The time was the spring of 1863. The setting was the ongoing Civil War that had ravaged our nation. The occasion was a proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln for a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. Amazingly, his words that day are still appropriate for us as we celebrate the 244th birthday of our country tomorrow.
Here is what President Lincoln said:
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorry, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
"And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
Some are telling us we shouldn’t celebrate the BIRTH of America. Instead, we should celebrate the DEATH of America.
I’m the first to admit our country is far from perfect and there is a long list of things for us to work on improving. I also realize I haven’t personally been to every other country on Earth. But I have been to 11 different countries over the years and in every case, the people I’ve interacted with love America and believe we are privileged and blessed to live here. They also have either been here or hope to come someday.
Whenever I hear people disparage our country and talk about how horrible it is, I want to ask, “What country are you suggesting we should be like? I can’t think of a single country anywhere in the world that can hold a candle to America. Even with all our flaws and failures.” The fact is, America is the only nation I am aware of where people from all over the world still want to come and live.
A great example of this is a young man born in a Jewish village in Russia who came to America in 1893 when he was only five years old. His family fled anti-semitic persecution in Russia. His name was Irving and not only did he become a citizen in 1918, but he also began his military career to defend his new country that same year.
He became one of America’s most successful songwriters, including songs like, THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS, BLUE SKIES, ALWAYS, I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM and WHITE CHRISTMAS. But the song he is most remembered for is one he actually wrote in 1918 when he was serving in the Army. It was originally titled, “THANKS, AMERICA.”
I can’t think of a single country anywhere in the world that can hold a candle to America. Even with all our flaws and failures.
Consider the irony, or maybe the sheer beauty, of a song written by a Russian/Jewish immigrant thanking America. He put it in his trunk and never shared it. Twenty years later he revisited the old tune and decided the timing was right to refresh it and release it.
In 1940 it became the theme song for both the Republican and Democrat parties. After 9/11 the song soared to new life when Celine Dion, a native Canadian, sang it on a program called, A Tribute to Heroes and her version soared on the charts. The song became a staple at Major League Baseball games, and has continued for years, as most people still struggle to sing it with a lump in their throat.
The songwriter’s name? IRVING BERLIN. The song (which is really a prayer)? GOD BLESS AMERICA!
Here are the lyrics:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer
God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home.
Amazingly, the words of that song, that prayer, like the words of President Lincoln, are still appropriate for us as we celebrate the 244th birthday of our country tomorrow.
So I say, “Happy Birthday!” and pray …
God Bless America!
© 2020. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.