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

The View From Here

Though our nation is in turmoil with questions about racial justice along with the uncertainty of the Corona virus it might be good if we all take a breath and remember some things we have to be thankful for. With July 4th celebrations just around the corner remember that our founding fathers began this American experiment with the revolutionary idea that all men were created equal and were given rights, not from any government but from God. Though none of the signers of the declaration were perfect; the direction that they pointed us to as a nation has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. My own grandfather came at 16 years old in 1913, escaping the poverty of Messina Italy that had been devastated by the great earthquake of 1908 that left over 50,000 dead.

Today I think of our Nepali friends who came as refugees escaping ethnic cleansing just 10 years ago. Before we lose hope imagine where any of these would have gone if America were not here.

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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! – Inscription on the Statue of Liberty