America is a young country when compared to the rest of the world. The United States was founded a little more than 200 years ago. That seems like a long time, but weíre practically a baby compared to other countries. England and France trace their history back over a thousand years, and when it comes to places like Rome, and Jerusalem, they go back many thousands of years.
America may be young, but weíve crammed a lot of action and history into that 200 plus years. If you travel this country you can see the birthplaces and homes of many great men - from George Washington to Elvis Presley. You can visit battlefields like Shiloh, Gettysburg, and the Alamo. You can see monuments to great presidents, to our troops, and Native American heroes like Crazy Horse.
America is also full of beautiful, natural wonders. America is home to the mighty Mississippi River and borders the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls. We have swamp lands like the Everglades in Florida and deserts like Death Valley. You can visit places like the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, the Smokey Mountains, and even volcanoes. Or you can seek thrills and excitement at places like Disney World and Six Flags.
There are many places and many things that make America the beautiful country it is, but today, we want to celebrate something you wonít find in a travel brochure. Itís not a tourist attraction, it doesnít cost money, and yet it has been a part of our country from the very beginning. As a matter of fact, this one thing is the reason the earliest settlers came to our country. Itís something we call freedom of religion. We have the right to worship God. Our country was established on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Itís a blessing so many countries in our world do not share.
God gave us a country where we are free to worship him, praise him, pray to him, and serve him as he has taught us. God gave that same gift to his people Israel, and that gift came with a promise. If Godís people stayed faithful to him, they would always live in a place where they could worship him freely!
God told King Solomon that as long as Godís people remembered him and worshipped him, they would always have a place where they were free to worship. Solomon had built a beautiful temple for the Lord and asked for Godís blessing. God gave it, but he also gave them the responsibility to keep faith with him.
I wish I could tell you that Godís people remained faithful to Him, but they did not. In time they forgot God and chased after false gods. The same thing could happen to us if we are not mindful of who gave us the freedoms we enjoy here in America, but if we remain true to the Lord, God will keep our country free and help us preserve the freedom to worship him the way we believe is right.
To the generations who were born and raised here, itís hard to understand just how amazing that freedom truly is. We were born with the freedom to praise God. We didnít have to fight for it. Weíve never lived without it. But itís the very reason the pilgrim and the puritans came to America. They were not able to worship the way they believed was right, so they came here to be free.
Today there are many people around the world, brothers and sisters in Christ, who would love to have the freedoms we do. They have to keep their faith hidden. They meet in secret. Some of these people live in places where even owning a Bible is illegal. Imagine going to jail just because you have a Bible in your house.
Our freedom of religion is truly special. Itís something we should never take for granted, and it really does make our country beautiful.
Today, as we celebrate our country, I want all of you to thank God for the freedoms heís given us. Letís thank God that our Constitution gives us freedom to worship him without fear. Letís ask him to build our faith and use us to share his love with others, here in America and around the world. Letís pray the freedom weíve enjoyed for over 200 years will be around for hundreds more. And letís exercise that freedom by worshipping God.
America is a beautiful place, and our freedom of religion truly makes America special. Letís exercise our right to worship God this week, and letís use that freedom to spread the good news of Jesus from sea to shining sea. After Solomon built a great temple for the Lord, God promised that if Israel stayed committed to God, He would bless them greatly. We should strive to be a nation of people who are faithful to God and trust that he will take care of us.
Help us to be faithful and never take our freedom of religion for granted.
In Jesusí name, Amen