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President Reagan: 'What July Fourth Means to Me' "Man is born with certain God-given rights; government is only a convenience" by President Ronald Reagan
(Editor's note: When he was president, Ronald Reagan wrote the following piece for Independence Day in 1981. Aide Michael Deaver later wrote: "This 4th of July message is the President's own words and written initially in his own hand." For one who was born and grew up in the small towns of the Midwest, there is a special kind of nostalgia about the Fourth of July.)
I remember it as a day almost as long-anticipated as Christmas. This was helped along by the appearance in store windows of all kinds of fireworks and colorful posters advertising them with vivid pictures.
No later than the third of July - sometimes earlier - Dad would bring home what he felt he could afford to see go up in smoke and flame. We'd count and recount the number of firecrackers, display pieces and other things and go to bed determined to be up with the sun so as to offer the first, thunderous notice of the Fourth of July.
I'm afraid we didn't give too much thought to the meaning of the day. And, yes, there were tragic accidents to mar it, resulting from careless handling of the fireworks. I'm sure we're better off today with fireworks largely handled by professionals. Yet there was a thrill never to be forgotten in seeing a tin can blown 30 feet in the air by a giant "cracker" - giant meaning it was about 4 inches long.
But enough of nostalgia. Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth.
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We were watching the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on TV one night, and I was actually amazed by what I heard. Reporters from all over the world are at this dinner, along with the President of the United States, who usually does a humorous speech. Well, George Bush finished and then one of America's most popular comedians was introduced as the night's entertainment. But this man - who is known far more for being suggestive than spiritual - made this statement: "I've been watching the evening news a lot lately - with my Bible opened to the Book of Revelation. And as I'm hearing what's happened in the world, I just go 'check ... check ... check.'"
Now, that's a comedian - not a theologian - observing how closely current events seem to be following the Bible's description of this world's climactic events. But these days a lot of people are suddenly thinking about things like a future that's beyond our control and an eternity that's one heartbeat away. There's this sense - both cosmically and personally - that our time may be shorter than we thought.
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from the first chapter of Revelation - and it's a reassuring note, actually, in a very unpredictable world. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus says, referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, "I am the Alpha and the Omega ... who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Then in Revelation 1:17 and 18, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
Well, as countries rise and fall, as leaders come and go, as the world seems to be exploding, Jesus is the unchanging, undying Lord of history. That was settled the day He walked out of His grave under His own power after His death for our sins on the cross. When every loved one is gone, when everything you've been depending on collapses - there stands Jesus Christ, Son of God. He holds the keys! He is your safe place in a dangerous world! A new follower of Christ was given a Bible, and since no one showed him where to start reading, he started at the end with Revelation. A veteran Christian asked him if he understood anything he read there. The new believer said - "Well, one thing. We win!"
Well, actually Jesus wins. And in a world where we're so vulnerable, where things are so unpredictable - not to mention the fact that eternity is always just a heartbeat away. This is a good time to be sure you belong to the Lord of history, the Conqueror of death - Jesus, the man who died for your sin so you could belong to Him.
If you've never begun this anchor-relationship with Jesus Christ, you could do it this very day. Talk to Him. Tell Him, "I'm Yours, Jesus, from this day on." He promised He would enter your life upon your personal invitation. If that's what you want, then I would like to send you my booklet, it's called "Yours For Life." It's about beginning life's most important relationship.
Once you belong to Jesus Christ, you are secure no matter what collapses and you are ready for eternity, no matter when it begins.
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