Filed under: Articles | Tags: Allegiance, America, Christian, Columbus, Congress, Flag, God, History, Pledge, Pledge of Allegiance, Schools, US, USA, Wake Up
I have been writing this article for years. I have written hundreds of articles for many different publications, blogs, newsletters, and web sites. I don’t say that to boast, but to say that I do not think I have ever written an article like this one. I should have written about this before, but have not. I am not sure why when it seems so needed. I have written on much more important issues than this one. I have written on topics much less important than this. I just have never written on this topic before. What is that topic?
Not that long ago in our nation’s history, children all over our nation used to say these words at the beginning of each day of school. Meetings were begun with these words. Congress was started with these words.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
You may know these words as the Pledge of Allegiance. Do you know why we say these words? Red Skelton did an amazing skit on his radio program explaining each word many years ago, so I won’t do that here. But do you know why we say these words?
In 1892, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus making it to our side of the world, these words were used throughout public schools. Since then, the words have been modified one time, instructions for its recitation have been added to the United States Flag Code (Title 36), and schools have been instructed to recite it, but given permission not to, if they do not desire to do so.
On June 22, 1942, the pledge was officially added to Title 36 of the U.S. Code. This was the official recognition of the words school children had been reciting for 50 years. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced or coerced into saying the pledge in school. In 1945, the title was officially changed to the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as President, authorized the addition of the words “under God” to the pledge. Other than that, the pledge has remained, and hopefully will remain, a unifying statement shared by all citizens of this nation.
With that being said, it is interesting to note how attitudes have changed over the years. President Eisenhower authorized the adding of the words, “Under God”, for the purpose of distinguishing us from the officially atheist and communist Soviet Union. In his official statement on that day, President Eisenhower stated, “In this way, we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
Did you notice that our President humbly admitted that he desired for our nation to be different than those around us? This is the definition of holy. He desired for our nation to be holy. He further stated that our greatest asset in maintaining our freedom and prosperity would be to acknowledge God daily in our recitation of our Pledge of Allegiance. To pledge our allegiance to America was to acknowledge the role of God in our history and our future. How far we have fallen!
It seems that we are now trying to become like everyone else, which is unholy. If President Eisenhower was right, and I believe he was, then to attempt to remove God from our nation is akin to sabotage. To want the United States to become like every other nation is to cut our collective knees out from under us. Perhaps it is time that we got back to living holy as individuals, and realize that we are only indivisible as a one nation when we realize we are under God and not take His place.
I told you it was going to be different.
Filed under: Articles | Tags: Bible, Christ, Christian, church, courage, follow, follower, God, help, Jesus, judge, leader, leadership
In the book of Judges, we find an interesting story. The Israelites had been sinning against God, so God allowed Jabin, the king of Canaan, to harass them for twenty years. During this time, Barak was the commander of the Israelite armed forces. During this twenty years, Barak did nothing to fight against the foreign king so God raised up Deborah as a judge to deliver Israel. Deborah told Barak to gather his forces together and to go to Mount Tabor and attack Jabin’s forces. In Judges 4:8, we get Barak’s response, “If you [Deborah] will go with me, then I will go; but if you [Deborah] will not go with me, then I will not go.”
In other words, Barak was saying that he would not do his job unless Deborah went with him. Now, there are a variety of reasons for this, but notice how different and how similar Barak’s statement was to that of Moses earlier in the Israelites’ history. In Exodus 33:15, Moses said to God, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” Did you catch that? Moses was saying that he would not lead if God did not go with him. Barak was saying he would not lead if Deborah did not go with him. Before you jump to wrong conclusions, allow me to make this observation. The main difference was that Moses appealed to following God while Barak appealed to following a person.
That brings us to the title of this article. Who are you following? Many times people in churches follow a pastor. When the pastor leaves, the people leave. In Bible Study groups, people follow the Small Group leader. When the leader leaves, the people leave. For people who are following God, the leader, while important, is not the ultimate reason for attending, serving, and working in the church. So, when the leader leaves, the people following God continue following God and doing what they have been called to do.
Now, you might object, “What about Paul? He told the people to imitate him as he imitated Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) Doesn’t that mean that Paul wanted them to follow him?” Actually, the key to what Paul is saying is when he said AS HE IMITATED CHRIST. What Paul wanted of the Corinthians more than anything was that they would follow Christ. He told them earlier in the book not to divide up in church over what person you follow, but to follow Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:4-5) He even went so far as to tell the Galatians that if he were to begin preaching another gospel, other than salvation by grace and through faith, they should remove him from leadership and treated him as an unbeliever. (Galatians 1:8-9)
So, who are you following? Why do you go to church? By the way, can I say that the people in the pews (or chairs) are not the only ones who easily succumb to this pressure of following people instead of following God. Pastors and leaders can fall into this trap as well. First, everyone likes to be liked, so there is a pressure to only do what will make the people of your church like you. But what do you do when that Cult of Personality hijacks following God? As leaders, we had better follow God, but this is not always easy. Sometimes there are situations in which there is no clear, one-biblical-way, to do something. We know what we need to do, but how to do it becomes a different situation. Who do we follow then? And how do we know we are following God and not just pridefully resisting someone we want to not have to follow? How do we know if we are bowing to financial pressure, popularity pressure, or even job security when the way is not right before us? It comes down to our relationship with God and whether or not He has given us enough direction to know we must die for our decision. If we are following Him, we will persevere. If we are going our own way, we will walk away. If we are following someone else, we will follow them.
So, church leaders, church members, regular attenders, and even guests of churches would do well to ask the question, “Who are you following?” Having asked that question, we need to be able to respond, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Filed under: Articles | Tags: Baptist, Bible, Christ, Christian, church, Easter, faith, God, Grace, help, holiday, hope, Jesus, love, Resurrrection, victory
I first wrote this article many years ago, but people have asked me to republish it time and time again, so here it is:
In Genesis…He is the Creator and the Seed of Woman that would overcome the Serpent
In Exodus…He is our Passover Lamb
In Leviticus…He is our High Priest, the Sacrifice for our sins, and our Cleanliness before God
In Numbers…He is the Cloud by day, the Fire by night, and the One High and Lifted Up
In Deuteronomy…He is the One True Prophet
In Joshua…He is the Captain of the Lord’s Army
In Judges…He is the Lawmaker, Judge and Jury
In Ruth…He is our Kinsman Redeemer
In 1 and 2 Samuel…He is the Prophet of the Lord
In 1 and Kings…He is our only King
In 1 and 2 Chronicles…He is the Source of Righteous Decisions and a Cleansing from Wrong
In Ezra…He is our Inerrant Scribe
In Nehemiah…He is the Repairer of Broken Down Walls and Lives
In Esther…He is our Advocate and Deliverer
In Job…He is our Dayspring and Living Redeemer
In Psalm…He is our Shepherd and our Song
In Proverbs…He is Wisdom Personified
In Ecclesiastes…He is the Goal of All Pursuit for Meaning
In the Song of Solomon…He is the Shepherd-Lover of our Souls
In Isaiah…He is the Coming Messiah and the Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah…He is the Righteous Branch
In Lamentations…He is the Weeping Prophet and the God of Faithfulness and Truth
In Ezekiel…He is the Son of Man and the Wheel within a Wheel
In Daniel…He is the Striking Stone and the Fourth Man in the Furnace
In Hosea…He is the Husband and Healer of the Backslider
In Joel…He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit
In Amos…He is the Heavenly Husbandman and Burden Bearer
In Obadiah…He is Our Savior
In Jonah…He is the Resurrection and the One Who Forgives
In Micah…He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet
In Nahum…He is the Avenger of God’ elect, the Stronghold in the Day of Trouble
In Habakkuk…He is the Great Evangelist, and the God of Our Salvation
In Zephaniah…He is the One Who Restores the Lost Heritage
In Haggai…He is the Desire of All Nations and the Cleansing Fountain
In Zechariah…He is the Fountain of Life and the Son Who Was Pierced for us
In Malachi…He is the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings
In Matthew…He is the promised Messiah
In Mark…He is the Wonder-working Servant
In Luke…He is the Son of Man
In John…He is the Word Made Flesh and God the Son
In Acts…He is the Ascended Lord, Voice from the Heavens and the Source of the Church
In Romans…He is the One Who Justifies
In 1 and 2 Corinthians…He is our Sufficient Lord
In Galatians…He is the One Who Brings Liberty from Sin and the Law
In Ephesians…He is the Christ of Great Riches and our All in All
In Philippians…He is our Joy and the Meeter of All Our Needs
In Colossians…He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily
In 1 and 2 Thessalonians…He is our Blessed Hope and the Coming King
In 1 and 2 Timothy…He is our Mentor and Mediator
In Titus…He is our Example and Devoted Pastor
In Philemon…He is our Friend and Brother
In Hebrews…He is our High Priest That Understands
In James…He is the Great Physician and Our Pattern for Daily Living
In 1 and 2 Peter…He is the Chief Cornerstone of Our Faith
In 1, 2 and 3 John…He is Love Everlasting
In Jude…He is the Lord coming with Ten Thousands of His Saints
In Revelation…He is the Lamb that was Slain, the Triumphant King, the Bridegroom, the Lord of Lords and the Final Say
How do you respond to a Savior like that? You surrender in worship to Him! No wonder we shout “He is Risen!”
Filed under: Articles | Tags: Baptist, Bible, Charity, Christian, church, generosity, giving, God, heart, Jesus, LHS, Liberal, love, Redskins, Tabernacle
Earlier this week, we listened as our very own Liberal High School Redskins played in the state basketball tournament. They played a great game and came just a mere few points from winning the contest to make it to the medal rounds of the tournament. As I listened to the game on the radio, I heard as the crowd seemed really into the game. Our Liberal crowd outnumbered the home team. I am pretty sure we out-cheered them as well.
This morning, I was reading my Bible and came across the following verse:
“Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord’s contribution for the work of the tent of meeting and for all its service and for the holy garments.” (Exodus 35:21, NASB95)
As I read this verse, I noticed what this had to say about Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. It says that their hearts stirred to be able to participate with God and contribute to the building of the Tabernacle, also called the Tent of Meeting.
As I thought about this reality, the following thoughts came to mind. First, this incident happened after the incident with the Golden Calf. God had told them they had sinned by worshipping another “god”. The people had struggled with not being able to see the God they worshipped and so they built a “god” they could look at, touch, and handle. God told them that they should worship no other “god” before the One, True, Living God. On top of that, God allowed them to build a Tabernacle so that they would have a place to visit Him, worship, offer sacrifices, come to hear from God, etc.
Next, God told them to bring items for the building of the Tabernacle, but only if their hearts were stirred with the forgiveness they had been offered, the presence of God in their midst, and His position as their Lord. How did the people react? Their hearts were stirred and they gave. And, boy, did they give! They gave so much that Moses had to issue a directive for the people to stop giving because they had way more than they needed.
“And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.” (Exodus 36:4–7, NASB95)
They gave until there was too much! That is amazing!
As I thought about this reality in light of my experience with the basketball game, I wondered, “What stirs my heart?” What really stirs my heart? Do I really believe that my church serves God? Does that stir my heart enough to help, to cheer them on, to give to make sure they have what they need to do the ministry God has called them to? Do I really believe that my church is doing the work of God’s ministry? Is my heart stirred to join with them in doing that ministry? Am I fanned into flame to see that I contribute to the work personally, familially, gift-wise, time-wise, or any other way? If not, why not? Does it mean that there is something wrong with them? Is there something wrong with me? What is going on?
I guess that my prayer has to be, “God, help my heart to be stirred by the things that stir Yours. Help me to enjoy the amusements of life, but help me to more enjoy musing on the things of You.” What stirs your heart?
Filed under: Articles | Tags: Baptist, Christ, Christian, church, death, faith, Friend, Friendship, God, grief, Heaven, help, hope, Jesus, legacy, love
Just this week, I have watched as a friend said goodbye to his father. His father was married for 70 years and was a deacon in his church for most of that time. He was a hard worker, a great father, an amazing husband, and a friend to his pastor.
Later this week, I will say goodbye to a friend that was a stalwart in our church. Her husband was the pastor at our church in its history for about 10 years and helped us to move to our current location. My friend, Edith Scruggs, was a delightful lady that always had a kind word for me, no matter how much I fumbled through my sermon. She was always complimentary of her church and a friend to those who were here. She was generous, helpful, and faithful.
As I reflect on these two saints, and many more that I have had the privilege to pastor over the years, I am encouraged by their example, amazed by their legacy, and a little envious that they get to see Jesus before me. I am encouraged by their example because they are proof that God is still at work around me. Both of these saints mentioned above were well into their 90’s and were still as faithful as their bodies would allow. They prayed when they could not attend. They gave when they could not go. They lifted others up when they needed someone to lift them out of bed.
Can I say that I want to be like them? I think I can say this and be okay because they emulate the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) They have shown a life dedicated to the display of the glory of God. They have taken seriously the call to put others before themselves and lay down their lives for their friends. They have shown what it means to be dedicated to their Lord and to love His Bride, the Church.
As I meditate on the legacy they have left behind, I have to admit to being a little intimidated. They both seemed to live for God seemingly effortlessly. They were so convinced of the reality of the presence and pleasure of God that they could do nothing but speak of Him often, share Him readily, serve Him humbly, love Him wholeheartedly, and represent Him faithfully. They have shown what it takes to be wholly His. As I struggle with managing a home, a church, trying to be all things to all people, I wonder if I will ever be grown into the stature they reached under the direction of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
All that being said, I realize they were not perfect. I realize that Edith and Dillan were not flawless. I think that gives me hope, but also challenges me at the same time. It is a comfort because it means that God can use me as He used them for His glory. It is a challenge because it means that I have no excuse for not submitting my life to God with the same abandon. It further challenges me to ask, “Am I follow Christ like they did?”
As I think about these two, and many other, saints that have gone on to glory, I am reminded of the words of Psalm 116:12-19:
“What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. O Lord, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, In the courts of the Lord’s house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!”
Thank you, friends, for the reminder to give God all that I am and all that I have!