Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sin defined and Patriotism considered...

Just a few days ago some friends and I were discussing what sin is. Several of us see that sin is anytime, anytime at all, that we miss the mark of pleasing God.

One of the things I have noticed about sin is that we are drawn to it. We don't just suddenly get there. James says we are drawn away (from pleasing God) by our own hungers and desires, our lusts of various sorts. He also said that it takes time for that to become fully grown, but when it does, it is sin.

It is like coming to Jesus. Jesus said that if He was lifted up, then He would draw all men to Himself. Again, it is a process. First we introduce someone to Jesus and then they begin to see something compelling, something interesting in Him that increases their hunger to know Him better. Seeking to get to know Him is NOT discipleship. Choosing to follow Him as Lord and no one else IS discipleship. There are steps between being introduced and becoming a disciple - a growing process.

Since these are both processes, how can we tell them apart? It is actually not that hard. You just look where the process is leading you. Sin leads away from pleasing God. Jesus leads toward pleasing God.


Now that same group of friends and I who were discussing what sin is have also been discussing the role of national patriotism in the life of someone who submits to Jesus as their Lord. Jesus said, "Whoever loses his life for My (Jesus') sake, shall find it." But what does the patriot say? Lay down your life for your country. Tough choice, huh? Jesus or country?

When we claim to be both a disciple and a patriot for our physical nation, do we also become cats so that we seem to think we can lay down our lives more than once? Do we think Jesus was only speaking metaphorically? How real is dying to self? And does anyone question whether dying for their country is more than a metaphor?

In the first century, there was no metaphor in either case. You had to choose between dying for Jesus in the emperor's arena, or dying to Jesus and confessing the emperor as your god. Is there really any questioning that they could not choose both? One way lost self in order to live for Jesus and was sent to death by country, and the other way lost Jesus to preserve self in the service of emperor and country. There is no room to doubt that they had to make a very real choice between serving Jesus and serving Rome.

Jesus said you cannot serve both God and personal gain. You have to choose. If you try to serve two masters it is inevitable that you will fail. This is at the heart of why the health and wealth gospel is no real gospel at all. But some are also trying to tell us we can lay down our lives in service to both Jesus and country. Why can we not see the problem with this?

Does Jesus ever tell us to die for country? And if not, then who is it that has the power over our submission to Christ alone as Lord in order to tell us to die for country? Who competes for our lives - our loyalties - our allegiance? And if we pledge our lives to country, what is left to pledge to Jesus? Is He your life? or just a part of your life?

I know...I am not advocating the American patriot gospel. Shame on me, right?

Really? Shame on me for advocating that when we say ‘Jesus is my Lord’, we should really mean it??? What happens if and when there is a point of conflict between your patriotism and your devotion to Jesus?
What happens when your country (via your commanding officer) tells you to fight against and even kill a Christian brother or sister in an opposing nation's army? Where is our allegiance then? Surely their service to their country is as good as our own in God's eyes, right? If we can do both, then why can't they? Shall we choose country over one of God’s beloved?

We would consider it terrorism for someone to come into our assemblies and kill us all as patriotic Americans, right? We would consider it an act of war were someone to kill our soldiers, Christian or not, as they shared a prayer in a foxhole, right? How is it different if we do that to anyone else? Paul repented of killing Christians. He lost his life for Jesus only to later lose his head in the deal. Did he then ever seek to justify continuing to kill fellow followers of Jesus as being the actions of a good Jewish Christian? Did he keep on killing Christians in the service of his nation of Israel, or did he mean it when he chose allegiance to Jesus instead of allegiance to Israeli patriotism? What makes us think that our choice is to be any different than Paul’s choice?

I do not question the sincerity of those Christians who choose to go to war for their country. I do question their judgment and their understanding of what Jesus was and is all about. And it doesn’t make any difference to me what country it is that we are considering, even if it is the one where I was born and first heard the gospel. In Christ there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. I try to be a good citizen, but when it comes right down to it, I choose Jesus over nation every time. Jesus is my Lord. My nation of residence is not my Lord.

What say you? Can someone be a nationalistic patriot and a Christian at the same time and do honor to both? Share your thoughts…

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blog Reviews (1) Berean Spirit friends

There are hundreds of good blogs out here in cyberspace. And it seems all are competing for your attention, to varying degrees. What makes a good blog? What draws in the casual reader or the one with a focused interest?

I have to confess that I really do not know the answers to those questions. Something about peeking in at someone else's ruminations piques the interest. After all, there are hundreds of very specialized chat groups on YahooGroups and other sites like it. But a blog...well, it just seems more personal. It is an open invitation to anyone who cares to look to see our deeply held convictions and reflections on things. Even the comments left behind by visitors is interesting, even riveting, at times. Why? I believe we all like to see whether anyone else shares our thoughts about what we have just read...and see how they difffer from our views, too.

So today I am reviewing a few of the blogs I have read recently. Some I subscribe to and some I just found while looking around.

One of the first blogs I ever read was and is written by Bobby Cohoon. Bobby's blog examines mostly topics of religious interest and offers some insights into his heart. I have enjoyed reading Bobby's blogs from time to time (I am about as regular at blog-reading as I am at posting my own). He challenges my thinking and he offers some good thinking about why he believes as he does. Also, Bobby was one of the first, if not the first, to encourage me to write a blog of my own. But please don't blame Bobby when you disagree with me. How could he have known how his encouragement of me would turn out? Do we ever know just what an encouraging word might mean to another? (Sounds like a good blog topic to me....and I wonder how many have already addressed that thought? LOL)

One of my other long-time blogs of choice to read is written by John Dobbs. John is a southern preaching minister (meaning servant) for a church of Christ, until recently with one located on the gulf of Mexico. Their experiences during Katrina first drew my attention to John's blog, but his reflections on what it means to live out the life of a follower of Jesus are what have kept me coming back over and over. John is a doer, and not just a thinker. And I find that incredibly compelling.

One of my oldest and best friends has a web page that gives updates on what is going on with the congregation of saints he serves as Senior Pastor over in the Quad Cities area of Northwestern Illinois/Southeastern Iowa, right along the Mississippi River. You can listen to his sermons and watch the occasional video of congregational lfe that he posts there, but I do not know if he has a blogsite. I think I would enjoy that if he did. Chuck Dorsey is a D.Min. degree holder, and he goes by Pastor Chuck on his website, but he'll always be Chuck to me. We grew up together in Central Illinois and went away to different colleges and then returned to Central Illinois to preach and serve and raise our families. He has been a friend through some of the toughest moments of my life and he lets me challenge his thinking and he challenges mine as few people I have ever known do for one another. Whether playing pool, knocking around ping-pong balls or ust hanging out, he is and has been one of my closest friends. I really do wish he had a blogsite to review. Maybe he does and I've just missed it. I kind of doubt it, though.

Tim Archer is another fellow whose blog I've really enjoyed. Both the title and content of his blogs are fun and thoughtful and often provocative. Tim is the only one I am reviewing here besides Chuck whom I have met in person outside in the real world. I met him in Kansas City last year during the North American Christian Convention and we had some great visits at the booth he hosted for the Herald of Truth organization. What a tremendous heart he has!

I reccommend that anyone who even mildly enjoys reading my scattered thoughts take the time and Google these fellows and find their blogs. If I knew a bit more about how to do it, I would offer links to their blogs and websites. As it is, I just wanted to let you know that if it seems like I don't get back here with any regularity, it is because i have been spending time with these fellows and their thoughts...and the fact that I am a lazy writer in this venue. If you feel inclined to hear from me more often, perhaps you should come on over to the Berean Spirit forum on YahooGroups and join the conversation. Most there will tell you I hardy ever shut up! LOL

Maybe that is why I don't write more here.....

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Smelly, Needy, Fickle ... Sheep!

At the fellowship I attend regularly here in NW Indiana, we are studying the 23rd Psalm. It has been a blessing, even though I memorized this psalm over 40 years ago and have never forgotten it. And even though I have some great new tools now to apply to my study, I find that it is the simple expression of a shepherd who is being led by the Good Shepherd that still moves me. In fact, the deeper I get into the text, the more those simple lessons make sense to my fuzzy brain.

Still, it occured to me recently to do something I don't remember ever doing before with this psalm. I asked myself, what did Jesus do with this psalm? And then I began to search for quotations from Jesus or applications made by Jesus that build on the truth revealed in this psalm. What I found was Matthew account that I was familiar with, but had never really considered in light of the 23rd Psalm. So my next blog will be posted with the ways I think these two passages relate. Until then, please read Psalm 23 and then look for some passages of interest to you that bring this psalm into play in Jesus' life as told in the gospels of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John. I would really enjoy seeing what you find in a comment or two, any length you may desire.

And if you need some help understanding the word pictures and parallelisms in this beautiful inspired poetry, I would suggest that Philip Keller's book (A Shepherd Looks At The 23rd Psalm) will be a good read for you.