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When I was growing up, there was an antique wood hutch in our living room. The top half of the hutch had open faced shelves filled with knick-knacks. Later those knick-knacks were replaced with religious books. The bottom half of this hutch had little doors with pretty hinges. When I was very young I was fascinated with what was behind those doors. When I would open up that hutch, there in front of me were three shelves full of neatly stacked thin paper pamphlets. I could not believe how many there were. I liked to pick one out randomly from the stack. I would first look at the cover. There was always a lighthouse on the cover, and I loved to see what color it would be on this pamphlet. I then liked to look at the date and see if I happened to picked out the one dated May 1996, the month I was born. After that I would turn to the last page. There was always a little drawing or puzzle along with a story.

As I grew up, I started to understand what those little pamphlets were. Dad said they were called Beacon Lights and a new one got delivered to our house every month. Soon, it was required that I read at least one article every Sunday from the “Beacon Lights” if I did not have catechism to study. Reading was not something I liked to do. My poor parents had to always encourage me and tell me to make myself read an article or two. It was hard because I didn’t always understand what the articles were talking about. But I realized the older I got how applicable the articles I read were to my life.

Soon, I was going to that old hutch as a young person. Sometimes by myself, but more than likely I’d have a friend or sometimes my brother along with me. We were looking for articles to share with the young people when it was our turn to lead an evening discussion group. I remember one article we picked out being about David and encouraging us as young people to stand up for what is right, like David often had to. It always fascinated me how old articles from years ago still applied so well to us today. That’s because God’s word never changes, and unlike any other book in the world, it withstands time and never gets dated. You can never study it too much.

One day our plethora of Beacon Lights got too big. We ran out of room. So we decided that we had to downsize. A lot of our Beacon Lights disappeared. Part of me wishes that never had to happen. But now that I was trying to get through a whole issue I realized we had more than enough to read.

Beacon Lights also had and still has a place in our family devotions. We have gone through the Bible with Chester Hunter. Sometimes he brings up a point we never talked about in our discussion, but we also get encouraged by hearing the same things we talked about get brought up in the devotional.

Eventually Beacon Lights changed its look. There was still a lighthouse on the front, but it didn’t change color every month. I started to recognize the names of those involved in the publication, those who wrote the articles, and even some of the young people making confession of faith. I soon saw my name printed under the confession of faith along with many other friends from various states. I still love to look there every month to see who else I know.

But the best part of Beacon Lights is the articles. My favorites are the articles that have to deal with what we as young people and young adults must face in our world today. I like those little single precious nuggets from the elderly or from young people who are well grounded in their faith. I love the encouraging or maybe warning words from our ministers. And I love hearing the bond of faith we have with those overseas.

But I also really enjoy the series articles. Some of my recent favorites have been the questions for Schuyler, the articles about different career choices, the letters to dating and single young men and women, and the articles about our ministers being called to the ministry. But my favorite has been the interviews Mark Hoeksma has had with the elderly. I love church history and to hear what those who lived during the splits of ‘24 and ‘53 had to stand for and go through is not only interesting, but also encouraging.

I know reading doctrinal material is unfortunately not very popular among many of our young people anymore. And it makes me very sad. Although it was not my favorite thing to do, I’m thankful my parents pushed me like they did to read. I wish more parents did the same. I can’t count how many times I’ve learned something new or have been encouraged by articles I read. It’s especially important for my generation to be up to date on what is happening around us, not just to know what is going on, but to understand what is happening in a scriptural light. We are going to be pressed more and more from the world as the end draws nearer, and we must not be caught unaware or be oblivious to the issues and not understand why they are wrong.

So, young people, young adults, parents: let’s continue to read these helpful pamphlets that have been a treasure in our denomination for years. Let’s encourage each other to read them and discuss them together. Parents, encourage and maybe even make your young people read Beacon Lights and the Standard Bearer. They may be resentful now, like I was, but they will thank you later.

Why do this? Because we are called to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Also read 1 Thessalonians 5. In this chapter we are reminded about Christ’s coming, how it will be as a thief in the night, how we must not be sleeping but rather building each other up, studying, praying, and watching for the signs of Christ’s coming. Verse 8 says, “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” And verse 11admonishes, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” What a blessing that through the Beacon Lights we can edify, comfort, and warn each other! Let’s be thankful the Lord has given us the Beacon Lights for 75 years!

There are many ways to show patriotism. Every culture has different ways of showing loyalty to their country. There are songs, colors, flags, holidays, and pledges.

Most countries have some form of a pledge of allegiance. There are different terms for a “pledge of allegiance”: loyalty oath, oath of allegiance, or an oath of citizenship.

Canada’s oath of allegiance goes like this: “I, [name], do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.”

As Americans most of us know our pledge of allegiance by heart. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We say the pledge often, but do we really know what it means, where it came from, and the changes it has undergone? Have you ever considered the pledge from a Christian point of view? I have often wondered if it is appropriate for a Christian to say. But as we consider the pledge of allegiance, we will see that that it has a place in the lives of Americans and also Christian Americans.

The pledge of allegiance was first written in August 1892 by a man named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was a Baptist minister, a socialist and the cousin of Edward Bellamy, who was a well-known socialist novelist.

According to Francis Bellamy’s recollections, America was in a patriotic low in the early 1890s. He said, “The time was ripe for a reawakening of simple Americanism and the leaders in the new movement rightly felt that patriotic education should begin in the public schools.”

Bellamy and a man named James Upham were hired by the owner of Youth’s Companion, a famous children’s magazine. The Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to get American flags in every school in America. By 1892 they had sold about 26,000 flags to schools. Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ reaching the Americas to get more flag sales. In the magazine they encouraged children to participate in a Columbian public school celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A short pledge would be part of this Columbus Day celebration.

Bellamy was in charge of this pledge. His finished product was one line long: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The pledge was published in the September 8, 1892 issue of the Youth’s Companion and was put to use during the celebration.

While children faced their school’s new flag, arms extended, watching it rise up the pole, they recited the new pledge they had read in their magazines.

But this was not the end of the story for the pledge of allegiance. After receiving very little attention for almost 25 years, it underwent its first change. On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, a conference was held in Washington D.C. A concern was raised with the pledge where it said, “to my flag.” With so many immigrants in the U.S at that time, it was a concern that they would think of the flag of their native country. So it was changed to say, “to the flag of the United States.” The following year “of America” was added.

The pledge remained unofficial until June 22, 1942, when the congress added it to the United States Flag code. It was officially given the title “The Pledge of Allegiance”.

The last change given to the pledge was on Flag Day, 1954. President Eisenhower approved adding the words “under God”. He said, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” This addition has caused much controversy over the years.  Many say that there ought to be separation between church and state. Others say that it helps remind us that our nation is forever under God’s control. Atheists argue that religion should not be forced on them by the pledge. It seems that this will always be a controversy, especially as our nation grows increasingly wicked.

As children, we have often said the pledge. But how many of us actually understood what we were saying? In order to discover whether or not we ought to say this pledge, we should break it down and discover its meaning.

First, we should define a pledge and what it is to make allegiance. The word pledge is defined as “a solemn promise or undertaking.” Words such as promise, vow, and commitment serve as synonyms of  the word pledge.

An allegiance is “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause”. Synonyms include words such as loyalty, obedience, and devotion.

  1. Evans defined the pledge this way in his article, “What The Pledge Means”: “In other words the pledge says: I promise to follow and obey the laws of the land, to never renounce, desert, or betray the Republic of the United States of America which cannot be split into parts. I acknowledge that the people and government are dependent upon a supernatural being and I will strive to ensure equality and freedom for all citizens.”

Now that we understand what the pledge means, we can consider it deeper. Can we and should we, as Christians, make this allegiance?

Our nation has changed much since its origin. The United States stood for things that we as Christians could agree with: freedom of speech and religion, freedom to disagree and call things evil. Children were counted a blessing and marriage was nothing to scoff at. Religion was important and respected. The United States of today is much different. The freedom of our speech and religion is in question. Tolerance is the new “love,” and sin has become the norm. Children are murdered by the millions and marriage is merely a tradition and comes later in a relationship. Religion is minimal and the religious are looked at as strange. Our government is perverse. We live in a wicked nation.

Do we owe allegiance to such a country? Can we as Christians promise obedience and loyalty to a nation such as the United States?

We must remember that our first allegiance is to God. By his grace he saved us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20) Because of that we are called to be thankful. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col. 3:15)

When our first allegiance is to God, that means that we obey him before any earthly authorities. When we are commanded to do anything against God and his law, we are called to disobey. But even in this, we must remember that God has placed those men as our authorities. Therefore, in obeying their decrees, we obey God’s will. The Belgic Confession, article 36 expounds on this truth.

God has placed us in this nation. He has used the United States for much good. He has used the freedoms we enjoy for the furtherance of his truth, and he is still granting us the use of these freedoms today. With a right understanding we can place our right hands over our hearts and promise to obey and be loyal to our nation that truly is “under God”. Romans 13: 1–7 supports this view. Verse seven says, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

As our country continues to grow increasingly evil we must never lose sight of our God, to whom our true allegiance is due. When authorities make laws that we cannot obey and will be punished for, the Lord will be near and he will give us strength.

While we enjoy the freedoms that the United States of America offers us, let us be thankful, obey God first and foremost, and honor the country he has given us by saying the pledge of allegiance.

Works Cited

  • Wikipedia contributors, Pledge of Allegiance. 14 November 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance>
  • org, “The Pledge of Allegiance”. Historic Documents. Copyright 1995-2013. <http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm>
  • Google, “Pledge”, <http://www.google.com/#q=what+is+a+pledge%3F>
  • Google, “Allegiance”, <http://www.google.com/#q=what+is+allegiance>
  • Greenhouse, Linda. “One Crucial Issue in Pledge Case: What Does ‘Under God’ Mean?” The New York Times, 22 March 2004.
  • Evans, J. “What The Pledge Means”. PDF. 28 August 2012. <http://www.restorethepledge.org/What%20The%20Pledge%20Means.pdf>
  • Baer, John W., Dr. “The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History”. PDF Copyright 1992 by Dr. John W. Baer
  • Wikipedia contributors, Francis Bellamy. 14 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bellamy>
  • Key, Steven, Rev. “LD37, Day 5: God’s All Seeing Eyes” Meditations 14 September <http://www.prca.org/resources/categories/meditations/heidelberg-catechism-meditations/item/2942-September-14-Id-37-day-5-god-s-all-seeing-eyes>
  • Wikipedia contributors, Oath of Allegiance (Canada). 9 September 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(Canada)>
  • com, <http://www.ask.com/question/do-other-countries-have-a-pldege-of-allegiance>
  • The King James Version Bible. Bible Gateway.Web.
  • Swanson, June. I Pledge Allegiance. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1990.

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