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Monday, July 27, 2015

Christmas in July

Disturbed, Disinterested, or Devoted
Matthew2:1-12

Introduction
            Sometimes we get so busy in the Christmas season it’s hard to actually enjoy Christmas.  That's why I want to look at the Christmas story in July.  Maybe now, in the middle of summer, you may see/hear Christmas a little differently.
            Last Christmas, I was studying and preparing for a sermon, when I discovered a fascinating insight in William Barclay’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  It did not go with my message at the time, but I set the idea aside specifically for “Christmas in July.”  So this message has been over 8 months in the making and you are reading it today for a reason.  I pray you will listen to what the Lord is saying specifically to you. 

Matthew 2:1-12
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
An Outsider’s View
            Sometimes it takes an outsider to see something everyone else takes for granted.  The Wisemen in our story were outsiders to the Holy Land.  Also known as Magi, these men were probably astrologers from what is now modern day Iran.  They spent their life studying the stars and planets for omens to predict important events on earth.  The Wisemen saw something so phenomenal it inspired them to take a journey of thousands of miles on foot (or camel).  It would have taken months to make the trip to see the child they believed was born King of the Jews. It would have required numerous stops along the way for rest, resupply, bathroom breaks, and maintenance (you know you have to change the oil in the camel every three months!).  All this for a “King” you never met before, but only read about in the stars.  How far would you go to meet Jesus?  Obviously, the Wisemen had high hopes for this new king.
            By the time they arrived in Jerusalem, the Wisemen expected everyone to know about the momentous birth of their “New King.”  And yet, no one seems to know anything about Jesus.  And as the Wisemen tell what they have seen in the stars, the people in the story soon gather into three different groups according to how they respond to the news of Jesus birth.  And ever since Jesus came, people have found themselves in the same three groups according to how they react to Christ--people are either disturbed, disinterested, or deeply devoted. 

Deeply Disturbed
            Some people—like King Herod—are deeply disturbed by Christ because they fear he might interfere with their life.  So they seek to silence or destroy Christ.  King Herod was a ruthless ruler who held onto his power despite the highly fragile political realities in which he governed.  The Roman Empire had conquered Judea, but allowed King Herod to rule autonomously—as long as he remained loyal and kept the volatile people of his kingdom in check.  Herod faced threats from outside from the Roman authorities who could depose him at any time as well as threats from within from political opponents, as well as violent extremists and religious fanatics who rejected Herod’s legitimacy to rule.  Herod maintained his power for decades, despite these obstacles, by ruling with an iron fist.  Not knowing who he could trust, Herod became paranoid that everyone was out to get him.  So he disposed of anyone who made him feel vulnerable or threatened.  The list of people Herod murdered to maintain his power included his wife, his mother-in-law, his eldest son, and two of his other sons.  The Roman Emperor, Augustus, remarked bitterly that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than his son.[i]
            Can you imagine how an insanely suspicious and murderous king like Herod would receive the Wisemen’s news that a “new” King of the Jews had been born?  He was deeply disturbed.  “Herod was afraid that this little child would interfere with his life, his place, his power, his influence, and therefore his first instinct was to destroy him.”[ii]
            William Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage, “There are still those who would gladly destroy Jesus Christ, because they see in him the one who interferes with their lives.  They wish to do what they like, and Jesus will not let them do what they like; and so they would kill him.  The man whose one desire is to do what he likes has never any use for Jesus Christ.  The Christian is the man who has ceased to do what he likes, and has dedicated his life to do as Christ likes.”[iii]
            There is a loud voice crying out in our world today that says we deserve to live as we please—that we have the right to satisfy our desire—even if it goes against God’s Word and natural design.  The same misguided voice proclaims that to deny ourselves is unhealthy, a denial of our individuality, and to be inauthentic and untrue to ourselves.  But Christ says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In time, as Christ heals our selfish hearts, we may find that we come to love to do what Christ likes.  But it is often not so in the beginning.
            You may be disturbed by Christ because you fear he will interfere with your life.  Are you going to embrace him and let him change you, or are you going to try to destroy and silence him? 

Deeply Disinterested
            Some people are disinterested in Jesus; they don’t care one way or another.  The scribes and chief priests were so engrossed in their politics, their “religious” rituals, and their legal disputes, that they completely disregarded Jesus.  He meant nothing to him—except only to the extent that news of Christ’s birth disturbed their king Herod’s fragile personality which in turn disrupted their own status quo.
            Again, Barclay writes, “There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them.”[iv]  There are many who think, “Who has time to worry about ‘religion?’  I don’t need Jesus.  I can do just fine on my own.  I’ll leave all that spiritual nonsense to the religious fanatics, the poor, and the uneducated.  I don’t have time for it.”
            Sadly, it often is not until same terrible tragedy comes in a person’s life that they will become interested in Jesus.  When cancer strikes or a love one dies unexpectedly, then suddenly people begin to cry out to a God they had little interest in before.
            I am a kind person, but I find myself in a strange place sometimes—praying for people who are deeply disinterested in Jesus.  Sometimes I must pray for God to send trials and tribulations that are trying enough to shake people out of their apathy so they will become interested in Jesus before it is too late.
            Are you one of these disinterested people?  What will it take to wake you from your spiritual slumber so you recognize your deep need for the love and power of Christ?  I pray it will not take some terrible tragedy.  Why not turn your thoughts and interests to him today? 

Deeply Devoted
            And finally, there is a third group—those who are deeply devoted to Christ.  Barclay wrote, “There was the reaction of the wise men, the reaction of adoring worship, the desire to lay at the feet of Jesus Christ the noblest gifts which they could bring.  Surely, when any man realizes the love of God in Jesus Christ, he, too, should be lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
            The Wisemen followed the star to the ends of the earth to find the King of kings.  How far are you willing to go?  The Good News is, you don’t have to go far.  Jesus is right here, right now.  He ordained this day long ago as the day you would have the opportunity to bow down and worship Christ—to decide in your heart, “I want to dedicate my life to following Christ—to go where he leads me, to do what he wants of me.” 

Invitation
            The Wisemen presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  But what Christ wants from you is your heart.  Which type of person are you today?  As you react to Jesus, are you deeply disturbed, deeply disinterested, or deeply devoted?  Now is the time to decide.  Now is the time to respond.



[i] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew Volume 1, revised edition; page 29
[ii] Ibid.; page 30
[iii] Ibid.; page 30
[iv] Ibid.; page 30

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guest Blog - 6 Steps to be a Cool Christian


While I was out of town on vacation, Pleasant Grove's totally awesome music minister, David Crawford, preached about how to be a cool Christian.  He graciously agreed to let me share his message on my blog today.  Enjoy!
Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When I read this it makes me wonder about how we “fit in” with society. I mean if we are to have enough influence to persuade someone that they should give their life to Christ, then surely they must respect us as a member of society, or at least their social circle. And our influence within society, or our social circle, will be greater if we don’t appear to be strange, odd, out of sorts with reality, or lost in space. I would think we need to have a modicum of normality, and perhaps even a bit of “cool” if we are to persuade someone else they would benefit from being more like us with regard to living out our Christian beliefs. So, can one be cool and Christian at the same time?

If not sooner, then usually by middle school, we all start noticing where we fit in socially, and most of us would like for the people we are around to think that we are “cool”. We want to fit in, and be accepted. And while the awkwardness of adolescence and our mission to be popular or cool doesn’t last forever, we always want others to respect who we are and what we are striving to be. While it may not be our main focus, even now, we want those with whom we associate to think we are cool. So how do we reconcile being cool, with being a Christian? Are they at odds with one another?
So, naturally the first thing I did was go to Google and type in “Cool Christians.” And one of the search results that caught my eye was something called “Hipster Christians” and I was intrigued. The “Hipster Christian” churches actually have a checklist you can follow to make sure you are staying cool while practicing your faith and here are some of the items that made the list:
  • Get the church involved in social justice and creation care. (Okay, I’m down with that)
  • Show clips from R-rated Coen Brothers films (e.g., No Country for Old Men, Fargo) during services. (Hmmm)
  • Sponsor church outings….(sounds good) to microbreweries……(really?)
  • Put a worship pastor onstage decked in clothes from American Apparel.
  • Print bulletins only on recycled cardstock. (Ehh, yeah I guess, that’s better)
  • Use Helvetica fonts as much as possible. (I had know idea I was such a rebel)

This wasn’t exactly the direction I felt pulled in, so I abandoned the hipster Christian train and searched, instead, for how to be cool. I wanted to see what a secular site had to say about how to be cool.

I found a wiki (I feel cool just saying the word "wiki") on how to be cool in school, and I thought I’d see if their advice was reconcilable with my Christian beliefs and ideals. I picked six of the steps to share with you today. I think you might be surprised, I was.

Secular Coolness Step 1: Don’t just think about it — do it. It’s all very well to read books and blogs about self-improvement, but you have to actually get out there and apply the theories that resonate with you. Let’s replace a few words there and it reads like this instead: It’s all very well to read the Bible, but you have to actually get out there and apply its teachings.

It would appear the first step in being cool within society sounds a lot like verse 20 in the 2nd chapter of James: “But are you willing to recognize, that faith without works is useless?”

Secular Coolness Step 1 continues: Do it! It’s scary but so, invigorating. Who knows who you’ll meet and what they might be able to offer you?

Stepping out can be scary. Expressing your opinion on a subject, especially religion, can open you up to ridicule and you risk a piece of your pride, but it is worth it, and while the first step to secular coolness ends with what you may gain from putting yourself out there, as Christians we must deviate a little from their script and I would challenge you to imagine what the people we share the good news with will gain, and perhaps scariest of all, what the people we do not share the word with may lose.

Thinking things through before jumping the gun is a great trait. But thinking things through and then not doing anything won't get you anywhere.

So the first step in secular coolness is to take action. And a major component of our Christian faith is to take action.

Secular Coolness Step 2: Be yourself. It will be something that other people will look up to. You are unique, and you don't need to join a clique. Make your own friendships.  Don't try to be like anyone else by copying someone else's moves or act. Live life for who you are. Don't lose sight of yourself or your morals. Being cool isn't about changing who you are, its about being confident enough to let people see how awesome you really are.

My dad always said, “Be who you is, ‘cause if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.” But sometimes we don’t feel like we are awesome enough to be “cool”. Not a problem, because Psalm 139: 14 and 15 says, "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth..."

The article continues by saying, “If you don't let people see the real you, then what's the point? Being able to be yourself and to have people appreciate you is the coolest thing of all.” So let’s play the old word replacement game and say it like this, “If you don’t let people see the real you, and you have been made new in Christ, how will the world see Christ in you and come to know Him as their personal Savior?” 

Secular Coolness Step 3: Speak up. Observe people who are "cool"; they usually speak confidently and clearly, at a good pace. They don't chatter rapidly, pause, say uh, um..., or mumble. They say what they mean, and mean what they say. Be confident in your word and don't let anyone try to change it. If you state your opinion and people disagree, don't worry. Say what you feel and people will respect you for that, unless you say it knowing it will offend someone. Don't shout out your opinion just to be heard. Make sure it's relevant, and be ready to back it up soundly.

If speaking up and speaking confidently is cool, then I believe Paul is one of the coolest people in history, because Colossians 4:3 says, “...praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned..." Yep, you heard that right, he was in prison for speaking the living word, and while in prison he was praying he would get the chance to speak the word again to someone else who needed to hear it. I also like what the article says about people disagreeing with your opinion: the article says, “don’t worry.” I think sometimes we feel like if we speak about our faith or share the living word, and we are rejected or rebuffed, then somehow we have failed. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER THAN THE TRUTH. We plant the seed. God makes it grow.


Secular Coolness Step 4: Keep your "cool". The very definition of cool is being calm, composed, under control, not excited, and socially adept. This is especially true right now with so many highly controversial issues blazing through our society. There are people out there who will purposefully try to “get us going” when they find out we are Christians. They try to “set us off” by “setting us up” with questions about these controversial subjects. It is our job to remain calm. Know what we believe and be able to back it up with scripture, doctrine, and our beliefs. It is also ok to admit that we may not have the answer, but we trust in our God and know He is in control. I would say that most, if not all of us, have been fired up by someone pushing the right buttons, but if we can remain cool, it will be more apparent that we have faith in someone bigger and more powerful than all of our problems. And according to Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute."  So there must be something to staying cool. 


Secular Coolness Step 5: Have faith in your friends. There’s a reason they hang around you. The personality traits you may think make you socially awkward, may be the very quirks they find endearing. If you want to be cool, then you have to believe that the people around you genuinely like you and find your relationship meaningful. Remember that it's not cool to hang out with people who you think are cool just because you think it'll make you cool by proxy. Life doesn't work that way.

Another aspect is to consider the people who make up your social and work related circles. We have all been given gifts and abilities that we use to help build God’s kingdom on earth, as well as make a living within our community. Those gifts and interests have drawn you to a certain group of people and similar people are drawn to you because of your gifts and abilities. Contractors don’t always run in the same social circles as ballet companies. Because we are varied in our interests and abilities we have a chance to reach a multitude of people from very diverse social circles. Embrace where you are and look for opportunities within your circle to witness through your actions and when the occasion arises by sharing words of faith. The friends who make up your circle will be there for you. After all, they are your friends.

Jesus said it like this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Secular Coolness Step 6: Don't be afraid to be different. Whether that means defending someone else, or taking interest in something that no one else does, like playing an instrument, try to be different and stand out. (16) The coolest people are the ones who occasionally break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Take that last statement and change coolest to Christian. The Christian people are the ones who break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Most of us have been involved in that conversation. You know, the one where everyone seems to be agreed in a course of action, or an opinion is shared by the majority; and then there you go having to interject your Christian morals and beliefs making everyone reevaluate their position. It is not always met with kindness, instead it is usually met with exasperated sighs, but it is the Christian thing to do, AND it is cool when you are part of redirecting a situation onto a Christ-like path.


So, can you be cool and be a Christian? I don’t think you can be a Christian without being cool. One of the online dictionaries defines cool as fashionably attractive or impressive. As I look out on the congregation I don’t think we need to worry about fashion or attractiveness, ya’ll are a pretty good lookin’ bunch. So I think we are talking about cool being impressive. And there’s really no denying Jesus was impressive. He calmed the storms, He turned water into wine, He healed the sick, raised the dead and saved the entire human race. That’s impressive, that’s cool, and that’s who promised to be with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We walk with Jesus because we are Christians. Because we are Christians we strive to be like Christ. We are most like Christ when we are least like ourselves and we surrender our body to the will of God. And in those moments we are cool and it is cool. Not because of who we are or what we do, but because of whose we are and what He can do through us for the rest of the world.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Far I Can Go

Since I didn't preach a sermon at church yesterday, I thought I'd share something I wrote a couple years ago as I was grieving for a family that left my church because they disagreed with the United Methodist Church's stance on homosexuality.  This was what was in my heart and remains on my heart for the family and others like them.

How Far I Can Go
You don't understand how far I would go for you.
I can love you.  I can laugh with you,
cry with you, dance with you.
But I can't call what wrong right for you. 

I can serve you, worship with you, put you to work and work for you.
I could trust you, depend on you,
pray for you, be prayed for by you.
But I can't call what's right wrong for you. 

I could eat with you, sit with you, smile with you,
unite my heart with you, commune with you.
I can study with you, learn with you, teach you and learn from you.
I can lean on you, fight for you, suffer for you and die for you. 

But I can't call what's wrong right for you.
And I won’t call what’s right wrong for you.
You just don't know how far I want go for you,
but I can't call what's wrong right for you. 

I love you too much.
 
 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Fifth Commandment

Exodus 20:12

Introduction
This is the fifth message in a series of ten sermons on the Ten Commandments.  The Fifth Commandment says, “Honor your father and mother.”   I challenge you to learn all ten this summer.

The Ten Commandments:
  1. Do not worship any God except the Lord.
  2. Do not make idols of any kind.
  3. Do not misuse the name of the Lord.
  4. Remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
  10. Do not covet.
Today we will look at the Fifth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:12
12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

This verse has two parts.  First is the commandment—honor your father and mother.  Next is the promise—[if you do this] …you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  The Fifth Commandment is the first commandment with a promise.  Remember, this commandment was originally written for the Hebrew people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land God was giving them.  In order to keep that land and to live the full, abundant life God wanted for them, they would need to remember how God delivered them.  That’s easier for the generation that lives through the miracles.  (I don’t think I would ever forget if I had seen the Red Sea split in half with my own eyes as I crossed over it with my own feet.)  But historical events would eventual become stories that were passed down to children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.  If the events were to be remembered and trusted as, the children would need to honor their parents retelling of the tales—to trust their word that the events actually happened.  Furthermore, the younger generations would have to accept the faith and ideals of their elders and continue to walk with the Lord in order to secure their place in the Promised Land.  Even today, we have much to learn from the wisdom and ideals of our parents.  We do well to honor them.

Honor
The Hebrew word for Honor is pronounced [Kabowd].”  Kabod is the noun Hebrews used for the liver, which is the heaviest internal organ in the human body.  (It is also a very important organ.  If you lose your liver, you are going to die!)  When used as a verb, Kebod means to be heavy in the sense of respect.  If you don’t honor something, you might say you “take it too lightly.”  To honor something, would mean to treat it as a weighty matter.  Does that make sense?  To honor your parents means we treat them as people of great importance.
You can honor someone even if you don’t agree with them.  The command to honor our parents doesn’t necessarily mean blind obedience.  For instance, let’s look at how we honor our country.  Even though we “honor our country” it does not mean we blindly agree with everything our country does.  When we honor, it means we give serious consideration to what the state says, considering the heavy burden of leadership our government officials bear, considering the great sacrifices soldiers have made for our nation, considering the hardships of our forefathers who tried to create a more perfect union, and so we refuse to take our national heritage lightly.  We may disagree, we may debate, we may at times even disobey, but we should always be respectful, showing honor to those who represent our great nation.
In a similar way, we honor our fathers and mothers.  It is not blind obedience or subordination.  To honor your father and mother means to treat them with the appropriate seriousness.  It is sometimes easy to think nothing really important happened until “we” came along.  I mean, my grandparents died having never owned a computer and they never even heard of a cell phone or Facebook.  It would be easy to relegate them and their ideas to irrelevance in my own mind.  But that kind of generational narcissism, taking previous generations lightly and thinking they have nothing relevant to offer us, is not only disrespectful, it is detrimental to my own life.  My father and mother—and all the previous generations—have tremendous wisdom to offer our times, wisdom they earned through generations of accumulated practical experience.  Older generations may actually see some things in our times more clearly precisely because they are less affected by contemporary cultural influences.  Therefore, you should honor your father and mother—taking them and their ideas seriously and treating them with the deep consideration they deserve.

But What About Bad Parents?
The truth is, some parents have not lived lives worthy of adoration.  Some fathers abandon their children.  Some mothers are abusive.  Some people follow a reckless path of godless living, leaving their children to pick up the pieces.  God is not suggesting we should imitate them just because they are our parents nor is God commanding us to honor their dishonorable behavior.  Yet even if our parents were dishonorable in whole or part, we can still honor the position.  Just as a soldier must salute a superior officer he does not like or who is not a good officer, you can honor your parents simply because they hold the honorable position of father or mother—even if they have not done the job well.  By honoring our parents, we honor all parents and we glorify God who gave parents authority and the task of raising children.
Practical Ways to Honor
I want to give you some practical ways to honor your parents.  I hope you will get in the habit of doing some of these.  Think of it like this, “What would you do to honor a dignitary who visited your home?  What would you do if the Queen of England or some other important person came to visit?”  You should hold your father and mother in the same esteem.  They should be the most honored persons in your life.  Treat them with the appropriate dignity.
First of all, spend time with them on their agenda, not yours.  Visit and call them regularly.  You might love spending time with your parents.  On the other hand, you might not enjoy being around them all that much.  Never-the-less, spend time with them—even if you just sit in silence—as a way of honoring them.  It shows they are important to you—important enough to give them your time.  Time is one of the most precious gifts we can give.  Your parents gave tremendous amounts of their time to raise you.  Now, it’s your turn to honor them with your time.
Second, be patient.  Recognize that your parents needed great patience to care for you when you were a child.  When you were an infant, you probably pooped and peed and vomited on them.  When you were a toddler, you threw temper tantrums in grocery stores and mortified your parents in front of strangers.  When you were a teenager, you broke their hearts.  Through all these life phases, your parents had to be tremendously patient with you.  So now return the favor.  Be patient with your parents—even if they don’t deserve it.  
Third, be respectful.  When you disagree with your parents, do it respectfully.  If they make you mad, be gentle.  Refuse to look down on them.  Don’t speak negatively of them.  Don’t do anything that would cause them shame.  Deliberate speak well of them to others—both in their presence and in their absence.  Protect their dignity and defend their honor.  If someone speaks badly of them, speak up on their behalf.  Honor your father and mother.
Fourth, help your parents.  Drive them to the doctor or go with them to get groceries.  Help them fix something on their house or car.  Assist them with chores or cook dinner for them.  You might even help pay some of their bills.  There are a multitude of practical things you can do to help your parents.  Look for ways to do favors for them that will be an expression of your honor for them.
Finally, celebrate your parents.  As a pastor, I frequently go to funerals where people pay tribute to all the best qualities of their parents.  Why wait until the funeral to pay tribute to your parents?  Why not do it while they are still alive and can appreciate it?  Don’t wait!  Do it now!  Tell your parents how much you appreciate them.  You might think they already know, but tell them anyway—do it again and again.  And don’t stop there.  Honor them in front of other people by thanking them publicly and extolling their best qualities.  Here’s an idea, write and present a tribute.  Sit down and take some time to think about all your parents’ best qualities.  List all the things you appreciate and admire about them most.  When you’re finished, have it professionally typed and framed and present it to your parents by reading it to them publicly at a special gathering of friends and family.  Wouldn’t that be a great way to honor your parents?
Conclusion
Honor your father and mother and it will go well with you.  Your Heavenly Father will be pleased and reward you.  Your own children will see your example and be encouraged to treat you with the same honor and respect.  Others will be encouraged to act honorably and a rising tide of honor for all will again fill our land and it will be a better place to live.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell... The Christian Flag

John 18:33, 36a - 33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. 

            Last week, we enjoyed a great time with a wonderful group of kids at Vacation Bible School at Pleasant Grove UMC.  Each evening, we began with an assembly where we said the pledges of allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible.  That got me thinking about the Christian flag and where it came from.  So I did a little research and thought I would share what I found.  The following excerpts are from Wikipedia.com.

 The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom, and has been most popular among Christian churches in North America, Africa and Latin America. The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus. The white represents Jesus' purity. In conventional vexillology, a white flag is linked to surrender, a reference to the Biblical description of Jesus' non-violence and surrender to God.

The Christian Flag was first conceived on September 26, 1897, at Brighton Chapel on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in the United States. The superintendent of a Sunday school, Charles C. Overton, gave an impromptu lecture to the gathered students, because the scheduled speaker had failed to arrive for the event. He gave a speech asking the students what a flag representing Christianity would look like. Overton thought about his improvised speech for many years afterward. In 1907, he and Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary of the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, designed and began promoting the flag.

Some churches practice a "pledge of allegiance" or "affirmation of loyalty" to the Christian Flag, which is similar to the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. The first pledge was written by Lynn Harold Hough, a Methodist minister who had heard Ralph Diffendorfer, secretary to the Methodist Young People's Missionary Movement, promoting the Christian flag at a rally. He wrote the following pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; one brotherhood, uniting all mankind in service and in love.”


            Flags are used to rally our loyalty.  To which “kingdom” are you most loyal?  Is it your family?  Is it your southern heritage?  Is it the country in which you grew up?  Is it your favorite college football team?  Is it the branch of the military in which you served?  All these earthly “kingdoms” will one day cease.  Perhaps you should switch your allegiance to something eternal—to Jesus and his Kingdom.  Of course, I am no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…
God loves you and so do I!