Thanksgiving For America
THANKSGIVING IN AMERICA
It is apparent pilgrims and colonists were accustomed to regularly observing "Thanksgivings," or days of thanking God for HIS blessings. We also know that the Continental Congress proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving when the Constitution was adopted. When America became a nation, the US Congress passed legislation in 1798, that left the observance of Thanksgiving to the states. It seems that some of the states objected to the national government's involvement in a religious observance.
The southern states viewed Thanksgiving as a New England custom and were reluctant to adopt its observance. Other states were concerned about the day being used to hold partisan speeches and parades. Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday was far more controversial than unifying for the young nation.
It's ironic that Thanksgiving Day, intended to gather people together, was promoted by a lady named Sarah Josepha Hale. She was an editor of a magazine who won the support of President Lincoln. On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, the President proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on Thursday, November 26, 1863. From that time to this, the holiday has been annually proclaimed by every President thereafter and the fixed date was the last Thursday in November of each year.
President Roosevelt, in an effort to extend the Christmas season for economical reasons, wanted to move the date back to the third Thursday in November, but compromised with Congress, and in a joint resolution proclaimed Thanksgiving Day will be observed on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Both Presidents, Lincoln and Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving during a time of war in America!
7. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
The occasion of this holiday weekend calls for a preaching event to celebrate and thank God for 242 years of living in America as a free and independent nation. A country founded by Christian people seeking freedom from tyranny and persecution has over the past few decades evolved into a new age government and population that bears little or no resemblance to what our Founding Fathers intended.
Just for curiosity's sake, let's suppose that one day this past week you turned on the TV evening news and heard this story:
#1 - "The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has just issued this statement: 'Divine Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty... of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.'"(Letter to John Murray, Oct. 12, 1816)
How about this one:
#2 - "inquiries by our reporters reveal that almost every state legislature has now passed a law requiring all elected officials to take this oath: I do profess faith in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ His only Son... and I do hereby acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old & New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.'"
What if you heard this:
#3-"Legislation was passed today in Congress to affirm that, 'The Congress of the United States approves of and recommends the Holy Bible for use in the schools.'"
Well, I think we all know what the response to such startling announcements would be, especially in the left wing media? I think honestly, there would be rioting, marching, looting, burning, yes and probably violence. The amazing thing about these reports is this Every one of these statements is historically accurate & factual.
It was John Jay, the very first Chief Justice & often called the "Father" of the Supreme Court, one of the primary writers of our Constitution, who wrote, "It is the duty... of our Christian nation to select & prefer Christians for their rulers."
It was the State of Delaware (along with most of the others) which required officeholders to take an oath affirming their Christian faith before they could take office. And they had a very logical reason for that requirement.
And not only did Congress in 1782 approve the use of The Bible in our schools, they even paid for them with tax dollars. And, in 1844, when someone sued to remove them, the Supreme Court ruled:
"Why should not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, be read & taught as a divine revelation in the schools? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?"
You see, if our Founding Fathers were alive today to say and do these things in our country today, they would be attacked, castigated, slandered, called right-wing radicals, and a threat to our nation. That, my friends, on this Thanksgiving 2018 weekend is a shame.
America has sown to the wind and will reap the whirlwind. It is a scriptural truth and we can be certain God will not be mocked. At some point, if not already, America will reap the bitter harvest of God's judgment. We've abandoned the path our ancestors and forefathers set us upon and wandered away from our roots as God-fearing Americans. So, this morning I will preach a bit differently than I usually do because of the occasion. In fact, this message may seem like more of a history lesson than a Bible lesson.
The people of our republic need to know these things and if they don't hear them at church, where will they hear it? I submit to you that this message is not the popular stance in our culture; no, far from it. But if the pulpits of our fair land fail to proclaim our gratitude and devotion to the God of Heaven, then we are left to our own destruction.
Our school systems, institutes of higher learning, Seminaries, Colleges and Universities have become so secularized so distanced from religion that huge chunks of information about the spiritual roots of our nation's history are neglected. Unfortunately, Christians are the only ones maintaining a connection between God and the founding of this country.
In this message we'll talk about some things we need to remember about the formation of our nation. There are a lot of wrongs in the culture of our country, but there are also a lot of things right about America, and I want to mention some of them.
- THE FIRST AMERICANS WERE PEOPLE FLEEING FROM TYRANNY AND LOOKING FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The first thing right with America is that our earliest settlers were people who came here primarily looking for religious freedom. Other nations, for the most part, came into existence by conquest for selfish and ambitious motives. But it was primarily in the pursuit of God, not gold, that America was born.
The hardy souls who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 fled from tyranny and oppression. And in the Mayflower Compact which they signed beneath the swinging lantern in the cabin of their ship, they proclaimed that they had come to the new world for "the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."
In the early colonies, in each settlement:
1. The first public building to be erected was a church house.
2. The first public exercise was the worship of Almighty God. There were many sorrowful times, but in each situation they gathered at the church to appeal to God for help. When bountiful harvests filled their barns they gathered at the church for thanksgiving to God.
3. The first thought in the mind of the first Americans was to gather at the House of God to pray when enemies invaded, or when threats of destruction occurred from famine, flood, or fire.
That was the humble beginnings around the turn of the century in 1500 AD. In the next 150 years as a British colony, more and more Europeans arrived on the shores of America, the New World. In 1643, they joined together to form "The New England Confederation." They actually wrote a constitution, the first one ever written in this vast New World, and it began with these words:
"Whereas we all came into these parts with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our lord Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity & peace..."
Those people are our spiritual forefathers who came to the shores of America so they could worship and practice their faith without fear of persecution. So that is one thing that's right with America, the fact that we were established by God-fearing visionaries who set us upon a path of service to God as a Christian nation.
2. OUR FOUNDERS SAW THEMSELVES AS SERVANTS OF GOD
The earliest Americans had a strong desire to do the will of God. I mentioned earlier a period of about 150 years from the Puritans to the Patriots of the American Revolution. That 150 years was not a very pleasant time in our history. What the Puritans intended was not the way history played out, and by 1730 America was populated by prisoners, outcasts, deceitful business men, looking to profit from the treasures of the new land.
You see, as time passed, and the original settlers died off, many of their descendants were more concerned with increasing their wealth and comfortable living than being faithful to God and His Word. Soon, as wave after wave of immigrants arrived, some people came for the wrong reasons and with entirely different motives than those earliest settlers.
England began a program of emptying its prisons by making it possible for prisoners to come to the New World as "indentured servants." Whether out of concern for them, or just to get rid of the undesirables, many took the offer and sailed for America. At the same time, the King of England granted vast tracts of land in the New World to his special friends, and slavery was introduced into the colonies to work these plantations.
The spiritual atmosphere deteriorated rapidly. Churches were dying and many of them that had once sought religious freedom for themselves were now being intolerant of others. And it was during this time that some went off in strange spiritual directions.
In 1692, a Haitian slave girl was brought by her master to live in Salem, Massachusetts. She began to tell young girls her wild and vivid tales about the power of Voodoo, and it wasn't long until fear filled the community and the Salem Witch Trials began.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
The end result of it all was that by 1730, only about 10% of the people in the Colonies attended church at all. That which had begun "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith had almost disappeared from our land. By the way, 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.
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 during that era it came to be known as “The Great Awakening." Tens of thousands 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.
Benjamin Franklin wrote, "It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."
In fact, Franklin was so impressed with George Whitefield's preaching that he helped build an auditorium to accommodate the crowds of up to 30,000 that came to hear Whitefield preach. By the way, Philadelphia had a population of only 25,000 at that time. People were coming from everywhere to hear these preachers preach!
And it was not just in Philadelphia, it was all throughout the 13 Colonies. And openly-devout Christians were no longer just 10% of the population. Now they made up 50% or more.
Why am I telling you all this? Because this "Great Awakening" was a precursor to the American Revolution. Our Founding Fathers, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, those who wrote our Constitution and 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 & came into leadership while this "Great Awakening" was engulfing the land. The generation that experienced the "Great Awakening" became the leaders of the American Revolution!
Check out this prayer recorded in the personal diary of George Washington, and in his own handwriting: "Let my heart, gracious God, be so affected with Your glory and majesty that I may... discharge those weighty duties which thou requirest of me .. Again, I have called on thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins... for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered on the cross for me. Thou gavest thy Son to die for me; and hast given me assurance of my salvation."
I don't care what you have heard about George Washington from the modern debunkers of our history. He was a devout Christian! And he wasn't alone in his faith!
Over a 10-year period, political-science professors at the University of Houston collected and 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. Guess what that primary source was? It was the Bible, 94% of the quotes of the founders of our nation were based upon the Bible.
The point of all this is that the cultural environment on the eve of the American Revolution was undeniably spiritual. And this focus dramatically affected the men & women who gave birth to this nation.
3. AMERICA WAS FOUNDED BY MEN AND WOMEN WHO ACKNOWLEDGED GOD'S SUPREME RULE OVER MEN AND NATIONS
Here's the third thing that I think is right with America: "America was founded by men and women who acknowledged God's supreme rule over men and nations." They weren't perfect. They weren't all devout Christians, but they all acknowledged that God was the supreme ruler over man and over nations.
Sometime you ought to read again The Declaration of Independence. Most of you are familiar with the prologue that says,
"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, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
They're saying, "We want a form of government whose job is to protect what the Creator has given to each of us." Then, after listing a series of charges against the actions of the King of England, they make two more references to God:
"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled," (listen to this) "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World..." They're saying that God is the Supreme Judge of the World!
And then they end their Declaration with these words: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence" (that's God), "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
I've seen a painting of the first Continental Congress. And many of you have heard the story of how they were discussing and debating the Declaration of Independence. Finally, one of them suggested they all get on their knees and ask God what should be done. And these framers of the Declaration of Independence all went to their knees as one man and began to pray and seek the wisdom and guidance of God.
John Adams, in a letter he wrote to his wife, Abigail, about the meeting of the First Continental Congress, said, "The most amazing thing occurred. Even the stern old Quakers had tears gushing down their cheeks."
Wouldn't it be wonderful today if our president, our Congress, and our Supreme Court, if they would just get down on their knees like our forefathers did and ask, "God, what do you want for this nation?"
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, often called the "Father of the Revolution," declared: "We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come."
So that's the third thing that's right with America: "America was founded by men and women who acknowledged God's supreme rule over men and nations."
First of all, I believe that America was protected and directed by God from the very start. The British Empire at that time possessed the most powerful fighting forces on the face of the earth. The ragtag assembly of volunteers, farmers and tradesmen who composed the ranks of the Continental Army were out-manned, out-gunned, and out- financed. Only a miracle of God could have brought them success. Well on this the day of Thanksgiving in America .. I want to show you from God's Word that there is hope for America!
Regardless of what's being written and taught today . we are the only nation on earth built upon the Christian faith!
President George Washington said, "It would be impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible."
President John Adams said, "It would be impossible to govern without God and the Ten Commandments."
The Pilgrim Charter of 1620 states that its purpose was "to advance the enlargement of the Christian religion to the glory of God Almighty."
Before the Pilgrims arrived on our shores they gathered below the deck of the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact which revealed their intent: "for the glory of God."
In 1632…. when Maryland was chartered as a colony, they wrote, "We are motivated with the pious zeal for extending the Christian religion.
Andrew Jackson… the 7th President said, "The Bible is the rock upon which our Republic rest."
The last sentence of the Declaration of Independence signed 240 years ago says, "For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance upon the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Eight days after signing the Declaration of Independence .. printed on the side of the Liberty Bell was a quote from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
Listen to the fourth verse of the "Star Spangled Banner" .. our National anthem that Congress adopted in 1931, "Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation, then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, in God is our trust." It is a prayer of praise to almighty God! If you're going to take prayer out of school, you have to remove our national anthem because it is a prayer to God!
God has blessed America because she was founded upon the promises and principles of the Word of God! Don't let some secularist tell you that America did not have a spiritual beginning! America was born out of a revival!
No one said it better than a red-headed, fair-skinned follower of Christ from Virginia named Patrick Henry. On March 20, 1775, the 2nd Virginia Convention convened at Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. They had gathered there to discuss how to deal with the tyranny and oppression of Great Britain and King George III.
On March 23rd, this 39 year old Christian stood to his feet and uttered some words that would become the spark that would light the fires of freedom that have burned brightly now for 241 years. He said, "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. Forbid it Almighty God - I know not what course others may take; but as for me -give me liberty or give me death!"
Patrick Henry, that patriot, and a founding father of our country said "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel!
Put another way, what Patrick Henry said in effect was "Let freedom ring", but wait a minute - what did our Founding Fathers mean by freedom? What kind of liberty did they want? How did they understand the concept of freedom?
When our Founding Fathers decided to risk life and limb to begin this grand experiment called America they did not know a lot about what they "did" want. They knew a lot more about what they "didn't" want. They didn't want tyranny. They didn't want taxation without representation. They didn't want an absentee landlord from an ocean away running their lives and calling the shots. They wanted freedom.
We have these rights because of what our forefathers have done. You and I didn't earn the privileges we enjoy as citizens of this land. But I am thankful for those who did earn them and passed them on to me, and that is what I celebrate on the 4th of July.
During the 1800's, Alexis de Toqueville, a famous French political philosopher, visited our nation seeking to uncover the secret of our greatness. He traveled from town to town, asking questions, examining every facet of our society, and then wrote his conclusions in his famous work, "Democracy in America”.
Dr. John McDowell, a Presbyterian minister, attributed the following statement to Toqueville. While proof is lacking that he is the author, Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton have quoted it. And I believe the message is still relevant today.
"I sought for America's greatness. I found it not in her fields and forests. I found it not in her mines and factories. I found it not in her Congress and great tribunals. It was only when I entered her churches and heard her pulpits thundering against sin and preaching righteousness that I discovered her greatness. America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
Again, American Government is patterned after and based on Biblical principles. Where did they get the idea for 3 branches of government? They got it right out of the Bible, that's where. And there's more. But let me go on.
Again, American law as written by our founding fathers guarantees our religious freedom to practice and proclaim our faith, regardless of what the Supreme Court may say today.
By the way, do you know what the tallest structure in Washington, D.C. is? It's the Washington Monument. And by law, nothing taller than the Washington Monument can be built there. And do you know what is inscribed at the pinnacle of the Washington Monument? These words in Latin from scriptures "Let God be praised”.
There may be legislators who don't know that. There may be Presidents who don't know that. There may be Supreme Court justices who don't know that. But at the very top, the pinnacle of our nation's capitol are these words, "Let God be praised." O America, lift up your eyes and praise God for the greatness and the blessings of this country in which we live.