Yesterday, I told you that I would be sharing a dream with you today. I’m not. I am deferring to Ceci, who insisted that I needed to share the story of when the Appeal to Heaven flag was first presented to me. In that chapter of my book, An Appeal to Heaven, I include some of the flag’s history. She felt that the dream which I will share tomorrow would have much more meaning after hearing this, especially to those who may be new to the story.
A Flag Reborn
My discovery of the Appeal to Heaven flag occurred in May of 2013. I was at the graduation ceremony of Christ For the Nations Institute. As the Executive Director at the time, it was my responsibility to choose the commencement speaker. I chose one of my spiritual sons, not because he’s a great preacher, but because he isn’t a preacher at all. Will is a military man, a JAG attorney (at the time; now retired) for a branch of our Special Forces with the rank of Major. I chose a soldier as our commencement speaker because I wanted our graduates to know they did not have to be a pastor or preacher in order to minister for God.
At the end of his commencement address, however, Will threw me a bit of a curve. “I believe the Lord has asked me to give a special gift to Papa Dutch,” he said. I wasn’t sure I liked this, not wanting the emphasis to move from the graduates to me. But he had the microphone - what could I do but trust him?
“Before I give you the gift,” he said, “I need to explain the history behind it. It’s a replica of a flag displayed by George Washington and America’s Founding Fathers. This flag was actually used before the Stars and Stripes existed. In many ways, it is the banner under which America was born,” he explained. This fact does nothing to dishonor “Old Glory” - I display her proudly and still tear up during the Pledge of Allegiance. Nonetheless, the symbolism of this earlier flag is extremely important. “This banner has the phrase ‘An Appeal To Heaven’ across the top,” he continued (the original version didn’t have the word “An”), “a phrase our Founders took from the writings of John Locke, an influential English philosopher from the mid-1600s. Locke wrote a series of papers on ‘Natural Laws,’ stating that human rights originated with God, not with government.”(1)
Locke made the case that when people had done everything humanly possible to experience those God-given rights and failed in doing so, there remained but one option:
“And where the body of the people or any single man, is deprived of their right, or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven…” (2)
Will continued, “Locke’s phrase, ‘appeal to heaven,’ connotes that when all resources and the ability to attain justice on earth are exhausted, an appeal to earth’s ultimate Judge is the final recourse. This concept would become a foundational philosophy in American society, used even in the Declaration of Independence.”(3)
George Washington and his contemporaries used the Appeal to Heaven phrase in America’s cause for freedom from Britain’s tyranny. Having exhausted all peaceful possibilities of experiencing the liberty they so desired, the colonists realized their only hope for freedom was through war. Yet with Britain’s great military, weaponry, and wealth, contrasted by the colonist’s dire lack of these resources, any military attempt to break free from British rule was preposterous, even laughable. Laughable, that is, unless Almighty God intervened.
The stance of the colonists was simple; their right to freedom came from God; He would help them. “We will appeal to heaven!” they declared.
And a flag was born.
From the days of the pilgrims, godly men and women have believed Almighty God was involved in the birth of our nation. They also felt that if a nation chose to partner with and honor God, it would experience His favor and blessing in extraordinary ways. Washington and the colonial dreamers agreed. They believed the Sovereign was, indeed, birthing “a city [nation] set on a hill that can’t be hidden...a light to the world,” (Matthew 5:14). They no doubt knew of John Winthrop, a leader of the Puritans’ Massachusetts Bay Colony, using this verse in his 1630 speech on board the Arbella to describe what he believed God wanted to build in America.(4)
They knew of the planting of the cross at Cape Henry in 1607, and of the ensuing prayer meeting dedicating the land to His glory. They had read the Mayflower Compact of 1620, stating the voyage was made “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith….”(5) Would God honor these events and prayers? Even more importantly, was He inspiring these actions? Was America God’s dream, not just theirs? They believed the answer to these questions was, “YES.”
The pilgrims absolutely believed America had a God-given destiny, and our Founding Fathers did, as well. Throughout our history, America’s presidents and leaders have also reiterated this belief. John F. Kennedy referenced Matthew 5:14 and Winthrop’s famous speech, as did Ronald Reagan and numerous other U.S. Presidents.(6) Though modern-day revisionists try to rewrite and remove this from our history, the truth will always trump their lies.
General George Washington, leader of the American Revolution, obviously believed in this divine plan. He commissioned several ships for the Revolutionary War efforts and, highlighting their dependence on providential help, each vessel was to fly under the Appeal to Heaven banner, also known as the Pine Tree Flag.(7) The popularity of the flag spread, and was soon flying throughout the colonies, as well as being adopted as the flag of the Massachusetts State Navy. It became the symbol of these colonists’ unwavering spirit of liberty, as well as a clear statement of where they placed their faith.
Do you find it interesting, as I do, that America was born under a banner of prayer? And that 230 years later, God would bring that dusty old banner out of hiding in order to serve as a stark reminder that our strength alone did not birth this nation? We were birthed by the hand of God. And we were born not just for our personal blessing and freedom; we were created to represent Christ around the world.
In our now spiritually weakened state, America must appeal again. Just as we were no match for the military power controlling us in that day, in our own strength, we are no match for the spiritual powers controlling us now. Only that which birthed us then can rebirth us now: an appeal to heaven.
Pray with me:
Father, the way You raised America up as a voice in the earth is indeed remarkable. You did so knowing You would use her to be a trumpet of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are humbled and inspired by this.
We are deeply impacted by the knowledge that we were born under a movement of prayer, that it truly was through appealing to You that our freedom was produced. Just as You have brought this flag, the Appeal To Heaven flag, out of hiding, we pledge to You that we will appeal once again. And we believe You will once again free us from oppression, this time from within. Overthrow the evil trying to destroy our heritage and destiny. Overthrow those who defile our children and promote perversion We bind these efforts in the name of Jesus! Just as our Founders placed in the Declaration of Independence, we are “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
And so, Lord, we ask You to bring revival to America. We pray for Your church, the Ekklesia, to rise to the glorious level You speak of in Scripture: a worthy bride for You and an expression of Your authority in the earth. Make us an Ekklesia the gates of hell cannot prevail against, just as You said. We call this forth in the name of Jesus, and decree that America shall be saved! We ask and declare this in the name of the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ...Amen.
We decree that the appeal to heaven will be heard...and will succeed!
Portions of today’s devotional were taken from my book An Appeal to Heaven.(8) Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Laslett, Peter. “Right of Revolution: John Locke, Second Treatise, pp. 149, 155, 168, 207--10, 220--31, 240--43.” Electronic resources from the University of Chicago Press Books Division, https://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch3s2.html. Accessed 2 February 2021.
“Declaration of Independence: A Transcription | National Archives.” National Archives, 8 June 2022, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript. Accessed 2 August 2022.
John, Winthrop. A Model of Christianity. Sermon. 1630.
Bradford, William. "Of Plymouth Plantation." Manuscript: 1630-1650.
Van Engen, Abram C. Van Engen. City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism. Yale University Press, 2020.
Report of the Proceedings of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee at the Thirtieth Meeting, Held at Toledo, Ohio, October 26-17, 1898. F. W. Freeman, 1899, p. 80.
Sheets, Dutch. An Appeal to Heaven. Dutch Sheets Ministries, 2015, pp. 41-46.