Happy birthday, U.S.A.


Happy birthday, USA, 248 years old, and, by God’s grace many more to come. Yes, God bless America, the land that I love.

Almost two and a half centuries ago, our forefathers made a courageous decision to become a free nation and declare independence from our mother country. They must have fully understood that England would not let the brightest star in the galaxy of their colonies go without a fight. They were right.

Nevertheless, there comes a time when declarations need to be expressed, when difficult decisions have to be made, and when people take upon themselves the God-given right as well as the sobering responsibility it takes to be free.

A tremendous struggle immediately ensued. After the smoke of battle cleared, a new nation was born; one where individuals were recognized as having “certain inalienable rights,” such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Indeed, these are high and lofty ideals. They do not happen without a significant amount of moral effort. While I agree that the history of our young nation has not always reflected these values, I strongly believe they are still germane to our very existence.

Despite the socio-political upheaval we currently endure, I have yet to lose hope in the noble experiment of creating a democratic republic that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. That ideal was reinforced by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, which he made at the climax of the Civil War encouraging the war-weary Union to press on toward preserving the sacred dream “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”.

Those two short words “under God” continue to resonate, especially with those of us who believe that our nation was built upon sound Judeo-Christian foundations and that our country has continued to enjoy the special mercy and blessings of God.

I realize that not everyone agrees with the doctrine of American Exceptionalism, the idea that the USA occupies a special purpose and mission among the nations. I’m not sure if the goal of its critics is to deny that our country is particularly great, or that God, if there is one, cares about our destiny.

While I am aware of the unrighteous details in our national history that blight aspects of greatness, I cannot dismiss the fact that there has never been a nation like ours, nor is it likely there ever will be. As the first modern functional representative democracy, the United States of America evolved to be the best hope for those who seek freedom and security to live life to its fullest with minimal interference from their government.

All in all, righteousness, justice, and hope have cemented our culture as we have assimilated immigrants from every corner of the world. Even our harshest critics cannot deny that our “huddled masses” are not looking to escape their new homeland. In fact, we are currently wrestling with the tremendous difficulty of accommodating the huge numbers who try to migrate here, legally or otherwise.

I think that our “specialness” was sealed when brave, committed Christians left the security of their former home to pursue the freedom to serve the Lord God as they saw fit. They carried with them an absolute trust in the Word of God and a basic distrust in the government of men. They longed for a place where they could build a truly biblical civilization whose very existence would be a testimony to every race, tongue, and nation in the world. They understood that the laws of men, unless fully based on the commands of the Lord, gradually erode freedom and justice.

Every system of government that leaves out the supremacy of God has failed and will continue to fail. The frustrating cycle of revolution and counter-revolution will go on forever until the hearts and minds of men are transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Today our country is faced with numerous and serious challenges. Our continuing war with Muslim Jihadists, looming trade wars, deteriorating global security, and a massive immigration problem have exposed the impotence of men, even well-meaning men, to provide good and effective leadership. Simply put, we seem to be out of “good ideas.” Sectarian acrimony and political bickering have gotten us nowhere, except into deeper frustration and despair.

The fact is, our only hope is in God, and most of our national leaders continue to prove that. Yet, the good news remains … God’s love and mercy are great. He responds to our prayers of faith and repentance. He is ever seeking to re-establish his covenant with those who actively pursue a relationship with him. Moreover, he blesses those who put their hope in him (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Psalm 33:10-22 reads: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place, he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.

“No king is saved by the size of his army, no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save.

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as put our hope in you.”

As we celebrate the birth of our great nation, may we all shamelessly declare our dependence on God’s unfailing love for our country and put our hope in him alone. May his saving grace sustain us through every crisis we might face, now and forever. Let us all keep faithful and prayerful watch over our hearts and minds as we face the troubles of this world so that they stay guarded by God’s peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]