VIDEO Fourth Of July – Love Of God And Country

The Star Spangled Banner and the Word of God, a reflection

• In today’s Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart;

and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

• The base of the statue of Liberty contains a passage written by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired,

your poor,

your huddled masses

yearning to breathe free,

the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

• I love God

o I love our Country

• On this 4th of July weekend it is right and proper to reflect upon God and Country

• Like many of you, I am the son of an immigrant, who as a young man in 1921, came by ship from Italy, entered New York Harbor and was thrilled at seeing the Statue of Liberty and coming to “America” through Ellis Isalnd.

• Like many of you, I was honored to serve in our country’s military

• Like many of you, I have family members who have served or are currently serving in the military.

o My late wife Alice, served in the US Navy as a nurse

o My son-in-law, a highly decorated Marine, is in his 27th year of service

• On this fourth of July we honor those who have made our Freedom Possible

• I love God and I love our Country

o On this Sunday we honor and worship our God, the source of all Freedom and Jesus, His only begotten Son, who set us Free from Original sin and has shown us the way to everlasting life.

• As I prepared for this Sunday’s homily I was drawn to the connectedness of our experience of God and Country.

o Our country has a greatness despite its many flaws.

o Our God is ultimate greatness, perfect and without flaws

o Our country, as is our earthly life, a temporary thing

o Our God and our heavenly life are eternal

• As I prayed about the wonders of this great country and our great God, I was led to reflect on important words

o The words written by Francis Scott Key on Sept. 14, 1814 , words of the Star Spangled Banner.

o And the words of God and Jesus from Sacred Scripture

o I discovered a wonderful connection between these words.

o Please allow me to share that reflection with you.

• The Star Spangled Banner and the Word of God

• “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light”

o The first dawn and first light came from God, our Creator. “In the beginning, darkness covered the abyss and God said ‘Let there be light’. (Genesis 1)

o The world became covered with the darkness of sin and God sent His only begotten Son.

o Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” (John 8:12)

• What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

o As Jesus approached Jerusalem at the twilight of His time on earth, riding on a donkey, He was hailed by a very large crowd who spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed and proudly hailed Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”

• Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

o Jesus’ life spanned from the Star of Bethlehem to the stripes upon his back at the scourging at the pillar. … in His perilous fight for our salvation.

• O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

• And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

o Mary, the Mother of Jesus along with other women and a disciple watched Jesus, suffer bravely and gallantly for us as He died upon the cross, red precious blood of Jesus and “the earth quaked, rocks were split”, the veil in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two.

• Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

o Jesus through the nights of his entombment rose from the dead to show He was still there and will always be there and showed us the promise of life after death.

• Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

o The cross of Jesus has become the standard of our faith, it stands forever as a symbol of the forgiveness of our sins and a symbol of our salvation

• O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

o God created us in His own image

o God created us to be free

o Free to worship without fear

o Jesus’s death and resurrection give us hope

o Jesus by reason of this hope, compels us to be brave

 Be brave in the face of adversity

 Be brave in the face of disappointments

 Be brave when others seek to hurt us

 Be brave when we face struggles of life

 Be brave when a love one dies

 Be brave when we suffer serious illness

 Be Brave, Be Brave, my brothers and sisters

 Because we are free,

 Because of the faith our God gives us

 Because of the love God showers upon us

 Be free and be brave

• Citizens of America

• Citizens of the Kingdom of God

by Al Schifano

JULY 4TH (INDEPENDENCE DAY) | A Prayer For Our Nation

Cleaning Method

Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts. James 4:8

At the sink, two little children cheerfully sing the “Happy Birthday” song—two times each—while washing their hands. “It takes that long to wash away the germs,” their mother tells them. So even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they’d learned to take time to clean dirt from their hands.

Keeping things clean can be a tedious process, as we learned in the pandemic. Scrubbing away sin, however, means following focused steps back to God.

James urged believers in Jesus scattered throughout the Roman Empire to turn their focus back to God. Beset by quarrels and fights, their battles for one-upmanship, possessions, worldly pleasures, money, and recognition made them an enemy of God. He warned them, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. . . . Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7–8). But how?

“Come near to God and he will come near to you” (v. 8). These are sanitizing words describing the necessity of turning to God to scour away the soil of sin from our lives. James then further explained the cleaning method: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (vv. 9–10).

Dealing with our sin is humbling. But, hallelujah, God is faithful to turn our “washing” into worship.

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

Where in your life does sin persist? Have you turned back to God to let Him clean you up?

Holy God, thank You that Your cleaning methods for purifying sin draw me back to You. Wash my hands and purify my heart as I return.

A Word More Sure

2 Peter 1:16-21

When the Lord invited Peter, James, and John to ascend a mountain with Him, their lives were forever changed by what they saw and heard. As Jesus was transfigured before them, they were stunned by a dazzling display of His glory: His face shone like the sun, His clothes became a brilliant white, and a bright cloud covered them all. Then they heard a voice out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son … listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:1-5).

But years later, when Peter described this amazing experience in a letter to believers, he was able to say he knew there was something even greater—“the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Peter 1:19). That’s why the message Peter received on the mountain is also the most important one for us: “Listen to Jesus.”

Today the Lord speaks to us through His Word. Although many people rely on their own experiences for guidance, the Bible is the authoritative voice of God—it’s a lamp shining in the darkness, showing us truth (Psalm 119:105). Any message that doesn’t agree with Scripture is false. What a blessing to have such a sure standard! It deserves our attention above all else.

Lights in the World

“The sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)

The Hebrew and Greek terms for “sons of God” are essentially the same, but the Old Testament always uses the phrase in reference to angels, whereas the New Testament always references the twice-born saints of God.

Our text for this day emphasizes the precise reason that our Lord Jesus prayed: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world….They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). We who share this marvelous relationship bear both the “love the Father hath bestowed upon us” and the unique rejection that “the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and we who are His disciples are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14. We, unlike the angels, are to remain in this unfair and distorted world as lights. Consider this! We are the light that the Lord Jesus left in this world to represent Him and His message after He returned to heaven (John 9:5).

That is why the Scriptures refer to us as saints (holy ones) and disciples (followers); even the pejorative “Christians” (Acts 11:26) identify us as representing the King! We must therefore shine with the truth (John 3:19) and shed the “light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), attempting to “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

Finally, we are surely commanded to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Our light should never be covered in a “bushel” (Matthew 5:15) but set on a “hill” for all to see (Matthew 5:14). HMM III

Three Gospel Snapshots

Luke 9:51-62

In Luke 9:51-62 we find our Lord steadfastly setting His face toward Jerusalem, the cross and the consummation of His ministry. The Samaritans refused to receive Him because He headed for Jerusalem. It was quite a different attitude from that of the Samaritans in John 4. The disciples James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon them as Elijah had done in 2 Kings 1:10-12. Swift was the reply of our Lord: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

Christians today would do well to ponder these words. Often we have shown a disposition to call down fire upon others, not knowing what manner of spirit we are of. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”

The rest of this passage sets forth three Gospel snapshots. Three men appear suddenly upon the stage, and as suddenly they are gone. The tantalizing brevity of it all leaves us wondering what became of them. They illustrate three perils of Christian discipleship: the peril of the uncounted cost, the peril of the unburied corpse, and the peril of the unforsaken circle.

The first man, a scribe according to Matthew, was a quick-on-the-trigger enthusiast who simply had not counted the cost. In Luke 14:25-33 our Lord deals thoroughly with this matter in the parables of the tower and of the king going to battle. He would have us know what we are doing and count the cost of obedience and following Him.

The second man was invited to discipleship by the Lord Himself, but he wanted first to go home and bury his father. The real trouble was in that word “first.” Something else came before following the Lord. He was ready to follow, but not just yet. Our Lord sternly replied, “Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” It is better that the dead should be unburied than that we fail to follow Him. Let the unbelieving relatives bury their dead. Let the dead in trespasses and in sins bury their kind. Whatever interpretation we put upon these words, we gather that our Lord will have no fondling of the carcasses of earth. No obligation of earth, no ties of sentiment should be allowed to hinder our discipleship to Him. Too many Christians sing hymns on Sunday but all week they are out in the world helping the dead to bury their dead.

The third man went further than the second. “I will follow Thee,” he said, but “first” he would tell his people goodbye. “I will follow Thee but…”—there is the weakness of many a prospective disciple. Our Lord uses a familiar figure from farm life to declare the peril of looking back. His kingdom is no place for a man with his feet pointed one way and his head the other. We are to forget the things behind. There is no place in discipleship for divided allegiance. “Fix your eyes upon Jesus” and run the race looking unto Him. Count the cost, let the dead bury the corpse and forsake the circle of those who are at home in this world.

The First Christian Martyr

Lord, do not charge them with this sin!—Acts 7:60

If Christ lives in you then He can love in you. You too can forgive injuries, pray for your enemies, and make every allowance for their wickedness.

The first man ever to die for Christ was Stephen. Our reading makes it clear that he was unjustly murdered. But Christ lived in him. His last words were a magnificent echo of Calvary: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Remember Stephen was stoned to death. Imagine how painful that must have been. It was almost as cruel as crucifixion. One by one the stones pounded the life from his body, but though they battered the life out of him they could not batter the love out of him. Like his Lord he kept on loving to the end. Christ was in his mind up until his last moments. “Lord,” he said, “do not charge them with this sin.”

The chapter ends with a lovely sentence: “And saying this, he fell asleep.” But don’t let these words lead you to think there was no hurt, no pain, no physical agony. He would have felt it all; you can be certain of that. But the love of Christ poured into him and through him, and, taken up with Him in his heart and mind, his soul was taken up to be with Him. Some words ring in my mind as I write—words spoken by one who stood holding the coats of those who threw the stones: “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (Php 2:5).


Heavenly Father, I must not perpetuate the treatment people give to me. I must echo Your words and treat people as You do. But I can’t do this except by Your grace. May Your love melt all my resentments and heal all my hurts. Amen.

Further Study

1Sm 24:1-25; Ac 22:19-21; Rm 12:14-21

How did David have the mind of Christ?

How are we to treat those who treat us badly?

The Potter and the Clay

Jeremiah 18:1-10

God often uses the commonplace to teach His divine truths. He chose a common scene of Jeremiah’s day for a classic parable on His sovereignty.

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message'” (Jeremiah 18:1). Jeremiah went down as the Lord commanded. He watched the skillful hands of the potter knead the clay and form it into a beautiful vessel. But, before the prophet’s eyes, the potter suddenly broke it.

Jeremiah observed that the potter did not discard the clay, but once more took the shapeless mass and kneaded and pummeled and shaped it on his wheel until he fashioned it into an exquisite vessel.

Then the Lord gives His message to the prophet. God, as the Potter, is the Sovereign of our lives. We are the clay, the vessel in the making. Clay has no intrinsic worth. It is not valued for itself but for its potential. We are but puny creatures on a pygmy planet that is but a speck in the universe. But in the hands of the divine Potter we can become a vessel of eternal worth.

The potter had a pattern, a design in his mind. But something went awry. The design miscarried. Perhaps a foreign substance got into the clay. Something went wrong with the clay of humanity. An impurity entered into mankind by the Fall of our first parents. God had destined humankind for holy living, but sin marred the design.

“So the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him”

(Jeremiah 18:4). What an eloquent statement of the indomitable patience of the divine Potter who has not cast us aside. At Calvary, the divine Craftsman atoned for our flaws and provided a second chance to be made over again.

The potter had to break the marred vessel before he could make it over. God has to break us before He can make us. He has to break our stubborn will, crumble our pride, shatter our selfishness, demolish our sin. God’s fashioning begins with the difficult step of allowing Him to break down our resistance and reservations to His will.

The divine Potter dips into His palette and adorns life with the rich hues of His love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and strength. After all the preparation, the pottery is ready to be put to use. It is created, not for itself, but to be put into service, where in Jewish homes vessels of pottery were extremely useful.

We too may become “an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Henry Gariepy, Light in a Dark Place