In light of some of the problems that plague the United States many have either forgotten or have never know what the “American dream” is really about. There is a considerable lack of understanding of why our founding fathers fled the oppressive hand of one, King George. Well, there is little sense in rewriting the history books. However, it serves great purpose to examine two points of interest in respect to the founding of the United States as it relates to the American dream.
Item one – The matter of religious freedom under King George was much less than a misnomer. One had to essentially celebrate his way or no way. This is to say that King George preferred a State religion. It was, in a manner of speaking, a type of the bondage held by the Romans over the Jews. The Israelites were not allowed to worship God as they desired. They had to worship predicated upon the desires of the ruling authority. This was the problem between King George and those that sought freedom.
The real American dream had much to do with religious freedom. The preamble of the Constitution of the United States points to our Creator. It is our Creator that affords us the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. The chief freedom is that of religion (or Christianity) as seen by our founding fathers. The 1st Amendment says in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Hence, part of the American dream is one that allows the free worship of God without interference from Government. Note, the Amendment says nothing about freedom from religion, as some purport. Instead, the Christian need not hide or celebrate in private. He has every right to worship God publically without fear of governmental retaliation.
Still, there are those that seek to destroy Christianity. Christians are the only group of people wherein it is politically correct to offend and attack. Christians are the only ones forced to acquiesce to things contrary to the teachings of Scripture. Moreover, when Christians stand for godly virtues they are called everything but the children of God. Well, this is not what the founding fathers had in mind and this is not pleasing to God. The question, then, is where is the American dream for Christians desiring only to please God?
Item two – Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution discusses taxation. This is important because King George had no trouble imposing high taxes on the people. Among the taxes imposed on the young Colonies were the Tea, Quartering and Stamp taxes. None of these taxes did anything to aid America (not yet the United States) but served only to bolster the British desire. This was, in essence, theft of labour. This is why taxation, as outlined in the Constitution, was designed to be limited in scope and for the specific purpose of defending the homeland. The exact verbiage in part is, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.”
Now, some argue that taxes should be high. Some even seek to biblical reason for such actions. While it is good and wonderful for the people to be generous and give of their labour it is not encumbered upon the Government to force such generosity. This is tantamount to slavery. Instead, part of the American dream is a dream to work and be successful. Some will fail and others will not. This really does not matter; the pursuit of happiness means there will be a struggle and that struggle comes in many forms. Financial stability, without an oppressive tax system, goes a long way to securing the American dream.
Many things can be addressed and the Constitution can be juxtaposed with Scripture on many fronts. And that is the point – freedom and the real American dream is a dream of worshipping God, even with our money, away from the oppressive hand of King George and the like.
Working in a maximum security prison with hardened inmates I get to see a lot of things. One of the things I see regularly is men walking around with walls so thick that it would take bulldozers to penetrate those walls. Yet, when I bring those same men in my office to speak with them the frailties begin to shine through. The walls are really a front because in the prison setting showing any sign of weakness could mean life or death.
My point is that while many put on strong fronts mankind is extremely frail. We are frail because we need to realize that we exist because of the strength of God that resides in those of us that rely and trust on the Lord of our Salvation. Despite this there are some who see themselves as strong and that they should be strong for those around them. This idea seems strange because it suggests that one should live outside what he is in order to present as something he is not. Let me explain.
My work as chaplain means that I have to deal with people in all stages of life. One stage is sickness. You see, very recently a young man, not yet in his thirties, suffered a stroke while on the unit. This young man was rushed to a local hospital and I was notified. I quickly notified the family of the disease ridden young man. From there I determined I would visit him in the hospital and find a way to authorize a family visit. The warden was quick to approve the family visit and my plans to visit were being finalized.
At the appointed time I went to the hospital. Family members were there before I was. The young man, while conscious, was not very responsive. Family members and friends were apparently broken as they saw the helplessness of the young man and their own weaknesses. Out of well meaning one family friend advised the mother to be strong for the young man. This, in my view, is the problem. The mother had no ability to be strong. Her young son was lying in a hospital bed with no sure prognosis. He was moving yet not communicating. A young man who might have been thought strong was quite frail and frail indeed.
The mother could not contain herself. She was unable to stay in the room. He son was not only a ward of the state but also a ward to the trouble that rests in his body. She would not be comforted. She could not be comforted. Her human frailty began to break forth the more she considered the dire state of the son she loved. It was not within her to be strong. It was only within her to weep and morn. Her weakness allowed her to be human.
When we consider biblical characters Paul might be said to be amongst the strongest. His evangelical tours proved to be more than undetermined weak people could consider. The strength of Paul was enough to move him forward. The weakness of Paul allowed him to trust God. This idea of the weakness of Paul is amplified in II Corinthians chapter twelve. Paul’s continued reliance on God caused him to realize just how weak he was. It was also opportunity for the strength of God to be realized in frail man.
With this, I would encourage all to lay aside the idea that we should be strong on every count. As I left that hospital room and headed back to the prison my weakness began to come forth. It was all I could do not to cry. This was coupled with the fact that the day before I attended the funeral of a family member of a co-worker. Yes there are times when we must reach down in order to pull some who have given in to weakness. Even so, we are only able to pull because of the strength of God that resides in us. Do not be ashamed of the frailty of humanity. Instead, in frailty allow the strength of God to pour in and through you.
Yes, it is true. Today I went and took advantage of early voting in Texas. There is no surprise that once again my vote was for freedom. Honesty must prevail when I say that I did not recognize all the names on the list. It was a rather extensive list. That only goes to show that I perhaps should have done a bit more homework. Be that as it may, I did enough research to know that freedom was my ultimate motive for voting. Freedom is an issue that I chose not to overlook and is a matter that I made paramount as I pulled the lever. Freedom is a matter that deserves one vote and then another.
It is for this reason that voting should be done in more than one way. Yes, one can go to the polling place and carefully select issues that are important to him. This is part of what is called the democratic process. However, it is not enough to simply pull the electoral lever in favour of freedom. Freedom must be lived no matter where the voter is. This means that one action must be in line with the vote he made. Let me explain.
As a minister of the Gospel I implore people to live a life complimentary of scriptural teaching. This is a vote not so much in the proclamation of Christian virtues as it is in living out those virtues. The same is true when one casts his vote for freedom. One cannot simply say that his vote is for freedom. He must have a lifestyle emblematic of that freedom. He must know when to evoke such freedoms and know when not to evoke them. The fact is there is more than one way to vote and one such way is in action.
Some might recall the time I left Baltimore a couple years ago. The State of Maryland has proven to be oppressive and not wanting to adhere to the Constitution. I had had enough. So, when the opportunity presented itself I decided to vote with my feet. And, vote I did. I voted for freedom on a number of fronts. I did not use the ballot box; I used another freedom. I am free to live in any State in this union so I decided to vote with my feet. I used actions that afforded me the ability to live as a free man should. I made yet another vote.
Those calling themselves Christians also have opportunity to vote. The votes, though, are not made under the watchful eyes of state election judges. Instead, this vote is looked upon by a Holy and Righteous God. You see, there are many that make votes on Sunday mornings. They vote to let Jesus into their lives while they choose to lay aside the sin that separated them from God. They realize that “He who the Son has set free is free indeed (John 8:36). There is a longing for the freedom and words of repentance are made to that end.
Unfortunately many choose not to vote for that freedom by reason of their lifestyles. Some try to live a double life, secret service saints, as it were. There is a tendency to Christianity on Sunday mornings and one for hedonism during the rest of the week. The true vote is not for the freedom provided by Christ. The vote is for diabolical celebrations proving only to widen the way of destruction. This is a dangerous double standard which only pulls from freedom.
Yes, in these United States we are in the midst of a heated presidential election. There is fighting on every side. Some are fighting for freedom while others seek forms of certain slavery. Yet, there is another vote. That vote has more to do with our lifestyles. This vote has to do with how we choose to live our lives. If we live for Christ and His standards then our vote is freedom. If we cave in to the sultry, seductive world of what feels good for the moment then our vote is for bondage. Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me, I and my house will serve the Lord. We have cast our vote and we will live in such a way as to please the Lord.
Continuing to Stand
It is true that I watched the State of the Union address last evening. To say that I was impressed would not lead to the truth of what I truly felt. Nonetheless, the most troublesome thing that I heard was when our “Christian” President chose to uphold Islam and its tenants over the virtues of Christianity. Now, if one is Islamic it stands to reason that such individuals would further what he sees as just and honourable through Muslim eyes. However, when one is a Christian it should also stand to reason that such a person uphold the virtues of Christianity above all else.
The fact is that Christianity is not given to the weak and appeasing. It is not given to those that uphold its virtues so long as its standards do not offend. The fact is that the Gospel never seeks to appease. Instead, the Gospel has shown itself to be a stumbling stone and a rock of offence (Romans 9:33). This means that there are some who will not take too kindly to the standard of Scripture. Others will find reason to avoid it even if that avoidance means making cultic ventures greater than the Gospel. Well, Christians, it is time we continued to stand. It is time to take back the narrative from those who love not Jesus and stand on the very principles of the Gospel.
The hallmark principle of the Word of God is love. It was because of love that God sent His only begotten Son into the world in order to restore a broken relationship. It was because of love that Jesus humbled himself unto death; even the death of the cross in order to make things right between the Father and man. It is because of love that Christ remains on the right hand of the Father interceding for those that love Him. That love is furthered in Christendom to all that know not Christ might come to know Him. That love is extended to all – even followers of Islam. That love is perpetuated in the lives of the Christian whereby his life is one showing forth the love of God. Love is the hallmark of all that God is as God is love.
On the other hand Islam does not present in love. Now, some might say that all of Islam does not seek to be like what is counted as radical. Even so, contrary to the commandment of love found in the Holy Writ, Islam presents no such idea; not even amongst its own. Many Muslim men rape their women and other women. There are honour killings in the name of Allah for those who betray the teachings of Islamists. Many Muslim men take very young wives and often those wives are counted as property. Those counted as infidels are beheaded, burned and drowned. Yet, Islam is counted as the religion of peace even while the Prince of Peace is seen as a mere prophet to be subordinated to Muhammad.
This is not a time for Christian apathy. It is not a time to kowtow to the move of some political figures that seek to remove Christianity from the public arena. Instead, it is time to stand in the face of adversity. It is time to hold fast to the fundamental teaching of the Gospel. It is time not to give in to the feel good temporary gimmicks of the day. Instead there needs to be a continuation of the stand that was called for in Scripture. This stand is not a stand with calm waters in a peaceful pond. No, this is a stand when the wind and waters are contrary to what we know to be right. We started standing and that stand needs to be perpetual.
Ephesians chapter six uses the word “stand” three times. The idea of standing is central to the chapter and to Ephesians at large. However, the idea of standing is not specific to the church of Ephesus. Christians today are also faced with the wiles of the enemy. Christians today need to wear the entire armour of God. And, when one wears armour he, by necessity, must stand. Standing is not an act of apathy. It is an act of boldness and determination. Determination — what an idea from a determined God in order to restore broken relationships. Standing in love; what a way to present the truth of the Word of God without shame.
It’s official; the year 2015 has been written and is forever recorded in the annals of time. During 2015 there were many good things and many bad things that have taken place. Most seem to focus on the bad because it seems the bad things have had significant impacts on those concerned. The bad is rehearsed over and over in the minds of the hurting causing feelings of depression, weariness and hopelessness. This is going on even while there are a number of good things that have also taken place.
It is true that the hurts and disappointments of life have lingering effects. Consider, for instance, the loss of a job. The impacts of such a loss are reciprocal. Or, perhaps, jobs applied for were met with the resounding sound of “no” despite being well qualified. It could also be that present jobs just do not suffice. And, the matter of the work force is not the only matter of concern. What about those of us who have lost loved ones through death? What about that unwanted and undeserved divorce? The list of hurts and disappointments goes on and on causing melancholy to be the order of the day. But, don’t despair. Don’t give in and don’t you dare quit.
It is common for people to look to new years as the beginning of new things in their lives. Often new ventures are sought and new ideas are implemented. And, while there is nothing wrong with the new there is much to be said for the things already in existence. For instance, those that have take time to further their educations might find it difficult to lose earned degrees. Those having vocational skills might never forget how to do manual labour. And, these are good things. These things are good and have been placed in individuals not only for their own well-being but also for the good of those served. It is suspected there are good things in you as well. Don’t you give up on those things in you. Soon room will be made for the gifts God has been developing in you for years. No, don’t you give in and don’t you dare quit.
The fact that you have soaked your pillow with tears only means that you have been broken. Do you not realize that God uses the brokenness of one man to bring healing in another? This brokenness means that God has not ignored you; instead it means that God loves you and has enveloped you with His compassion. Now, that compassion that has been born in you can be used to bring another into the loving arms of Jesus. Your brokenness is really a source of strength to stand in the face of things that have sought to, well; break you. It did not work. You are still here. So, don’t you dare quit. No, don’t do it.
It has been difficult and it has been hard. Suicide, however, is not the answer. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God did not make a mistake even though your parents may have. Your life is more than worth living. Don’t let the discouragements and hurts of this world cause you to miss out on what God has for you. No, it will not be easy in 2016 – it will be worth the struggle. You are beautiful and are a child of God. Don’t cheat yourself of the victories God has stored for you just because of past hard times. No, don’t you dare quit on yourself and don’t you dare quit on God.
Some of the people in the Church at Philippi began to get discouraged. Paul realized this and sought to remind the people that God was not finished with them. His words in Philippians 1:6 make God’s intentions very clear. The words, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” give credence that while God may do a new thing He will not forsake that things already in you. This is to say, the old brokenness can be renewed to minister to someone unable to see their way. Learning had in years past can be used to build confidence in someone today. Yes, God has begun a good work in you therefore you must not quit. God is faithful concerning His promises. Therefore, if the promise has not yet been manifested there is great need to push forward and work toward the promise of a faithful and just God.
No, don’t you dare quit this year. Don’t put your head in the sand hoping that it will all go away. No, don’t do it. Keep on moving. Keep on pushing. Keep on trusting in the God of your salvation. God is not finished with what He started in you. You will succeed. You will accomplish that mission. You will be what God has called you to be. Remember that faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things of not seen. Just don’t give up and you had better not give in. God is far from finished with you so don’t you dare quit!