I Pledge Allegiance to the Christian Flag…

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It’s a pledge many Christians have never cited or memorized:

I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to its Savior, for whose Kingdom it stands; One brotherhood, uniting all true Christians in service and in love.”

It’s a flag that represents not an earthly country with manmade borders but an eternal kingdom that will exist long after the earth and its kingdoms are destroyed.  It’s a flag that recognizes a people bound by a heavenly citizenship that isn’t subject to limitations, temporary visas or naturalization. It’s an emblem that is common to Americans, as well as Asians, Hispanics, Africans, blacks, whites, young and old with belief in Jesus Christ and brotherly love as its only criteria.  It is my flag and I love all it represents.

Yesterday was a shamefully divisive day among Christians and non-Christians alike as we witnessed a sport we all love and anticipate in the Fall of each year become a necessary platform as players and owners alike showed solidarity on some form of protest against not a country they hate, as some believe and wrongly accuse, but a country they love who in many documented cases, has not been fair in it’s distribution of equality and justice for all.  How I wish that any other platform had been chosen but football, but alas, here we are, millions of people being made aware of continued and systematic pockets of racial prejudice, yes even in 2017, and forced to acknowledge its evil exisstence. It is not something that all whites are guilty of, nor is it something all blacks are victims of, but if few are affected, all are. The chosen protest is a perceived lack of respect for a country and it’s flag, as well as all who fought for its freedoms.  To say it’s a touchy subject is a severe under-exaggeration. My opinion is not popular among many people.

The argument as to whether players are on company time as salaried employees will be left up to others to debate.  My concern is not over rights, but over where our true allegiance should lie as Christians.  I thank God daily that I was born into a country of rights and freedoms and I’m genuinely grateful to be born American.  But my birth was not by my choosing but only by God’s providence.  I could have just as easily been born in Nigeria or Afghanistan or Myanmar, point being I had nothing to do with my birth origin. I honor our flag and all those who fought so bravely to assure my freedom, many paying the highest cost of their lives-I aknowledge that. I participate whole-heartedly in July 4th activities and festivals celebrating our freedom and uniqueness and yes, greatness as a country.  But at the end of the day, or quite literally, at the end of days, I will exist as a Believer and one of the elect, not as an American or any other nationality.

God caused the seas to divide the land, according the the creation story in Genesis.  It is man, however, who divided, conquered, plundered in some cases, and ultimately created the borders used to define countries as we know them today, creating laws and limits as to who can cross, who can benefit, who can be referred to as its citizens and share in its freedoms. When God refers to nations it is usually a reference to a people of common origin, not a people defined by borders.  Jesus clearly pointed this out when he was asked about paying taxes in  a scheme to trick Him.  His answer, give to God what is God’s and to a government what is the government’s, is self-explanatory-one does not necessarily belong to the other. What and who belongs to God is not determined by borders or restrictions established by man.

So what is my response as a follower of Christ?  Holy scripture assures me I will be judged on how I loved and treated my fellow brother, ala sheep and goats. I will not be judged on how patriotic I was to a country that on Judgment day will not be in existence. I will be judged on whether I practiced true religion as defined in the New testament, not whether I stood or kneeled during a song about a country.  Did I speak out against injustices when I witnessed or was made aware of them? Did I treat my brothers according to the Golden Rule? Did I classify men by their skin color or Nationality?  Did I pray for my enemies and all those out of my reach who are daily persecuted for their faith, not their allegiance to a country?  Will I receive a robe of red, white and blue on that glorious day or a robe of pure white with neither spots or wrinkles?

There is nothing wrong with showing love and patriotism for the country you were destined to be born into.  But when patriotism becomes instead nationalism, an idol has been erected and a very defined scriptural line has been crossed. Philipians is clear that Christian brothers and sisters are aliens to this world and no longer its citizens, but citizens of a heavenly kingdom anticipating the return of our supreme commander-in-chief, Christ. With that in mind, as much as one may love their country, the kingdom of God and it’s mandated treatment of its people, along with awareness and assistance for all those who are hungry, hurting, homeless, orphaned and widowed, i.e. true religion, “Trump’s” all other allegiances.  While it is possible to be both patriotic and Christian, as soon as one contradicts the other, Christianity must rule as absolute law.  We who are treated unjustly or are made aware of and stand, or kneel with others of our brothers who are, are not “sons of bitches”, but sons of God. We need to be sure the flag of Christ flies above the flag of country in our hearts and in our actions. Beleivers truly have no alternative response but that of Christ’s own words, love God and love others over yourselves.

I’m proud to be American, but I’m humbled, grateful and blessed to be Christian.  I will honor our national anthem, but I will shed tears of privilege with my fce to the ground over Amazing Grace, my eternal anthem.  Love and peace to my readers.

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Should We Really Expect to Reverse America’s Decline?

america fall

Birth pains-women will understand this, men, not so much.  Birth pains are the physical sign that the time is near for a woman to bear a child and that the wheels in motion for this event can not be stopped or reversed.  Jesus refers to the signs of the end times in Matthew 24 as the beginning of birth pains. This post is based on that analogy and may not rest well with many.

It would be intellectually dishonest from a spiritual perspective to deny that our great nation, the United States of America, has been on a great decline for many years now. We can still love her and prefer her over other countries, cheer for her at International events and proudly display her colors as patriots on holidays while relishing her freedoms. But we can’t deny the moral and spiritual decay she is suffering. That decay is like a spreading cancer slowly eating away at those elements which have always made America a strong and healthy nation.  As with most cancer the treatment, or response, is often worse than the disease until it becomes a matter of waiting for the inevitable.  Sounds hopeless, I know.

As I read the story this week of a beloved Pastor and University Professor who got caught up in the Ashley Madison profile leaks who decided to take his own life, it hit me just how far we have fallen.  Don’t get me totally wrong-there are saints preserving the Gospel, saints feeding the hungry, rescuing the enslaved, taking mission trips to help the helpless-all attributes of a healthy church.  Our Lord though His Spirit continues to use His people to do His work to help those with sincere and hungry hearts and real needs.  But when you step back to view the big picture, the lines are becoming blurred and the colors once brilliant are fading.

There is no better time than at election time that one can hear how bad America is, though campaign speeches should never serve as a true State of the Union gauge. In any debate we will learn that our defenses are down, our economy is bankrupt, our schools are behind internationally and we are heading to Hell in a hand basket.  Our natural and gut reaction is to climb onboard the bandwagon of the candidate we are sure is going to turn America around again and fix all our ills. And if he or she is evangelical, that’s even better.  And while we should always have hope and be proactive in making the world around us a better place, can we honestly in view of New Testament prophesy concerning the signs of the end times, expect for a sudden and miraculous reversal when all indications are that the birth pains have begun?

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy he lays out for us some signs of the last days.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves (Kingdom entitlement?), lovers of money (prosperity doctrine?) boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy(lacking spiritual discipline?), without love(prayer with no works?), unforgiving, slanderous(social media gossips?), without self-control (abusive priests?), brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than God(Congress?), having a form of godliness but denying its power, swayed by evil desires, always learning but never grasping the truth.”

I’m sure you would agree that in reviewing the list above we can see all these characteristics in our society today, and sadly even in the Church. We are told in the NT that God removes His spirit from such people and lets sin run its course.  The traits mentioned above are running their course.  Granted, there will always be individual stories of rescue by grace and God’s spirit will continue to be worked out in the lives of those who seek in earnest so that “none may perish”. But again, in light of the big picture view the fig leaves are falling and the signs are apparent.

A day closer to the return of Christ can be nothing short of Good News for the believer.  We should be able to with hope and confidence view the events around us and look up with eager anticipation knowing that however many days, weeks, months, years or decades, we are getting closer to that day. That is not to say we should become oblivious to the world around us or throw our hands up in surrender opposed to being active and making a difference when and where we can.  God defines true religion as loving Him, loving our neighbor, and taking care of the less fortunate.  There things carry on regardless of the surrounding circumstances.  Love good, hate evil, love everybody.  All Souls Matter! But in doing so we must be cognizant that birth pains don’t stop and that the process the pains represent is in full motion. We may never again see the America we love and remember.  We are certainly in a post-Christian America and I don’t see us going back. Scripture spells out what lies ahead for us.  There will be suffering, persecution, a falling away from the Church, false teachers and weak followers getting their ears tickled each week. But to those who see and understand the grand plan and correlate these times to the script left for us to follow, we will become less geographically oriented and more Kingdom oriented as we await the return of Christ in the midst of falling fig leaves as Summer comes to an end. .

 

The Purpose of Memorials

pearl harbor

One of the most solemn and eerie memorials we ever visited was the Pearl Harbor Memorial situated over the sunken Arizona in Hawaii. From the deck you can easily view the remains of the lost battleship that serves as the final resting place of hundreds of brave soldiers. You can see and smell the still leaking oil from the steel tomb rising to the surface. The legend is that as long as there are survivors of that attack the oil will continue to rise to the surface as a reminder and a sign from their shipmates below. It’s an experience that pierces the hardest facades and causes one to remember the tragic losses of that infamous day.

April 14th, 1984. We received a call at the office to return home immediately-there was a fire. Upon pulling into the parking lot of our apartment complex we were in shock to see the burned out frame of what was just an hour before, our home. We were left with the clothes we wore to work that day. Nothing survived-except one sole box that held a collection of ribbons I had won in High School during my Track and Field Days.  I still have that box tucked safely away in my garage.  It is my reminder of the events of that day.

Our lives are built around a series of markers, or memorials, some of pleasant events and others of painful experiences.  They are left behind to tell us that something significant happened in our lives on this particular day or at this certain location. We may not even recognize the markers that we encounter.  Our mates are a marker of the day we entered into the marital commitment, a pleasant day for most.  Our kids are walking markers of the day love brought forth shared life. April 15th is a marker that reminds us that it’s time to pay our increasing tax burden for the freedoms we enjoy. The American Flag is a constantly waving reminder that even though she is sick and maybe not what she used to be, she is still the greatest country in the world.  No one is trying to escape our borders.

As believers we have several memorials left behind for our observance. The rainbows that appear after a heavy storm are God’s reminder to us to never destroy the earth for our sins and disobedience to Him. The communion we receive is done in remembrance of the love and the sacrifice of our Savior as He gave up His body and blood for our good. Christmas and Easter and the Passover are calendar memorials that commemorate the events of the Bible that are central to our faith. The cross we wear around our neck or tattoo on our body is a memorial of the ultimate expression of love that is just as fresh to day as it was over two thousand years ago.

On This Memorial Day we pay tribute to the brave men and women who served, who lost limbs, who suffered tragic burns in explosions and who paid the ultimate price of their lives so that we could bicker over religious freedoms, argue over Constitutional rights, blame everyone but ourselves for our current status and yes, even stomp Old glory and burn the Holy Bible. The freedoms we were blessed by God to be born into did not come cheap. There was a heavy toll paid for our freedom.  We must never forget that.

And the eternal life and salvation that we were born again into also came at a heavy price-we must never forget that either. God bless you this Memorial Day, God bless and have mercy on America.