Category Archives: Commandments

When the Church Chooses Country Over Christ

If the American church today had official colors, they would be red, white, and blue along with a sprinkling of stars. It is almost surprising that we don’t actually name it “The American Church,” rather than Baptist Church, or Methodist Church, or Presbyterian Church. It seems the church is more proud of its American heritage than with its denominational or historical heritage.

Several years ago I was scheduled to fill the pulpit for a pastor who was planning to be out of town on vacation. When I accepted the invitation, I simply checked my calendar to make sure I was available without noticing that it was Memorial Day Weekend. To be honest, as long as our family had no plans of being out of town on Sunday, it didn’t matter if it was a national holiday.

I prepared a sermon and showed up early, ready to preach.

Until the morning service began, I hadn’t given a thought to the fact it was Memorial Day. But the entire morning event was planned as an American celebration; patriotic songs, readings, and prayers. It was evident that I was the only one there that morning not prepared to pledge my allegiance to America.

I’m not denying that being an American citizen is a great thing. Like nearly every other American, there is no other place I’d rather live. However, that is not the reason the church gathers. America is not to be our object of worship on Sunday mornings (or any other morning for that matter).Freedom of Speech

To be honest, I’m often embarrassed by American Christians, and it is not because of sinful behavior, but by inconsistent beliefs. For example, there are many…

  • Christians who are more interested in permission to carry a gun than laying down their life for another.
  • Christians who are willing to support a politician whose lifestyle, words, and actions are incompatible with what Christ called us to be.
  • Christians who are willing to kill to protect their Second Amendment rights, but have no idea what the Second Commandment says.
  • Christians who insist on being tolerant, but then quickly scoff at conservatives and fundamentalists.
  • Christians who think they know all the answers because they have read the Bible.
  • Christians who believe the life of faith is all about believing and nothing about doing.
  • Christians who are hateful while claiming to hate the sin but love the sinner.

Many people in the history of this country have given up their life in the fight for freedom of speech. It is a freedom that should never be taken lightly because it is not available in many parts of the world. In fact, I feel safe in saying it is the most essential freedom for a free society. If I were a dictator of a country, it would be the first freedom I would remove. It is even more crucial than the right to bear arms. Many countries without gun control do not have freedom, but there are very few places where they have freedom of speech but still live under oppression.

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I’m Embarrassed to be a Christian

I was born a Christian. That’s not a theologically correct statement, but it is a reality. There was never a time in my life when I could not be identified as a Christian. My father was a preacher, and even though I don’t remember, obviously, it’s likely the first place I was taken after birth was to church. That was the only place my parents ever went in those days.

I grew up in the church. There was no such thing as a nursery or a children’s program. I went to “big church,” held in my mother’s arms until I could sit and then I was placed on the pew next to her side. I stayed there until I was old enough to get permission to sit with a friend and his mom, but it was always at church.Embarrassed

I was eight or nine years old when I was baptized into the Christian faith after I made a public profession of faith. However, that experience did nothing to change my life. I had always lived my life as a Christian, so the fact that I was now “official” made no difference.

I was taught, and I memorized scripture. It was pounded deep into my consciousness, and God’s word became the guiding moral code of my life. It continues to be my guide for living to this day.

All my friends were Christians. I had friends at school, of course, but in my younger days, even those school friends went to our church. We didn’t do extracurricular activities that interfered with church plans. I’m not complaining. I had many friends from church, and I still have contact with many of them. I have always been a Christian among Christians.

I’ve worked a few non-Christian jobs over the years, but none of them stuck. Most of my life has been spent working for the church or Christian organizations. Even now, as I’m self-employed, much of my work is focused on Christian stuff. I am most well-known in Christian circles, and most of my friends are Christian, even on Facebook. Continue reading

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Our Church Adventure Continues

The adventure that Sharon and I began a couple of years ago continued today at a Lutheran church. We have attended Catholic, Methodist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Independent, non-Denominational (although not sure the difference between those last two) and of course Baptist churches during that time. In fact, this was the second Lutheran church for us.

The first was somewhat unusual. It is the closest Lutheran congregation to our house, just a few blocks up the street. Although I have studied a great deal about Martin Luther in college and seminary, I knew little of the Lutheran church today. I expected to encounter a formal, liturgical style of worship, which is something I typically enjoy.

However, this particular Lutheran church was no different than any other church we have visited that is enamored with what is known as contemporary worship. It began with the first beat of the worship team. The base was so loud and the pounding so strong that Sharon almost had to leave.jesuscommunion

The most unusual thing that morning was the announcement that the men’s Bible study group would be meeting next week at a nearby brewery. If you attend and pay the twenty dollar entrance fee, you will not only be able to participate in Bible study, you will also receive two pints of their finest brew. That part does sound like something Martin Luther might have enjoyed, but it is not something I have ever encountered in church before.

But the Lutheran church we visited today was nothing like that. It was extremely liturgical, which I had deduced from their website, and I was looking forward to the experience. Although the liturgy was a little different than what I expected that was not the most noticeable thing about our church experience this morning. Continue reading

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Second Amendment or Second Commandment

If you did a survey among Americans who claim to be Christians, I’m confident more of them could identify the Second Amendment than could identify Jesus’ Second Commandment.

What, you didn’t realize Jesus had a list of commandments?

Jesus was quite persistent in resisting those who would make Him a legalist. They brought a woman to Him, directly from an adulterous bed, hoping to make Him choose legalism and obey the law. When asked why He allowed His disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, He moved beyond the reading of the law to the meaning of the law. After being called out for not washing His hands before a meal according to the rule of law, Jesus reminded His host that cleanliness comes from the heart, not from the wash basin.

Finally, Jesus was cornered by a lawyer. If you want to find a true legalist look for the nearest lawyer—that is what they do. The lawyer asked Jesus to identify the greatest law of Moses. He wanted to know what Jesus thought was the most important law.2nd ammendment

Since this man was an expert on the law, he already had an opinion on this issue. He was either expecting Jesus to confirm his own opinion, or to offer an opposing position that they could argue.

Jesus provided an answer that would be quite agreeable to the lawyer—love God with all your being. But He didn’t stop there, saying there is a second commandment of equal value. The second commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

That’s tough!

I think it means when my neighbor is hungry I should be just as diligent in feeding him as I am in feeding myself when I’m hungry.

I think it means when my neighbor is cold I should make every effort to keep him as warm as I do myself on a winter night.

I think it means when my neighbor is hurting because of a loss (a death, injury, or relationship) I should sit down and grieve with him.

I think it means when my neighbor has screwed up something I should be helping to make things right just like I want others to help me make things right.

I think it means when my neighbor is mean and angry I should forgive him just like I want to be forgiven.

I think it means when my neighbor has stupid opinions I should be gentle and understanding like I need others to treat me when I have stupid opinions.

I think it means I want the best for my neighbor just like I want the best for myself.

Jesus’ second commandment is a hard one, but it actually makes His first commandment visible. In other words, how does anyone know if I actually love God? I can tell you that I do, but I might be lying, perhaps even lying to myself. But in tying these two commandments together, Jesus gave us a way to show that we truly love God by revealing how much we love our neighbor.

Do you understand what that means? It means I cannot claim to love God unless I love my neighbor. If I don’t care about my neighbor’s hunger, or his lack of clothing, or his hurting, or his need for help and forgiveness then I don’t really love God.

Jesus’ Second Commandment might be one of the most important things He said.

It is sad that so many will wrap themselves in the protection of the Second Amendment yet fail to comprehend the Second Commandment. If you read them carefully they are almost opposite in meaning.

The Second Amendment is designed to allow me to protect myself, while the Second Commandment is designed to allow me to give myself to others.

The Second Amendment gives me license to kill someone who wants to steal my stuff, and the Second Commandment gives me license to give my stuff to anyone who needs it.

The Second Amendment focuses on my need to take care of myself (and my family), but the Second Commandment focuses my attention on the needs of others.

It causes me to wonder what would happen if Christians (just those who actually follow Jesus) were as adamant about demanding their Second Commandment rights as they are about the Second Amendment rights. Perhaps we would stop hating and killing one another and start loving and taking care of one another. Or more importantly, at least for me anyway, what would it mean if I took Jesus’ Second Commandment more seriously? How would that change my life? Perhaps it’s time to find out.

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