This weekend many people are celebrating Independence Day in a variety of ways.

Many have taken extra time off from work and are traveling. Some are taking a special opportunity to visit family. There is a lot of BBQ going on all across the country. There are fireworks and all kinds of celebrations which have become tradition in the US.

We celebrate this holiday because of what happened in 1776.

We celebrate the actions of people we only know about because of books. We celebrate the actions of people that lived without electricity, without regular mail service, without Walmart. What a stark existence to be willing to fight for!

We celebrate that these people had the gumption or gall or courage to break the hold of Europe on wilderness colonies that had struggled to survive and were being strangled with rules and unfair burdens by the king of England.

Our independence did not come easily; only after several difficult years of war would it finally be won. Nor were our first years as a nation free from problems and controversies (as is still true). But our forefathers were determined to establish a free and democratic system of government, and the Declaration of Independence (together with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights) became the foundation for this. They have stood the test of time, and on July 4 we give thanks for the wisdom and faith and courage of those leaders.

Although it is not a religious holiday like Christmas or Easter, for many Americans July 4 is a time to reflect on God’s goodness to us as a nation. Molded into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (which proclaimed our independence) are these words from the Bible: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). Our legal system reflects our Judeo-Christian roots.

The struggle for independence is still going on today. In our nation the battle over religious freedom is growing, and I would suggest that if we don’t join the battle, we will continue to see our rights and freedoms trimmed and removed.

Our nation’s founders obviously were much more open to the leading of God than many of our politicians and judges today.

The battle over our spiritual freedom continues as well. We all struggle over right and wrong every day. We decide between loving ourselves and loving our neighbor, and we probably don’t win as many battles as we could. In fact I fear that we often don’t struggle or battle at all. We just choose self and ignore others and let sin and personal desire guide our selfish choices.

God offers us the help we need. It is not always as easy as we want. It takes real effort and control to listen to the Spirit. It takes even more to follow His direction. While we look with gratitude to the past on this July 4, may we also look in faith to the future and commit it and our lives to God and His will. The ancient words of the psalmist are still true: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Pastor Tim Wilson serves at Park Rapids Assembly of God.