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Biblical Freedom=America's Freedom Nehemiah 9-10 July 200

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Nehemiah 9-10

Visitors to the Smithsonian Museum of American History see the flag that flew over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner in 1814. The original flag measured 42 feet by 30 feet. It was the immense size of the flag that allowed Key to see it from his position ten miles out to sea, following a night of gunfire…..The means by which a flag that large could fly on a pole 189 feet in the air is on display at Fort McHenry on Baltimore's inner harbor. There in one of the barracks are two oak timbers, 8 foot by 8 foot, joined as a cross. National Park Service personnel discovered this cross-shaped support near the entrance to Fort McHenry in 1958 buried 9 feet in the ground. Not only did the cross piece help rangers locate the original site from which the Star Spangled Banner flew, it answered the mystery of how such a large flag could fly in stormy weather without snapping the pole. This unseen wooden device provided a firm foundation for the symbol of our national freedom.

Similarly, the cross of Christ provides the foundation by which our faith is rooted and supported.

Mixing religion and politics can mean many things.

-------It could mean that one advocates a theocratic state. I certainly do not.

Þ    Such a merger of religion and politics is as far removed from my position as its opposite, namely, a political system like communism which represses religious thought and expression.

   I firmly believe it is a religious duty to be a good citizen.

****It is one's duty as a good citizen to participate in politics, but I can be true neither to my country nor to my God if I separate my religious convictions from my political views.

If l am to be whole, one with myself and with God, I must infuse my life as a political being with beliefs I learned from the Divine Being. This is not radical, fundamentalist Christian theory. It is the basic belief which first drove the Pilgrims to our shores and later inspired the Founding Fathers to proclaim our independence from Britain "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence." It is the notion which infused the antislavery movement of the 19th century, and in which the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., took his message of racial harmony.

Þ    Why should we not permit moral values to influence our thinking about important contemporary issues?

 To say that spiritual values or morality are at the heart of our society is not to establish a state religion.

Þ    Far from it. It is only to say with the Constitution that we guarantee the fundamental right of free exercise for all religions throughout our society...

   My position-and I believe it is the position of the majority of Americans today, just as it has been for 200 years-is that it is not only legitimate to advocate basic religious values in the political arena, but it is absolutely essential for the health of our republic that believers participate in the political debate of our days.

After hearing about Jerusalem’s situation, Nehemiah confesses his people’s sins to God…He receives permission from King Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem to repair the wall…after the difficult repairs from which opposition occurs both from within and without of their ranks…the wall is complete…

Nehemiah allows Ezra the prophet to read allow the Book of the Law to the people…The Book of the Law is read and some of the Levites lead in a prayer of confession, reviewing God’s dealings with His people.  The people make a written  oath to obey the Lord!!

The document records six promises the people make to God.

1.      They will not intermarry with non-Jews (10:30)

2.      They will obey all the Sabbath laws (10:31)

3.      They will take care of the Temple (10:32,34,39)

4.      They will observe all the sacred festivals (10:33)

5.      They will dedicate to the Lord the firstborn of their sons and animals  (10:36)

6.      They will pay their tithes (10:35,37-38)

Nehemiah leads the former exiles in a time of national confession and repentance

 

Then they pledge themselves in a binding agreement to live for God and obey His commandments.

 

Nehemiah draws up a new governing charter for Israel, drafted in accordance with God's laws.

It would be a pattem for generations to come. Thousands of years later, in 1620, the Pilgrims draft yet another governing charter the Mayflower Compact. They open their Bibles and read the account of Nehemiah. In imitation of the covenant pattern described there, they draw up their own set of mutual obligations.

 

The Mayflower Pilgrims saw themselves as the New Israelites building a New Jerusalem in the American wilderness. So the Old Testament pattern of government by charter seemed only fitting.

 

The tradition started by Nehemiah continued throughout the settlement of the New World.

Every Puritan colony drew up its own constitutional charter following the pattern of the Mayflower Compact.

 

It began in 1639, when the great Puritan evangelist Thomas Hooker---

 

 directed the drafting of Connecticut's constitution. The Reverend Hooker required that each article in the constitution be justified by references to Scripture.

 

This document became the blueprint for the constitution of every other colony in the New World.

 

 When it was time to construct a national constitution, the drafters imitated the pattern already set in the colonies.

So we can trace a straight line from Neherniah, dedicating himself and the people to God in ancient Israel, to the founding of our own nation and form of government.

Today, as we celebrate the 4th of July, it's good to remind ourselves that the constitutional freedoms we enjoy did not come out of nowhere.

Þ    America's most fundamental ideas about law and freedom stem from the biblical idea of a covenant, an agreement freely entered into between God and His people, outlining their mutual duties and privileges.

The great statesman Daniel Webster, on the 20Oth anniversary of the Pilgrims' landing, noted that the American Founders sought to base all our institutions, civil and political, on the truths of the Christian religion.

History textbooks often ignore the biblical roots of the American system of government. Under the banner of so-called "separation of church and state," our school books are silent about the religious influences that shaped our nation's history-to the point where many Christians do not even realize the enormous impact our faith has had on the American heritage.

 

So on this 4th of July, let us commit ourselves to educating ourselves and our children on the impact the Christian faith has had on America's constitutional form of government.

 And then let's recommit ourselves to the practice of confession and prayer for our nation.

 

For there's truly no greater hope in times like these.

"America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths. America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience. ... And so America: if you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace truth--truth revealed by God."

 

Value and protect your freedom

We have been granted freedom through Jesus Christ.

 

Þ    By His death we are new creatures, no longer in bondage to sin, but set free to live abundantly in His forgiveness, love, and grace.

 

 It is a freedom we must live daily.

 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1).

We have been granted freedom through the U.S. Constitution. More than 200 years ago we were granted freedoms as Americans.

 

They are freedoms we must protect daily.

Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Peter 2:16-17).

How to live in freedom:

•Obey the law.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:1-2).

•Be informed. Know what the issues are and who your elected leaders are. Keep up with local, and national news and issues.

•Vote. God's kingdom isn't of this world, but He put you here to make a difference.

•Pray for those in authority.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Abraham Lincoln was the first President to use the phrase, "This nation under God." It inspired President Eisenhower, in 1954, to add the words "one nation under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.

One morning as I peeked in on the Primaries class, I overheard an illuminating discussion. One child was saying, "I know who Abraham was. He cut down the cherry tree!"

   "I think you're thinking of George Washington, our first president," the teacher said with a smile.

   "I know who Abraham was, Teacher," another youngster volunteered. "He fought the Civil War and freed the slaves."

   Sensing his answer still wasn't what the teacher was looking for, he quickly added in all seriousness, "From their sins!"

-- Mark Reed

Eating lunch at a small cafe, I saw a sparrow hop through the open door and peck at the crumbs near my table. When the crumbs were gone, the sparrow hopped to the window ledge, spread its wings, and took flight. Brief flight. It crashed against the window pane and fell to the floor.  The bird quickly recovered and tried again. Crash. And again. Crash.

   I got up and attempted to shoo the sparrow out the door, but the closer I got the harder it threw itself against the pane. I nudged it with my hand. That sent the sparrow fluttering along the ledge, hammering its beak at the glass. 

Finally, I reached out and gently caught the bird, folding my fingers around its wings and body. It weighed almost nothing. I thought of how powerless and vulnerable the sparrow must have felt. At the door I released it, and the sparrow sailed away. 

As I did with the sparrow, God takes us captive only to set us free.

-- Oswald Chambers in The Moral Foundations of Life.

The Spirit of God is always the spirit of liberty; the spirit that is not of God is the spirit of bondage, the spirit of oppression and depression. The Spirit of God convicts vividly and tensely, but He is always the Spirit of liberty. God who made the birds never made birdcages; it is men who make birdcages, and after a while we become cramped and can do nothing but chirp and stand on one leg. When we get out into God's great free life, we discover that that is the way God meant us to live "the glorious liberty of the children of God."

When we take our children to the shrine of the Golden Arches, they always lust for the meal that comes with a cheap little prize, a combination christened, in a moment of marketing genius, the Happy Meal. You're not just buying fries, McNuggets, and a dinosaur stamp; you're buying happiness.

Þ    Their advertisements have convinced my children they have a little McDonald-shaped vacuum in their souls: "Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in a happy meal."

Þ    The problem with the Happy Meal is that the happy wears off, and they need a new fix

No child discovers lasting happiness in just one: "Remember that Happy Meal? What great joy I found there!"

Þ    When you get older, you don't get any smarter; your happy meals just get more expensive.

Many electronic door openers have an internal switch triggered by a beam of light. As long as light is received unbroken by the photo-sensitive receiver, the detector is quiet. But if something blocks the beam even a split second, the alarm sounds.

 Our conscience resembles such an alarm.

Þ    When sin obstructs our connection with the light of God's Spirit, the conscience signals us that there's life-threatening danger

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