Worship or Service?

There is a recent trend in churches to conduct church-wide service project days. Every church member is encouraged to participate in some kind of service project. To facilitate getting as many people involved in these events as possible, the Sunday worship service is cancelled. Instead of meeting together for corporate worship, the church is closed. I’ve included a few Facebook screenshots with the identifiable information left out.

I contend: this is not what church is about. Church-wide service projects are an unbiblical substitute for corporate worship.

Biblical pattern of what is right

In the set example of the early church, we see devotion to the apostles’ teaching (preaching), to the fellowship (gathering together), to the breaking of bread (communion/Lord’s Supper), and to prayer (Acts 2:42). Along with corporate singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), these practices comprise the core elements of the Sunday act of worship. To use the categories of “Word-ministry” and “deed-ministry,” the Sunday gathering focused on Word-ministry.

This, of course, is not to suggest that deed-ministry was unimportant. On the contrary, the physical needs of the congregation were so important to the apostles that they commissioned the church to appoint the first deacons (Acts 6:3). As the apostles handled Word-ministry (Acts 6:4; see also 1 Timothy 3:2 “able to teach”), so the deacons committed themselves to deed-ministry.

So, church leaders had defined roles, but what of the church as a whole? The Bible does mention acts of charity toward fellow church members. They shared what they had with one another to support each other (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). Even the special offerings that were taken up by Paul (2 Corinthians 9) were for believers in need. Those with whom those Christians shared spiritual blessings, they saw fit to likewise share physical blessings.

Modern pattern of what is wrong

By contrast, church-wide service projects in place of the corporate worship gathering invert the priorities of the early church. Rather than gathering for Word-ministry (Hebrews 10:25), the church is given no choice other than to scatter for deed-ministry. Rather than attending to the needs of fellow believers (Matthew 25:40 “least of these brothers of mine“), more often than not these projects concentrate on those outside the church. Rather than proclaiming a message that is distinctively Christian (i.e., the Gospel of Jesus Christ), believers are tasked with the type of community service projects that do not even require one to be a believer to participate.

Churches like the ones screenshotted above no doubt do what they do out of a professed heart for the lost and a love of neighbor. They may even cite the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) as the exemplar par excellence, the greatest example possible. What these churches fail to recall is the context in which Jesus gave the parable in the first place: He was answering a teacher of the Law who probed Him on how to inherit eternal life by what he himself did. By telling this parable in response, and finishing with the command, “Go and do likewise,” Jesus placed an impossible hurdle in the teacher’s path, a morality that transcended morality. As the following story of Martha and Mary demonstrates (Luke 10:38-42), there is no amount of service on one’s own that can equal a heart of devotion to the One Lord and Savior.

Maybe the leaders of such churches believe they do these projects to build relationships so that they can show what Christianity is all about. This seems inherently misguided. The Word of God is powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). We Christians have our marching orders: preach the Word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul did not say, “Woe to me if I do not dig water wells, or paint the local school, or participate in this Dumpster day.” What he said was, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

A good example

I have one more Facebook screenshot to share, this one from a church in Port Charlotte, FL, a city which was heavily damaged in the recent Hurricane Ian.

This church is commendably serving its community in a time of need…

But first comes worship.

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The Heir to the Throne: A Gospel Allegory

One upon a time, there was The High King, The Great Prince, and The Royal Advisor.

The High King ruled over The Kingdom with wisdom and justice. While He often consulted with the other two members of The Council, and they all deliberated in concord with each other, The Kingdom properly belonged to The High King.

In time, The Council determined that The Great Prince should receive a kingdom of His own. They settled on The Domain, a wild plot of land adjacent to The Kingdom.

But The Chief Herald, an exalted servant of The Council, learned of The Council’s plans and was jealous that The Great Prince would have a kingdom whereas he himself never would. So he incited a coup among his fellow heralds, laid illegitimate claim to The Domain for himself, and turned the inhabitants of The Domain against their rightful ruler.

The High King threatened war. Though The Chief Herald knew he could not withstand an all-out assault by The High King’s forces, he stubbornly refused to surrender.

Through a dramatic rescue of a select family, The High King established The Enclave within The Domain. The Enclave was meant to serve as a people representing The Kingdom within the borders of The Domain. The other inhabitants of The Domain were frequently antagonistic to the citizens of The Enclave. To forestall hostilities, the citizens of The Enclave oftentimes adopted the shameful practices of The Domain.

The High King sent messengers to the citizens of The Enclave, asserting His law as superior to the tyranny of The Chief Herald (now sometimes calling himself The Overlord), and that not even His citizens would be exempt from retribution in the case of sedition. Yet the citizens of The Enclave rarely honored The High King’s messengers.

So The High King sent announcements of war against His enemies and peace to His faithful servants, both at the hand of a promised coming ruler. Seeded throughout these forewarnings were clues and hints about this ruler’s true identity.

When the time was right, The High Prince appeared to the citizens of The Enclave, having become a citizen Himself. Many followed Him; some even understood who He really was. Others, however, saw Him as a threat to the tenuous peace they had with The Overlord. These citizens of The Enclave joined forces with the inhabitants of The Domain and carried out His public execution.

But then…

The High King decreed that the Great Prince’s execution be overturned, and The Great Prince’s life was indeed restored. He told His followers that He would return, and that they were commissioned to carry His kingly message–not only to the citizens of The Enclave, but also to the inhabitants of The Domain. Then He returned to His Father’s throne room.

These devotees would come to be known as members of The Assembly, joined together by their allegiance to The Great Prince and their conviction that He Himself had secured their future citizenship in His kingdom by His death and resurrection. Guided by The Royal Advisor, the members of The Assembly supported one another and rehearsed The Great Prince’s tale to one another. The members of The Assembly were prohibited from engaging in direct conflict against either the inhabitants of The Domain or the citizens of The Enclave. Rather, merely by heralding The Great Prince’s tale, they opposed The Overlord himself. They became an eclectic people representing The Kingdom within the boundaries of The Domain.

As of yet, The Great Prince has not returned to claim what is rightfully His. The Domain has not yet been remade to resemble The Kingdom.

But rest assured, The Heir to the throne will return. He will conquer The Overlord, He will judge every one of His enemies, and He will reward every one of His faithful servants. Only then will the story end happily ever after.

“Be still…”

Apologies in advance if this bursts your bubble…

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” is not about personal serenity. All Scripture is profitable *for* you, but not all of it is *to* you or *about* you.

Read the whole psalm, especially v 9. The warring nations are Israel’s Gentile neighbors who worshipped other gods. They believed that their military endeavors were reflections of the strength of their particular gods. Nation 1’s victory over nation 2 “proved” the superiority of nation 1’s god. (See, for example, 2 Chronicles 32:13-15).

Amidst this chaos, Yahweh Himself poetically steps in. With no mention of Israel’s involvement, Yahweh personally obliterates the instruments of war the Gentile nations are using. He is saying in essence, “In the contest of the gods, there is no contest. I am the superior God, and all the earth will recognize this fact.”

So yes, in times of trouble, we as His people can rest secure that He will have the ultimate victory. But remember that this verse is a rebuke of His enemies for their refusal to recognize that He alone is God.

A Brief Word about Divine Restoration

My friend from back in the day (let’s call her Kara) recently confided in me about a besetting issue in her life. I told her I would pray for her and that if she had any Bible-related questions to ask, I would welcome them.

She took me up on my offer. (I’m sharing this conversation with her permission.)

“There’s a scripture in Joel that talks about God restoring what was lost [2:19-24]. I looked it up and it talks about God restoring the time the Israelites had plagues of locusts. Further down, it says that God restores time lost to shame and guilt and darkness, he gives us back the time [2:25-27]. I was wondering if you could explain that further to me. How does he do that? Do you think he’d restore time lost to [my issue]?”

After assuring her that I understood how personal her question was, this is how I answered.

“I think it’s helpful to start by addressing the issue of blessings and curses. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law, He established what is called the Sinai Covenant. In this covenant, there were attendant blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience for the Israelites. The blessings were tangible: long life, political security, large families, abundant crops, and the like. The curses, as it just so happened, were the opposite: short life, political instability, barren wombs, infertile soil, and the like. God sending this plague of locusts on Israel was just retribution for their covenant infidelity. But by means of their repentance, they may rightly anticipate divine restoration (2:12-17).

“And yet, there also seems to be something deeper at play. In the later verses, God promises many things: a pouring out of His Spirit (2:28-32), a judgment of Israel’s rival nations (3:1-16), and Israel elevated as the supreme nation for all time (3:17-21). Why? On what basis does God promise such extravagant blessings? It can’t be on the basis of their keeping the Sinai covenant for two reasons: 1) the Sinai covenant never offered such blessings, and 2) God doesn’t offer such a stipulation here in Joel’s prophecy. That means that God is making these promises on the basis of a New Covenant. Joel in essence is saying, for God’s people, beyond the scope of physical blessings and curses based on obedience or disobedience to the Law, there is a grace from God that ultimately supersedes anything we could reasonably anticipate. It will happen in His timing and in the manner He decrees, but it will happen nonetheless.

“For Christians, we are not–indeed, we have never been–under the Sinai Covenant; we are not subject to its particular curses, nor are we ensured its particular blessings. What we tend to experience are the natural consequences of our actions, whether good or bad [or, God may be discipling us as His children (Hebrews 12:4-11)]. What we are promised through Jesus, by means of the New Covenant He instituted with His people, is a glorious future beyond what we could reasonably anticipate (Revelation 21-22) as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit as the means to confront and conquer our own sin in the meantime. His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and grace will lead us home.”

Kara thanked me and told me this is what she needed to hear.

It’s what I needed to hear as well.

The Problem with Pavlovitz

During the episode “End of the World” of the TV sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” the plot revolves around a cult that predicts the world will end that very night. City manager Chris Traeger (played by Rob Lowe) asks, “Why does the cult call themselves the Reasonableists?” To which main character Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) replies, “Well, they figured if people criticized them, it would sound like they were attacking something very reasonable.”

To put the matter bluntly, John Pavlovitz is a Reasonableist.

For those unfamiliar with the name, John Pavlovitz is “a pastor, writer and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina.” He is known for his personal blog and contributions to Relevant Magazine.

Recently he wrote a blog post entitled, “I’m Not The Radical Left, I’m The Humane Middle.” In it, he goes through a number of his positions that other unnamed parties have opposed and asserts that his positions are perfectly reasonable.

Which, of course, means that his opponents are unreasonable. Or worse.

Near the end of his post, he writes, “I suppose humanity feels radical to inhumane people.” Did you catch that? Anyone who disagrees with him is “inhumane.” The Latin terminology for this logical fallacy is Ad Hominem, attacking the people who disagree with him rather than dealing with the positions they hold.

Pavlovitz appeals to the emotions of his readers, presenting his position with stirring words like “compassionate, humane,” or casting himself as uncontroversial with words like “normal, ordinary, usual” and “mainstream.” It is for people who “want more humanity.” He draws his readers to join him against “the cruelty of these days.”

By contrast, he subjects his ideological opponents to the worst kind of Straw-manning. He paints himself as the victim of small-minded bigots. No, he didn’t write that exactly; he did write about people who are “so filled with fear for those who are different, so conditioned to be at war with the world, so indoctrinated into a white nationalistic religion of malice.” Like I said, small-minded bigots. He foments the very divisiveness he claims to oppose.

Lest you think I am being harsh and uncharitable, I will concede one point he makes. John Pavlovitz is probably not part of the “Radical Left.” However, he is definitely part of the Ordinary, Everyday, Mainstream Left. Save for his insistence elsewhere on being a follower of Jesus, there is nothing remarkable about his blatant left-leaning tendencies—including his denial that his tendencies are indeed left-leaning. But if you are regularly platformed by “the left” and regularly opposed by “the right,” how honest is it to call yourself part of “the middle?”

If he really were in “the middle,” as he claims to be, why are all the positions he listed contrary to what is traditionally considered “the right?” Why does he not emphasize where he agrees with “the right” over and against “the left?” True, he gives lip service to being pro-life, but he redefines it as meaning “to treasure all of it”—whatever that means. (Actually, he rarely articulates or offers clarification on his positions; he just sort of shotguns them all at once with little definition and less precision.)

This then brings me to the matter of his status as a Christian and a pastor. He mentions “God” once and “Jesus” not at all. He makes many references to the Bible and Christianity, but offers no specific references or quotations. He is his own moral authority.

And in the middle of the list of his positions, he drops the bombshell to end all bombshells: “I believe all religions are equally valid.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is something no true Christian can say. Either Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” or He is not. We can defend the pre-political right for people to practice the religion of their choosing, but we cannot equivocate on the validity of any system of belief contrary to Christianity. If Pavlovitz—who, I remind you, has the self-descriptor “pastor” in his bio—cannot get this most basic tenet of Christianity right, what else has he gotten terribly wrong? Setting aside his politics for the moment, I plead with you, reader: Let this man have no influence in your Christian thinking whatsoever.

If you’re going to call yourself part of “the middle,” you need to have an accurate understanding of “the right” and “the left.” If you’re going to engage in political discussion, you must not automatically disparage all your ideological opponents as evil trolls. If you’re going to claim the moral high ground, you need to be sure you are standing firmly on absolute truth. And if you’re going to call yourself a Christian, you must point people to Jesus as Lord and Messiah, not yourself as the one who decides what is “normal.”

Reasonable enough?

P.S. Agree or disagree, I welcome your feedback.

Reading the Bible to My Son

I started a project where I tried to read the Bible to my son every night before bedtime. That’s it. We read one story and then discuss what it means. The next night we read the next story, and so on. We started with the Gospel of Luke, and now we are almost done reading through 1st and 2nd Chronicles (yes, you read that right). If it’s a late night and we don’t have much time, I will read to him one of the Psalms.

My son is pretty good at reading, so I sometimes have him follow my finger along while I am reading to him. Of course he is 6 years old so he can get a little wiggly. (His sister just turned 3, so she gets even more of a pass.) I have had to learn to let go of expectations of perfection on his part. I just have to trust that there will be a cumulative effect in his spiritual formation.

Why have I decided to do this? Because it is literally the easiest thing to do. Because VeggieTales is not a substitute for parental instruction. Because the notion of family worship isn’t something that I grew up with but sounds intriguing to me.

Mostly, I have become convicted of my role as the primary spiritual teacher for my son and daughter. Television and movies will teach them things opposite of what the Bible teaches. Secular teachers will—in the very best case scenario—teach things that are indifferent to Christianity. Even Sunday school teachers and AWANA will be at best supplemental sources of instruction.

Only I and my wife have the primary task of teaching our children diligently what the Word of God says (Deuteronomy 6:7). Only I and my wife are charged with training up these children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). Only I and my wife are given the divine responsibility to raise these children in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Will I miss some reading times? I already have. Have I flubbed the explanation of the passage? Yes, both because there were times I did not fully understand the point of the story I was reading, and also because there were times I did have an accurate understanding but employed a truncated explanation. Will my children automatically become always-obedient, perpetually-compliant demi-angels? Ha. Will this practice ensure the eternal salvation of my children? No.

And yet… For His own sovereign purposes, God saw fit to call both me and my wife to repentance and faith, and to become the parents of these particular children. I teach my children what the Bible says, not out of a mechanistic sense of inevitability, but out of gratitude for my own salvation, out of obedience to my Lord, and out of hope that my children will grow to full maturity: knowledge, reproof, correction, training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Parents, if you aren’t already reading the Bible to your young children, please start. If your children are a bit older, find what works for your family and then do it. (Also, if you have more experience in this, please share your wisdom!) The Word of God is our only infallible rule for faith and practice, our Lord Jesus Christ deserves our full devotion and faithful service, and our children need their parents to explain what in life is most important.

As this photo reads, your most important disciples are sitting at your kitchen table.

My year of reading The Message

I have made a personal goal for myself to read through a different translation of the Bible each year for the last several years. So far, I have read “word-for-word” translations (e.g. NASB, ESV, NKJV) as well as translations that tend toward “thought-for-thought” renderings (e.g. NLT, NIV, NET). This year, I decided to read Eugene Peterson’s popular paraphrase of the Bible, “The Message.”

Side note 1: for those of my readers who might now question my salvation, fret not; I kept last year’s NASB on hand for comparison. Side note 2: when I began this project, I had no idea that Peterson was in the last year of his life (he died October 22, 2018).

Eugene Peterson wanted to make a version of the Bible that was readable, and in that goal, he was quite successful. I think that Peterson’s impetus was pastoral. His reasoning seemed to be that people want to read the Bible, but are often put off by the inherent murkiness of translation English. To me, I think the problem is deeper–that people do not, in their natural sinful state, want to read the Bible. But I digress.

As I indicated, the Message is eminently readable; it was written at a 4th-grade reading level, which makes it one of the easiest-to-read versions available. This readability is aided by its layout: single-column pages, no verse numbers, no study helps like cross-references. Only chapter numbers and section headers remain, and the only footnote indicated the longer ending of Mark. If I had to make a guess, I would say that the Message could be credited with popularizing the reader’s Bible format.

Peterson included his own introduction to each book of the Bible, which vary wildly in helpfulness. His introduction to Obadiah, for example, clarifies the background relationship between Israel and Edom. By contrast, his introduction to Micah rambles about the role of prophets in general, with little information pertinent to this particular book.

At the risk of overly generalizing, The Message works best for the narrative genre, gets fanciful on the poetic genre, and misses the mark on the didactic genre. The most effective portion might be Proverbs; Peterson clearly had a gift rewording pithy sayings. By the same token, his idiosyncratic rewording detracts from the Gospels, rendering certain portions unrecognizable.

At times, Peterson’s commitment to capturing the rhetorical affect of a passage simply undermines the intended meaning expressed in “word-for-word” translations; other times, he outright contradicts the original author’s intent. For example, in Joshua 10:14 the author remarks on God causing the sun to stand still at the battle of the valley of Aijalon. Here’s the NASB (note the bold portion of each rendering):

There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.

And here’s the Message:

There’s never been a day like that before or since—GOD took orders from a human voice! Truly, GOD fought for Israel.

To say that God “listened to the voice of a man” is not to diminish the ultimate sovereignty of God; to say that God “took orders from a human voice” comes close to denying God as the supreme authority over humanity.

Any Bible paraphrase, by its nature, reveals the theological leanings of its author. Despite his noble intentions of wanting people to read the Bible for themselves, Peterson has–however unintentionally–introduced his readers to a god of his own invention. At his memorial service, Peterson’s son asserted that his father only ever had one sermon throughout his life and ministry: God loves you. This “one sermon” reverberates through the pages of The Message. In its proper context, this is a right and true understanding of God. But divorced from other, more central truths like the sovereignty of God, this truth becomes a half-truth.

The Message is a decent-enough retelling of the story of the Bible (akin, in its own way, to “The Jesus Storybook Bible”). As a faithful version of the Bible, it falls short. Readability does not equal reliability. If you truly desire to know God in His fullness, and if you can’t read the original languages of the Bible, get a proper translation.

There is a shelf in our house dedicated exclusively to Bibles. From now on, I will no longer keep The Message on that shelf.

P.S. for a more in-depth review of The Message, read this: The Message is Not a Bible Translation: Peterson’s Philosophy

The so-called War on Christmas is actually a good thing

Last year, Kevin O’Brien, dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, posted a video sharing his thoughts on the so-called “war on Christmas.”

The video is less than three minutes long, but I am going to focus almost exclusively on one paragraph.

Around the 0:20 mark, O’Brien claims, “I don’t think Jesus would care much about whether we say ‘Merry Christmas’ or not…” This seems to be a reasonable position. Granted, he leaves undefined whom he has in mind when he says “we,” whether he means Americans in general or Catholics/Christians in particular. But the larger point is understandable: in an increasingly secularized culture, identifying Christmas as the primary feature of the upcoming calendar may or may not reflect the broader opinions of our neighbors. (Indeed, Christians are never commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas.)

But the very first line of reasoning O’Brien uses to support his assertion is shockingly subversive of historic orthodox Christianity: “… because he was not concerned about promoting himself, but promoting what he called ‘the reign of God.’ This reign, this community of justice, peace, and love—that, to him, is more important than any title for himself.”

WHAT?!? Even from the mouth of a Catholic professor, I found myself stunned at the Biblical ignorance on display.

The foundational confession of the church is that Jesus is the Messiah/Christ, and since Christ means King and Jesus is God, then Jesus’ talk about the reign of God is about the reign of himself. Promoting the reign of God by definition means promoting himself.

By definition, only Christians recognize Jesus as Christ, which means that nonbelievers—so long as they remain nonbelievers—cannot recognize Jesus as Christ. To say “Merry Christmas” implies, at its most basic level, an acknowledgement that the Jesus whose birth we commemorate is the Christ. To say “Merry Christmas” is actually to make a claim unique to Christianity.

As fewer unbelievers say “Merry Christmas” even as a vestigial custom, this two-word phrase takes on a more distinctly Christian message than ever before. We need to realize that this seasonal greeting is our (still culturally acceptable) opportunity to confess Jesus as Lord. When Christians capitulate to the culture and automatically say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” in some small way we are cheating ourselves of an opportunity for evangelism. (Yes, I’m aware that the word “holiday” means holy day, but all different religions have their own holy days.)

The letter of 1 Peter is all about how Christians can thrive even in the midst of suffering and persecution for their faith. If we Christians in 21st-century USA cower in the face of a few sneers and snide remarks, how will we ever endure when actual persecution comes our way?!?

So this year, when someone says to me “Happy Holidays,” I will accept it as the polite greeting they intend it to be. But when I say “Merry Christmas,” I will not be merely offering a polite greeting.

Let us make the most of every opportunity we can to declare that Jesus is the Christ—at Christmas and every other time of the year.

This vs. That

First things first.

This post is inspired by the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel that stirred and spurred much discussion among Christians on social media. (By the way, I read and signed it, and I would encourage you to do the same.)

There are a lot of differences between Christians. It can be easy to distort such conflicts as simply an Either/Or binary. Some try to assuage the “other side” by asserting that the Either/Or must instead be understood as Both/And.

But a lot of these differences—at least between true Christians—are differences of emphasis. As I have thought about many internal conversations between Christians of various stripes, I theorize: Some issues truly are Either/Or. Some issues truly are Both/And. But too often overlooked is the possibility that the issue is actually what I have come to call First/Second. This is literally what it means to “prioritize”—to determine what comes first.

Look through this list and see if a prioritizing of the issues between “first” and “second” one way or the other might help to clarify both the division and the unity of various believers.

  • Believing the right things (orthodoxy) vs. living the right way (orthopraxy)
  • Preaching the gospel vs. applying the gospel
  • Worshiping God vs. serving God
  • Emphasizing God’s judgment against sin vs. emphasizing God’s mercy on sinners
  • Scrutinizing what is said (substance) vs. scrutinizing how it is said (optics)
  • Focusing on individual evil (contra righteousness) vs. focusing on societal evil (contra justice)
  • Tending the spiritual needs of people vs. tending the physical needs of people
  • Training up Christians (discipleship) vs. proclaiming the good news to unbelievers (evangelism)
  • Loving God vs. loving one’s neighbor

As I understand each of these vs. statements (and this list could be much longer), each side presents an important issue, and each side offers a complementary truth to its counterpart, but the second item in each pair seems to be contingent on its neighbor. In some way, I believe the items mentioned first must come first, and only then can the second items build on the foundation of the first.

But here I confess, I could very well be wrong. Maybe I have framed this handful of issues unfairly. I don’t think so, I hope not, but it IS possible. And I do not want to be wrong. So, I depend on you, faithful readers, to correct me if I err.

Or maybe I’m right.

Or maybe we’re both wrong, and the truth lies elsewhere.

Pastor Alistair Begg is fond of saying, “The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.” Similarly, my dad likes to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” Brothers and sisters, here’s what I believe is the plainest, “main-est” thing of all: Jesus is Lord.

So, whether you are on “my side” or “the other side” of the debate, or even somewhere in the middle…

Let’s all get our priorities straight.

A brief word on politics and Christianity

For the most part, I want this blog to be a chance for me to encourage people to fix their eyes on Jesus. For that reason, most of my posts will be exclusively biblical or theological in nature. But for this post, I am going to say something political. Here it is:

The Christian church and the United States of America are two different things.

I know that may sound obvious, but I have noticed a general tendency for people to blur the distinction. I am both a Christian and an American; as such, my duties as both a Christian and an American are distinct. What I briefly offer below are a few reminders and admonitions to both groups with whom I share an affinity.  You may notice that each of the following sets are contrasting in some way; that is intentional.

Fellow Americans, we participate in a representative democracy.
Fellow Christians, we are subjects of a spiritual theocracy.

Fellow Americans, our government must protect the natural rights of every citizen and execute justice on law-breakers.
Fellow Christians, we must recognize that we are all sinners before God, yet His mercy is open to any who repent and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the atoning sacrifice who took our sins upon Himself.

Fellow Americans, let us be slow to believe whatever latest news story merely because it confirms our worst fears about “the other.”
Fellow Christians, let us be quick to believe all that God has proclaimed in His holy, true, clear, authoritative, and sufficient Word.

Fellow Americans, let us be open to investigating which (if any!) of the available political options would be most beneficial for our nation.
Fellow Christians, let us always trust that the Spirit of Truth promised by Jesus will guide us to know the truth for ourselves, to obey our Heavenly Master, and to love our fellow believers.

Fellow Americans, it is for our good that our nation elects different leaders—mayors and governors, congresspersons and presidents—on a regular basis.
Fellow Christians, it is for our good that our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, will never, ever, EVER be dethroned.

Fellow Americans, it may behoove us to realize humbly that not all of our problems are political.
Fellow Christians, it befits us to proclaim boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ as the healing balm to every painful situation and every broken heart.

Lastly, the church and the USA should be contrasted in one more important way: only one of them is eternal.

“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Revelation 5:13b, NASB