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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Dr. Richard Flanders

 This summer, my wife and I got to see parts of the country we had never seen before. We were "out west" (at least for us) for a couple of weeks, seeing the "Bad Lands," the vast open plains, and other places where once the buffalo roamed. We saw many beautiful sights, but we also saw indications of the most beautiful thing you can see in America, a thing you cannot adequately capture with a digital camera. The song, "America the Beautiful," is one we all love, and those who pay attention to the words will be taken back by its true message. Although it speaks of "spacious skies," and "amber waves of grain," the song is not primarily about the country's visual beauty. It sings the praises of our "purple mountains' majesty above the fruited plain," but its concern is not primarily with the grandeur of the scenery. The song is about the beauty of character displayed by so many Americans over the years. The "stern, impassioned stress" of the Pilgrims beat a thoroughfare for freedom across the wilderness. "Heroes proved in liberating strife, more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life." The dreams of patriots saw beyond the years the gleaming cities we would build "undimmed by human tears." The character of the Americans far outshined the glories of the beautiful land they conquered!

 This is what I could see, with the help of my imagination, in states that still bear the footprints of the pioneer settlers that created them many decades ago. The west (which at one time or another included most or all of every state in the union) afforded the opportunity for courageous people to make something better of their lives. If they did not have the character to make good with this opportunity, they would not have been able to meet the challenges that the opportunity brought with it. But many did display such character. Bravery, self-reliance and hard work made our country. Often the only help the pioneers received was a promise of owning the land they settled. This was true of the earliest arrivals at Jamestown and Plymouth, and it was also true of those who answered the call of Lincoln's "Homestead Act" both during and after the Civil War. They faced grave danger and risked everything for the hope of a better life. As I thought about the people who made America, I was very proud of them.

 The traits of diligence, longsuffering, faith, and courage made most of them successful. These are the character traits that built our country. The blight that mars the story of our country (of course) is slavery, which in one way or another worked against these traits. It is true that millions of the slaves were people of high principle and strong character, but slavery did not encourage such things. It was mostly the Christian religion that elevated the slave to moral excellence. But slavery gave its victims little reward for displaying good character or achieving great goals. In this way it undermined the slave's character. But unrewarded labor was not the only aspect of slavery that harmed the slave. There was also the terrible blight of dependence. When men receive no benefit for their efforts and also depend on others for the meeting of their needs, they tend to be weaker men. Freedom alone, the American kind of freedom, defined by individual independence, creates the atmosphere most conducive to developing good character. Free men are not automatically good men, to be sure. Another essential to good character is a sound faith, but those whose lives are guided by faith in the Bible have a greater opportunity to display their Christian character when they are free to pursue their own happiness without hindering restraints and corrupting dependence.

 Our justified pride in the amazing character of those who raised this nation up causes us to reflect on the decline in American character that now threatens to tear it down. Americans of this generation need to be free to strive for their dreams. Such freedom will necessarily allow the possibility not only of failure, but even of disaster. The daring and diligence of the pioneers are still needed today. Freedom and security have always been, and will always be, at odds. But Americans of our time should be allowed to choose freedom over security, opportunities over guarantees, equality of rights over equality of outcomes. Many, I fear, do not see the danger in the new proposals to expand government regulation and control in our nation. They are falling for empty promises of a secure environment, affordable medical care, fairer distribution of wealth, and greater personal safety, which are being offered by politicians in exchange for permission to institute a new kind of totalitarianism, which destroys character as it kills freedom. Total government control is not accepted unless it is sold to the people. The Fascists sold it as being necessary for the good of the country. The Communists sold it as important to achieving equality. Present-day American socialists are selling it to us for our own good. But all-powerful government is not good for people. It corrupts their character. It is amazing how freedom encourages people to solve problems, even big ones. I have no doubt that the ingenuity of independent citizens, along with the profit incentive of the free market, will tackle and defeat the problems we face with high energy costs, troubling climate effects, difficult housing markets, expensive health care, and rising unemployment, if the government backs off. America is about people solving their own problems, and not about government coming to the rescue. Socialism kills the character that made our country great. It's amazing, and encouraging, how many good solutions to our big problems have already been proposed and can be implemented by the private sector of the economy. It's how America works. And the American character will meet all these challenges if it is not corrupted by the "nanny state."

 Take another look at how this nation was stretched "from sea to shining sea" and rose up as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" (to cite a line from another patriotic anthem). It was by the sterling character of her people, founded on the rock of good religion and developed by the rigors of freedom. To move her forward on the right road, we must be careful to preserve the liberty and faith which safeguard that character.

"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34)

Monthly Article
by Dr. Rick Flanders
Currently a Local Church Evangelist
Preaching on the Subject of Revival
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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