Give Thanks and Mean It

Each Thanksgiving, American families gather and gorge themselves on turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. They watch football, laugh together, and then go back and eat some more. In all the revelry, how many of us stop and remember the purpose of the holiday we’re commemorating? What are we supposed to be thankful for anyway? And is our gratitude verbal only or do we show it in our actions? This Thanksgiving, I make a plea for Americans everywhere to give thanks and mean it.

Thanksgiving35

Let’s start at the beginning – the purpose of the holiday. The designation of the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving was made on October 3, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. I rank President Lincoln as one of America’s top five worst presidents and one of the biggest violators of the Constitution to ever occupy the White House. However, he talked a good talk and his praise for God often waxed eloquent. His 1863 proclamation read in part:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God . . . It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the Most High God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

From 1863 to the present, Thanksgiving has been annually observed on the fourth Thursday in November. The purpose of the holiday, ostensibly, is the same: To acknowledge that our blessings, deliverance, and prosperity come from Almighty God and to give our praise to Him for His mercy and watchful care over our People and Republic.

The practice of proclaiming days of thanksgiving, fasting, and prayer, however, dates back much earlier. They date back to the first years of white settlement in the New World. The practice became more formalized when on October 3, 1789, George Washington became the first president to call for a national day of thanks. I reproduce his presidential proclamation in full:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

George Washington1

The purpose of the United States’ first Thanksgiving was for our People to give religious devotion to “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” We were meant to express gratitude to God for his “signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of [the War for Independence].” Americans were intended to thank the Lord for the “tranquility, union, and plenty” which they enjoyed in their blessed country. Additionally, President Washington wanted the American People to “unite it the most humbly offering of prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations” for forgiveness of their “national and other transgressions.” This first day of thanks was intended to also “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among . . . us.”

In other words, Thanksgiving was set apart as a day of religious service for the expression of gratitude, the increase of our faith in the Lord, the spread of wholesome Christian values, and a general increase in light and knowledge. It was a distinctly Christian holiday. Jesus Christ was its center. It was in His holy name that the American People were intended to offer their thanks and devotions to Almighty God.

Americans have more to be grateful for than any other people on the planet. In his Inaugural Address of April 30, 1789, President George Washington acknowledged this fact. He stated:

No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

God’s hand was present not merely in the War for Independence. His influence was to be seen everywhere. He poured out His blessings upon the American People, guided us in creating our unique and unsurpassed system of law known as the Constitution, blessed us with order and industriousness, gave us power and influence, planted the standard of Christianity and religious devotion in our hearts, prospered us with fields and flocks and bountiful harvest and almost unlimited resources, and made of the most blessed People on the planet.

Modern leftists claim this is a “chauvinistic” attitude, but it’s the truth: Americans are the most blessed People on earth. After spending time in France as ambassador and touring Europe, Thomas Jefferson wrote home to his good friend and future president James Monroe:

“my god! how little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy. I confess I had no idea of it myself. while we shall see multiplied instances of Europeans going to live in America, I will venture to say no man now living will ever see an instance of an American removing to settle in Europe & continuing there” (Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785).

George Washington35

Anyone who has ever visited or lived abroad must make the same declaration. Nowhere I have ever lived or traveled, be it Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Canada, Ukraine, Lithuania, or Panama, even comes close to matching the superior blessings we enjoy in the United States. Whenever I return to my country from abroad, I feel lighter and happier. There’s a unique feeling in America. There’s a current in the atmosphere that emits hope and solidarity with the great Freedom fighters of the past. You stand on soil trod by men like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Adams, Henry, the Pilgrims, the Pioneers, the frontiersmen, and others. Yes, America is a blessed land – the Promised Land of God.

Despite our decaying culture, mob government, and imploding society – all brought about by communist infiltrators and apathy on the part of people who should be most concerned with maintaining our Republic – the United States is still the best country on earth. We have the most potential of any People. We have an unsurpassed heritage of Freedom and the example of the Founding Fathers to guide us. We have the greatest means of overthrowing the “rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12) of any nation. We have tens of millions of people in whose hearts still burn the fires of Liberty. There are millions of Americans like me who love their Faith, Families, and Freedom and who will die before surrendering them. The Establishment be warned.

Now on to the second portion of this article. How do you show that you are grateful to be an American and that you are are thankful for your unrivaled blessings? I suggest three things each of us can do to show our gratitude by our conduct:

1) Become informed, alert, and aware

2) Vote correctly

3) Turn to God

The first thing we can do to show that we are grateful for the Liberty we’ve been given and the sacrifices our ancestors have made to hand us these blessings is to become aware of them. Despite living in the technology age and having the collective learning of humanity at our fingertips, we’re woefully uninformed. We don’t know our history. We’ve lost touch with our heritage, roots, and traditions. With a few exceptions, we don’t know the names of the figures who made America great. We don’t know their stories. We don’t know the sacrifices our People made to forge a well-ordered, prosperous, and free civilization on this previously barbarous continent. We take it all for granted.

Because we take for granted our Freedom, we ignore the threats to it. After all, if you don’t understand one, you can’t understand the other. We are oblivious to the forces chipping away at our rights, sapping our wealth, stirring up division, seeking for power over us, and transforming our government into an oligarchy of Elitists in which we – the average citizens – have no say.

Thanksgiving6

It is an insult to the purpose of Thanksgiving to continue on in our ignorance. President Washington pleaded for us to “promote . . . knowledge . . . and the encrease of science” in vain if we don’t take advantage of our means of education to learn correct principles, real history, and truth. Surely an indispensable part of giving thanks for the profound blessings our country has enjoyed is to be aware of the dangers that threaten to strip us of those very blessings. We must be alert. We must awaken. We must become aware of what’s going on in our community and society. And we must take a stand against all forces which would deprive us of those things for which we unite each November to give thanks – namely, our Faith, Families, and Freedom.

The second thing Americans can do to show their gratitude this Thanksgiving is to determine to vote correctly. And yes, there is a right and a wrong way to vote. Voting for candidates of any party whose principles and personal character conflict with the founding vision of America, with the principles of our inspired Constitution, or with that which is in our People’s best interest, is the wrong way to vote. And voting for individuals of any party whose principles and character are in harmony with the founding vision of America, most importantly with our inspired Constitution and the Christian values which undergird it, is the only correct way to vote.

Resolve this Thanksgiving to do everything in your power to ensure that the blessings you enjoy will still exist for the next generation to enjoy as well. You can help bring this about by removing from office all derelict representatives from their posts and replacing them with worthy stewards of our rights. Determine now to be more active in rejecting all parties, programs, and people whose principles conflict with those values and standards which made America great in the first place and caused our forefathers to institute solemn days of thanksgiving. Instead, use your inherent power to support only those ideas, institutions, and individuals which are truly American in character.

ffdeed962a8b2a34b2f5c02aa9b5737d

Third, and most importantly, you can show your gratitude by turning more fully to God. No matter how committed you may be to the Savior, there isn’t a single person who can’t become more Christlike, more righteous, more selfless, more charitable, more loving, and more faithful. I have long been of the opinion that the only thing that can truly save our Republic is repentance. Repentance is the remedy we seek. Unless we repent, our society cannot survive.

What is repentance? To most, repentance is a scary word evoking thoughts of stiff punishment, cold tribunals, public shaming, profound embarrassment, and harsh judgment. This false conception was introduced to Christendom only after the martyrdom of the Lord’s apostles who knew better. The original sense of the Hebrew concept of repentance is “to turn.” To repent is to turn away from sin and to turn to God. It means to turn away from harmful practices – adultery, substance abuse, theft, murder, lying, and so forth – and to turn to good works, charity, compassion, faith, and love. Repentance is the most hopeful word in our language.

Repentance is not only the most hopeful word in the English language, but is also our most desperately needed act. It is the remedy to our society’s problems. Until we generously apply this remedy and become true disciples of Jesus Christ, things will continue to spiral out of control. This Thanksgiving, we can show that we are truly grateful for our blessings by recommitting ourselves to lives of purity and goodness. Our Savior “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and so should we. Emulating our Lord’s example expresses the ultimate gratitude.

For those who are not Christian, I commend to you a quote by the great Benjamin Franklin. He said: “A virtuous Heretick shall be saved before a wicked Christian” (Benjamin Franklin, “Dialogue Between Two Presbyterians,” April 10. 1735). However, I also invite you to “come and see” (John 1:39) what the Lord’s Gospel offers. It truly offers the abundant life (John 10:10). It is the only path that leads to eternal happiness (Matthew 7:13-14).

An additional word about national repentance, or turning to God, seems prudent as our society comes together to ostensibly worship God. In ancient times, the Lord told His people that if they repented, or turned from their incorrect traditions to correct and worthy ways, He would forgive them and prosper their land. He was anxious to forgive them and bless them, but that blessing depended upon their repentance, righteousness, and faithfulness. Note the marvelous blessings the Lord promises to peoples who turn to Him:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord . . . they are gone away backward.

Why should ye be stricken any more? . . . .

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. . . .

Hear the word of the Lord . . . give ear unto the law of our God. . . .

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge [i.e. do justice to] the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:4-5, 7, 10, 16-19).

Thanksgiving37

Similar blessings are pronounced in the more popular declarations found in the following passages of the Bible:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

This Thanksgiving, the most important thing we can do to express our gratitude is to humble ourselves before God, turn to His Son, and commit ourselves to living lives of goodness that harmonize with the commandments. We ought to, as the Father of our Country implored, “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” To repent is to improve and rededicate our lives to the Lord. Let’s unite in recommitting ourselves, as a People, to our great God.

My fellow Americans, we have so much to be grateful for! We have more reason to give thanks than any other group of people who have ever lived. We are richly blessed. However, our blessings are beginning to dry up because we have allowed the sickness of sin to rot our culture, replace our Faith in Christ with trust in science and the faux “wisdom” of men, destroy too many our Families, and gnaw away at our Freedom under the law. Yet, notwithstanding the serious challenges that face us, we’re still the greatest society on earth and we have, without any doubt, the greatest potential of any people to overcome our challenges and shine again.

America was founded to become a shining city on a hill. We were meant to be a refuge for the oppressed of mankind – a haven for those who want to live in peace, breathe free air, raise their families without micromanaging, and worship God as they see fit. For a long time, this vision was a burgeoning reality. Because of our apathy, historical forgetfulness, and immorality, however, we have fallen to a large extent. In order to revive America, we must: 1) Become informed about our history and alert to the dangers threatening us; 2) vote according to principle and support only individuals, ideas, and institutions that conform to the unique principles of Americanism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and 3) turn our hearts back to the Lord and become a righteous People once again.

Thanksgiving28

I hope you will take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to teach your family the history of the holiday. Teach your children that our national blessings come from the Lord and that their continuation depends upon our faithfulness. Teach them to rely upon God and to kneel down and give thanks to Him. Teach them that Jesus is the God of this blessed land.

This year, as you gather with your families, give thanks from the bottom of your heart for everything the Lord has blessed you with and for everything He has blessed this country with. Give thanks for your God-given rights. Give thanks to live in the most incredible and prosperous nation on earth. Give thanks for the Constitution and its sublime principles. Give thanks for the unsurpassed heritage of Liberty we have as Americans. Give thanks for your Faith, Family, and Freedom. Yes, give thanks and mean it!

Zack Strong,

November 28, 2019

Guns and God

“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.” – John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Each mass shooting reminds us that we need more of two things: Guns and God. You have likely heard the saying that an armed society is a polite society. Years ago, I realized this concept needed to be amended thus: An armed and righteous society is a polite society. This article is a plea for us to add more guns and more God in our lives.

guns10

Guns or no guns, a God-fearing, decent, and righteous society will be one of peace, happiness, and security because “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). Yet, because both evil and free will exist, even good, “turn-the-other-cheek” Christians must sometimes reluctantly take up arms to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom. It has always been this way and it will remain the status quo until the Lord returns and cleanses the earth.

For all of history, patriots and prophets alike have had to wield the sword in defense of eternal truth, God-given rights, political Freedom, public morality, and societal stability. In ancient times, it was Jehovah’s peace-proclaiming prophets and the most righteous followers of the Gospel who were the first to stand up and fight for their rights. Whether you look at Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Elijah, Josiah, or any number of righteous figures of olden times, you find men willing to fight and to risk everything in defense of their rights, relatives, and religion.

Our honorable Founding Fathers also abhorred war and bloodshed, but they did their duty to God and their countrymen. They were great lovers of peace and knew the horrors of conflict. Yet, they also understood that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Patrick Henry voiced their rallying cry in these treasured words, “give me liberty or give me death!” Consequently, they waged a holy war of self-defense against the British monarchists trying to subjugate them. If we are to vouchsafe to our own children the rights handed down to use by our forefathers, we must be equally prepared to fight.

patriots3

The purpose of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was to plainly and publicly affirm that individuals possess the right of self-defense which no government can justly deprive them of. In truth, the Second Amendment is not even about guns – it is about self-defense. Whether you defend yourself with a club, machete, rifle, machine gun, or bazooka makes absolutely no difference. We focus on guns because they are the gold standard in personal self-defense, but we must never lose sight of the underlying principle of self-defense which existed before the Constitution was ratified and will exist for all eternity.

Our forefathers knew that a sure sign that a government had evil intentions to reduce its people to slavery was its attempts to disarm them. Accordingly, when the American colonists saw British Redcoats marching to Lexington and Concord to arrest Samuel Adams and confiscate their cache of firearms, they turned out with their rifles to defend their rights like real men. The “shot heard ‘round the world” happened because Christians with guns knew their rights and had the integrity to defend them at the risk of their own lives. Yes, American Liberty was won because a small band of armed Christians had enough valor to do what was required of them. They kept their guns close and their God closer.

guns11

Many Christians today believe that they cannot take up arms even in self-defense. They erroneously think it violates the Gospel of Jesus Christ to defend their rights against evil men. And they certainly do not agree with our Founding Fathers who believed that rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Though “timid men . . . prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty” (Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, April 24, 1796), I, as a Christian constitutionalist, understand that there are times I must defend my Faith, Family, and Freedom even to bloodshed. In so doing, I stand with our Founding Fathers who proved their noble words by their valiant actions. And I stand with the laws of nature and of nature’s God.

One of the great exponents of natural law was John Locke. In his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke described the rationale behind the right of self-defense thus:

“Whosoever uses force without Right . . . puts himself into a state of War with those, against whom he so uses it, and in that state all former Ties are cancelled, all other Rights cease, and every one has a Right to defend himself, and to resist the Aggressor.”

Self-defense is the most natural of rights. It is the one right that ensures all the others. Our rights, emanating from God, cannot be justly taken from us. When an attempt is made to deprive us of any right, the right of self-defense becomes operative. We who have been wronged have every prerogative to resist aggressors and would-be tyrants. Yes, the surest way to protect our general Freedom is through self-defense. Therefore, when we see this precious gem assaulted, we know that we are in danger.

death to tyrants1

John Adams spoke of a People’s right of self-defense. As you read his words, please understand that a nation has no rights but those which are possessed also by the individual citizens comprising the nation. Every nation derives its powers, as The Declaration of Independence attests, “from the consent of the governed.” With that in mind, consider this statement:

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant, in cases of necessity, can no more be doubted, than that to hang a robber, or kill a flea. But killing one tyrant only makes way for a worse, unless the people have sense, spirit, and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against tyranny; against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. Let it be the study, therefore, of lawgivers and philosophers, to enlighten the people’s understandings and improve their morals, by good and general education; to enable them to comprehend the scheme of government, and to know upon what points their liberties depend; to dissipate those vulgar prejudices and popular superstitions that oppose themselves to good government; and to teach them that obedience to the laws is as indispensable in them as in lords and kings” (John Adams, “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States,” 1787).

The right of an individual to kill a tyrant, robber, or aggressor, in cases of necessity, cannot be doubted. Our inspired Constitution has safeguarded our right of self-defense and tens of millions of Americans stand armed and ready to defend their Faith, Families, and Freedom. Yet, do we possess the morality, honesty, integrity, goodness, and righteousness necessary to balance and temper our arms? John Adams made it clear that improved morals must go hand-in-hand with the capacity and willingness to wage defensive war against tyrants and aggressors.

Speaking of the tyrannical forces encroaching upon our Liberty, the venerable Ezra Taft Benson stated:

“If America is to withstand these influences and trends, there must be a renewal of the spirit of our forefathers, an appreciation of the American way of life, a strengthening of muscle and sinew and the character of the nation. America needs guts as well as guns. National character is the core of national defense.”

George Washington18

Yes, we not only need our guns, but we need our God even more. Our moral character must be improved and cultivated as both Mr. Adams and Mr. Benson affirmed. We must become an armed and righteous society. Unless we cultivate morality at least proportionate to the number of arms we have, I fear that we will be led to turn our arms on each other in a scene of anarchy and mobocracy unrivaled in human history.

As Christians, we must lead the way to a peaceful resolution of societal differences, yet without sacrificing principle. Ours should be the loudest voices calling for peace, encouraging morality, promoting goodness, exposing corruption, and championing the Constitution. As Christians, we must show the world through our personal righteousness that an armed society really is a polite society. And, finally, Christians we must be the first to stand up in defense of Freedom – even, and perhaps especially, when it requires drawing the sword.

The Lord has not presently called His people, as a collective group, to wage war against the wicked. In fact, He tells us to proclaim peace. Yet, it is equally sure that Christians must be prepared to fight when the time comes. The moment of action may or may not come in the shape of a formal war. But it very well may come during the night as a thief attempts to plunder your home; during a worship service when a hate-filled assassin attempts to shoot up your congregation; in the office when a disgruntled employee seeks revenge; in the back alley when a rapist attempts to deprive you of your virtue; or on your drive home from work when a thug tries to victimize you. The point is that you never know when you will need to exercise your God-given right of self-defense; and you should always be prepared.

Millions of lives are saved each year because people care enough about themselves and their loved ones to keep and bear arms. How many more lives would be saved if more Americans carried weapons for their personal defense? How many families would today be enjoying the company of a loved one if they had only been prepared to defend themselves? How many more people have to die needlessly because employers and school administrators force their employees and students to be defenseless and helpless in the workplace and in the classroom? How long will America sit idly by as a small, ruthless clique campaigns to deprive us of our most important right, our right of self-defense?

guns9

In 1833, the great Joseph Story wrote that “the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a Republic” (see Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States). As the palladium, or safeguard, of our rights, the Second Amendment should hold a place of preeminence in our hearts. If it goes, our Freedom goes. And in order to properly wield the great power of arms placed in our hands, we must turn our hearts to God.

To counter criminals, evil people, and tyrants, we need more guns. We need more weapons in the workplace, in schools, in public, and everywhere there are people to be defended. And we need people trained in their competent use. Training at an early age breeds respect for the power and proper use of guns. The message that “guns are evil” only breeds fear and incompetence and, ultimately, leads to greater casualties and suffering.

Yes, I say that we need more guns in America! Yet, the proliferation of guns in our society will turn into a sore curse if we do not follow the commandments of Jesus Christ. If we are an immoral People, we will eventually be led to turn our firearms on each other in a fratricidal war. History proves this pattern as clear as any other. However, if we once again become a moral nation, our firearms will prove an extra safeguard on the evil passions and proclivities of unscrupulous men.

While most of us may not need to use our guns, doesn’t it give peace of mind to have them just in case? Which husband or father, or even wife or mother, would not rush to defend a beloved family member rather than watch them gunned down by the hand of evil? Who, in hindsight, would choose to be a helpless witness than a defender of innocence? Ezra Taft Benson once said something of the Lord’s law of chastity that is applicable to our conversation: “It is better to prepare and prevent than it is to repair and repent.”

Thankfully, we live in a nation established by Almighty God – a nation whose founding documents clearly safeguard our rights. Thankfully, we have a heritage of Freedom and can distinctly see the path marked by our forefathers. We have been given the right of self-defense, along with all other rights, and it is our solemn duty to make good use of it. How shameful it would be if we who have been given so many blessings, so much prosperity, and so much individual Liberty, threw it all away because we were not brave enough to defend ourselves and our families! Stand up and be men. Stand up and be Christians. Stand up for your rights!

guns4

In the wake of each new gun-related tragedy, the Establishment batters us with anti-rights propaganda in hopes will we grow so weary that we will surrender. The media flashes images of dead bodies and blood on our TV screens in order to shock and scare us into submission. Don’t fall for it. Don’t be victimized. Don’t be deceived by the masters of deceit. Stand for your Liberty no matter what pretext is used to persuade you to accept your chains. Know that you stand on the moral high ground when you stand with the Constitution. And keep your guns close and God even closer.

I leave you with these immortal words of Samuel Adams. It was a frank challenge to his countrymen at the outset of the War for Independence. Though he spoke more than 200 years ago, he might as well have been speaking to you and me. Ponder the words and decide once and for all whose side you’re on:

“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, What should be the reward of such sacrifices? Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plow, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Zack Strong,

June 1, 2019

Our Majestic World

“Consider the lilies of the field. . . . even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” – Matthew 6:28-29

On April 12th of this year, I married my best friend, the gorgeous Emma Ramos. A few days later, we embarked on a two-week honeymoon to Europe. During our trip, we saw some of the most famous attractions Europe has to offer. I decided to write this article to share an observation I made years ago, but which I had confirmed and reinforced in a powerful way on this trip.

While in Europe, I saw many spectacular works of art and engineering prowess. I viewed Rome’s indomitable Colosseum, the extensive Vatican museums with their timeless treasures, the Sistine Chapel and numerous grand churches and cathedrals, Mussolini’s obelisk, the man-made island of Venice with its watery lanes and elegant gondolas, the Hohensalzburg Fortress in picturesque Austria, the iconic fairy-tale castle in Bavaria, and other incredible feats of human ingenuity, expertise, and imagination. However, the most exquisite, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring works of craftsmanship I witnessed were not those created by men, but those created by God.

As amazing as castles, cathedrals, and monuments are, nothing man has yet conceived compares with the simple grandeur of the earth our Lord organized for us. The majestic Alps of Switzerland, the turquoise rivers of Bavaria, and the perpetually green hills of central Italy eclipse in greatness, stature, and potency the towering stone walls, marble pillars, and painted ceilings of even the greatest of human inventions.

20190428_133137

Overlooking the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwanstein Castles in Bavaria

As I left behind the Romans’ grandest edifices and watched Italy’s green, hilly countryside fly passed my train window, I felt a greater stirring in my soul for nature’s loveliness than man’s cleverness. As I moved from the notable cities of Venice and Milan into the Swiss Alps, the stark contrast between human and Heavenly architecture became at once apparent. And as I hiked the mountain overlooking King Ludwig II’s stunning castles, what struck me most was not the stone and mortar below, but the Bavarian mountains, lakes, and forests stretching out in all directions in a peaceful panoramic with few equals.

20190423_184151

Mürren, Switzerland

In Switzerland, I experienced the peace and quiet I so thoroughly enjoyed while living in Alaska. Those who spend their whole lives living in sprawling cities cannot appreciate the life-giving nature of peace and quiet inherent in rural settings. You do not go to Rome, New York, or Tokyo to sit down in the street and imbibe the atmosphere. Yet, you are impelled, almost in spite of yourself, to sit down in a flower-bedecked field in the mountains and soak in the radiant peace, splendor, and pleasantness. You simply cannot buy or artificially simulate the peace and quiet of God’s outdoor sanctuaries. You must go there and experience it for yourself.

While palaces, shrines, and medieval fortresses fascinate me immensely, the feeling of wonder fades with time. However, the impressions I get while gazing at a snow-caped mountain, watching a river snake through a valley, or listening to birds sing while smelling the aroma of trees and flowers are deep and lasting. I greatly appreciate the centuries of history contained in the Egyptian museum in Vatican City, the surreal spectacles witnessed by the mighty walls of the Colosseum, and the meticulous planning required to construct the Neuschwanstein Castle in its awesome Alpine perch. Yet, what superior detail, planning, and thought must go into creating a single mountain! And that is to say nothing of an entire earth brimming with so much beauty that we can scarcely comprehend and which no mortal can ever experience in totality. What’s more, there are “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33) waiting to be explored in the future time of the Lord.

20190423_174954

Mürren, Switzerland

The human mind fails to comprehend the sheer majesty of the mountain ranges, forests, lakes, rivers, jungles, plains, deserts, and seas that beautify and give splendid variety to our world. And few recognize the eloquent sermons our Savior preaches to us every second of every day through His skies, stars, eclipses, auroras, sunsets, clouds, rainbows, mountains, streams, waterfalls, trees, flowers, and greenery. The greatest painters and photographers have tried but failed to capture even minuscule snapshots of this indescribable beauty. The best we can do is feebly imitate what the Lord has fashioned so skillfully for our satisfaction.

It is prideful and arrogant to suggest that this magnificent earth came into being through the fortuitous chance of some unfathomable “big bang.” It is still more incomprehensibly vain and arrogant to suggest that human beings evolved over billions of years through a cosmic role of the dice and that our little earth is the only one out of trillions of other planets we have observed with our relatively weak scientific instruments that has intelligent life. It is little more than ingratitude and ignorance to suggest that there is not a superintending power – an intelligent design – responsible for crafting our world, the beauty and order in it, and the ultimate masterpiece that is man to enjoy it.

20190422_142537

Spiez, Switzerland

An ancient prophet of our Lord Jesus Christ, an upright man named Alma, used the very existence of our earth to testify to an unbeliever that God exists. He said:

“And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

“But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? . . . .

“. . . The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a supreme creator” (Alma 30:40-41, 44).

The writer of Psalms used similar logic when he testified:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

And Moses, having grown up surrounded by the worldly opulence of the pharaohs, marveled in these words after seeing the Lord’s creations in vision:

“Now, for this cause, I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:8-10).

Even though man and all his fancy inventions are “nothing” when compared to our God’s simple majesty and intrinsic glory, yet we are His most prized possessions – His greatest handiwork! We are His literal children. You are a literal son or daughter of your literal, living Father in Heaven. We belong to His family and He loves us and wants to share all He has and is with us (Romans 8:16-17). You and I are created in His holy image and possess a part of His attributes and nature (Genesis 1:26). Our physical form and natural abilities show, if only in small measure, what and who our Eternal Father really is.

Christ190

Jesus Christ – Gentle Touch by Karen Foster

Our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, also showed what we may become if we walk the path outlined by God. The path is the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all of its empowering covenants, ordinances, and blessings. And this beautiful earth which we are so privileged to live on was designed for us as a grand tutorial and a staging ground for eternity. We are here to learn how to successfully walk the only path that leads to the abundant life here and hereafter (John 10:10).

From the beginning, God has declared that “this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). His assurance has been supported by the witness of the holy prophets. Nephi, for instance, declared:

“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. . . .

“. . . he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:24, 33).

Yes, the Lord loves us! From the east to the west, and from the north to the south, the Lord has placed masterpieces of beauty for our edification and enjoyment. The majestic mountains of Switzerland, the tropical jungles of Panama, and the fruited plains of America continuously beckon to us, encouraging us to remember God and to recognize that we are His children. The spires of the mountains and tops of the trees point upward as if telling us to look up to Heaven and point our souls to eternity.

20190425_140801

Salzburg, Austria

For all of man’s engineering marvels, and there are many which justifiably thrill us, the greatest artwork this world has to offer is not to be found in artificial cities and urban environments. Rather, the greatest sermons, masterpieces, and marvels are found in the simplicity and grandeur of nature. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” affirmed David (Psalm 24:1). It is my witness that this is true. And it is my plea that you will take every opportunity to unplug from the false reality of the internet, leave behind the concrete jungles, and soak in the majestic world God has provided for us. God bless you to appreciate whose son or daughter you are and to understand why you have the privilege of living on this expertly-crafted, endlessly inspiring, and infinitely beautiful globe we call home.

Zack Strong,

May 10, 2019.

Thank God that You Are an American

On this Thanksgiving, I want to forego all negativity and simply express my gratitude for the unsurpassed blessings we enjoy as Americans. In a letter written from France, a nostalgic Thomas Jefferson exclaimed: “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” (Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785). My sincerest feelings echo Jefferson’s. Fellow American – you possess more blessings, privileges, opportunities, power, and influence by virtue of your citizenship in the blessed United States than the people of any nation, kingdom, or empire now or in the past have ever enjoyed.

Thanksgiving9

America is great because of the generous blessings of Almighty God. Our forefathers were righteous men and women who worshiped Jesus Christ and lived according to the noble principles of the Bible. Contrary to what the detractors claim, America was founded as a Christian confederation – a shining city on a hill. The first Pilgrims covenanted with each other to establish a new nation “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.” From day one, America was dedicated by its humble settlers as a Christian country.

Because early Americans possessed a heartfelt witness of their peculiar place in history and the bounty of blessings their Creator had bestowed upon them, they lived righteously and Heaven showed her blessings upon them. Early Americans understood that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Because they were righteous and cherished public virtue, the Lord richly blessed the colonies and, later, the American Republic. Without the faith in Christ burning in their hearts, our forefathers simply would have never advanced as they did but would have become like the stagnant, degenerate, unfree fiefdoms of Europe.

Thanksgiving5

The historical record is proof that God has loved, favored, and blessed America above all other nations. Never has a nation risen to greatness so quickly as did the United States. Never has a nation achieved such global power and influence. Never before has a People claimed as many rights and Liberties as has the American People. No people has ever enjoyed the same level of prosperity and wealth as ours. Never has a land possessed so many raw resources and cultivated them into useful products. Never has a people been so industrious and consequently been placed in such a lofty position to benefit others as has ours. Never has a nation possessed a written Constitution that has provided for a stable government for so many years.

Furthermore, many of the world’s greatest inventions have come from the United States. The car, airplane, light bulb, radio, telephone, cotton gin, thresher, assembly line, suspension bridge, electric guitar, air conditioning, refrigerator, frozen food, washer and dryer, computer, CD, internet, GPS, atomic energy, laser technology, machine gun, Kevlar, fiber optics, and a thousand other useful technologies found their birth in our great nation. No nation has given so much to the world. And it all comes back to the righteousness of our American forefathers, for which they were blessed bountifully by Heaven.

Do we take these blessings for granted? Do we take our privileged and blessed lifestyle for granted? Or do we consciously acknowledge how blessed we are? Do we fall to our knees and thank God for what He has done for our forefathers and what He has done for us? Do we remember to be grateful in our daily prayers? Do we feel true gratitude in our hearts for the unsurpassed blessings we enjoy – blessings which most of the world cannot even fathom?

ffdeed962a8b2a34b2f5c02aa9b5737d

When you take to the internet to complain about your government, do you ever stop to think how blessed you are that we have a Constitution that defends our right to speak out? When you hop into your car and drive to the store, do you think how easy travel, getting food, and exchanging goods has become? When you prepare a Thanksgiving feast for your family, do you pause to reflect how all of these good foods ended up on your table and how easy it was to obtain, preserve, and prepare them? When you flip on the TV or flip a light switch, do you remember your ancestors who struggled and toiled to give them to you? Do you pause in the rush of modern life to give gratitude to God for all these things that you take for granted, but which not even the greatest kings in ancient days could have imagined having?

This Thanksgiving day, let’s remember our ancestors. Let’s remember the God-fearing Pilgrims who settled this land, the Sons of Liberty and Founding Fathers who won American Independence with their blood, and all of our forefathers who built such an amazing, unsurpassed, unequalled edifice of greatness and handed it to us on a silver platter. Let us not begrudgingly give thanks to our God for His innumerable blessings upon our People. Rather, let’s give cheerfully, for “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Thanksgiving35

On this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s turn our hearts to Jesus Christ. Let’s draw our families close around us. Let’s pray together and give thanks together for the glorious Freedom we enjoy. Let us never be guilty of ingratitude; no, not to our stalwart ancestors and not to our loving Heavenly Father. When you get on your knees to pray today both as an individual and with your families, thank God that you are an American. Thank Him that He has bestowed so many blessings upon this Promised Land, that He freed our People from European tyranny, that He has preserved us as a unified nation for all these years, that He has allowed our inspired Constitution to remain the supreme law of the land, and that He has poured out an unequalled flood of light, knowledge, and truth upon our People.

God bless America! God bless you and your family! And God preserve us in Liberty so long as we turn to Him and remember to thank Him for our daily blessings – blessings which no other nation on earth enjoys in such abundance.

Zack Strong,

November 21, 2018.

Festival of Freedom

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” – Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, June 17, 1785.

The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth! With all of our numerous flaws and serious disruptions and contentions, this Republic is still, without question, the best nation in the world and the last hope for mankind. No other country has as much raw potential as the United States. And certainly no other nation has as glorious a heritage of Freedom, rule of law, and godly society as does America. We are a blessed land with a special mission to fulfill.

In order to fulfill our singular mission, however, we must recognize and be grateful for our unsurpassed blessings, embrace our unique American heritage, revive the principles and ideals enshrined in our founding documents, and press forward in faith. We must defend our faith, families, and Freedom against all attacks – both from within and from without. We must imbibe the same spirit our forefathers possessed that caused them to risk life and limb to forge a free nation. Independence Day is the perfect time to do just that.

patriots3

During an Independence Day oration in 1826, George Bancroft referred to this exceptional holiday and stated:

“The festival which we keep is the festival of freedom itself – it belongs not to us only but to man. All the nations of the earth have an interest in it, and humanity proclaims it sacred!”

Independence Day is not just another day. It is a special day; a sacred day. It was the opening of a new epoch. This holy day marks the founding of the first free nation in modern times – a nation which grew from its humble beginnings to become the greatest nation in recorded history. America is not just another nation, and her birthday is not just another day.

BFdesign

In 1796, a full generation before Bancroft delivered his oration, John Lathrop gave an Independence Day address wherein he affirmed:

“Liberty descended from Heaven on the 4th of July, 1776. . . .

“The first promulgation of the Gospel of Liberty was the declaration of American independence . . . the Americans were elected by God to redeem from bondage the miserable victims of arbitrary power.”

America was the vessel which the Lord designed to carry Liberty to a safe harbor. When fifty-six men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and proclaimed their reliance upon “the protection of Divine Providence,” Freedom began to burst forth. America is the modern birthplace of Liberty and has remained its sole incubator for 242 years. Truly, Independence Day is no ordinary day.

John Quincy Adams, in an Independence Day speech delivered in 1837, rhetorically asked:

“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?”

He went on to provide the answer:

“Is it not that in the chain of 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 upon earth? – that it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?”

GeorgeWashington32

To our forefathers, the birth of America was not a raucous “rebellion,” but a sacrosanct religious event. It was an act of Providence. It was a fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecy. So many profound miracles poured forth from Heaven that General George Washington, in the heat of the conflict with tyrannical Britain, wrote to a fellow general that:

“The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

Speaking in 1793, just a few years after Washington penned his letter, Elias Boudinot told an audience gathered for their Independence Day celebration the following:

“The late revolution . . . is big with events that are daily unfolding themselves and pressing in thick succession to the astonishment of a wondering world!

“It has been marked with the certain characteristic of a Divine overruling hand in that it was brought about and perfected against all human reasoning and apparently against all human hope – and that in the very moment of time when all Europe seemed ready to be plunged into commotion and distress.

“Divine Providence, throughout the government of this world, appears to have impressed many events with the undoubted evidence of His own almighty arm.”

America15

On April 30, 1789, newly elected President George Washington delivered his First Inaugural Address. In it, he stated:

“[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”

Through the intervention of Almighty God, the American Republic came into being. Without His divine aid, our War for Independence would have floundered, our Founding Fathers would have been hanged as traitors, the U.S. Constitution would have never come into being, and America would have been once more subjected to European tyranny. Yet, God did intervene, America did win her bid for Independence, and the Founding Fathers went on to draft the U.S. Constitution under inspiration and set America on the path to unrivaled greatness.

american-revolutionary-war-soldiers-randy-steele

Today, how many of us stop to remember and express gratitude for the Lord’s hand in our nation’s birth and progress? How many of us truly comprehend how significant Independence Day was in the course of world history? How many of us understand the great mission America has been given – the mission of preaching the Gospel of Liberty to mankind? How few of us thank our God for His bountiful blessings upon this special land!

As Americans, we are unique. The eyes of the world are, and truly have been, upon us. No other People has a history and a heritage like we do. No other nation boasts such a large group of Founding Fathers so thoroughly brilliant, honorable, and wise. No other nation has founding documents as inspired as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. No other country anywhere witnessed such conspicuous intervention by Deity in its founding. The American Republic is not just another nation, and her birthday is not just another day.

America12

Be proud to be an American. Be proud of your unmatched heritage of Freedom. Feel honored you were born here in the cradle of Liberty and that you have the privilege of participating in this ongoing struggle. Defend your faith, family, and Freedom against all attacks. Cherish the history of the American founding and the memory of the men who sacrificed so much for this Republic. And never take for granted this special day, this Independence Day, this festival of Freedom. Long Live Liberty!

Zack Strong

July 1, 2018.