An Independence Day Perspective

American_Flag-2 I turned the corner. Just over the rise, I would be home. It had been a busy week and I was tired. More than once, I had asked myself the question “What is this life?”

It was not a question asked in total despair, but rather in response to the subtle pressures both inward and outward to “make life count,” and “live with purpose.”

What is this life?

It was not a question for which I do not have a ready answer. Simply put, for the Christian, life is about loving God and loving and serving others (for God’s glory).[1] Not necessarily in a grand way, but rather in the milieu of life—in the everyday happenings and in a culture that seeks to exchange the truth for a lie.[2]

My street now in view, I spotted a man in the roadway waving his hands at passersby. As each car slowed but continued on, he waved vigorously at the next car.

Before long, I was the next car.

I eyed the situation with apprehension. The man was standing beside an SUV with a bag in his hand. A woman was turned sideways in the passenger seat.

Fearing that she or someone in the backseat needed medical attention, I pulled onto the right shoulder, turned my emergency flashers on, opened my car door and yelled, “What’s wrong?”

“I need a jump!” he called back.

This was perhaps the worst possible place to need a jump. It was a busy two-lane road in each direction, with a raised median in between.

A flurry of cars gave me time to collect myself. I needed to make a U-turn in the middle of the road and face oncoming traffic. Yikes.

The fellow seemed to read my mind. With an occasional backward glance at me in hope, he continued his appeal to oncoming traffic.

A break in the flow enabled me to do the seemingly impossible.

From the bag in his hand, the man extracted jumper cables (aha!) and ably affixed them to my battery and his. The first turn of his ignition produced a feeble whine. The second attempt sounded a bit more promising but was equally unfruitful. I revved my engine a couple of times—I seemed to recall my Father teaching me that—and the fellow tried again. The engine roared to life—a geyser of anti-freeze shooting up in celebration.

I pointed out this latest bit of bad news, which noticeably made the young man’s shoulders droop.

Life is hard. …Making that second U-turn in the middle of the road was fairly easy.

We live in a great country that was founded on religious freedoms and the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” At the same time, we live in a culture that increasingly calls evil good.[3] As a result, the interpretation of what constitutes “life, liberty and happiness” has become whatever anyone wants it to be—as opposed to the clear principles set forth in the Bible by the “Creator” mentioned in the opening lines of our nation’s Declaration of Independence.

A certain recent court decision may seem like our country has easily made a U-turn and is heading in the wrong direction entirely. As grievous as this is, we shouldn’t be all that surprised. People who do not know or acknowledge the triune God in whose hands our forefathers entrusted a young America will not seek to do what is truly good. Their idea of good will be based on personal preferences—what feels good and what seems right in their own eyes.

No doubt, U-turns in our culture—those seemingly progressive, open-minded and inclusive changes that make some people feel liberated and happy (but the eternal consequences of which are horrifying)—will get easier and easier to make. If this continues, the flow will begin to move steadily and fully in the opposite direction—becoming the new direction—leaving those of us who hold to a biblical worldview facing oncoming traffic.

Take heart, true Christian. Our job (purpose) is the same as it always was. Love God and serve others, so that the love of Christ, who died for the sins of the world, may be seen in us.[4] Shine bright in the midst of a culture that cannot do anything truly good or be truly free apart from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.[5] Shine bright like the stars in the heavens, which were created and are superintended by Almighty God.[6]

Shine bright, like the stars on our American flag. American_Flag_NC-2

[1] Matthew 22:37-39; Galatians 5:13-14 [2] Romans 1:21-25 [3] Isaiah 5:20 [4] Matthew 5:14-16; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 [5] John 8:31-36Romans 8:2-11 [6] Psalm 8; Psalm 24 Suggested reading: the book of Ephesians; Romans 12

The Spirit of ’76: Remembering the Bicentennial (& Before)

The Bicentennial Logo commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1975-1976. (Public Domain image)

The Bicentennial Logo. (Image: Public Domain)

Even as a five year old, the significance was not lost on me. The year was 1976, and I was keenly aware that I was living in a time of special celebration that not everyone would personally experience: the American Revolution Bicentennial.

Plans for the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence began well before July 4th, 1976. In fact, Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (ARBC) on July 4, 1966, to prepare for the big day. Initially, the idea was to have a single celebration in either Philadelphia, PA or Boston, MA; however, in 1973, the ARBC was dissolved and Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA), which was formed to promote  and encourage the sponsorship of local events as opposed to one single-day, single-locale extravaganza. Bicentennial festivities officially began when The American Freedom Train left the station in Wilmington, DE, on April 1, 1975, for a 48-state tour that would last 21 months.

To further commemorate the Bicentennial, the U.S Treasury Department minted three special coins from 1975-1976.  Products of a nationwide design competition, these coins included the Bicentennial quarter, half dollar, and silver dollar.

As a youngster, Bicentennial coins were fun to collect.  I still come across some—mostly quarters—in circulation today.  I regard them with a patriotic reverence that compels me to keep them even still.  The mere sight of a Bicentennial coin takes me back to small town America and the most deliciously memorable moments for a five year old: our family’s frequent trips to the High’s Dairy Store at the edge of town where hand-dipped, red-white-and-blue-swirled ice cream was served up all summer long as a reminder of our nation’s hard-fought independence.

Long live the Stars and Stripes.  Long live the Spirit of ’76.