Thanksgiving Reminds Americans to Count Our Blessings
By Jeff Lukens
On Thanksgiving Day, we remember how God has abundantly blessed our lives and our country. These blessings come largely because America and its laws were established on the fundamental belief that our morality comes only from the divine Creator.
A covenant is a promise or oath between individuals, or between God and an individual, a church, or a nation. It is a concept not often used today, but our forefathers understood it. They knew that God would act in accordance with his promises. We, as a nation and as individuals, would need only to believe in him and obey his Biblical laws. Psalm 25:10 says, "All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant."
The Pilgrims were persecuted in England for not conforming to the state church, and spent 12 difficult years in Holland before coming to America. Before starting their new lives, they made a covenant with God. As they surveyed a desolate winter seashore from their ship, they wrote the Mayflower Compact. They had come to form their colony for the "glory of God." In return, they would receive His protection and blessings in this new promised land. The Mayflower Compact was America's first constitutional document, and was modeled as constitutional law with succeeding settlements.
The Declaration of Independence ends with the acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God in whose care the founders formed a nation. "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." They knew that a democratic government could not stand without a virtuous public, and no public would be virtuous without faith in the divine Creator. Our nation's founding document declared independence from England, and with equal fervor, dependence upon God. Expressing that trust, the 56 signers committed the American experiment to their Maker.
And his blessings didn't take long to see. Were it not for a miraculous fog that made possible the escape of George Washington's surrounded army from Brooklyn, across the East River, the Revolutionary War might have ended in defeat in 1776. Washington was the first to say God had guided him and protected his army through the next five years. The war, the fate of the nation, and the shape of the modern world, turned on the choices of free Americans defying an empire and following their God.
As time passed, the westward expansion of the continent was filled with millions of believing settlers. America soon grew to be an industrial power and a model of democracy for the entire world.
Less than six months after Pearl Harbor, our Navy caught the Japanese in a moment of indecision on whether to attack Midway Island or nearby U.S. warships. Our aircraft spotted them, and in a five minute raid destroyed three Japanese carriers. A fourth went down later that day. In only a few minutes, the course of the entire Pacific war changed in our favor. Some may call this stunning victory really good luck; others know it as the sovereign hand of God.
And so it was in our most desperate moments. He was with our troops amidst the death and mayhem in those crucial morning hours on Omaha Beach. The fate of the war depended on a successful landing. By late morning, the heavy losses had Allied commanders seriously considering a withdrawal. And while our soldiers eventually worked their way up the bluffs and into the open country, our Lord was answering the prayers of a grateful nation.
The Civil Rights movement was born in our nation's churches. The courage and conviction of Martin Luther King and other leaders rested in their faith in human equality before God. Only God's authority and eternal laws could be the prerequisites for believing that individuals have rights, dignity and freedom. The nonviolent demonstrations created the momentum that resulted in the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination. King paid for his faith with his life. Yet today, by the blessings of God, virtually all Americans can participate in the bounty and opportunity this country offers.
Ronald Reagan often said all things in life were part of God's plan. He believed that even the most disheartening setbacks would eventually work out for the best. Following the 1981 assassination attempt, he wrote in his diary, "Whatever happens now, I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can." And serve Him he did. Reagan' started a shift toward limited government, and began a renewal in patriotism and economic growth. He eloquently expressed the yearning hope of freedom, and began an arms buildup that the Soviet Union could not hope to match. America's military, financial and technological edge pushed the Soviets to the give up their quest for world domination. America's Divine plan was achieved shortly after Reagan left office with the liberation of Eastern Europe and collapse of the USSR.
Through the years, countless ordinary Americans have witnessed to God's blessings in their lives. So how are we doing today? Are we staying true to the covenantal legacy of the founders, or are we living in its fading afterglow? Our destiny will be determined by the answer to that question.
To teach only a secular history of the United States is to teach a false history. Keeping Judeo-Christian values out of public discussion prevents us from drawing on our rich and diverse heritage for guidance. The First Amendment simply says, "Congress shall not establish a religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof." The word "establish" meant the creation of a state church. It is nonsense to say the founders intended the First Amendment to apply to the banning all religious expression in public settings.
America arguably represents an extraordinary achievement in the history of human civilization. Our forefathers, by the grace of God, created a society in which more people enjoy more liberty and more prosperity than has ever been known at any time anywhere in history. There is no better time than Thanksgiving to express our gratitude to God for these blessings.