Night had fallen, but the evening offered no peace. A palpable tension hung in the warm, thick air that laid across the land like a heavy woolen blanket. Food supplies were dangerously low. Equipment was scattered along the ground in no semblance of order. Every soul was quiet, waiting for a signal or sign. Suddenly, without warning, an explosion of cannons rang through the silence. Some witnesses shuddered, covering their ears in fear; the rest stood awestruck as the rhythm of their hearts pounded in their ears like war drums. From an unknown vantage point on the horizon, a flare arose; every eye following it’s path higher and higher into the blackness until it greeted them with a colorful array of crackling lights. No, this was no war; and this night would bring no danger, sadness or loss. It was the 4th of July- the evening of another Independence Day.
For many years, my parents would take my sister and I to the annual “Star-spangled Spectacular,” a local festival celebrating the "4th" like so many others across this great nation. We would often join up with friends and families from our church to share a spot on a grassy hill that overlooked the valley busy with activity. The celebration was an all day affair of fun and fellowship, culminating in the fireworks that would dance at sundown to the music of a rousing orchestra. Every heart waited with nervous anticipation for that first flare to launch. The canons? Well, they were real, but only to serve as a presence for stirring the moods of the people. Little children covered their ears in fear at the first “BOOM,” while countless others screamed with excitement. Food supplies were only low because of the constant eating that took place over the course of the day, and the scattered “equipment” consisted of every frisbee, baseball glove and kite that was brought along as entertainment. The air was thick with the warmth of another summer night, but there was nowhere we would rather be.
Shall we take a little trip back to grade school for a moment? Independence Day (more commonly referred to as the “fourth of July”) commemorates the adoption of our Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776 by some of the most famous and influential “founding fathers” in our country’s history. This declaration established our 13 American colonies as a "new nation," no longer held under the fist of British rule. Stop for a moment, if you will, and consider the implications of this. Imagine how much wind filled the sails of that young, God-fearing nation. Look now at where YOU stand today- witness your own freedoms (and provisions) and reflect on what Independence Day means for your faith.
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
-Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3rd, 1776-
What does the 4th of July mean to you? Another “day off” from your job? Is it just a good excuse to hold a family barbecue? Is it a viable justification to eat countless hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches? Why does it seem like we're all just a little more “patriotic” on this special day? When the last firework has faded and the grill has gone cold, most of us will change out of our "red, white and blue," go home to our beds and prepare for another normal day. Will the 5th of July be the same as all the rest?
Could this Independence Day help you fix your heart on something greater? Lift your eyes to the God of creation- who has established, sustained and lovingly lavished upon you everything you've ever needed. God, the root of every good and perfect thing is the true kindler of our patriotism and the reason for our independence. Will you decide to be a soldier in His army? A soldier in service to your faith? Will you be a patriot for the only kingdom without end? The dictionary defines a “patriot” as one who “vigorously supports their country, and is prepared to defend it against enemies and detractors.” Is your faith upheld with vigor? Are you answering the call to action?
Revolution (won by passion and bloodshed) gave us our freedom from the outside influences that sought to rule us. In the same way, the revelation of Jesus Christ overthrew every government, ruler and social order, ultimately winning the rights to our souls through His passion and bloodshed on the cross of calvary. Your faith in His victory has won you your freedom, both now and forevermore.
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.“ Ephesians 1: 19-22
Bravery was the key ingredient to declaring our independence those many years ago, as bold hearts stood in opposition to tyrannical British rule. What did they find? A bright hope and a future apart from the hands that held them down and pushed them back. Is bravery not also the catalyst for our faith? By it, we declare our own independence; from the weight of sin, the power of death and the rule of any supernatural power that would seek to hold us down or pull us away from the mighty hands of God the Father.
“Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.” -2 Corinthians 3: 8-12
Life began when our forefathers stood in agreement to regard us as a new nation. America was fresh and untainted as we stepped into a wild frontier of possibilities. We too, by faith, having breathed in the breath of God, may now regard ourselves as new creations, reconciled through Christ Himself. He has sent us out as ambassadors to make His appeal in our very own frontiers.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
-2 Corinthians 5: 17-20
Friends of faith, the independence of our country, the focal point of what we celebrate, should draw our eyes and hearts to the independence given to our souls. We are no longer bound by any chain, nor held down by any weight. We are so concerned with our own greatness; so in desire for God's “blessing” on America that we have forgotten the calling to be a blessing ourselves. We've forgotten the cornerstone we were built upon.
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” -Abraham Lincoln 1863
For a minute- for even just a moment, stop! Reflect on the the independence you’ve been given and the freedoms that are offered to you because of it. Make a conscious decision to be a true patriot for the kingdom and you will be greeted by the God who hears your prayers, forgives your sins and restores your land
(Ref 2 Chronicles 14-15)
“God of our fathers, whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry band. Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies. Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise. Thy love divine hath led us in the past. In this free land by Thee our lot is cast; Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay. Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way. From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase., Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace. Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never-ending day. Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.”
-God of Our Fathers- Daniel C. Roberts 1876