Summary: A nation is not saved by the strength of its military nor by the craftiness of its leaders. A nation is only be assured of salvation if it is blessed by God. Our nation used to be focused on God in many things, but that has changed. What can we do to chan

OPEN: The year was 1620.

102 pilgrims were huddled below deck and no hatches open because of continuous storms. All non-essential personnel required to stay below decks; there was the constant crying of small children; there was no chance to cook any meals.

The pilgrims spent 7 weeks in an ill-lit, rolling, pitching, stinking pit of human misery.

Still – in the midst of all this hardship, they constantly prayed and sang and confessed their sins.

This didn’t play well with the crew - one of which made it his personal agenda to mock the Pilgrims at every turn. He gloated at their sickness and delight in telling them how much he looked forward to sewing them in shrouds and feeding them to the fish. For surely some of them would soon be dying—death was a familiar late among landlubbers on these long voyages—and these were the puniest assortment of "psalmsinging puke-stockings" he’d ever seen.

But he was wrong.

There were only two deaths on the voyage of the Mayflower.

Guess who the first one to die was?

At the peak of his tormenting, this same crewman suddenly took gravely ill of an unknown fever and he died within a single day! No one else caught this mysterious disease, and his was the first shrouded body to go over side.

From that day on, the crew lost their enthusiasm to mock the pilgrims.

(The Light and the Glory Peter Marshall, David Manuel, p. 117)

When they finally reached the shores of the New World, finding a proper harbor for the Pilgrims was difficult. But they finally settled on what should have been the most disastrous piece of land available. It had been inhabited by the fiercest and most deadly Indian tribe anywhere along the coast.

But when they left their ship there were no Indians to be found.

The tribe had been decimated by a terrible plague that had swept through their people just a year or two before. When the Pilgrims left their ship they found that the land that had already been cleared for crops.

APPLY: Psalm 33 declared this:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (vss. 12-15)

The Pilgrims had come to this land WITHOUT the desire to rob, or pillage or plunder. They had come (instead) to find a place to worship God in peace. And – as long as they followed God’s leading - God blessed them and they enjoyed relative peace with the Indian tribes that surrounded them.

This first group of settlers to New England were Godly people that sought God’s will in their new land. And for a couple of generations they did things of which we can be proud.

These are the people that one of patriotic songs speaks of.

Sing it with me:

“My country, ’tis of Thee, Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside let freedom ring!

Our fathers’ God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing;

Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light;

Protect us by thy might, great God, our King.”

For nearly two generations, the settlers of New England were Godly people… but over time a new generation arose that began to drift away from God. And many of the new immigrants to their area were not interested in Church and many were criminals that England wanted get rid of.

By 1730, only about 10% of the people in the Colonies attended church at all.

Much of what you hear derogatory about our early history comes out of this period. Those who oppose Christianity love to point out the faults of that time. (Melvin Newland)

But then something amazing happened!

Beginning in 1734, a handful of preachers: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield Gilbert Tennant, John Wesley, and others – began to preach in the churches and in the streets and in the fields. These soon turned into great crusades and revivals… that spread throughout the 13 Colonies.

So many people came to Christ that that era came to be known as “The Great Awakening.” Tens of thousands of people dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ and were baptized. So many people came to hear Whitefield as he traveled the colonies that he had to hold open-air meetings because there just wasn’t enough room in the churches. (Melvin Newland)

This “Great Awakening” was a precursor to the American Revolution. If it weren’t for the Great Awakening – the nation we have would be significantly different.

Our Founding Fathers

- the signers of the Declaration of Independence…

- those who wrote our Constitution & the Bill of Rights,

- those who put their lives on the line, who fought and died that we might be free

- all these grew up and came into leadership during this “Great Awakening”.

The generation that experienced the “Great Awakening” became the leaders of the American Revolution! And you can tell this by the kinds of things that they wrote.

Modern historians try to downplay the influence Christianity had in the beginnings of nation but recently political-science professors at the University of Houston collected & cataloged 15,000 writings by the Founding Fathers. Their goal was to determine the primary source of ideas behind the Constitution by identifying the sources quoted most often by them.

And guess what that primary source was?

It was the Bible.

94% of the quotes of the Founders of our Nation were either direct quotes of the Bible or were obvious references to it.

In fact, all you have to do is look at opening words of the Declaration of Independence to see the influence of Scripture: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

ILLUS: At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence the Continental Congress ordered copies of the Declaration first be sent not to town clerks or newspapers but to parish ministers, who were "required to read the same to their respective congregations, as soon as divine service is ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s day after they have received it."

These leaders fully believed the promise found in Psalm 33:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (vss. 12-15)

Psalm 33 says that God looks down from His throne looking for a nation to bless if they honor Him. So did God “look down” down from His throne protect this fledgling nation?

ILLUS: At the beginning of the War - the Continental Army had several quick victories. But in 1776 the General William Howe moved his army of over 30,000 Veteran British soldiers to take New York. By contrast Gen. Washington had only had approximately 18,000 largely inexperienced troops.

In the fighting that ensued, the British troops outflanked Washington and Washington lost 1,500 men (killed and captured) and 2 of his top Generals (captured). As a result Washington’s troops became demoralized and discouraged.

However, the British failed to monopolize on their victory. Without any reason British halted their troops. Had they kept on pressing in they would have destroyed Washington and troops.

However, the Americans were now trapped on Long Island awaiting the coming day with the inevitable final blow.

Washington called for a prayer meeting to ask for God’s guidance and help.

After that meeting (and against the advice of his Generals) he decided to attempt to evacuate his troops across the treacherous East river.

This went against all military wisdom. Even if they could have crossed without being massacred by the British the weather was terrible and boats could easily be lost.

Orders went out to light campfires all across the front (to keep the British from guessing their intentions) they began to prepare the troops to board the boats that had been gathered.

Beginning at 11 pm – just before they were about to load the boats with soldiers - the wind suddenly died - and rain stopped. The river became as smooth as glass. When they started their crossing a gentle breeze came up behind them to push them along.

Even with this miracle it was obvious that it would be impossible to get all troops across to Manhattan Island before daybreak. But just before daybreak, a fog settled in and it was so thick that the British had a hard time seeing more than just a few feet. When fog lifted British commander Howe was shocked. Washington troops had escaped.

Many of the American soldiers kept diaries of that event, and almost all of them attributed the "coincidental happenings" of that day to the intervention and protection of God.

There were several such interventions by God helping our nation in those days, one of which was spoken of Ezra Stiles before the assembly at Connecticut where he praised God with these words:

“To Whom but the Ruler of the Winds shall we ascribe it that the British reinforcements, in the summer of 1777, was delayed on the ocean three months (about a month and half longer than normal) by contrary winds, until it was too late for General Clinton to help at Saratoga: a turning point of the war.”

Why had this happened?

Because God had promised: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But… wait a minute. I thought those same founders wanted to separate the Church from the State! How many of you have ever heard that phrase?

Of course you have.

And I’ll give a hundred dollar bill to the first person that can find that phrase “separation of Church and State” anywhere in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or any of the other founding documents. It’s just not there!

Does anyone know who wrote those words and to whom?

It was Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to a Baptist church which had complained that they were afraid the nation was going to endorse a specific denomination for the country. Jefferson wrote them a letter intending to assure them that that couldn’t happen. He said there was a Constitutional wall that prohibited the nation from imposing its will upon the churches.

Two days after he wrote these words, Jefferson rode his horse down Pennsylvania Ave. to attend worship services that were being held in the House of Representatives. In fact, the House of Representatives hosted several different denominations in the chambers for nearly 70 years until the mid-1800s. Jefferson even loaned out the Treasury building to one congregation for worship because there weren’t sufficient buildings in D.C. for worship at the time.

President Jefferson also signed legislation that

· gave land to Indian missionaries

· put chaplains on the government payroll

· and provide for punishment of soldiers who were ungodly.

He also sent to Congress an Indian treaty that set aside money for a priest’s salary and for the construction of a church.

The early American Congress contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men.

· They appointed chaplains for the House and Senate and for the Armed Forces

· They sponsored the publication of Bibles.

· They imposed Christian morality on the military.

And they prayed at one point: “make us a holy, that we may be a happy, people” (Congressional proclamation, Tuesday, March 19, 1782).

Our nation’s Founding Fathers were convinced of the promise from Psalm 33 that declared:

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD”

Now you might ask “Jeff why are you preaching this sermon on Memorial Day weekend?

(I wait until someone asks the question)

I’m glad you asked.

Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering those who given the ultimate sacrifice. Soldiers who have given their lives so we might enjoy the gift of freedom. It is our way of saying that we want to remember what they’ve done saying: we believe that their service for our country was not in vain.

For nearly two centuries we’ve been able to say that with confidence because we knew that our country – while not perfect – was based upon the principal

· that our trust was in God

· that our desire was to honor Him in our decisions and actions

· that – as a nation – we looked to God for our protection and guidance

But over the past 50 years that’s not been so true anymore.

God has continually been pushed out of Public Square and Church has been gradually been told to stay clear of politics and government.

That’s not a good thing.

Patrick Henry said “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it was an instrument for the people to restrain the government lest it come to dominate our lives and interests”

* As William Penn, said, “If we aren’t governed by God we will be ruled by tyrants.”

Now my point this morning is not to grieve for the continual opposition to God in our nation.

I’m not here this morning to condemn those who want to take “in God we trust” off our coinage.

I’m not here to denounce those who want to erase Christianity from our nation’s heritage.

Why not?

Because those folks aren’t here this morning.

It’s just you and I here today.

And I’m here to tell you that WE need to do what is necessary to ensure that the sacrifice of those who’ve died defending our nation is NEVER in vain.

Back in the Old Testament God told Abraham He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham sought to intercede for the city and asked – if there were only 50 righteous people in the city, would God spare it. God said yes.

Then Abraham asked if God would spare the city for the sake of 45. And God said yes.

For the sake of 40?

For the sake of 20?

For the sake of 10?

God said He would even spare the city if there were only 10 righteous people within it… but there weren’t and the city was annihilated by the judgment of God.

Our nation has grown increasingly wicked and ungodly, and it may be that only those Christians within it will be able to stay the hand of God’s judgment. It may be for people like you and I to stand in the gap and make sure our nation’s soldiers don’t die in vain.

It may be the decisions you make today that may make that difference.

What do I mean by that?

· I mean you might need to start voting differently than you have in the past.

ILLUS: The Southern Gospel group Spoken4 was here a couple of weekends ago, and the lead singer – Jon Charles Taggert - told of the time a man at a concert approached him and said “When I’m in the voting booth I leave God outside”.

He left God outside?

How dare he?!

If a political candidate or political party endorses homosexuality or abortion, we dare not vote for them. It for sins of that nature that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. If we say “But I have an allegiance to that party or that political candidate” you need to realize that you’ve sold your country out for the sake of politics rather than God’s blessings.

If we want God to continue to bless our nation we’ve got to put our God right in the middle of our politics. OUR GOD MUST BE EVERYWHERE – in the voting booth, in our homes, in our church.

Abraham Lincoln once said “…we know that the Lord is always on the side of right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and the nation should choose to be on the Lord’s side.”

2ndly – it might mean you’ve got to give serious thought to what you’re doing with your life.

God may want you to give your life completely to Him and God may want you to step up and be heard.

You might not be able to be a missionary… but you can determine to support one.

You might not be able to preach or teach… but you can take someone with you to talk with a person you know that needs Jesus.

It isn’t what you can’t do that God depends upon.

It is what you are willing to do with the talents He’s given you.

But most importantly… you’ve got to take your prayer life seriously

II Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

If you seriously believe that our soldiers must never die in vain then you need to pray for God forgive the sins of nation and heal our land. You need to pray that God will give us another Revival like the Great Awakening that will change the hearts of our people and bring our nation back closer to God.

CLOSE: When the Mayflower had crossed the half way point in its voyage a tragedy occurred. The ship was suddenly struck by an extremely violent storm and the ship nearly capsized. In the midst fierceness of the wind and waves/ the main mast of the ship cracked and sagged. For the first time in the voyage, the sailors’ became seriously afraid.

They swarmed around it and tried to lever it back into place, but they could not budge it.

The captain himself came to see. From the look on his face it was obvious to the Pilgrims that the situation was extremely serious.

The Pilgrims helped in the only way they knew.

They prayed, "Yet Lord, thou canst save!"

Then Brewster remembered the great iron screw of his printing press. It was on board somewhere. A desperate search was begun. Finally, it was located, dug out, hauled into place, and cranked up. It met the beam and, to the accompaniment of a hideous creaking and groaning of wood began to raise it—all the way back into its original position.

And for the first time on the voyage, the sailors joined the Pilgrims in their praises of God!

(The Light and the Glory Peter Marshall, David Manuel, p. 118-119)