FREEDOM, NOT FREE!

In the 80s when Ronald Reagan was the US President, and Mikhail Gorbachev was the Leader in the Soviet Union, an American guide was leading a tour group in the White House. The American guide told a Russian tourist, "in America, we have freedom of speech. I can stand in front of the White House and shout 'Down with Ronald Reagan' and nobody dares to touch me!" The Russian tourist replied, "Big deal, I can do the same thing in the Soviet Union too. I can go to Moscow and stand in front of the Kremlin and shout 'Down with Ronald Reagan' and nobody dares to touch me!"

Thank God for freedom of speech! He has granted America the privilege to be the beacon of liberty in the world and we have to pay a price for it!

I. THE DECLARATION ECHOES GOD'S WORD:

In King George III's diary on the 4th of July, 1776 he wrote, "Nothing important happens on this day." He didn't note that on this same day in Philadelphia, the Delegates to the Continental Congress courageously signed a document declaring the independence of the Thirteen American Colonies from England. Few people care about the original intent of those fifty men who struggled with each paragraph line and word of that document before they agreed to risk their lives, their possessions, and their sacred honor by signing it. Not only did the Declaration of Independence create a nation, but it also symbolizes the eternal freedom and dignity of humankind.

Let's look at the Declaration. In the first paragraph, the signers were telling King George III in no uncertain terms that one law is greater than the law of king or Parliament, and that is the law of God.

Then, in the second paragraph, they got down to some specifics of that law, beginning with these eight wonderful words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." That is, they were plain, widely recognized, and needed no further proof or explanation.

And they listed these obvious truths:

That all men are created equal,

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Government are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

From childhood, the men who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence heard these truths from the Bible. They were read to them by their parents; they were taught to them in their schools and universities; and they were preached to them in their churches on Sunday mornings.

We must hear again the words of Moses in the book of Genesis as our forefathers heard and echoed them in the Declaration, "that all men are created equal." From childhood, the signers had heard that magnificent story of creation when God "created man in his own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." The signers did not hold to either ancient or current scientific theories that man "evolves" from lower species. They did not say, "all monkeys are created equal!" They believed that every human being was created by God, and that God, their Creator, loves each of them equally. "For God so loved the world" begins the most famous Scripture of all.

God's equal love for all creation caused the signers to affirm the second great truth in the Declaration: that all human beings "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

And where did they find this basic list of unalienable human rights? Again they found them in the Bible. God is the giver of life. Moses said in the Old Testament: "And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

God is the giver of liberty. The apostle Paul proclaimed it in the New Testament: "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

And God is the giver of human rights to pursue happiness. King Solomon wrote about the pursuit of happiness in his ancient book of wisdom: "And also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God."

The signers believed those basic rights were God-given. They were not man-invented or state-granted. And because those rights were from God, they were unalienable. They could not be sold, traded, or taken away.

II. FREEDOM HAS A PRICE:

On April 30, 1975 North Vietnamese communist troops invaded and conquered South Vietnam. And they started to take revenge on those who fought against them in the war. The communist authorities took my father, who was a colonel of South Vietnamese armed forces, to a concentration camp for 10 years of hard labor. My parents' properties were confiscated . My mother suddenly became a single parent, raising six children while her husband's whereabouts were uncertain! My family members were considered anti-communist suspects in the eyes of the new regime. Because of my father's military background, I could not go to work or enter college. I was isolated and discriminated against right in my own country.

Between 1977 and 1982, I tried to escape from Vietnam by boat 7 times. Three times I was caught and had to spend times in communist prisons. But I never lost hope. God kept pushing me forward and told me not to give up! On the 8th effort, I escaped with 50 others with limited supply of food and water in a small river-operated boat which was 30 feet long and 10 feet wide. God comforted and strengthened me through His word in Ps. 107:28-30:

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

And "I shall not die, but shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord" (Ps. 118:17)

Yes, the Lord did bring my 50 companions and I to our desired haven and let us live to recount his blessings!

After 5 days and 4 nights, we beached the shore of Thailand. That was a beautiful Sunday in March 1982. I went through 2 refugee camps for 18 months before arriving in the US on November 31, 1983. Not only did God save me spiritually, but he also saved me socially. God brought me to a free country and gave me a second chance to live as a human being! The good Lord delivered me from the death valley of communist oppression and took me to the green pasture of freedom and dignity! I came to understand that my life belongs to God. I dedicate my life for God 's service. He is free to use me for his purpose and glory. That's how He called me to ministry! I live to count God's blessings every day of my life!

From the Revolutionary war to the war against terrorists, hundreds of thousands of US soldiers have shed their blood for the freedom that you and I are enjoying. I humbly bow my head and give thanks for their sacrifice. We have to protect the rights they died to give to us! Together we, American by birth and American by choice, let's continue to make this country great by upholding Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, and demonstrate God's principles in our lives!

Tom Tran
June 30, 2013

Tom & 5
After the service, Tom has his picture taken along with some parishioners who also dressed in patriotic garb.
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