As we enter a new year, I would like to challenge you to look carefully at the quotes below from a number of the Founding Fathers of our nation. In the infancy of this “Grand Experiment,” known as the United States, it was well understood that we would succeed only if we remained committed to our religious and moral principles, and the precepts contained in the Bible.
John Adams, in a speech to the military in 1798, warned his fellow countrymen stating, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams was one of the original signers of the Constitution.
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, said, "[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind."
Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary, said, "[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence."
Gouverneur Morris, signer and “Penman of the Constitution,” said, "[F]or avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. [T]herefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God." Gouverneur is his first name, not an old style spelling of governor. Morris is credited with drafting the words, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union . . .”
Fisher Ames, author of the final wording for the First Amendment wrote, "[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind."
John Jay, Original Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court , said, "The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts."
James Wilson, signer of the Constitution, and U. S. Supreme Court Justice, said, "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . . . Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other."
Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary stated, "The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible."
Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U. S. House, said, "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet."
George Washington, General of the Revolutionary Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, First President of the United States of America, Father of our nation, said, "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society."
Benjamin Franklin, signer of the Declaration of Independence, said, "[O]nly a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
Challenging words from the Continental Congress, 1778: "Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness . . . it is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States to take the most effectual measures for the encouragement thereof." (http://www.free2pray.info/)
Our Founding Fathers firmly believed in God, and they knew that for our American society to function properly, we would need to be a religious and moral people. This works best when each of us makes the decision to be that kind of person.
“It was warned by the Founding Fathers that this state would always be under attack and subject to ‘change’ if it were not for the vigilance of the people. When the people rely on big government they flirt with the loss of this grand experiment.” (http://wiki.answers.com/)
The night Jesus was born is traditionally viewed as having been such a holy birth that all of creation (except the human race) was hushed in awe. This is quite possible, and I have no doubt it happened just that way. But I also believe there was a whole lot of noise going on at the same time.
“180 years ago the carol ‘Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht’ was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. The congregation at that Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church listened as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr, and the choir director, Franz Xaver Gruber, rang through the church to the accompaniment of Fr. Mohr's guitar. On each of the six verses, the choir repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony.” From Bill Egan, a foremost scholar on “Silent Night,” and a Christmas Historian. This explains the background of the famous Christmas carol.
This carol which is sung by countless millions every December may have referred more to a silent night in Austria than a silent night in Bethlehem. As I read the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, it’s hard for me to detect the silence implied in the beloved carol. In fact, I seriously suspect it was noisy all night long from a number of quarters. Here’s what I mean:
First, Joseph and Mary had just completed a rather arduous journey by traveling some fifty miles from Galilee to Bethlehem, all the while Mary is near the end of her pregnancy. Because they were required to register for the Roman census, they were on the road with countless other people, all attempting to make it to their homes of record. I imagine the roads were a mess and nearly full of travelers.
Second, Bethlehem, like every other city and town of that time, was overcrowded because of travelers and those who were simply trying to be sure that they and their family were registered. People were running into each other that had not seen each other in many years. There would have been loud talking and some sharing of wine well into the night as stories rolled off loosened tongues. But they were all oblivious to what was taking place in a manger of a dry stall only a short distance away.
Third, the shepherds who had the “night shift” watching the sheep on the hillsides surrounding Bethlehem must have been delighted to be secluded from the raucous noise in town. Little did they realize that they were about to be serenaded by a chorus of angels who were really excited about the “good news” they were bringing. They sang to these stunned and hapless shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Fourth, and last, all of heaven was rejoicing because the plan to redeem the human race from sin and death was underway. As I mentioned in last week’s article, “When God Sings,” there was no doubt that those angels who were not part of the group that was singing to the shepherds were certainly singing in the halls of heaven, along with every other resident of heaven. Now that would be worth hearing!
Some of you may be objecting, saying, “What about the cows, horses, sheep, etc. Wouldn’t they be adding to the din of that night?” No, not really. You see, a manger is a wooden or stone box used to feed livestock. If the inn keeper suggested that Mary and Joseph sleep in the stall that had a manger, it must have been empty of critters and the manger void of feed. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense for them to stay in cramped quarters with domesticated animals that would also be eating from the manger. We know from the record that the baby Jesus was placed in the manger. So, where were the animals? Most likely they were being cared for on the outskirts of town that evening because of all the people gathering for the census. Sleeping arrangements were obviously hard to come by.
As I mentioned earlier, I do believe that there was a time of absolute quiet in heaven that night as the reality of what God was about to accomplish settled over those gathered around the throne of God.
While we humans were clueless of what God was doing for our salvation that long ago night, a verse of scripture seems most appropriate to the occasion: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
Have you been saved by the God who loves you? Who delights in you? Who quiets you with his love? Who rejoices over you with singing? If not, then accept Christ and his love into your heart now, today!
Tonight our church held its annual Christmas program. This is always a fun time because the event is focused on the children in our church performing some rendition of the Christmas story. There’s plenty of singing of Christmas carols and recitations from the kids, a point in the program where you hold your breath wondering if they’re going to remember their lines.
My part in the program was to lead the congregation in singing several of the Christmas carols, welcome everyone, and then give a brief message on Christmas. The title of my message was, “Does God Ever Sing?” In thinking about this topic, it struck me that God must sing a lot. Here’s what I mean.
When God chose to create the universe it was out of a sense of joy simply to be creating something special because he could. Just as when any one of us creates something in our workshop, or kitchen, we get a kick out of taking things and creating something new, something different, something unique and special with our special touch on it.
Amidst all of the things that comprise the universe, God knew it would not be complete without his special touch on it. That special touch would be the creation of a being that would be an exact representation of himself. God made this being, Man, in his own image and likeness. This being would only find fulfillment when involved in a close relationship with God himself. We were made to be like him; that is to say, we have the capacity to love deeply, and to be loved in return. We also have the ability to reason, and to choose between right and wrong. When God saw that this unique creation of his was the crown of all that he had made, he sang! It caused him to rejoice and ultimately declare, “It is very good!”
God knew there was a risk in creating beings that were like him. These humans could make wrong choices if presented with the opportunity. Presented with this possibility, God made a plan to rescue his most prized creation by coming to the world himself in the form of a man, just like the way he had created humans at the outset. Only this time God would offer himself to these humans. You see, they no longer loved each other as the reflection of God, but became suspicious of each other, distrusting, and violent in their attempt to protect themselves. God knew such a manner of living was detrimental to these special beings that had lost touch with him.
So, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, the angels announced his birth to the lowly shepherds who had the graveyard shift with the sheep. God knew what he was going to accomplish, and he sang, and so did the angels of heaven.
Shortly after, when Jesus was abused and violated by the very beings he had created, he was put to death on a crude cross. But to the surprise of everyone, Jesus rose from the grave after three days. The plan of salvation was now finalized – and God sang!
Ever since that moment, each time one of these humans created by God place their lives in the care of Jesus, the entire heavenly host sings, and God leads the singing!
God and the angels broke out in song over me when I trusted Jesus as my Savior on September 8, 1972.
God has done everything to make it possible for you to come back into fellowship with him. Have you accepted Jesus? Has God been able to sing over you? If not, I can’t think of a better way to have a Merry Christmas in 2010!
I must admit that I have enjoyed being a grandparent far more than I ever thought was possible. Yeah, this is an article about my grandkids!
What makes it so much fun for us is that our grandkids live close by. Our daughter, Jenny and husband, Josh, with two-and-a-half year old, Brooklyne, live thirty miles from us. Eldest daughter, Laura and husband, Ken, with three year old, Alyssa, live less than a mile from our home. We also have two older grandchildren from Ken’s first marriage. Daniel and DeziRay live twenty-five miles away. So, we get to see all of them frequently.
I’ve written before that we get to keep Alyssa overnight on Thursdays. This little girl is one of the most restless sleepers you’ll ever find! Sometime between one and three in the morning she will begin kicking and thrashing. Since Isaura (the grandkids call her Meema, and I’m Dandaddy) and I bracket her in bed we both end up feeling the effects of these middle of the night disruptions of what is supposed to be a tranquil nights sleep. Isaura has Fridays off so she can take care of Alyssa. On the other hand, I also take Fridays off, but I get up early to play golf with friends. Because I want to feel fresh on these mornings, I’ve started sleeping in the guest room just so I can get some sleep!
This week on Friday morning I was dressed and saying goodbye to my wife when Alyssa woke up. Stretched out in our bed under the covers, through half-closed eyes, she looked at Meema and said, “It’s Good Morning time!” Just hearing her say this in her own way is proof positive that it is indeed going to be a good morning.
On other Friday mornings Isaura tells me that Alyssa will come downstairs still in her sleepers, dragging her blanket, announcing in full voice, “Meema! I awake!”
Because of the 30 mile distance separating us from Brooklyne, Isaura and I do not see her nearly as much as Alyssa. This has caused Brookie to be unsure in her relationship to me. So this past Wednesday evening I was scheduled to watch Brookie while Jenny was teaching the high school class at church, and Isaura was leading a prayer meeting. Being of an entirely different temperament, Brookie will express her displeasure at the drop of a hat. When she saw her mom leave our house, she cried, wanting her mom to come back. No sooner had she settled down, but Isaura left for her church prayer meeting. Once again, tears. As she stood off from me about ten feet, surveying me with considerable uncertainty, I asked her if she’d like to make some cookies. She shook her head no. How about baking a cake, I asked? Again, the negative headshake. Let’s play Lego’s, I offered. Wanna play Lego’s? Again, no.
Not to be put off, I walked into the kitchen and prepared to make something which would satisfy my sweet tooth. I pulled down a box of white cake mix, and a box of brownie mix. Brookie was sitting at the Lego’s table showing little interest in the popular blocks. I, on the other hand, had music playing on the radio, humming along as I mixed the recipes in separate bowls. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Brookie standing by the sink watching me. I asked her if she wanted to help me. She shook her head, yes. I told her to grab the “steps” (the folding step stool) and open it in front of the counter where I was working and climb on up. I let her lick the beater and scrape the bowl where I had mixed the brownies. After washing the beater, we mixed the cake mix, and again, I let her lick the beater and bowl. I washed up the dishes whereupon I was confronted by Brookie telling me she wanted me to read her a book. As she sat on my lap, I read a children’s version of several Bible stories. After reading three books and taking the baked items out of the oven, Brookie decided I was now her personal Jungle Gym!
When my wife came home, she asked Brookie if she wanted to take a bath. With great excitement in her voice, she said, “Yeah!” So I was given a reprieve for about thirty minutes. After her bath and back downstairs, she looked at me coyly, and said, “Can’t catch me!” Round and round we went. Each time I would catch her I would pick her up, flipping her upside down so she would be above my head. And each time I put her back down, she’d say, “Do it again!” I lost count as to the number of times I lifted her that way, but I haven’t had a shoulder workout like that in some time!
Her mom finally came through the front door. Brookie and I couldn’t see the door, so I said, “Brookie! Is that your mommy?” She cried out, “No!” I thought she might have misunderstood, so I said it again. And again she cried out, “No!” Then it hit me! Brookie was having so much fun that she didn’t want to stop. The arrival of her mother meant they would be going home. Her mother assured her they would not leave right away. So we all had a piece of cake, a brownie and a glass of milk.
It was a great evening!
One last story about Alyssa: On Thanksgiving, we all gathered around the table prepared to consume copious amounts of turkey, stuffing and the rest. But before we ate, we all joined hands in prayer. On every other occasion I would be the one offering the prayer. Before I could say anything, it was suggested that we allow Alyssa to say the prayer. “Why not?” I said. I looked at Alyssa and nodded for her to pray. This was her prayer: “Dear Jesus, thank you for the food. Thank you for the whole wide world! In Jesus Name, Amen!” Instead of then offering the adult prayer, which would send the signal that her prayer wasn’t really legitimate, I thought, “I can’t improve on that prayer!” So instead, we got down to the business of eating.
Isaura and I are so blessed with these precious little ones. They truly are a gift from the Lord!
Do you get the feeling we’re being played for the fool?
There has been an enormous amount of time and energy, not to mention newspaper ink, spent on the current TSA attempt to make our airline travel more secure. Are you feeling safer? Understand something here. I don’t have a beef with the TSA workers. I have written about them before. Theirs is a tough job. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that job.
But having traveled a lot over the past five decades, both for the military and on church mission trips, I am very familiar with airports. Making my flights, dealing with delays, switching airlines, and so forth, is part of the overall experience of flying the friendly skies.
For several years prior to 9-11, I was assigned to a Marine command at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. My routine on drill weekends was to drive the 80 miles from my home to the Sacramento Airport, catch a direct flight to San Diego, pick up a rental car and drive 35 miles north to Camp Pendleton. Leaving my house and arriving at my BOQ room at Pendleton took between 5-6 hours. After 9-11, an additional one-to-two hours was tacked on due to security reasons. Since I could now drive to Pendleton in the same amount of time as flying (plus I could avoid all the security hassles, and I could carry more in my car than on the plane), I began driving to my drills. After returning from the war, I was assigned to the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (4thMAW). The headquarters of the command is located in New Orleans. So I was back to flying with all of its inconveniences.
But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s some sleight of hand work going on here. You know how that works. The magician is distracting you with one hand, while the other hand is doing something else, unnoticed.
Here’s what I’m driving at. The enemies of our country, in particular, Muslim extremists such as Al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah, and other nefarious groups of hate-filled religionists, are yanking our chain, getting us to dance to their tune. Consider that the planes flown into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania changed the way you and I travel by air. We were then introduced to the TSA and their security checks at the airport. Then there was the “Shoe-bomber.” This failed-attempt at blowing up an airplane by lighting a fuse to a bomb-laden shoe prompted the TSA to have us remove our shoes for screening as part of the precaution. More recently we had the “Underwear-bomber.” This has brought about body pat-downs; then the more invasive forms of what could only be called nothing short of a “strip search.” Where does this end? When will we see security checks for trains? Subways? Buses?
What has happened is exactly what I feared. We’re watching one hand while the other is doing something far worse! We, the American people, who are simply going about our daily business, are being subjected to treatment we don’t even permit our enemies to suffer. That’s the “hand” we do see. The other hand that we don’t see is in two parts: First, we are not aggressively pursuing the terrorists who have intentionally caused us these inconveniences. Instead, for fear of appearing “unfair” to the rest of the world, we have moved the known killers of the victims of 9-11 and our soldiers in battle, out of Guantanamo Bay (a.k.a., Gitmo for short) and into the United States where the first of these killers has been tried and found not guilty on the most serious charges! How does that bode for the rest of the Gitmo detainees? They’ve gotta like their chances! Second, the Taliban and Al-Qaida are laughing themselves sick over our fear of what they might do next. The jokes of how they have caused our great nation to cower because of shoes and underwear must be running rampant throughout the terrorist world. All the while they are planning something else entirely to bring about our destruction. I, for one, am not interested in being bullied, harassed and intimidated by these thugs who hate everything about us and our freedoms. They do not want to “make nice” with us. They want us dead.
What is wrong with us that we tolerate such intimidation? How is it we allow these clowns to yank our chains?
Here’s my proposal: We go about our daily lives without building in the numerous inconveniences that cause us to feel like we’re the villains. In the meantime, organizations within our country that were established to go after bad guys (military, FBI, CIA, etc) should be allowed full reign to tenaciously pursue these creeps until they have found, killed, or captured every single one of them. These terrorists should be in such fear of us coming after them that they simply would not be able to rest. Why should a relative handful of terrorists be allowed to hold a nation of 310 million people hostage?
We’re Americans! You and I are not the bad guys. Let’s stop being manipulated. Let’s stop distrusting each other.