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Where Is Your Allegiance?

….Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven…. –Paul, Philippians 3:20b-21a, NIV.

A few months ago, I saw some articles about a movement among some Protestant congregations to put a Christian flag in a place of prominence over the flag of the United States, contrary to the protocol of always displaying the Stars and Stripes in the preeminent place: on a pole, it is the top flag; on a podium, it is to the right of the speaker, etc.

This was largely in response to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding homosexual marriages. It was those congregation’s way of saying that God’s authority is greater than the authority of any human court. They said, “After all, the pledge of allegiance to flag says, ‘…one nation, under God…, and that’s what we are showing.”

This, of course, is in keeping with the statement of the Apostles when they were ordered by the Supreme Court of Judea, the elders of the Sanhedrin, not to speak or act any more in the name of Jesus. They responded:

We must obey God rather than men…. –Peter, Acts 5:29a, NIV.

This is not to say that Christians are not to respect the laws of the nations in which they live. Even when Nero was the Roman Emperor, Paul wrote to the church in Rome that they should “be subject to the powers that be,” for God had put them in place to maintain order in society (Romans 13:1ff). Paul also took advantage of his Roman citizenship when a Jewish mob threatened to kill him, even appealing to Caesar for judgment.

This does emphasize that our final allegiance is to God, not to any human government. This ultimate submission to God is the basis for the following “Christian Pledge of Allegiance.”

“I pledge allegiance to the Father of the united saints of the kingdom, — and to the Redeemer by Whom we stand — One Body, unified in Spirit, indivisible, with liberty and love for all.”Al Maxey



I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

Whatever is meant by this, it cannot mean “united in the same opinions.” If that were so, then the church would be hostage to the opinions of the most opinionated, stuborn, and self-willed members! In other words, it would require Continue reading

Question: She Got Married to Help Someone Stay in the U.S.A. Is It O.K. Now for Her to Sleep With Any One She Chooses?

I received this question in a comment to an earlier post:

Red Question Mark

I have a step daughter who married a guy so he could stay in the U.S.A. she keeps saying its ok for her to sleep with whom ever she wants because of this. I am worried that she is sinning when saying and doing this. What should i do or say about this. Is she right or wrong. I have researched it but can’t find the answer anywhere. Please help if you can. Thank you.

Marriage is too sacred to be treated so lightly. It is one of God’s greatest gifts to man, a gift that changed God’s verdict on his original creation from “Good” to “Very Good.”

Yet, it is something the human race as a whole has treated casually.

To marry a “guy so he could stay in the U.S.A.” makes someone else’s staying in this country of greater importance than one’s own citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. Then to say, “…it’s o.k. to sleep with whom ever she wants because of this” (I guess the ‘this’ there is the sham of a marriage?) flies in the face of all God has said about how the two sexes are to relate to one another.

God’s plan for marriage is that it be between a man and a woman “until death do us part.” They are to be faithful to each other. They are to honor and respect each other. Indeed, they are to love one another.

As a single person, did she justify sleeping with whomever she chose? Is the fact that her “marriage” is a “sham” her justification now? What makes her believe God has no advice for her on this sort of conduct?

What does her father say about this? What you will be able to say to her will depend much on the sort of relationship you have with her, as well as how her father feels about her actions.

It is tragic that so many have sold themselves so cheaply, so many that the American culture in general thinks there is nothing at all to be concerned with in a promiscuous lifestyle. They believe God just doesn’t want them to have any fun, without stopping to think that as the One who created sex just might have some ideas about how it should be used without abusing it.

In marriage, it is a part of the glue that binds a couple together. It can deepen the love-relationship between the married couple. Outside of marriage, unbridled sex ends up hurting people – often, many people. The biblical word for what your daughter is doing is fornication. This means any immoral or forbidden sexual activity; that is, it is any sex without the commitment of marriage.

Of course, the world in general scoffs at this. That makes about as much sense as scoffing at the auto-maker’s recommendation that the oil level in the crankcase is important to the functioning of the car. You ignore the maker’s recommendations at your own peril, and we ignore God’s teachings at our own peril as well.

You are right to be concerned. I wish I could tell you how to handle the situation, but it sounds as if your step-daughter is headstrong and unlikely to listen to any council from you. Hopefully she will grow up and begin to act like a real adult instead of the plastic adulthood she seems to be living, the kind of sophomoric “adulthood of an “Adult Bookstore.” God is a loving God who still loves her in her rebellion. He loves her so much that Jesus lived and died to save her from herself. To the woman taken in adultery, he said, “Go and sin no more.” (See John 8:1-11.) I believe he would say the same to your step-daughter.

Enter to Win a Set of Seven N. T. Wright Classics from Eerdmans

I’m a fan of N.T. Wright, though sometimes he is heavy going to read. I challenge anyone to read any of his books, though, and come away empty.


He’s a brilliant scholar. A respected church leader. A best-selling author.

N. T. Wright is . . . well, according to Christianity Today’s April cover story (“Surprised by N. T. Wright“):

People who are asked to write about N. T. Wright may find they quickly run out of superlatives. He is the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation. Some say he is the most important apologist for the Christian faith since C. S. Lewis. He has written the most extensive series of popular commentaries on the New Testament since William Barclay. And, in case three careers sound like too few, he is also a church leader, having served as Bishop of Durham, England, before his current teaching post at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

But perhaps the most significant praise of all: When Wright speaks, preaches, or writes, folks say they see Jesus, and lives are…

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In my work with Eastern European Mission, I talk with people who (as I do) bemoan the fact that teachers in public schools are not allowed to talk about God, or even have a Bible  lying on their desks. This especially follows a  presentation about our opportunities to put Bibles into the public schools of Ukraine, Russian, and other nations on a smaller scale.

I came across a beautiful article written by a kindergarten teacher in a public school that reminded me that the laws of men cannot block God’s access to the classroom. This teacher reminded me that every Christian teacher should teach by showing the love of Christ to all of his or her students.

You can read that article here. I think you will enjoy it as I did – and maybe it’ll set you thinking, as it did me.

What I came away with from this article is that “THEY” can’t take God out of our public schools – but WE can, if we – Christian teachers and students – fail to take Him with us when we go to school.

Of course, what is true of the schools is true of every workplace and neighborhood. If we fail to LIVE our relationship with God, we fail to take him with us wherever we go. And taking Him with us is the point of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 28:18-20.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I understand that the word “Go” here could easily be translated, “As you are going….” Jesus is not speaking of special trips into all the nations, but of our daily walk of life. If, in our daily walk, we take Him with us in a meaningful way that will show His love to others and help them to understand what being a disciple of Jesus really means, our impact on the world would multiply many times.

But, of course, it is not our impact. It is Jesus in us who not only changes us – but also makes us into beacons of light in a world of darkness!


scientists cannot decide whether light is more like a wave or a particle. The mathematics sometimes fits one model, sometimes the other, and sometimes neither. Yet, it is essential to life. Without light (and our biological light receptors) we could not see. Without light to drive photosynthesis, there would be no green plants – hence food would be in short supply.

Yet, we know from whence light comes. In Genesis 1:1-3, God created the heavens and the earth. Initially, all was darkness and formless – until God said, “Let there be light.”

Actually, “light” already existed before that – for, as John notes in 1 John 1:5, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” It was not until Genesis 1:14 that God said “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens….”

The word here is different from that in verse 3. This refers to luminous bodies, or objects that emit light; verse 3 refers to light itself, a characteristic of God and his glory. Genesis 1 does not even name the sun and moon. There, these are “the greater light” and the “lesser light” ruling the day and night respectively. Genesis throws in the stars that make up the rest of our expanding universe almost as an afterthought: “He made the stars also.”

The sun and moon were put in place as “light holders.” They are not light itself, but they hold light for our world.

Later, God gave us a series of what I think of as “human light holders.” These are individuals or groups whom God has provided to give light of a different kind to the world, “light” by which to live – and by which we see and know God.

In the Garden, God provided this light directly as he walked and talked with the Man and the Woman in the cool of the day. After the Fall the human race was barred from that face to face communion with God, but certain individuals did walk with him and find grace in his eyes. Later, he chose some to communicate his light to others.

Abraham & His Descendants

Among the most notable of these were Abraham and his offspring through Isaac and Jacob. In calling Abraham, God said he would make his name great “so that you will be a blessing” in whom “…all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

For the next two millennia, the story of Abraham’s descendants continued in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 4 is the first of a series of messages to Israel Moses gave before he went up Mt. Pisgah to die and Israel crossed Jordan into their promised land. Moses told them God’s purpose in giving them the Law. If you keep the instructions I am giving you, he said, “…that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (v. 6) By keeping faith with God in the Covenant he made with them, Israel would be a blessing to other nations, pointing them to the Yaweh as he teaches how all men should live their lives.

But did they do this? The nation formed by God to be a blessing in a world of violence, greed, and mayhem instead wanted to be like the nations around them. And like them they became. They worshiped the same idols the other nations worshiped in the same lustful ways. They, like other nations, oppressed the poor while upper classes lived in luxury. Instead of leading the nations to God, Israel followed the nations.

There were exceptions to this, of course – but they were few. God sent prophets to call the people back to him, but scarcely any listened. He sent natural disasters and the scourge of war, but the nation did not return to God.

One of the greatest of the prophets was Isaiah. In a context where God speaks to Isaiah as his servant (even saying to him “you are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified”), God said:

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)

Israel did not listen – so the nations around were left in darkness. Israel went into the darkness of captivity. When they were permitted to return to their own land, they shunned idolatry – but they did not live as God wanted them to live. Corruption in the palace and in the temple was rife.

Though there were glimmers of light here and there, on balance we have to say Israel failed as God’s light-holder to show Him and His ways to the nations. Yet, there was a thread of hope running through the story, as there were promises through the prophets that God was not through with Israel yet! This hope focused on the coming of Messiah who would save Israel and be God’s Light for the world.

Messiah and God’s Kingdom

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
(Mark 1:2-4)

Among those who came was Jesus of Nazareth who was also baptized by John. As he came out of the water, a voice from the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” and the Spirit of God in the form of a dove lit on him.

After a time of testing in the wilderness, Jesus returned to his home in Nazareth where he entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down…. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21, reading from Isaiah 61:1-3)

Matthew writes of this early ministry of Jesus in Galilee as well:

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:13-17 quoting from Isaiah 9:1-2)

In Jesus – his words and deeds – people began to see the light of God. He traveled throughout Galilee and also in Judah teaching and healing the sick. Later, one of his disciples would write about him:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3a)

 All that he did and said radiated the glory of God in all its brilliance. Near the end of his sojourn on earth, one of his chosen apostles said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” He replied, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9).

One of his great statements about himself is in John 8:12 where he proclaimed, “I am the light of the world!” Just as Israel had seen the glow of the light of God’s glory on the face of Moses when he came down from the mountain after being with God, so men were able to see God’s glory, not in a literal ‘glow,’ but in the teaching, attitudes, and actions of Jesus.

It is this of which Paul writes:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

And this leads us directly to another of God’s appointed human light-holders.

The Church & Its Mission

Early in his personal ministry, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to the multitude gathered there:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Note that in this text, “you” and “your” are both plural in Greek. He speaks of a community of faith, not of individual believers. As he said, it is the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden, though an individual lamp or candle may be hidden under a basket.

It is as this community lives in God’s light that others see their good works and glorify God. But it is God’s light that they will be able to see in those who are walking with him.

Look back at 2 Corinthians. Immediately after the verse quoted above (3:18), Paul continues to develop what that means. God has given us a ministry, a ministry of beholding and reflecting the glory of God. It is the ministry of God’s new covenant people. We are to behold the glory of God so that we may reflect it to those around us.

Yes, there will be some who are blinded by the god of this age so that they do not see the light of the gospel of Christ’s glory (who is the image of God)!

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:5-7, but see also vv. 1-4, 10)

We do not preach ourselves, but Christ. Or do we? Too many promote the particular denomination, sect, or congregation of which they are members more than they preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Few are willing servants of God, walking in the steps of Jesus while many choose the path of the Pharisee who exalted himself over the tax collector; yet, the later went home justified (Luke 18:9-14).

Note that God placed the treasure in jars of clay for a purpose. That is to show the greatness is not in us, but in God. These jars of clay remind me of Gideon’s battle to deliver Israel from the horde of the Midianites. God gave this plan of battle: Give each of your 300 men a pitcher with a lamp inside it and a trumpet. Surround the enemy camp at night. At a signal, every man is to break his pitcher, reveal the light, and blow his trumpet. When they did, the Midianites panicked and fled, killing one another in their disarray. God won a great victory that day, but not by numbers or strength of arms.

Like their pitchers, we must be broken to allow the light God puts in us to shine through. We must walk as humble servants, as Jesus walked. We must accept the outrages that others may heap on us. Even when persecuted, we must accept it as Jesus accepted the cross. Peter wrote,

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation….

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people….

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:12, 15, 20-21)

How does the light of Jesus shine in us? It is by living as he lived. It’s not in amassing wealth to build the biggest cathedrals, nor having power to influence the councils of the nation or world. It is in the simple discipleship of service to any who are hurting. It is in forgiveness and the meekness of a gentle spirit, filled with the fruit of the Spirit of God, the Spirit that transforms us into the likeness of Jesus.

…Therefore it says, “Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14b)

Let us arise from our sleep, even the sleep of death, so that Christ may shine on us and in us so the world in darkness may see his light. Let us walk in light as he is in the light.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…. (Genesis 1:3-4a)

What Is Your God?

I just read an excellent blog by Patrick Mead in which he argued that those things which we are unwilling to move are, in fact, our gods. He said, in part,

You see, what you cannot move is your god. That is how we reveal what our gods are. If you would rather have a family fight and split than change a holiday tradition, you have elevated the tradition above God’s charge for unity and mutual sacrifice and love. It is now your god. If sports – or band or a school club or a campground – can take you away from the community and you find a way to blame the community, you have revealed your god.

To read the entire post, go here. I think you will be glad you did – unless he happens to skewer one or more of your “sacred cows.” He does not mention the Super Bowl or March Madness – but he might well could have! Read his take on how we prioritize our lives – and then see if you can identify what is really your god.


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