Sunday, July 4, 2010

God Bless America

In 1938 the world was in turmoil. In the midst of a Great Depression, World War was brewing, and ready to erupt. The economic unrest and political turmoil was strikingly similar to what is happening in the world in which we live today. Consider some of the events of 1938.

In Asia, the Japanese were pushing the Chinese army of Chiang Kai-Shek farther and farther inland.

In the Middle East, Arabs massacred 20 Jews in the ancient city of Tiberius, and the Turkish army unleashed genocide on the Kurdish people.

In Europe, Spain was in a brutal Civil War... Fascism was growing in Italy...Adolph Hitler was extending his power beyond the borders of Germany... Hitler forced Austria into capitulating to his demands... Germany began to threaten Czechoslovakia... The Mauthausen Concentration Camp was built in Austria... Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler and Mussolini and announced that he had secured "Peace in our Time" through what became known as the Munich Agreement, which allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland... and the German government expelled 12,000 Polish Jews living in Germany.

Then on November 9th the Holocaust began with "Krystalnacht" - known as The Night of Broken Glass - as Nazi activists and sympathizers destroyed 7,500 Jewish owned businesses. That night, they burned 267 synagogues, killed 95 Jews, and arrested at least 25,000 Jewish men.

Here in the U.S.A., anxiety levels were high. Although officially our government was trying to maintain a state of isolation, it was becoming more obvious that the world was being dragged into a global conflict. On the night after "Krystalnacht", on her weekly radio program, singer Kate Smith sang a song for the first time. It had just been written by noted Jewish American

composer, Irving Berlin. The words were as follows:

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,

Let us swear allegiance to a land that is free.

Let us all be grateful to a land so fair,

As we raise our voices in solemn prayer.

God bless America,

Land that I love.

Stand beside her,

And guide her,

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the Oceans, white with foam,

God bless America.

My home, sweet home!"

Like Irving Berlin of old, my prayer today is that God will bless our nation and all Americans. Here is what the Bible says about God's blessing on a nation and its people:

Psalm 33:12-22 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out On all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, To deliver their soul from death And to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You. (NASB)

While this Psalm primarily speaks to the ancient nation of Israel, the principles remain the same today, to any people who will honor the Great "I AM".

I am not one who believes that patriotism and old time religion are the same thing. They are not. We must understand that America is not today, nor has it ever been, a literal "Christian Nation". We were founded as a Republic, not as a Theocracy. But our nation DOES have a Godly heritage that is quickly passing from the scene. There are several thoughts I would like to share with you today about God's blessing on our nation.

The United States of America was founded on Biblical principles. The earliest Pilgrims came here to escape religious persecution in their homeland. Liberty, justice, and truth have always bee a hall mark of our culture. Our founding documents acknowledge God's provision and protection, along with our need to trust Him. And while all of our founding fathers were not devout Christians, many of them referenced the Creator and the God of the Bible in public speeches, in private correspondence, and in diaries. All of them seemed to recognize the sovereignty of the Supreme Being.

God has blessed us in so many ways in the past. He has given us a land that is abundant in natural resources. The Native Americans lived from hunting, gathering and farming their abundant land. Vast expanses of rich forests met those Europeans who first came to these shores. There were powerful rivers and streams and countless freshwater lakes. The land stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a rich natural habitat for man and all living creatures. Natural resources such as coal, natural gas, limestone, and gold were discovered in abundance in this land of natural beauty. Green Appalachians and towering Rocky Mountains framed the interior plains.

We are a land of opportunity. The American Dream allows for anyone who is willing to work hard and do the right thing to rise to whatever heights they may attain. Thomas Edison, a poor hearing impaired young man used his imagination and ingenuity to create 1150 inventions, some of which lit up the homes and cities and brought a better way of life to all. Abraham Lincoln, born in a log cabin in Kentucky, became a self educated lawyer, rose to be President of the United States, and with one stroke of his pen, righted the wrong of slavery. He presided over the country during it's darkest hours, and saved the Union. Henry Ford, a young mechanic, changed transportation forever as he developed a way to assemble his new automobile models. Two of our own West Virginians come to mind as well. General Chuck Yeager and the late Senator Robert Byrd, started life as poor country boys in rural parts of the Mountain State and rose to the heights of their chosen professions. Yeager as the daring test pilot, who became the embodiment of having the "Right Stuff" required to become an astronaut. Byrd served in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate longer than any other man in the history of our nation, casting 18,000 votes. He recently died at the age of 92 with a 98% attendance record in the Senate. Presidents, past and current, along with officials from around the nation attended his Memorial Service in Charleston last week.

A song recorded back in 1963 by Jay and the Americans sums it up this way:

"Only in America

Can a guy from anywhere

Go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire.

Only in America,

Can a kid without a cent,

Get a break and maybe grow up to be President.

Only in America,

Can a kid who's washing cars,

Take a giant step and reach right up and touch the stars."

In a greater sense, God has blessed us with a unique system of government which has stood for 234 years as the standard longed for by oppressed peoples around the world. It is founded on the concept of "We the People". We loan our authority to a governing system that guarantees freedom of speech and a free press. Our Constitution grants us the right to keep and bear arms, to assemble peacefully and to worship freely as we see fit, with no interference or direction from the government. We have a system of checks and balances through the three distinct branches of a government (as Lincoln said) "of the people, by the people, and for the people". To fight the potential of tyranny, there are provisions for the removal from office of those who would abuse the power granted them by the people.

Although the Constitution does not use the actual term, there is (as Jefferson wrote) a "wall of separation between church and state". Although we may sometimes be frustrated by the way this term is mischaracterized, it is a concept that has long been valued by people of faith. The "Establishment Clause" of the Constitution's First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Therefore, we are free from any imposed "state religion" and allowed to practice our own with no interference from the state.

I could go on and on about God's blessings upon our nation throughout our history, but we must not forget that America needs God today! Because we have become such a totally secular society, we are often like gluttonous hogs gobbling up acorns on the ground, without ever looking up to see from whence our blessings have come.

We still need God today in the public square. We need Him in our schools, in our businesses, and even in the halls of government. Furthermore, as shocking as it may sound, we need Him in our CHURCHES as well!

Here is how we can have His influence in all of the above. First, it does not come from marches, and protests. Not by depending on political parties, legal defense funds, or political action committees. It will not come through the ballot box, or even by depending on Ethics and Religious Liberty Commissions.

God's influence in America will come ONE PERSON AT A TIME. It will come as individuals will come to a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. His blessings will fall upon us as we honor Him in our homes and in every aspect of our lives. His blessings will come as His people become fully committed to His mission. When we do that, we will truly be Salt and Light to our nation and the world.

God can change the downward spiral of America and bless us again.

Here is what He promised (and warned) King Solomon upon the dedication of His house of worship in Jerusalem, centuries ago. Again, while the message was to the people of Israel for that particular occasion, the principle is true in any time and any place.

2 Chronicles 7:13-14 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and 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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (NASB)

I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day holiday. In the midst of all the division and bitterness around us today, let us join TOGETHER as Americans and implore the Creator in unison with the prayer written by Irving Berlin, so long ago - "God Bless America!"

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