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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
Steven Simala Grant
Let me tell you a story from Alberta history: Cree Chief Maskepetoon met Rev. Robert Rundle, and at their first meeting declared "I will never become a Christian as long as there are horses to steal and scalps to take." Nevertheless Maskepetoon became a staunch friend to Rundle and his attitude towards religion began to change. He became a great and feared warrior, but then later became a Christian and a champion of peace.
John McDougall (son of pioneer missionary George, for whom McDougall United is named) later told about the murderer who stopped to shake hands with him while he was traveling with Maskepetoon. When John said "This man wants to shake hand with you," Maskepetoon, apparently under great strain, gave his hand in greeting. He later said to John, "that man killed my son and I often longed to kill him but because I wanted to become a Christian I have kept, with great effort, from avenging my son’s murder. Meeting your father and sitting beside you has softened my heart and now I have given him my hand. It was a hard thing to do but it is done and he need fear no longer as far as I’m concerned."
The story continues: on another occasion the Crees were camped near what is now the city of Wetaskiwin when the Blackfoot asked for a truce. The truce was granted and the Blackfoot came to smoke the pipe of peace. One of their number had murdered Maskepetoon’s father years earlier.
Maskepetoon saw this old warrior, his father’s killer, approach with the others. He ordered his best horse saddled and brought to the tent, then ordered the culprit to stand before him. The murderer expected to be killed. Instead he was asked to be seated. The Chief handed him his best, richly decorated suit. Then Maskepetoon spoke, "you killed my father. The time was when I would have gloried in drinking your blood, but that time is past. You need not fear. You must now become a father to me. Wear my clothes, ride my horse. Tell your people that this is the way Maskepetoon takes revenge."
"You have killed me, my son!" cried the old murderer. "Never in the history of my people has such a thing as this been known. My people and all men will say ’The young Chief is brave and strong and good. He stands alone.’"
Do you see the power of forgiveness? It turned a fierce warrior, who desired nothing more that to steal horses and men’s scalps, into a man who could shake the hand of the man who killed his son. It turned him into a man who could look his father’s murdered in the eye and say, “you killed my father, you must now become a father to me. Wear my clothes, ride my horse.” I want to leave that image in your mind, because it is almost the exact thing that God says to you and I: “Your sin hurt me deeply. You killed my son – your sin killed my son. Wear my clothes, ride my horse. You must now become a son to me.”
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, future US Presidents, were among the delegates meeting at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, on March 23, 1775, considering a resolution sending Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. The Virginia House of Burgesses was unconvinced. Finally, Patrick Henry spoke. He concluded:
"What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Reportedly, those in attendance, upon hearing the speech, also shouted, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
That passionate speech is credited with turning the tide. It is one of the most passionate lines from the American Revolution. It changed the course of history.
That line reminds me of a passionate prayer, prayed over 200 years earlier. John Knox prayed "Give me Scotland or I die."
John Knox was described as low in stature and of a weakly constitution. A contemporary, Mr. Thomas Smeaton, said, "I know not if God ever placed a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail."
When that frail body went to his knees, Mary, Queen of Scots, trembled. She said she feared the prayers of John Knox more than the combined armies of Europe.
Larry Christenson in his book, The Christian Family, says John Knox prayed with such power that all Scotland was awakened. He goes so far as to attribute the whole reformation of Scotland to Knox's prayers. He writes, "'Lord, Give me Scotland or I'll die!' [Knox] cried. And he prayed with such intensity that the Lord answered."
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn’t end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright’s prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
Wade Hughes, Sr
Flag Folding & The Meaning of Each Fold!
I guess this settles the "One Nation Under God" debate once and for all.
Do you know that at military funerals, the 21 gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
Have you ever noticed the honor guard pays meticulous attention correctly folding the American flag 13 times?
You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!
The 1st fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decaur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.
The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense
of our country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews’ eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity
and glorifies, in the Christians’ eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely
folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of
our nation’s motto, "In God We Trust."
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in,
it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever
reminding us of the soldiers who served under
General George Washington, and the Sailors
and Marines who served under Captain John
Paul Jones, who were followed by their
comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces
of the United States, preserving for us the rights,
privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.
There are some traditions and ways of doing
things that have deep meaning. In the future,
you’ll see flags folded and now you will know why.
As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sister’s head. I didn’t realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldn’t see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didn’t stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My mom’s actions showed that her concern for my sister’s health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to “consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.”
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. You’re battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of God’s abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. You’ve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. You’ve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. You’ve washed your feet many times. You’ve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. You’ve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But you’ve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you don’t come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You can’t do anything to earn His favor, and you can’t bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You can’t get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.
A RELIGIOUS ASSUMPTION
In America, unlike any other country of the time, the Founders envisioned a land where people of all faiths could worship God without fear of persecution. The freedom to worship would, in turn, cultivate the piety and virtue necessary for the success of self-government. Washington noted that it would be folly to believe that national morality could be sustained without the support and guidance of religion. And although the Founders provided the widest scope for religious liberty, they presupposed that the principles of the Judeo-Christian tradition would be enshrined in the hearts of all citizens. These religious principles, Benjamin Rush argued, should be encouraged for they “promote the happiness of society and the safety and well being of civil government.”
SOURCE: William J. Bennett. Our Sacred Honor: The Spirit of America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.
THE MOST IMPORTANT FREEDOM
Patrick Henry was a famous statesman and orator of colonial Virginia. In 1764 he was elected to the House of Burgesses where he became a champion of the frontier people, supporting their rights against the arrogant exercise of power by the aristocracy.
In 1774 he was a delegate to the First Continental Congress. In 1775, before the Virginia Provincial Convention, which was deeply divided between those who supported England and those who desired freedom, he uttered his most famous words, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
During the Revolutionary War he became commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces, a member of the Second Continental Congress, helped draw up the first constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and was largely responsible for drawing up the ammendments to our Constitution known as the Bill of Rights.
He became Virginia’s first governor, and was re-elected four times. Then he retired from public life, but despite his strong objections the people went ahead and re-elected him Governor for the 5th time. But he meant what he said, so he refused to take the office.
He was offered a seat in the U.S. Senate, and posts as ambassador to Spain and to France. President George Washington asked him to join his cabinet and become Secretary of State, and later wanted to appoint him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But he refused all such honors and recognitions.
Listen to these words from him: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians - not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Chris...
British statesman Edmund Burke argued, "men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."
Imprimis, Vol. 20, No. 9.
Illus.: “The General Took His Stand”
Fredrick the Great of Germany, was a scoffer, but his great general, Von Zealand, was a devout Christian. One day at a gathering, the king was making coarse jokes about Jesus and the whole palace was ringing with laughter. Von Zealand arose stiffly and said, “Your Majesty, you know I have not feared death. I have fought and won 38 battles for you and my country. I am an old man now. Soon I will go to be with the One who saved me from sin—the very One you are blaspheming against.” With trembling voice, King Fredrick replied, “General Von Zealand, I beg your pardon; I beg your pardon!” And the gathering quickly dispersed quietly.