By the Dawn’s Early Light

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows 
Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 8:12 ESV

Beginning with memories of Christmas morns as a five-year-old, I have loved waking with the first ray of sunlight and rushing out to see what the day has in store. One of the most repeated phrases I can recall mom saying was, “Go back to bed Peter, it’s not even six o-clock!” I love sunrises, quiet morning walks and having breakfast while everyone else is still asleep. But what is true in the physical world doesn’t always translate into the spiritual one. In my Christian life, a comfortable resting place, where everything is familiar, sweet and nice, seems a wonderful spot to catch a few spiritual zzz’s. The problem with snoozing in our comfort zones; however, is that walking with Jesus is a matter of following in His footsteps, not sleep walking in our dreams. As this July 4th weekend kicks off, I am reminded that in 1814, our nation’s independence hung in the balance. During a furious battle on September 13th of that year, those in Fort McHenry could not sleep. The powerful guns of the British bombarded the fort all through the night, yet the defenders stood their ground. As Francis Scott Key watched the battle through the bars of his prison cell he prayed for those brave men and for the future of our nation. Then, “By the dawn’s early light.” he saw the American flag still waving and knew that God had answered his prayers. As that new morning began, he wrote a poem that was to become our national anthem. This morning the United States is arguably the most powerful nation on earth. No foreign cannons are firing on our harbor defenses, nor are soldiers lurking on ships, ready to storm ashore and seize control of our cities. But an enemy more powerful than the British empire of old, or the Russian army of today, is attacking every treasured tradition, innocent pastime or loving relationship. Satan is hard at work to cast His dark shadow over our communities, our churches and our homes. Though we are shocked daily by the ever-bolder assaults on spiritual lives, God is not surprised. He isn’t pulling out His hair as He sits helplessly on His throne. He isn’t thinking of throwing down the scepter of the universe and walking away from our battle. Instead, He is reminding us that He is still leading the way, and in Him, is a victory far greater than the one for Fort McHenry. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World that will never be put out and the Rock of Ages that cannot be shaken. “By the dawn’s early light.” He guarantees that if we put our faith in Him, He will give us an eternal victory and a true freedom that can never be taken away!

O say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight
O're the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O're the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I hope you like Natalie Grant's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner which she performed at the 2022 National Championship game. It's one of my favorites!

Life – Liberty and Happiness

 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:7-7 ESV

July 4th, 1974 was a hot and humid day in West Plains Missouri, and a perfect day for a church picnic. But what my wife Nancy I remember most about that day is the birth of our oldest son, Chris. The labor pains had begun while we were playing frisbee with our friends in the Jack’s Fork River, but Nancy was having so much fun she declined to tell me until her contractions were five minutes apart. Speeding in a pick-up truck up two miles of dirt road and then another twenty-five on asphalt is something neither one of us will ever forget! But amazingly, right at 11:45 that evening, the adventure of being a mom and dad began, and those small details of that one day are still precious to us after all these years.

On a different 4th of July, two hundred and forty-five years ago our nation was born. On another hot sweltering day in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. It is a day we celebrate, not just because our nation began, but because it was founded with the idea that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today’s verse tells this same idea by reminding us that we need to honor and respect everyone, (And even pay our taxes!) There are plenty of things we could find to complain about, criticize or even make fun of about our country and its leaders. But our hope and confidence is not in our leaders or even our friends. It lies only in God. He is still in charge no matter who lives in the White House. His laws do not change every time congress passes another piece of legislation or the courts rule with their opinions. Most importantly we must remember that we are commanded to love one another. You might say, “That is a pretty tough row to hoe, you don’t know my family, my fellow church members and my neighbors!” Hey if this were easy God wouldn’t have made it a command! But what is impossible for men, is possible for God. He sent Jesus to the cross to die for us all. There the ground is level and we are equally in need of His grace which alone can give us real life, real liberty and real happiness that will last forever and ever!

Life Liberty and Happiness by Peter Caligiuri first published in the Sunshine Newsletter Copyright 2021 all rights reserved use by permission only

What is an American?

It was 5th period and we were studying math. Suddenly the day and our lives changed forever. Something had happened in Texas and we would find out from our parents more  when we got home. Mom was sitting in herImage chair in the living room wiping away tears. Our young president had been killed. It was a moment, that no matter who you were or what you were doing, if you were an American you remember.

The moment that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; the day when the Space Shuttle exploded. We all remember where we were standing and who was in the room. Then came 9/11 and it seemed that time had stopped for America. Our Congressmen joined together and sang God Bless America. These are just a few of the tiny threads that weave us together as a nation. 

Being an American is almost like being in a marriage. It’s for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Even in the moments when we hate to see what is happening around us, we are still rooted here. joined by the common threads that make us a people. America isn’t at all about black or white, it isn’t about rich and poor or educated and ignorant. The wonderful blessing we know in America is about a single amazing idea. It is the astonishing concept that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We are not a perfect nation. That nation will only come with the return of the Lord Jesus. But I am thankful tonight for God’s amazing grace and blessings on our country. I am thankful for the freedom we enjoy every Sunday in church. I am thankful that we can go to the voting booth and live to complain freely the following day if the person we wanted doesn’t get into office. We have more to be thankful for than complain about. So on our America’s birthday let’s all remember to pray for her. Let’s pray so that God will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land