Fourth of July, 2017

It is the Fourth of July, 2017.

It is a warm, clear, sunny day. Earlier, sitting outside on the wooden stairway landing, I read the Declaration of Independence out loud. It is a tradition I started a few years ago. I’ve noticed that each year I have a different reaction to those potent, destiny-shaping words.

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“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled…”

Can you imagine what it would have been like, to BE one of those people? REPRESENTING such a powerful, permanent thrust of history? What if it had been you, in solidarity with those 55 other brave compatriots, choosing to place your signature on the Declaration of Independence? In doing so, you would no longer be just you. The very fabric of your life would be forever transformed. Within your actions, your words – indeed your very presence! anywhere! – would pulsate the glory & destiny of a nation.

I believe that those who chose this path in 1776, were given an opportunity like none other. It staggers me, to try to grasp it.

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“For this cause we faint not…for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”   (2 Corinthians 4:16,17)

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I believe that the spirit of this Word lived within our founding patriots & warriors, whether they knew it or not.

GLORY BE TO GOD!

God bless America.

 

God in America

Blood-Bought Destiny

 

declaration-2The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not just sign a document. These men pledged all that they had. Including their very lives.

How many things are that important to you? So important that you are willing & ready, if necessary, to lay down your life?

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That object of such a readiness must be such a thing, or such a one, of high value to those willing to pay this price. And so I think about how precious were the visions of America’s founders, for the new nation & the new government they were creating. Because of such preciousness, great care was taken in the forming of it. These men knew they were forming & birthing new life. They were creating an intangible – the possibility of a future that had previously existed only in lofty philosophical discourse.

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“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend”.

We know this Scripture refers to Jesus Christ, as Savior of the world, in His crucifixion and death. And so I find a kind of parallel in the shedding of our Savior’s blood to redeem mankind, and make us new creations (“…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…behold, all things are become new” -2 Corinthians.5:17)….with the willingness of our founders & founding patriots to shed their own blood to create a new nation.jesus

With this parallel I also see an alignment of the natural & spiritual, in a way that imputes a divine purpose to the very existence of the United States of America. Such a purpose would mandate a very focused eye to the details of our founding documents. Such a purpose should raise serious questions as to exactly what this purpose is. If the redemption of mankind, through the blood of Christ, bringing many sons to glory can be equated to the redemption of the early colonists from British tyranny – then what, I wonder, are the then & future sons of liberty, found in these ‘redeemed’ United States of America, destined to produce?

I know that there exists beliefs concerning this land of America as having been intended to be a new Jerusalem, a Redeemer Nation. I think that there is substance to such theory. We have yet to know, without a doubt, all that may transpire in the United States of America, before Jesus is finished with us. If He ever is finished….my hope is that there yet remains unimaginable joy & abundance, as over time & with a genuine, heartfelt gratitude, as a nation we are led to repentance by the goodness of God.

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“…a time of repentance for America and calling forth the plans and purposes of God in the nation and a surrendering of agendas to align with His ways…”  AN ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS CONCERNING THE US ELECTION AND DONALD TRUMP

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 “…the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance…”

(Romans 2:4)

…More than just a Government ?

Last 4th. of July I began what I intend to make a tradition: I read the Declaration of Independence aloud. (So far, I’m the only person present at the reading.) This year, while reading those hallowed words that explained & proclaimed the American Revolutionary cause, I also began to get unexpected glimpses of parallels with things not necessarily ‘political’. These glimpses will, I know, become full visions, if I am not just imagining them. If I am not just imagining them, surely others have been graced with such…insight.

My conviction that the hand & works of the Lord run through all of American history, for a strong & definite purpose, grows every day. There is not much about which I have no doubt, but I have no doubt about that. I think I am coming late to the party! as the almost tangibleness of His invisible things become more manifest to me. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:17 about affliction “…working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” and are counseled to look at those things which are not seen. I suspect that the United States of America is a powerful representation of those unseen things.

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“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

What impacted me especially, in this statement in the beginning sentences of the Declaration of Independence, was the idea of the consent of the governed. That some form of government among men is necessary cannot be disputed. The heavy-handed concept of government might be inherently assumed. Clearly, with tyrants & dictators, it is. There, the people fall prey. Perhaps they have never known any other way.

(But there is another Way.)

God is on the march, and He has plans for men.

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We begin our endeavors with high hopes & grandiose plans. Then, we usually start hitting roadblocks, right? Sometimes, roadblocks hit us! As the sparks fly upward, man is born for trouble, we read in the book of Job. (Job 5:7) I hate that this is written, but…it is. We can usually safely assume, at the very least, glitches along the way; but often serious difficulties, conflicts & divisions rise up.

So it is & has been in governments among men. The reason for that is that governments are composed of men. Our Founders knew this well, and did not expect perfection, or a problem-free republic. In the Federalist No.51, James Madison astutely wrote: “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

‘Glitches’ began rearing their hostile heads early on in the young United States. Prior to the framing of the Constitution, under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had failed so miserably to govern that a return to monarchy was being considered as the only defense against chaos. George Washington doubted that the young nation could exist much longer without “…having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union…” (Athearn, Robert G., American Heritage series, Vol.4, ‘A New Nation’)  Such crises led to four months of constant, intense & sometimes bitter debate during the Constitutional Convention, where the Articles of Confederation were scrapped, and agreement was finally reached on the new Constitution of the United States of America.

Safeguards against the inclinations of man at his worst were implemented into our Constitution, to the best of our forefathers’ ability. In his closing speech at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, while acknowledging not entirely approving it, Benjamin Franklin also acknowledged astonishment that the finished Constitution of the United States of America approached so near to perfection as it does.” (Ravitch, Diane & Thernstrom, Abigail, eds., The Democracy Reader)

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So…men struggle to achieve the goal of a free nation. Such a nation requires government.  And perhaps we see in the heart, the form & the functioning of the government & citizens of the United States of America a parallel to the corporate body of Christ and the individuals within it. And thus, a glimpse into the heart & desire of God.

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Just as the American governing system is comprised of many persons who serve in a hierarchy of various offices & functions, so Christ operates His government on this earth through His people, who serve within a Divine structure, as many members of one Body. Yet “…all members have not the same office.” (Romans 12:4) The optimal functioning of the body of Christ on earth requires the willing participation of…His people. God want co-workers. (2 Cor.6:1, 5:19)  He wants us to agree with him, so that we can act in accord with His purposes. Although the Lord can do as He pleases, it is not in His heart to subvert us, or force us to work with Him. He wants our consent.

He wants the consent of those over whom He would be Lord.

Consent of the governed.

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“…the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…”

These terms – ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God’ – made their first appearance in The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America – our Declaration of Independence – in its opening words.  “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal stations to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”  Accordingly, it would follow that all else contained within this document, and any other document based on or springing from this Declaration, would be built upon & around these foundational realities.

So a problem arises if one doesn’t really believe that such a concept as ‘Laws of Nature’ is in fact a reality. Or if it is a reality, but not such a priority that an entire new nation & system of government should revolve around it!

When I first embarked upon my journey into the Founding of America, those words troubled me. Only vaguely, and not enough to search out further answers, but…my knowledge of the Scriptures and spiritual reality, seemed to contradict what the greatest document in American history, and possibly the history of the world, clearly espoused without question. Because other strong evidences pointed to the hand of God in America’s founding just as clearly, I disregarded these troubling apparent contradictions. For me, the one outweighed the other. But it would be so much better if I could find a resolution to this dilemma.

My previous understanding of the ‘laws of nature’ was determined by the Biblical concept of natural versus spiritual. Scripture speaks of the natural man in terms that are not exactly glowing, and clearly juxtapositions him against that far more desirable state, the spiritual man. The very unlovely  ‘works of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:19) fall into this ‘natural man’ category listing, and they only get worse, spiraling downward. So you can see why my impression of the ‘laws of nature’ left me wary. And if the Declaration of Independence was founded on such, then…could I truly be in agreement with it? Were some parts of it antithetical to my Christian faith?

Well…Scripture shares with us the concepts of the ‘letter of the law’ as opposed to the ‘spirit of the law’. We are informed that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. One trumps the other. I have wondered if perhaps this ‘laws of nature’ idea somehow could be resolved within such a framework. But my musings are just that, my musings, and I’ve needed weightier, far more authoritative & definitive answers.

Enter Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Although I knew in a general way that our Founders drew from the theories of ancient Roman & Greek philosophers, orators, and statesmen, etc., in forming our republic, that was all I knew. I may have been reluctant to delve into such historical background, viewing such times & cultures as heathen, and not knowing how to ‘come to terms’ with such facts. Regardless, Marcus Tullius Cicero was considered to be our Founding Fathers’ favorite expositor of Natural Law. And as I’ve begun to learn from Cicero’s perspective about this Natural Law, I’ve found that I need to do a complete 180, as the saying goes. Natural Law turns out to be the exact opposite of what I thought it was!

Cicero was born and died before Christ appeared on the earth. He did not sit at the feet of Jesus, nor learn of such things as were taught or performed by Him. Born in a small town about 60 miles southeast of Rome, Cicero was brought up in a society that has been considered ‘pagan’. Yet even so, during the course of his life, Cicero’s contemplations & observations led him beyond the veil of visible phenomena to see “the brilliant intelligence of a supreme Designer with an ongoing interest in both human and cosmic affairs.” (W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap). The heavens declare the glory of God…day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. (Psalm 19, v.1-2) Marcus Tullius Cicero was given to see and hear these things. God causes the light to shine out of darkness.

Having established in his own thinking the reality of a Creator, Cicero also established a belief in a system of laws set in place by that Creator. In Book Two of his landmark work de Legibus (Latin: On the laws) Cicero writes that law does not, and cannot, begin with men. Men are rather the instruments of a higher wisdom which governs the entire earth. That wisdom, inherent within the Creator, dwells within His laws, laws that would produce & insure the best quality of life possible on earth, in every area, from individual relationships to national government. According to W. Cleon Skousen (mentioned above), Cicero concluded “The Creator’s order of things is called Natural Law”.

Our Founders concurred.

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“As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight.”- John Adams ( Mortimer N. S. Sellers, American republicanism: Roman Ideology in the United States )

Thomas Jefferson, in an 1825 letter to Henry Lee, named Cicero as a major figure shaping American understanding of “the common sense” basis for the right of revolution, and as a contributor to the tradition “of public right” that informed his draft of the Declaration of Independence. (Morton Frisch and Richard Stevens,eds., The Political Thought of American Statesmen)

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“…to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal stations to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”

Knowing now the sure foundation upon which our Declaration of Independence was framed, and the entire American experiment, way of life & government has been built, has stunned me. Somehow, everything has become more real. If ever I believed that the hand of God has always been at work in the birthing & existence of America, I believe it even more so now. I believe it with complete abandon.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, way before our time and yet, a powerful voice from that past which has had more influence on your life & my life today then we ever knew. Perhaps just as Cyrus, heathen king of ancient Persia, was stirred up by God to build Him a house (2 Chronicles 22, 23), so Cicero was stirred to be a mouthpiece for the Lord, declaring His existence & laws to a foreign land, and pointing to the glory of a  society yet to come, based on those laws.