Contributed by Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain
Declaration of Independence:
"Taxation without representation!" was the battle cry in America’s thirteen colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England's King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.
On June 11, 1776, the colonies' Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose express purpose was drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer, crafted the original draft document. A total of 86 changes were made to his draft and the Continental Congress officially adopted the final version on July 4, 1776.
Star Spangled Banner:
On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the capitol, the treasury and the president's house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812.
A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35 year old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key's tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel, but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13th as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.
"It seemed as though Mother Earth had opened, and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone," Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of "the dawn's early light" on September 14th, he saw the American flag - not the British Union Jack - flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.
Key put his thoughts on paper while still onboard the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song. His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, read Key's work and had it distributed under the name "Defense of Fort McHenry". The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed it and within weeks, Key's poem now called "The Star-Spangled Banner" appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words and forever naming the flag it celebrated.
Freedom Is Not Free:
God has blessed this nation. Our forefathers came to this country to obtain religious liberty. They fought for independence from the economic tyranny of Britain. Many died, but God allowed us to prevail. Freedom was bought through the blood and women who believed in freedom.
Jesus Freed Us:
The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We have a sin debt that we cannot pay. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) It was Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for us, that paid our sin debt. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7)
Christ made us free from our debt of sin. “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) So we must, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)
Who is Jesus? Jesus answered that question in John 14:6. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Jesus gave you freedom, but you must be willing to take it. Contact me to find out how.
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain