VIDEO America the Beautiful / God Bless America (Medley)

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Nov 22, 2012

 

Music video by Bill & Gloria Gaither performing America the Beautiful / God Bless America (Medley) [feat. David Phelps] [Live].

(P) (C) 2012 Spring House Music Group. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is a violation of applicable laws. Manufactured by EMI Christian Music Group,

Independence Day And The True Liberty In Being A Servant To All

fireworks july 4 statue-of-liberty

“…proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants…” (Leviticus 25:10)

We are on the eve of Independence Day, a commemoration exalted by our founding fathers, although in our era less known for what it originally signified than for what it has become – a day off to relax, recreate and watch exploding fireworks.

Probably even the most historically ignorant among us could identify the day as having something to do with establishing independence from England, although how many of us could get the dates and particulars right is an open question.

Yours truly doesn’t write this today to scold the ignoramuses and the oblivious regarding our history. Rather, the purpose is to consider the true meaning of independence and how as a people we seem to get the concept not quite right.

In declaring independence from the British government in 1776, rebels in 13 American colonies proclaimed that they had a right, even a duty, to separate themselves from tyrannical overseers. More than one claimed God was on “our” side. But they took their cue from Thomas Jefferson, a man of questionable religious faith and certainly a man of dubious attachment to Christianity.

In words written by Jefferson, the American rebels declared that what they perceived as their God-given rights were being infringed upon by their government, and concluded that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

This is a given in American lore. It may be complicated by the fact that few, if any, references can be found today in which the colonial advocates of this idea or the other ringleaders of the rebellion invoked Romans 13.

“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 whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1–7)

Of course, the Bible is explicit in both its Testaments that while civil magistrates’ authority comes from God, that authority does not extend to commanding God’s people to commit evil or sinful acts. At a later date, I promise to return to a fuller discussion of what Christians should do when commanded by evil rulers. But as a quick guide let’s consider what the apostles Peter and John did.

“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’.” (Acts 4:19–20)

Whether Christians are commanded, let alone justified, in rising up against evil rulers we will leave for that fuller discussion in the future. For now, let’s consider just the motivation expressed by signers of Jefferson’s declaration. They wanted to be free from rule by others, who they claimed were doing them wrong.

As a result, “liberty” was announced as the desired goal, and soon liberty was proclaimed throughout the colonies. Many might agree that “liberty” didn’t last all that long, especially considering how many ways the new domestic government has entangled every American in a web of do’s and don’ts, taxes and regulations, almost all of them against their will or without their consent.

But the concept of liberty, these days more often known by its synonym “freedom,” has stayed with us, whether we enjoy much of it or not.

As Christians, it’s worth stepping back from the rhetoric and examining exactly what it is that we claim freedom and liberty to be.

Sinclair B. Ferguson, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., has written words worth considering on the subject.

“True Christian liberty, unlike the various ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’ movements of the secular world, is not a matter of demanding the ‘rights’ we have,” Ferguson writes. “Dare one say that the American Founding Fathers, for all their wisdom, may have inadvertently triggered off a distortion of Christianity by speaking about our ‘rights’ to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? The Christian realizes that before God he or she possesses no ‘rights’ by nature. In our sinfulness, we have forfeited all of our ‘rights’.”

How presumptuous of us to demand our “rights,” when as fallen sinners we are owed nothing except God’s wrath. How arrogant to insist that other men should be forced to grant us anything.

“Only when we recognize that we do not deserve our ‘rights’ can we properly exercise them as privileges,” continues Ferguson. “Sensitivity to others in the church, especially weaker others, depends on this sense of our own unworthiness. If we assume that we have liberties to be exercised at all costs, we become potentially lethal weapons in a fellowship, all too capable of destroying someone for whom Christ has died.”

Therefore, as Ferguson implies, when invoking our “rights” it is prudent to keep them in perspective. When we demand from others, we presume others’ have an obligation to deliver to us what we don’t deserve in the first place.

What liberty we may enjoy, we enjoy only by God’s grace. Not by entitlement.

Conversely, when we fail to extend grace to others, we presume to deny them what we would protest if they were to deny it to us.

“A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none,” wrote reformer Martin Luther centuries ago. “A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”

A promise is a promise. At a future date we’ll take up the rubber-meets-the-road application of Christian liberty when it comes to government authority. Honest.

Until then, enjoy your Independence Day, such as it is.

 

by MARK LANDSBAUM

 

Original here

What is True Freedom?

Romans 6:11-18

In New York harbor stands the Statue of Liberty. This world-renowned icon symbolizes the freedom that Americans cherish. Though we have been blessed to live in the “land of the free,” many of our citizens are still held captive by sinful habits and mindsets.

A country’s liberty usually depends upon military might and governmental decrees. However, personal freedom has to do with a decision to protect the heart, mind, and body from evil influences. In a nation built upon independence, we call ourselves “free” as long as we aren’t incarcerated or somehow prevented from pursuing our interests. But is the man bent upon revenge “liberated”? Is the woman addicted to painkillers “free”?

The enemy’s arsenal contains all kinds of temptations that shackle one’s time and attention. The need to attend to these habits, substances, and attitudes consumes a person and draws his or her focus away from God. Then, as the devil distracts, he also employs one of his greatest deceptions: convincing people that their chains don’t really exist. He teaches them how to rationalize (“Just a little won’t hurt”) and outright deny (“I can stop anytime I want”).

According to the Bible, men and women are either slaves of God or slaves to sin (Rom. 6:16). There is no middle ground. The latter serve Satan by feeding their own selfish impulses. Meanwhile, the “slaves of God” enjoy true freedom. They honor the Lord by keeping away from those things that imprison the body, emotions, or thoughts.

When the Boughs Break

“When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favor.” (Isaiah 27:11)

Like a mighty tree towering over the forest, God raises up a mighty nation from time to time, with a great leader, to accomplish some purpose in the divine plan. He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

But when that nation and its leaders become proud, and its people become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, it becomes like a tree whose branches wither and whose core becomes riddled with insect-caused decay. Finally, the boughs break, the kingdom will fall, and down will come that nation, its leaders and all!

That happened even to God’s chosen nation, Israel, though only for a time, since God’s promises cannot fail. One after another, the mighty nations that God used to chastise His wayward people—Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Rome, etc.—have in turn been judged for their own rebellion against the God who “made them” and “formed them.” God has warned that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).

Is that about to happen to our beloved USA as well? The signs of self-seeking power and pride among our leaders and moral decay and spiritual rebellion among our people are widespread and growing worse. Our prayer should be that of the ancient prophet. “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, . . . in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6). HMM

God or an Idiot

I and my Father are one. —John 10:30

Now the words of the Lord Jesus Christ were words so lofty and so astounding and so filled with authority that no other religious teacher in history could ever match His teachings….

Frankly, the claims that He made brand Him immediately as being God—or an idiot!… Of His own body He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). He told His hearers, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). He declared with authority, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (John 8:58). He predicted that when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-33)

No one else has ever been able to say, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth” (John 5:28-29).

No one else has ever talked like that!

Lord, I know that You are God and I see the authority in Your words. Help me to share You faithfully with those around me who still do not believe. Amen.

Only God Is Truly Free

Standfast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. (Galatians 5:1)

To any human who bothers to think a bit, it should be evident that there is in our society no such thing as absolute freedom—for only God is free!

It is inherent in creaturehood that its freedom must be limited by the will of the Creator and the nature of the thing created. Freedom is liberty within bounds, liberty to obey holy laws, liberty to keep the commandments of Christ, to serve mankind, to develop to the full all the latent possibilities within our redeemed natures. True Christian liberty never sets us free to indulge our lusts or to follow our fallen impulses.

On earth, a healthy society requires that its members accept a limited freedom. Each must curtail his own liberty that all may be free, and this law runs throughout all of the created universe, including the kingdom of God.

The glory of heaven itself lies in the character of the freedom enjoyed by those who dwell therein!

All they that heard it wondered at those things

All they that heard it wondered at those things.” We must not cease to wonder at the great marvels of our God. It would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder and real worship; for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God’s glory, though it may not express itself in song, or even utter its voice with bowed head and humble prayer, yet it silently adores. Our incarnate God is to be worshiped as “the Wonderful.” That God should consider his fallen creature, man, and should himself undertake to be man’s Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed marvelous!