Red, White and Jesus

Screenshot 2016-05-24 at 2.10.13 PMMemorial Day is coming up. It’s always the last Monday in May. Will the holiday weekend have an effect on your Sunday church plans?

Scenario One:  Some churches have nothing to do with American holidays. There will be no patriotic music this Sunday or any other day they meet to worship. There are no pictures of members that have died in the service, no displays of dog tags in the vestibule. Those churches do not have an American flag in the sanctuary nor flying on church grounds. Some Christians believe our allegiance cannot be divided between the Kingdom of God and anything else.

Scenario Two: American Jesus. Some churches proudly display Old Glory in their sanctuary 52 weeks a year. They will ramp it up on days like Memorial Day and 4th of July with flag banners and other patriotic/Christian decor. They will run red, white and blue bulletins with service members names listed in memorial. They will sing the National Anthem or some other patriotic montage as a choir special and the congregation will be led in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. You may see Jesus draped in the flag or Bible verses printed over flags, national cemeteries, etc. You will definitely get the sense Jesus drives a Chevrolet and buys American (and maybe even supports your 2nd amendment rights).

Scenario Three: Something in between. Like most issues, I fall into this category personally. I believe we can be good citizens and live in a way that glorifies God. We can honor brave men and women that fought and died for our nation without making patriotism our religion. It’s probably easier to do on Memorial Day than Independence Day. Our church has an American flag and a Christian flag in the sanctuary; those were there before I was called to pastor and will be there after I’m gone. But we don’t equate America with Christianity. Jesus is no more American then he is Russian or Chinese. We are to pray for all people (1 Tim. 2:1) including kings and queens (1 Tim. 2:2). We can render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s in keeping with Christ’s command.  We are citizens of a nation AND pilgrims and strangers in this world. We are called to respect the laws of our land until they conflict with the Law of God. At this point in history we still have the freedom and liberty to do both without conflict (most of the time).

Images of Jesus draped in the flag, crosses with stars and stripes, flags with scripture superimposed; these things set off the Michael Spencer voice in the back of my head that I will never be able to get rid of. I believe we can be good Christians and celebrate our national identity at the same time if we are careful. The Gospel plus anything isn’t the Gospel anymore. We need to avoid creating a hybrid Christian-American theology. Patriotism is one thing, nationalism is another. Jesus came to seek and to save people made in God’s image from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Memorial Day honors men and women that died for America. Christian worship honors one man who died for all people everywhere. 

Your thoughts?

Post Script: Let me add that at no time of the year do we forego having church for a ceremony, celebration, awards program, etc. I will preach a Gospel message from the Word of God on Sunday morning just like on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the week of July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We might mention or recognize mothers, graduates, etc. but not to the extent we skip church and spend that hour doing something else.

 

A Ministry Oath?

Screenshot 2016-05-17 at 7.08.51 PMSince I posted this on Tuesday morning I’ve been thinking about a sermon or blog post about being very intentional when choosing our words. We are warned by James that the tongue is like a wild beast no man can tame, a small member that kindles a great fire. Jesus instructs all that minister to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves and Paul has some strict words of warning for those that would teach or preach the Gospel. Continue reading

But On the Other Hand…

Jeremy Myers of Redeeming God asks Christians to please quit using these clichés. On the one hand, I get it. Clichés are statements that are overused to the point they have lost their original value. They are easy go-to statements, perhaps knee jerk reactions, that require little thought. Christians need to be careful about creating our own Christianese language, words and phrases we often use in-house that may have little meaning to non-Christians, the people with whom we need to communicate the Gospel. Like I say, on the one hand I get it.

But on the other hand… Overused is highly subjective; if a word of phrase is truly overused there may be a good reason we were saying it so much in the first place. We don’t want our worship to become a collection of tired old repetitions, but what about liturgy? What about biblical truths that are unchanging? Some of the things on Myers’ list I never say but there’s a couple on there I would like to put back on the table. We’re not talking about revising the dictionary here, at the end of the day Myers and I are both bloggers. He does have a tongue in cheek sense of humor that I can appreciate. But these are my submissions for consideration: Continue reading

Good Shepherd; Lamb of God

jesus_shepherdIs Jesus the sheep or the shepherd?

Just about every animal has some unique feature that allows it to defend itself from predators. Some have incredible speed, such as deer, while others have sharp claws, powerful muscles or rows of gleaming teeth. Some animals camouflage themselves into the background while the purpose of some camouflage, like that of zebra, make it difficult to distinguish individuals from the group. Even the slow, ungraceful skunk has a very potent defense mechanism. Just about every animal has something, it seems, except sheep. It’s almost as if God intended them to be food for other animals. Sheep are very nearsighted and have to be led to food and water. They cannot drink fast moving water and can actually drown trying. They have to be led to food, led to shelter, and protected from every type of danger. The Bible uses sheep of all things to represent people. Continue reading

In Christ Alone

First published in 2001, In Christ Alone has become one of the favorite hymns of all time by several metrics. In Christ Alone is considered a credal hymn expressing faith in the crucified and risen savior.

The song has been recorded and covered many times. The first version below features Adrienne Liesching and Geoff Moore. (I was a big Geoff Moore and the Distance fan back in college but that’s not important right now.) This video displays the brilliant lyrics for your consideration. The second video is a live performance by Keith and Kristyn Getty. Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend are the original co-authors.

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UPDATE: It has come to my attention this my second post by this title. This post from 2009 is all about the lyrics with a link to the video. All four verses appear in their entirety with my commentary added afterward.

(Just a Few) Things Jesus Said

In preparation for the Passion week and Easter, I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on things that Jesus said. Before we started, a 4-part series seemed like a lot. Now I almost wish we had started in January!

Most of these are taken from the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. They all try to cover too much ground for a single sermon, but let’s be honest: Jesus said some good stuff! I hope you enjoy.

Love Your Enemies 

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven 

Build Your House on the Rock 

Whoever Receives You Receives Me

Decision America Tour

Screenshot 2016-02-13 at 7.54.17 AMFranklin Graham is traveling to all 50 states and holding prayer rallies at each state capital. Graham is well known for his work with Samaritan’s Purse; he joined the organization in 1974 and became president in 1979. He is now also the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

The Decision America Tour 2016 is not a campaign for any political party or candidate. Continue reading