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Monday, July 4, 2016

Why This July 4th Is Different

 It seems funny to be saying this...but I've now set foot on the same soil which produced the fight for our country's independence. All my life I have been intrigued by the stories of  people who helped to bring forth this nation we called the United States. I have saturated myself in their writings, immersed my mind in their tales of heroism and bravery, read books, watched documentaries - I've done it all. But the one thing about it? I had never been to the places where it all happened. For me, history of the founding Fathers was locked in my imagination. Those people were alive in my mind but I could never place myself in the moment entirely because I had never gone back East and set foot on their turf...
 That is, until April of this year. For eleven days, my family and I trekked across the East Coast visiting famous historical sites such as Washington Crossing where the famous incident took place of Gen. George Washington and his army crossing the Delaware River. 

We walked the Princeton Battlefield where brave men like Gen. Hugh Mercer lost their lives in the fight for freedom. We even visited the mass grave site where both British and American soldiers were laid to rest beside each other after the battle. 

We visited the President's House at Princeton University where signer of the Declaration of Independence (and then-President of Princeton) John Witherspoon sowed the seeds of religious independence in the minds of young patriots attending the college and was the only minister to put his name on the document that sealed our liberty. 

We paid a visit to the Trenton Barracks where Washington's army made their surprise Christmas attack which turned the tide of the war for independence in favor of the colonists. Walking through that place, you can still see the wood beams of the building which would have been there at the time the Hessions were occupying the barracks when Washington arrived. 

 We visited Washington's beloved Mount Vernon which he had to leave behind for the cause of liberty...and eventually the presidency, much against his wishes. I had always heard how deeply in love he was with that beautiful place and how much it tore his heart to leave it each time for the sake of his nation's calling...but I didn't understand it fully until I saw this beautiful view for the first time. Then I knew. 

 After taking in these amazing places, I can now grasp a bit better the meaning behind the 4th of July. And I've come to understand that history cannot be felt or fully made meaningful unless it is made to come alive in the soul of the person. Facts, figures, dates, and dead people honestly do not make someone want to know where they come from or who they are. Having been a student of history for much of my life (and being the child of parents who are the same), I must say that it concerns me how little the average citizen knows of our nation's past. So much has been re-written. So much has been erased from the minds of generations who have followed. Often, I think of the words of Benjamin Franklin who, after signing the Declaration of Independence, was asked what sort of nation or government had been created. He simply replied, "A republic - if you can keep it." 
 If you can keep it...those words kept coming back to me time and again as I walked in the steps of great men like George Washington, John Witherspoon, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, and others. The torch to preserve this nation has been passed down to us. But I sadly feel as though we have let the torch fall. We have turned our backs on the spiritual heritage that our founding Fathers gave to us and have let this nation go as most others. Our government continues to make decisions that are far from the original intent of these men. I fear we have not kept this republic as we ought. Our only hope is to repent and turn back to God. I know it sounds cliche but it is honestly the last resort we have. God must have our hearts, or we will be a nation undone. 
 The way to best honor what these brave people sacrificed for our freedom is to worship the God they knew and loved. Living in grace, facing fear with faith...that's how they overcame so many struggles and accomplished so many things. If you read their writings, they were very clear about their awareness of "divine providence" and the necessity of God's mercy and blessing on their efforts. They knew the meaning of relying on Him alone. Following their example in whatever place we find ourselves is the only way to truly making a life ...and a nation of lives...great once again. True renewal comes through a resurrected spirit. A soul being made new through Grace. 
 This year, let's commit ourselves to being on our knees more. To standing in His strength more and our own less. Let's spend more time in prayer and less in our own pursuits of happiness. Let's begin putting Him first above all others...and see it begin to change the way we see things. You and I may be "just one person," but "just one person" can change a lot of other "just one persons" and a whole nation may someday be turned back to God. 
By His grace, let's follow the example of our founding Fathers and be bold enough to say that, through Him, we will stand. We will become the change we want to see in this nation. And then, let's watch God take things from there.