In February, 2014 my husband Clay and I went to a conference in Oregon. One speaker, Dutch Sheets, really surprised us with a piece of our American heritage that we had never before known. Someone had given him a very special flag with an evergreen tree imprinted and the words, “An Appeal to Heaven” across the top. He gave an inspiring message about it and displayed a replica. We had never seen this flag in our lives.
This message and the flag stirred the entire conference. Suddenly, much to everyone’s surprise, the worship team spontaneously led us in a songfest of patriotic songs like “God bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” Dutch enthusiastically waved his flag throughout our enthusiastic singing. I sure didn't expect that and found it deeply moving. But I’m easily moved. While I left the conference happier and more hopeful for the church and our country, I didn't really think much beyond it.
I have a terrible problem with a myriad of emails in my Inbox. I have long had this sinking feeling that only my departure to heaven can resolve it. But as soon as we got home from Oregon, I sat down to my computer and had a sudden urge to at least make an attempt to work on the problem. So I decided to go through old emails, working backward from the bottom.
Right away, I ran across one from my son Billy. It was now four years old and long forgotten. He had given us the John Adams miniseries for Christmas and wrote to tell us that he liked it and hoped we would like it, too. But we had never watched it. It was still in its original wrapper, just sitting on a shelf four years later. Every time I had ever brought up watching it to Clay, he had shown no interest.
Seeing this saddened me. I forwarded the email to Clay and hoped for a response. Suddenly, he called to me, "Wow, I never knew that meant so much to Billy." Then, much to my surprise, he added, "Why don't we look at one of them." I was really excited and seized the opportunity. We made some popcorn and plopped down to watch. As the first DVD began to play, we gasped. Much to our amazement, what did we see before the movie even began but the Appeal to Heaven Flag.
We could scarcely believe our eyes! We had JUST returned from seeing it in Oregon for the first time ever. God was saying something . . . but what? We watched all 7 episodes, and as we watched, our hearts were increasingly stirred that perhaps God is not finished with our country, that perhaps He still has a plan, and that perhaps He wants to rouse our hearts and our country to revival.
This flag has immense historical significance, but I believe it also has significance for our nation and her leaders today. Called “The Pine Tree Flag” or the “Appeal to Heaven Flag,” it flew as a banner over our nation at its birth. It was commissioned by George Washington before the Revolutionary War even began. It is said that he carried it into battle and that when he knelt in desperation to pray for his beleaguered troops at Valley Forge, the flag was likely nearby.
Some would say – and I must admit that sometimes I have been one of them – that God is washing His hands of America, that her sins are too great. After all, our land is filled with blood crying to heaven for justice; our perversions are a stench in God’s nostrils; our indifference to Him, lack of gratitude, and outright rebellion try His patience to no end. We have lost our way and lost our destiny.
But the good news is that our blessings never were a matter of our own merits but of our reliance upon God and His grace and mercy. When Israel sinned grievously by rebelling en masse against God, He wanted to destroy most of the population in one swipe. But in Numbers 14:17-18 we find Moses appealing to Him, pleading that He show His great strength by exhibiting restraint. Moses quoted God’s own words back to Him, appealing to what God had already declared of Himself, that He is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving of sin. And God listened to Moses’ appeal. While the nation suffered His discipline, He did, indeed, restrain Himself from venting His full wrath.
And so, our nation suffers many pains. We are under corrective discipline. Will it turn to increasing waves of judgment until we are utterly removed as a nation? Really, so much depends on us, as God’s people. He promises His people today, just as He promised His ancient people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron 7:14, ESV).
Two excellent books about this wondrous flag have been published recently, An Appeal To Heaven: What Would Happen If We Did It Again by Dutch Sheets and The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening by Jennifer LeClaire.