Monday, June 30, 2008

CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY IN CHURCH

I still experience tears often at the singing of the National anthem. That is,when it's done right which is seldom at athletic events. I despise the new, generally silly, way of singing it. However, I remove my cap and put it over my heart even at those same athletic events.

The people of the armed services are heroes to me along with law enforcement and firefighters. The loyalty expressed by the Marine Corp, especially, causes admiration to well up inside me when I see it played out in movies or on television. The decorum at a military funeral brings lumps to my throat every time. I'm an American. I resent the shabby treatment given to the Vietnam veterans early on and still do resent any less than honorable treatment of any veteran. I'm an American. I'm grateful for and faithful to my country. As I said...several times...I'm an American.

I'm a christian. My sovereign allegiance is to my Lord. I believe in the exclusivity of the gospel., There is only one way to have a relationship with the God of this universe. He made that way in the giving of His Son. The gospel is my message and I believe is the only hope for any person or nation of people including America.

I don't believe America is a christian nation any more than I believe music, businesses, organizations or companies can be christian. Only people can be christian. It takes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith for that to happen. It isn't going to happen to a nation, company or song for obvious reasons.

It is true that our nation was founded upon some solid Judeo/christian principles that gave birth to a unique form of government. In fact, America is the only nation in history to be founded on the combination of Judeo AND Christian principles.

This basically means the God of the Hebrew scriptures as well as the Christian scriptures is the God they looked to in drawing up our Declaration of Indepence and Constitution. Our founding fathers hammered those principles out using a belief in the God of the bible AND from natural law which does a pretty fair job of reflecting the character of God since He spoke it into reality in the first place. This led to an obvious belief in values based on absolutes instead of a changing variety. But that's different than being a christian.

The bible only reveals the full story of God's character [Christ Himself] but many of our founding fathers were not christian in that sense. [Believers in Christ] They did, however, [those who weren't christian] have a healthy respect for the God of law and nature and even the God of the bible, as I said, and I'm glad.

You can see I do NOT believe America and Christian are synonyms. When I gather to worship with others on the Lord's day I celebrate Jesus and His doing and dying accomplishments of Grace. I'm celebrating with any person who names Jesus as Lord regardless of their nationality or present national citizenship. We are, together, citizens of another country.

All that said....to thank God for my nation, those who have sacrificed for her liberty, for her leaders and to pray for them as an act of worship to my living God, is for me, a legitimate expression for the gathered Body of Christ on the right occasions. The fourth of July would be one of those for me. Were I to lead a congregation on a Sunday before or after the fourth of July to do so, I would want to make very clear what I've said in this post thus far. To do that I probably would list my top "ten points to remember" and place it in the hands of all worshippers that Sunday. Those ten points to remember are.......

One---We worship the Living God through Christ today.

Two---We are citizens of two countries today whatever your earthly citizenship might be.

Three-Our ultimate allegiance is to our heavenly country and her King.

Four--We are, most of us, citizens of America also.

Five---We honor that citizenship with obedience to her laws where it is possible to do so without violation of the scriptures as we understand them.

Six---We can pledge allegiance to the American flag holding an ultimate allegiance to our heavenly country and her King.

Seven-We honor those who have paid the price for this blending of freedom in America and the freedom to serve our Lord supremely.

Eight- We celebrate our nation's birthday.

Nine--We pray for our nation, her leaders, and her problems.

Ten---We do not believe the gospel has anything to do with being an American.

This is my personal effort to be true to the gospel and celebrate my American citizenship. I rejoice in both but do not mistake them for each other.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA.

Paul B.

9 comments:

Wayne Smith said...

Paul,

AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN

That a 21 Gun Salute for All Brothers and Sisters in JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!

Wayne Smith

Paul Burleson said...

Wayne,

That's funny. Nice AND funny. Thanks.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!! Thank you for the ten points. I will share them, with your permission, with my class this Sunday. I might add one which would say, " I continue to remember that I have enlisted, for the duration, in my faithful service to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sometime I must tell you of my experience with seeing the Constitution for the first time and the security guard trying to move me along quickly. Thanks for sharing brother. Have a blessed and memorable 4th of July.

Steve Miller

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Permission granted with anyone anytime no need to say where you got them. Their yours.

By the way..you of all people would fully understand this post. Thank you for you the years of service you've given to the nation and, more importantly as we both know, to the Kingdom.

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Make that "they're" yours and I'll be happy for the rest of the day. Sorry.

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul,

Fine, fine post. I agree with all you say but do have one other point of clarity: I do not feel right about pledging allegiance to the flag and the nation within a service gathered to worship the Triune God. But then I have problems, personally, with granting of man's "honor" to anyone in those services too.

I've shared this for years with my SS class. Were we to win some certificate or other, on something like a "high attendance day", I've told them somebody else will have to go get it, as I won't. Thus far, nobody has indicated a willingness to do it either.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

I kinda know what you mean..sorta.

I make a mental distinction between "Honor" given to God which is "worship" to me, and that belongs to Him and Him alone. No one else.

But to give 'honor' [notice the little h and the small quotes] is tantamount to obeying the command to 'honor' our father and mother. It is more appreciation, respect, esteem, [in a legitimate fashion] and goes on long after "obeying" them is no longer an issue because we're grown up.

I think THAT 'honor' can be given to people, nations, even a class that does well and is 'honored' because of the effort. This, to me, is just being appreciative of good things done by special people and saying so. I don't mistake that for "worship" of parents, country, or people. As I said, that belongs to someone else alone.

When we gather to worship the Triune God I believe it ALWAYS involves a parallel involvement [people] as well as a horizontal involvement. [God] One is worship. [Honor} The other is appreciation and esteem . [Esteem one better than...]

On birthdays at our house the one being celebrated ate from a red plate. No worship. Just special. That's the fourth of July to me or the pledge to a national flag. No worship. Just special.

I think there is something special about people and our nation. I have fun saying so.

I do believe however that some christians make WAY too much of America in churches and it certainly can border on, if not bleed into, idolatry. THAT must NOT be and would be the reasons for the ten points mentioned in my post. I do think it wise to discuss/debate this very issue because of the danger of losing sight of the true Kingdom.

There is only ONE holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and it AIN"T America. It is that special nation God is redeeming out of every nation and tongue on earth for the purpose of showing forth His virtues [not praises as in KJV] until He comes..

Ask me to clarify and what do you get? Another post. :)

By the way...have a great 4th. :)

Anonymous said...

Amen, sir. I agree with you from start to finish.

(BTW, I came over here from Molly's Adventures in Mercy blog.)


Regards,
Julie G. in Ohio

Paul Burleson said...

Julie G,

Welcome and please do return often.