Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stars and Stripes

For some reason I keep thinking about that movie Far and Away—the one where Joseph and Shannon reside somewhere between the hope of impossible dreams, tangible possibilities and fighting for what matters. Even though it starts off in Ireland, I think it carries the spirit of America from beginning to end. It tells “our story”; a story of new beginnings, second chances and hope for tomorrow. It’s a story of discovering that what’s out there might just be better than what you leave behind. It is surrender in exchange for freedom.
It also shows the story of grace. It tells of all of us who have surrendered our hearts and old selves for newness and everlasting freedom. We think the story of our independence was birthed in 1776, but it actually dates back much earlier to the moment God spoke the universe into creation and created man. He looked ahead and knew we would need to be rescued.
As I thought on all that America was this week, I couldn’t help but see exactly that—that God’s fingerprints are all over us. We are a divine design from the beginning of time.  One author put it this way, “America is all about liberty. And liberty is all about God. The two are intertwined and inseparable” (Ani Ma'amin).  How reassuring is it to be reminded that at the core of anything, there God will be.
America became a nation on July 4, 1776 but I view this not merely as the birthday of our country but also as a rebirth. The people that came to these shores already existed. They left their old lives in England and looked towards new lands and the chance to live each day serving God.  They recreated themselves and their identities. They in a sense were born again. But this new freedom did not come without a cost. They had to fight—fight the old tendencies and ways of doing things, fight to survive in a foreign land and fight to be cut loose from the hold their mother country had on them. Freedom came, but it came at a price. Sometimes I think we forget that—everything comes with a price.
America beckons all to her shores—a light to the huddled masses, a promise to the hard workers, and a hope for those needing a second chance. But perhaps what she offers most is a guiding example of God’s grace. Like America, we too leave behind the old and look to the new when we accept Christ. We are born again. We wave goodbye to yesterday and set sail for new life. We fight daily to put Christ at the center of our lives. We know where we came from and we know where we want to be and we find ourselves in a balancing act between the shores. And I think if America can start like that and go through so much and still stand tall, I think we can too. I think we are both very redeemable as long as we remember the price that was paid. As Ronald Regan said, “If we ever forget that we are one Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under." And if we ever forget we are a people saved by God, we will be a people in need of saving. As I heard this week, “we must humble ourselves to a position where God can bless us.”
Christ is interwoven with the stars and the stripes. They are written across both our identities. He is a part of us; our history yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
He is in the stars.
Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
He is in the stripes.Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed.
His blood ran red and our sin washed white.
He is here for all mankind and He is in everything, right down to the flag that represents our country. We can look to Christ for opportunities and new beginnings. Let us be a “nation whose God is the Lord, and a people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12). As my dad always says, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Let’s stand tall. Happy Birthday America!
-Only Hope

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