At the end of 2013, I realized I was ending a 13-year spiritual journey. It started during a prayer and ended with a flag. An old and forgotten flag; forgotten by everyone, it seems, except God. He had evidently kept this banner in hiding for a couple of centuries, waiting in the wings of history until He was ready to reintroduce it.
And reintroduce it He has!
This flag (watch it on the original post) now hangs in thousands of homes, prayer rooms, sanctuaries, government buildings, and even businesses. A church in Indiana made their own version – fifteen feet by thirty feet – then made me one! Another congregation decorated the Christmas tree in their foyer with dozens of small flags. Thousands of people have small ones tucked in their Bibles, tacked to bulletin boards, or conspicuously sitting on their desks. Others display them as lapel pins, wear them emblazoned on shirts, show them off on bumper stickers, and at least one person has the flag tattooed on his arm! Governors display the flag, as do judges and congressmen, and one was spotted in the U.S. Capitol. Another was recently flown over the Capitol of Arkansas. The other day I saw an Appeal to Heaven flag streaming behind an 18-wheeler – it's going viral!
The flag is associated with America's founding, to be sure. It seems that God doesn't intend it to be used by America alone, however. It has been seen flying in the Himalayas – the highest point on the planet – raised above dozens of Buddhist prayer flags. It has flown on the plains of Nineveh, the place of the first region-transforming revival; in South Africa; Panama; and, more recently, in Cambodia where it was used in prayers against human trafficking. Who knows where it will turn up next?! This international use seems especially appropriate given America's God-given destiny of being a spiritual light to the nations.
Flags Carry a Message
In times past, flags carried more weight than they do in our present day. Their symbolism was understood, from the color to the design, enabling a flag to tell a story or make a strong statement. Many flags are sacred – people swear allegiance to them and die to protect their honor. Banners, as they are also called, were often intended to make declarations. One early colonial American flag had a picture of a coiled snake with the accompanying phrase, "Don't Tread On Me." It was a warning to Great Britain: "Be careful; step on us, and we strike!"
This journey of mine involves a different flag in America's past, one that is especially relevant to our God-given purpose and destiny. Modern day progressives, historical revisionists, liberal politicians, and humanistic professors would scoff at the notion that America was established by God for a divine purpose. They would also mock the assertion that our founders believed in and honored this divine-human partnership. As John Adams said, however, "facts are stubborn things..."(1). These modernists may not like our origins, but they can't change them. Yahweh, the God of the Bible, was indeed involved in America's founding, and He did so for His purpose.
When God brought the Appeal to Heaven flag into my journey, it launched me into another exciting chapter of my life calling: to see America experience a Third Great Awakening. This awakening, of course, isn't just for America; God doesn't love Americans more than any other group of people. This revival will sweep the world, becoming the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since time began.
When General George Washington commissioned the Appeal to Heaven flag to fly over our naval ships in the Revolutionary War – don't look for that in our modern American History books – little did he know that 240 years later, God would ordain that it fly again. This time around, however, it won't fly over a fledgling nation being born, but over the most powerful nation in the world being reborn. This rebirth isn't literal, of course, but is a spiritual and moral renewal that will resurrect America's God-given calling, purpose, and greatness.
It is Not Too Late for America
Some Christian leaders teach, usually from theological influences, that America will not awaken, turn back to God, and recapture her spiritual destiny. Their eschatology doesn't allow for a "comeback" for them; the apostasy must continue to worsen.
Many secular leaders also contend, often with an ideological fervor fueled by their personal desires, that this rebirth will never occur. "America has 'progressed' too far," they assert with smug satisfaction, "having left behind its antiquated, puritanistic ideals and outdated beliefs." These naysayers are, indeed, correct when they euphorically and gloatingly bloviate about how far we as a nation have drifted from our original beliefs. Secularists and humanists are accurate when they condescendingly point out our moral shifts toward relativism and unbiblical values. With satisfied arrogance, these modernists gleefully vociferate that our government no longer sees itself under and accountable to an "imaginary" Creator, or even to an "outdated" Constitution He supposedly inspired.
It must, indeed, be acknowledged that America's populace is now filled with great apathy toward its history. It is also true that we are so ignorant of the ideals that shaped our identity as a nation that we have lost our national moorings. God's intent is that history be more than information; the past can be an important anchor. Without this stabilizing force, however, America is now adrift in a sea of secular experientialism, blown about by the wanderings of our own fantasies and the delirium they create. Truly, America's narcissistic independence from God has left us spiritually and morally bankrupt. We have searched for meaning apart from our Creator – a search which by definition must fail, for the purpose of any created thing can only be found in its creator – and are racing toward an even greater identity crisis of horrific proportions. With this loss of identity, America is experiencing a continuous drift from greatness to mediocrity and becoming increasingly irrelevant around the world.
All of these facts must be conceded.
I Have Great Hope
With such a dire diagnosis why, then, am I not hopeless? To the contrary, I have great hope for America because the depth of a fall never determines God's ability to restore. I'm not afraid of the powerful strongholds, because size and strength are completely irrelevant when measuring His ability to deliver. And I'm not intimidated, because statistical odds, whether of success or failure, cease to be relevant when God is involved. His limitless ability negates the very concept of "odds," and trumps all other winning hands.
In the days of the flag's genesis, the American colonists had no chance of winning a war with the world's greatest empire, Great Britain. "Chance," however, lost its relevance once they chose an appeal to Heaven over conceding to fate. When those ill-prepared and poorly-equipped revolutionaries appealed for assistance to the Giver of inalienable rights, the tide turned. When they agreed to come under God's governance and honor His ways, He who "governs in the affairs of men," as Ben Franklin stated at the Constitutional Convention, did just that. Affirming the Lord's governing intervention, Franklin also said, "All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor"(2). Even some of our founders who were not strong Christians, such as Franklin, acknowledged God's providential hand in our victory.
And to prove it, they had put it on a flag.
That same "superintending providence" is available today. In spite of our many flaws and numerous failures, God's hand has been, and remains, on America. From the first man, Adam, to the Apostle Paul, history has proven that God uses imperfect people. The same is certainly true of nations. Though America is scarred and flawed, we still possess a divine purpose. Rest assured, the Sovereign who bestowed that purpose to America knows how to resurrect it.
Don't embrace any theology or creed that allows God to lose!
As you read this book, my prayer is that you will be awakened to hope. Hope is to the heart what seeds are to the earth. Without hope, life is sterile, unfruitful – dreams aren't conceived and destinies aren't realized. Hope is the starting line, the launch pad; it's the seedbed from which faith springs up, and a creative force that keeps the soul dreaming.Without doubt, the reemergence of this flag is intended by God to awaken hope.
I have hope, and I'm dreaming. I dream of a reborn America that is once again a shining light to the rest of the world. I believe this dream was born in God's heart, embedded in a small group of emigrant pilgrims, and is one I am confident He still maintains. Join me as I dream. Partner with the "superintending providence" that was active in our founding, is involved with our present, and has great plans for our future.
Let it be said of our generation that when a nation teetered on the edge of destruction, having lost the ancient path of truth, we answered the divine call to war for its restoration. Let it be said of us, as it was of our forefathers, that in the face of overwhelming odds, we took our stand in the celestial courtroom, appealing to the Judge of all the earth for His saving grace, mercy, and sustaining power.
This article is adapted from the introduction to Dutch Sheets' newest book, An Appeal to Heaven.
(1) Adams, John. "Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials." December 4, 1770.
(2) Franklin, Benjamin. "Constitutional Convention Address on Prayer." June 28, 1787. Philadelphia, PA.
Dutch Sheets is an internationally recognized author, teacher, and conference speaker. He travels extensively, empowering Believers for passionate prayer and societal transformation. Dutch has pastored, taught in several colleges and seminaries, and served on the board of directors of numerous organizations. Dutch's greatest passion is to see America experience a sweeping revival and return to its godly heritage. Dutch is a messenger of hope for America, encouraging Believers to contend for awakening in our day and reformation in our lifetime. Dutch has written over 20 books, many of which have been translated into over 30 languages. Dutch and his wife Ceci have been married for 35 years and now reside in the Dallas area. They treasure time spent with their two grown daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren.
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