We are celebrating our country’s birth. Remember how a small number of colonists broke free from Britain and formed the greatest country in the world. For over two hundred years, we’ve been living in this “Great Experiment.” We are a people who rule themselves instead of following a king or dictator. We live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” If we don’t like our elected officials, we just vote them out. What a country!
Every time I travel out of the country it makes me appreciate even more the great country in which we live. Back in the 90s, my wife Marybeth, and I took an anniversary trip to England. On our way to the airport to return home, the Irish Republican Army detonated a bomb on the rail line between Gatwick and London. Thankfully, no one was injured, but immediately the London police donned Uzis and protective gear. It was a frightening experience and one we will never forget. It sure was good to return to American soil!
We have a family in our church here in Jasper who took a tour of Egypt and happened to be there when the overthrow of Mubarak took place. Thankfully, the tour company kept them out of danger and they arrived safely back home back in the states. That couple was glad to be back in the good ole USA. America is indeed a great country that God has blessed. Here are some reasons I believe that He has blessed us.
1. From its founding, our country has protected the rights of its citizens to worship as they please. The basic struggle for religious freedom culminated in the Bill of Rights which was added to the federal Constitution in 1791. The First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Before the Bill of Rights, this right that we take for granted was not practiced in the colonies. There were times that local and colonial authorities persecuted believers who were not a part of the state church (Church of England). Many faiths such as Baptists were severely whipped, forced to pay taxes to support the state church, had property confiscated, paid fines, and suffered long imprisonments. In 1679, the members of First Baptist Church of Boston, MA, went to worship in their new building. When they arrived they found the doors nailed shut and a sign posted forbidding them to use the building ‘The Baptist Heritage,’ Leon McBeth, Broadman Press). Other groups experienced similar situations until the end of the Revolutionary War when the United States was formed. Since the Revolutionary War, the United States has allowed people to make their own choice about what faith, if any, they would practice. We have that freedom to worship however and whenever we choose.
2. Because of our freedoms, we believers have been able to reach out and share our faith through ministries such as soup kitchens, rescue missions, orphanages, colleges and universities.
We have started churches across the country to share the Gospel. We have sent thousands of missionaries and billions of dollars across the globe to feed the poor, provide medical care for the sick, and of course, share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. We have led the way in being salt and light in a world of darkness. I believe that God has honored our faithfulness and generosity and has blessed our country perhaps because Christians have chosen to go and share.
How can we continue to enjoy the blessings of God as a country? How can we, who are believers, continue to have an impact in an increasingly secular culture?
• Vote. It is the Christian’s duty and obligation to participate in the government process. How can we complain about what takes place in places of power and government if we aren’t willing to let our voices be heard?
• Pray for our leaders. The Bible commands us to pray for our government leadership.
• Run for office. Our country needs more Christians in places of leadership.
• Become active in making sure that the Gospel is spread across this great land. We live in a culture that has greatly changed in our generation. Instead of going to the mission field overseas, the mission field has come to the shores of the United States. There are people living here now that have never heard the Gospel. Let’s take it to them. Don’t be afraid to share your faith with a lost and dying world.
• Don’t ever take our freedom for granted. American blood was spilled so that we could be free. We have an obligation to those who went before us to protect these freedoms that we sometimes seem to think will last forever.
Remember those well worn words, “Freedom isn’t free!”
Make this 4th of July the best ever! Thank God for the freedom you enjoy and make a commitment to be the best Christian citizen in the best country in the world.
Dr. Dennis R. Culbreth is the Senior Pastor of Jasper’s First Baptist Church www.jaspersfbc.org