You’ve scoped out the best fireworks in town and figured out how to beat the rush to the prime viewing spot. Maybe you’ve planned a picnic lunch complete with everyone’s favorite foods and treats. But have you taken time to reflect on the meaning of the Fourth of July?

Freedom. It’s all in honor of liberty. That’s the reason for our celebrating, and it’s a principle we must exalt like never before on this first Independence Day since the tragic events of Sept. 11.

Take a minute to reflect on the many liberties you may assume will always be. The freedom to speak your mind. The freedom to worship as you please. The freedom to choose how your kids are educated, with whom you will associate, or where you will travel. The freedom to plan your day, own property, or to simply go for a walk if you feel like it. Pause and think about the vast liberty that is ours because of Godly men who modeled the founding documents of this nation on the freedom which our Creator intended for mankind to enjoy.

Why not print out a copy of the Declaration of Independence and include a reading of it in your family’s celebrations this July 4th? It’s an amazing document that the original signers risked their very lives for. Over the years, countless thousands have left their homes and families to protect the spirit and liberty that document so boldly declares. Take time to talk to your children about and honor those who have died on lonely battlefields and blazing ships far out at sea to protect the freedom we now take for granted.

Even today, as you sit in the comfort of your home or office reading this column, there are numerous proud American troops who are placing themselves in harm’s way to ensure that we continue to remain an independent nation. Stop for a moment and take the time to pray for our men and women in uniform. Pray that God will give them protection, strength, courage and comfort. Pray for our president and the leaders of our armed forces. Pray that God will give them Divine wisdom so that they will make the right decisions regarding war and the protection of liberty.

And, as hard as it may be, pray for our enemies. What may seem impossible to man, is never impossible for God – we must never forget that God’s awesome power is sufficient even in the times we feel most vulnerable. He will mete out justice for both the good and the evil, the innocent and the guilty – even if we fail to do so.

As our nation continues to be placed on endless alerts for possible terrorist attacks, we must also pray that our nation’s most powerful individuals – judicial, legislative and executive – will understand that their highest duty is to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the liberties it guarantees. Every American should know what the Constitution says and what it means for us as individuals – without this knowledge, it’s far too easy for others to pervert it to suit their own purposes. Independence Day is the perfect time to print out the Constitution and discuss the Bill of Rights with your family.

America is at war with enemies that seek to destroy us within our own borders. Their mission is to obliterate our lives and our freedom. They detest us both for our belief in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and for our trust in the Creator from whom our Founding Fathers believed these “inalienable rights” were endowed. Even when the evil ones fail in their attempts to destroy our lives, they relish the loss of every freedom they cause us to lose as a result of their efforts.

While many Americans are risking their lives on foreign soil to preserve our freedom, there are those in power in America who would easily destroy or suspend certain liberties with the stroke of a pen. During times of war, Americans have historically been willing to sacrifice a few civil liberties for the sake of defense and protection. However, we live in a modern era marked by a huge government that has already encroached on virtually every freedom that American patriots fought and died for. Freedoms lost during this era will not be easily regained.

On this July 4th, have a great time. But as you celebrate with picnics and fireworks and friends, do so in honor of those who gave you the freedom you celebrate … and do so with a prayerful heart and a sound resolution to resist any attempt by others to destroy or dilute it.

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