for our nation in both good times and bad.

Nations need healing, just like people. Nations can offer forgiveness to both enemies and friends. Nations can receive our gratitude and thanks.

When we say, “God bless America” it is a prayer, not a boast.  May we continue to celebrate what is right with our Republic and pray for God’s power to make it even better.

God bless America!

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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.

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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