Imagine the Impact that Americans of faith could have on the future of our nation, the character of its leadership and the moral health of its people if we all applied biblical principles to every aspect of our lives — including our participation in the democratic process.
Honor, Privilege, Duty
Americans are blessed to have a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But democracy has one key requirement: our participation. The most basic democratic participation is voting, yet it can also have the most profound impact. When you vote, you help determine who will lead our nation, make our laws and protect our liberties. More than a right, voting is a privilege that millions of people in other parts of the world can only dream about. Still, many Americans choose not to vote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as many as 35 percent of eligible Americans are not registered to vote – that’s 45 to 65 million people! Less than half of the voting-age population actually votes in any given election.
What’s worse, Christians often vote at an alarmingly low rate. For example, in 2002, the last non-presidential election year, only 43 percent of evangelical Christians actually bothered to vote. When people of faith fail to vote, is it any wonder that policies are enacted that are contrary to believers’ core values?
The Influence of Faith
Our faith in God should influence our values in life, and includes the political arena. We shouldn’t be bashful about injecting notions of right and wrong into public debates. These ideas come from moral standards, which help prevent a free society such as ours from sliding into social chaos. People of faith, grounded in moral truth, must be prepared to discern those candidates best able to uphold moral values. As Christ’s representatives on earth, we are under
a mandate to be “salt and light” in our culture (Matthew 5:13-16). Dr. James Dobson has said, “We live in a representative form of government where we are its leaders. It means that every citizen has a responsibility to participate in the decisions that are made, and that includes people of faith using their influence for what is moral and just.”
Voting Your Values
Here’s more sobering news: Many believers fail to consider their biblical values when voting, often choosing candidates whose positions are at odds with their own beliefs, convictions, and values. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans say their faith has little to do with their voting decisions.
The Ministry of Voting
That’s right. Your vote can be a form of ministry. After all, when you vote, you are directly and indirectly impacting people’s lives. By the people you select and the ballot measures you support, you are making a practical difference – for good and bad – in the lives of:
– unborn children (abortion policy)
– impressionable youth (pornography laws & education policy)
– husbands and wives (marriage & divorce laws)
– hurting souls (religious freedom laws)
And that’s only the beginning. So this election year, prayerfully resolve to:
Vote your values
Source: 1. Candi Cushman, Remember Florida, Citizen, July 2004, p. 24.
Let’s assume for discussion purposes that your father died. He worked hard for everything he had in life. He was an entrepreneur and he also owned his own business, paying his employees well. His company produced a cleaning product that he invented after years of experimentation and trial and error. When he got his formula just right, taking a huge risk, he borrowed $150,000 from friends and relatives and began producing his cleaning solution. Selling it locally at first, it was quickly found to be superior to all other cleaning products on the market, eventually being used by 75% of all households in America.
He lived a good life and was very generous. In addition to paying his taxes, he gave 30% of his income annually to his church and to many other charities that encouraged education, health care, and community well being. He didn’t do it to get awards or public approval, but was heard saying that, “God had blessed him and to whom much was given much is required.”
Shortly after his death, his widow got sick and died of congestive heart failure. Upon her death, people came into their home and took half of everything that they had acquired over their lifetime together.
The three children protested, but the law seemed to be on their side. They took half the furniture, half of the real estate and even half of the money in their parent’s bank account. Half of everything that their parents had worked so hard for was taken away.
Were these random thieves? Were the adult children held at gun point while others looted their parent’s assets? No! In this case and many like it in America, the police were powerless to do anything.
Beginning January 1, 2011, the federal government will impose a tax of up to 55% of any estate valued at more than $1,000,000. That means the Federal government will come into your home, take half of everything you have worked for and use it for their own purposes. And it is legal. But is it moral?
Maybe you don’t think it will happen to you. One million dollars seems like a lot of money to most people. But let’s imagine that your parents bought a house in the mid-sixties for $35,000 and it happens to be in California on the beach or in Washington DC. Over 50 years, the house value has increased to over a million dollars. When your parents die, the government comes in and takes half of everything. They didn’t help pay the mortgage in the tough times. The government did not help make repairs and paint the house over the years. But as soon as your parents die, they come with their hand out and want 50% of everything.
Is this theft? We would not tolerate it if an individual kicked in the door and started taking half of everything in the house, but we tolerate it if it is the government.
There is a similar story in the Bible found in 1 Kings 21 when a King and Queen had the power to take what they wanted, because they could. What does God say about this issue?
Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth. But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’
Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours!’ Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel–slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.” There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.
Here is a Biblical example of what happens when those in governmental authority exercise their power for their personal benefit. Our Founding Fathers gave us a constitution that allowed for average citizens of America to put people in authority that understand right from wrong. We have an election coming up where you have the power to place people worthy of your trust in office. These people will have the power of the government to take your possessions and use them as they see fit or they will have the power to pass legislation that recognizes the right of every individual to work hard, acquire assets and to determine how those assets will be used after their death.
There are no estate taxes on any American’s assets for those who die in 2010. However on January 1, 2011, we are allowing the government to take up to 55% of everything we own, unless we elect leaders who find it immoral for government leaders to steal from American citizens.
Here are two illustrations that may help you understand the contrast between Bigger Government and Smaller Government. These issues are being discussed in Congress and in the media daily.
Big Government advocates believe that a few highly educated officials in power are better able and more capable of determining what is best for the majority of people. They believe they can deliver a more equitable form of governance. We are not aware of a single place on earth where Big Government did not severely constrict the freedom and creativity of the people and plunge the majority of the population into poverty. Because people tend to become pre-occupied with the personal issues of life, Big Government is a lazy man’s form of governance.
The Small Government model requires the citizens of the nation be informed and engaged in the process governing. Small Government is the most difficult form of government to maintain because people are naturally pre-occupied with personal matters. They tend to neglect their civic responsibility in hopes that those who govern them will do it well. Small Government and personal responsibility are essential to maintaining freedom and prosperity. Those who yield their civic duty to others will lose both freedom and prosperity. The only place on earth where the Small Government model has been tried is the United States of America and the rest of the world has benefited from the freedom and prosperity of the US.
When the average person tries to assess the most significant problems in Tucson it doesn’t take long to realize that the problems are so large and complex that they cannot be easily fixed. Some folks even advocate that because the problems are so massive that if they could only be solved through government action.
Christians have a mandate in Scripture to love God and to love others. Historically, Christians have organized their service to others through their local churches. They do acts of kindness to the most needy in our community only to find that the needs quickly out strip the available resources and it doesn’t take long for the people involved to burnout. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, they quit trying, opting to serve others in the local church, raise their families and try to live the Christian lifestyle.
4Tucson was organized in January 2010, to bring Christians of all denominations and all walks of life together to collectively assess the problems our city faces and offer positive solutions that benefit the entire community.
“The most significant problem that our city faces is the lack of a clear and definable vision of what it wants to be as a city in the future,” said founder Mark Harris. “The most promising group in the city for developing a vision for the city is Imagine Greater Tucson,” said Harris. The initiating team of IGT has been meeting for over 18 months reviewing the past city visioning documents and looking at other cities that have developed long-term visions for their city. You can get more information or get involved in the process by going to the website http://www.imaginegreatertucson.org.
Here are three questions that should be explored in discussing what the 20 year vision plan for Tucson should be:
1) What are we doing about Jobs?
A quick glance at who Tucsonans work for is revealing.
16 Largest Government Employers in Tucson
Raytheon Missile Systems – 12,140 jobs – Department of Defense
Carondelet Health Network – 4,566 jobs – Government Health Care
University Medical Center Corp – 3,109 jobs – Government Health Care
TMC Health Care – 2,512 jobs – Government Health Care
Corrections Corp of America – 2,500 jobs – Department of Justice
University Physicians Healthcare – 2,125 jobs – Government Health Care
Southern Arizona VA Health Care – 1,900 jobs – Department of Defense
Northwest Medical Center – 1,511 jobs – Government Health Care
University of Arizona – 10,363 jobs – Department of Education
State of Arizona – 8,708 jobs – State Government
Davis Monthan Air Force Base – 7,755 jobs – Department of Defense
Tucson Unified School District – 7,012 jobs – Department of Education
Pima County – 5,399 jobs – County Government
City of Tucson – 4,353 jobs – City Government
Tohono O’odham Nation – 3,530 jobs – Tohono O’odham Nation
U.S. Border Patrol – 2,455 jobs – U.S. Customs
16 Largest Private Employers
Wal-Mart Store, Inc, 7,192 jobs – Private Employer
Freeport-McMoRan Copper – 3,997 jobs – Private Employer
Fry’s Food Stores – 3,050 jobs – Private Employer
Citi – 2,219 jobs – Private Employer
Asarco LLC – 2,117 jobs – Private Employer
Target Stores – 1,900 jobs – Private Employer
Bashas’ Inc – 1,893 jobs – Private Employer
Afni Inc – 1,685 jobs – Private Employer
Safeway Inc – 1658 jobs – Private Employer
Walgreens – 1,475 jobs – Private Employer
APAC Customer Service – 1400 Jobs – Private Employer
IBM – 1226 jobs – Private Employer
UniSource Energy – 1180 jobs – Private Employer
Circle K Stores – 1150 jobs – Private Employer
Long Realty – 1100 jobs – Private Employer
Home Depot – 1109 jobs – Private Employer
Total Employment From Top 16 Government Related Employers: 79,938
Total Employment From Top 16 Private Employers: 34,351
Source: Arizona Daily Star, 2010, 2009 Data
It is not healthy for any city to have the majority of its jobs in the Government sector.
What if we decided the every job in our area is important to for the long-term health of our city? What if we decided to be the employment capital of Arizona?
We may want to consider helping develop a deep water port in Guaymas, Mexico that could potentially handle 20% of the shipping from Los Angeles and bring it to Tucson for distribution. Many cottage industries and new jobs would develop from the import and export of products shipped through the port to Tucson.
2) What are we doing about Energy?
Tucson should be ground zero for a variety of energy sources. Soon there will be a paradigm changer that will make solar a viable energy source. Currently solar is only affordable through substantial government subsidy. What if we decided to be an energy exporter? We should look at Generation 4 Nuclear Plants that burn their own waste product. What if we developed two plants, one for Tucson and one to export energy to other states that will not or cannot produce their own energy?
3) What are we doing about Water?
It is predicted that Tucson will have another million people in our city by 2025. We could pipe water from the Gulf of California through a pipeline to a desalination plant located in Tucson. Oil and gas are piped all over the United States, why not water? That would mean more jobs and more water for our future.
4) What are we doing about our greatest export?
Every year some of the brightest minds anywhere in the country graduate from one of the universities or colleges in Tucson. It is almost a foregone conclusion that these graduates will leave Tucson for higher paying jobs in other cities. Tucson’s greatest export is our brightest kids. What if we were determined to provide job opportunities so these students could stay in Tucson and contribute to our future success?
Our city is what it is because of the choices we have made in the past and it will be what it will be because of the choices we make today. I see a bright future for our city if we will choose to make it so. 4Tucson’s strategy is to participate in these discussions, to challenge the status quo and to offer workable solutions for the benefit of all Tucsonans.
If you want to get involved in 4Tucson call us at (520) 745-4404.
There are those in the leadership of the various states who would be perfectly content if God were not mentioned in schools, government buildings or anywhere else in public for that matter. That hasn’t always been the case. Consider the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that took effect on December 15, 1791.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
A popular discussion these days seems to be what is meant by “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” That phrase is used to eradicate any and all hint of religion in the public square. It sems the second part of that phrase is conveniently overlooked. “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The purpose of the first amendment was to prevent the federal government from establishing a national religion, not to prevent religion’s influence or to keep religious people out of government. Consider the preambles of most of the state constitutions. They clearly acknowledged that God was important to good governance.
Alabama 1901, Preamble, We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution..
Alaska 1956, Preamble, We, the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land.
Arizona 1911, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Arizona, grateful to Almighty God for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution…
Arkansas 1874, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Arkansas, grateful to Almighty God for the privilege of choosing our own form of government…
California 1879, Preamble, We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom…
Colorado 1876, Preamble, We, the people of Colorado, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of Universe…
Connecticut 1818, Preamble, The People of Connecticut, acknowledging with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.
Delaware 1897, Preamble, through Divine Goodness all men have, by nature, the rights of worshipping and serving their Creator according to the dictates of their consciences.
Florida 1885, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, establish this Constitution…
Georgia 1777, Preamble, We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution…
Hawaii 1959, Preamble, We, the people of Hawaii, Grateful for Divine Guidance … Establish this Constitution.
Idaho 1889, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings.
Illinois 1870, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Illinois, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.
Indiana 1851, Preamble, We, the People of the State of Indiana, grateful to Almighty God for the free exercise of the right to choose our form of government.
Iowa 1857, Preamble, We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings, establish this Constitution.
Kansas 1859, Preamble, We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges establish this Constitution.
Kentucky 1891, Preamble, We, the people of the Commonwealth are grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties.
Louisiana 1921, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberties we enjoy.
Maine 1820, Preamble, We the People of Maine acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity ..And imploring His aid and direction.
Maryland 1776, Preamble, We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty…
Massachusetts 1780, Preamble, We…the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe In the course of His Providence, an opportunity and devoutly imploring His direction
Michigan 1908, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Michigan, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, establish this Constitution.
Minnesota, 1857, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings:
Mississippi 1890, Preamble, We, the people of Mississippi in convention assembled, grateful to Almighty God, and invoking His blessing on our work.
Missouri 1845, Preamble, We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness. Establish this Constitution…
Montana 1889, Preamble, We, the people of Montana, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty establish this Constitution…
Nebraska 1875, Preamble, We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom …Establish this Constitution.
Nevada 1864, Preamble, We the people of the State of Nevada, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, establish this Constitution…
New Hampshire 1792, Part I. Art. I. Sec. V Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.
New Jersey 1844, Preamble, We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.
New Mexico 1911, Preamble, We, the People of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty…
New York 1846, Preamble, We, the people of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings.
North Carolina 1868, Preamble, We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those…
North Dakota 1889, Preamble, We, the people of North Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, do ordain…
Ohio 1852, Preamble, We the people of the state of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and to promote our common…
Oklahoma 1907, Preamble, Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessings of liberty, establish this
Oregon 1857, Bill of Rights, Article I Section 2. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences
Pennsylvania 1776, Preamble, We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance….
Rhode Island 1842, Preamble. We the People of the State of Rhode Island grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing…
South Carolina, 1778, Preamble, We, the people of the State of South Carolina grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
South Dakota 1889, Preamble, We, the people of South Dakota, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberties…
Tennessee 1796, Art. XI..III. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their conscience…
Texas 1845, Preamble, We the People of the Republic of Texas, acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God.
Utah 1896, Preamble, Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty, we establish this Constitution.
Vermont 1777, Preamble, Whereas all government ought to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights, and other blessings which the Author of Existence has bestowed on man…
Virginia 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI Religion, or the Duty which we owe our Creator can be directed only by Reason and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards each other…
Washington 1889, Preamble, We the People of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this Constitution…
West Virginia 1872, Preamble, Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God…
Wisconsin 1848, Preamble, We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, domestic tranquility….
Wyoming 1890, Preamble, We, the people of the State of Wyoming, grateful to God for our civil, political, and religious liberties, establish this Constitution…
It is alarming to see how quickly we forget that it is God and our acknowledgement of His blessings that makes America the greatest country on earth.
The Founding Fathers continued to explained why the Declaration of nIndependence was so important and why Independence Day should be celebrated every year.
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm
but I am not. — I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. — Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means…”
(The signer of the Declaration and second president of the United States, writing to his wife, Abigail Adams, at the time of the ratification of the Declaration)
“Why is it that next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]? Is it not, that in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission on Earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government on the first precepts of Christianity?”
(The son of John Adams and sixth president of the United States gave this 4th of July speech in 1837)
[O]ur fathers were men — they were heroes and patriots — they fought — they conquered — and they bequeathed to us a rich inheritance of liberty and empire which we have no right to surrender … Yes, my fellow freemen, we have a rich and growing empire — we have a lucrative commerce to protect — we have indefeasible [inalienable] rights — we have an excellent system of religion and of government — we have wives and children and sisters to defend; and God forbid that the soil of America should sustain the wretch who [lacks] the will or the spirit to defend them. Let us then rally round the independence and Constitution of our country, resolved to a man that we will never lose by folly, disunion, or cowardice what has been planned by wisdom and purchased with blood.
(Noah Webster said these words in 1798, at a fourth of July celebration. He fought in the Revolutionary War, was a legislator and judge, and became “Schoolmaster to America”, publishing the first American Dictionary of the Enligh Language in 1828)
Abraham Lincoln, why is the Declaration of Independence important today?
“I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”
(From a speech in Philadelphia, February 22, 1861)
President Lincoln, what was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?
“These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ … [T]hey established these great self-evident truths that … their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew that battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land … Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence … let me entreat you to come back … [C]ome back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence.”
(President Lincoln presented this appeal in 1858 to a crowd in Lewiston, Illinois)
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
What did it cost to sign their names to the document and pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward. Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates. Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more.
The Declaration of Independence
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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, — 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The Old Testament has over 300 prophecies predicting Jesus’ resurrection which He fulfilled. Many of those predictions were made several hundred years before Jesus was born. In the New Testament, Jesus predicted several times his death and his resurrection after three days. When it happened, the scripture records the moment like this: “So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” John 2:22
The resurrection should not have been a surprise to anyone who followed Jesus and saw Him continually demonstrate His power over the material universe. Consider that He turned water into wine, healed the sick, and raised Lazarus from the dead. His resurrection was consistent with the power He demonstrated before His death.
After word of Jesus’ resurrection became public and belief in Him began to spread, the religious leaders of the day could have easily discredited belief in the resurrection. They simply needed to go to the grave and produce Jesus’ body as evidence that He had not risen from the dead. Even with the help of the Roman authorities, they could not. The chief priests had set a 24 hour guard at the tomb. The Roman guards knew they would lose their lives if they failed in their duty. On the third day, when Jesus’ body was gone, the guards reported it to the chief priests, at the risk of their lives. There was no body to recover.
Most of Jesus’ disciples fled when He had been arrested and sentenced to death on a cross. When they heard the news, they were surprised. Their fear of being arrested and surprise at the resurrection demonstrates that there was no pre-plan hoax. Even though Jesus told them what would happen, they did not believe Him until they actually saw Him.
After His resurrection Jesus appeared to over 500 eyewitnesses over a 40 day period. They testified that Jesus was indeed alive. There were no witnesses to the contrary. In fact, many of the eyewitnesses accepted death rather than deny they had seen Jesus. People don’t die for something they know to be a hoax.
It would be foolish to bet your eternal life on the false belief that Jesus didn’t raise from the dead. Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin, who died on a cross for your sins and rose from the grave on the third day, all so that you and I can have a personal relationship with the Heavenly Father. Don’t bet against Him; the evidence is overwhelming.
A successful Christian business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.
He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. “The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO”
One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story.
She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by—still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick at his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room.
When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful—in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you w ill be appointed the next CEO!” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at t he back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”
When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told hi m the story The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief
His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new CEO the others said?
Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today.
But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.
When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive.
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
If you plant faith in Christ, you will reap a harvest so, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.
Two thousand years ago Paul wrote to the church at Galatia the same story but with fewer words, “Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7 NIV)
Sowing integrity will always be the best course!