Saturday, May 5, 2012


Foreward: I TRULY HOPE I don't offend you, but I might make you think. And of course you can point out any errors I may have made, logically or otherwise. And perhaps you have already dealt with this in your life or church. I'd love to hear from you.

(or What's Appropriate in Christian Worship nationalistically speaking.)

Been reading the book of Exodus lately and God is extremely "PICKY" about worship. Yes, his laws were very precise about a lot of things, but with things pertaining to the tabernacle, sacrifices, and anything "Worship Related" He is moreso.
For instance, Israelites were to leave some of the grain in their fields, at the corners, for the jobless and homeless to come a collect some. This was ancient welfare. I don't think God said How Much, just, "at the corners." But in the tabernacle all the furniture is to be made according to exacting standards, as well as the buiding/tent itself. Incredible precision was demanded!

I think there is something important here. God is flexible about how we do a lot of things, but when it comes to honoring Him He wants us to do it with precision, His Way!
One reason was so that worship wasn't something done flippantly or without care. And another reason is worship, in the Old Testament, was symbolic of things to come. God wanted them to be accurate signs of truth to come. After all we know that the blood of bulls and goats couldn't Really do away with sin. But it pointed to a day when God's own lamb, Jesus, would make the perfect bloody sacrifice and deal with sin once, for all.

So what about New Testament worship? Gee, we're not under the law anymore, Toto. There is freedom. We see glimpses in the Bible of songs sung praising God, reading of scripture, and expounding on the scriptures (preaching). Maybe a little recitation of early creeds as a teaching device, and of course, eating together and observing the Lord's Supper as a body.
But outside of that, where's the boundaries? What KIND of music. Ancient hymns? Psalms Only? Gregorian chants? Classic Hymns? Gospel songs of America ca. 1900? Or any kind of music that comes down the pike so long as the words honor the Lord and are biblical?
(Well...  I'll let you decide all that cause I can't find a lot of scriptural help to determine what all is appropriate.) 
How about Interpretive dance? Or the use of visual arts (paintings, engravings, etc.) Once again there isn't much in the New Testament about this. I for one am not a "fan" of Interpretive Dance in church, or of skits, though I've seen those be effective for communicating some biblical idea. But when we get to visual arts, suddenly I begin to remember some Old Testament charges that seem to influence our New testament choices.

"Thou shalt not make unto me any graven image." 
Well, paintings aren't exactly "graven" images. And flags aren't images at all, usually. But think of the idea behind the command. God doesn't want His people worshiping anyone but Him; not something "like Him", not a reasonable facsimile, not an artist's concept of Him: JUST HIM!
We don't know what he looks like so any painting of him is questionable. 

The same goes for Jesus. And to put a picture of Jesus up in the sanctuary of a church building, is at best borderline idolatry, and at worst idolatry plain and simple.
Are there some wonderful paintings of Jesus as a good shepherd, knocking on the door, overturning the money-changers tables? Sure. Great art. No problem. But, we could easily start to worship the one that we fabricate in our minds, based on the art, rather than worship the God of scripture and limit our imaginations to what God's word says and the Spirit's enlightening in our hearts and minds.

Now, I'm back to flags. We have a few banners in our church with portions of scripture or Bible based language on them.  They serve as reminders for certain themes at certain times of the year, like Easter and Christmas.
But the US Flag is a banner of sorts, with nothing Biblical on it. It represents our country. Our Country is great! I'm Proud to be a U. S. citizen and an American, too. I think our Constitution proscribes the greatest government ever formed in the history of humanity! I wish it was honored and obeyed more. I wish other countries enjoyed the freedoms we have.
    BUT THE USA is NOT the Kingdom of God! The USA will cease to exist. There will be no red, white, and blue banners with stars and stripes in heaven. Just as there'll be no red flags with cycles and hammers. No Texas flag, for crying out loud. (Arguably the best and finest of all flags.)

When and if we put the flags near the podium on memorial day or July 4th, lets make sure we don't "over-honor" the flags or the country. I reserve my "honor" for the founders, for the service people who put their lives on the line to defend our homeland, and for people like first responders and teachers who serve the countries best interest day in and day out. There is a place to honor those that currently serve in leadership in our nation and states.
But they aren't to be worshiped. 
In Catholic churches you'll see a statue of Mary. We Baptists love to point out that Mary is not to be worshiped. And that's true. (Thou shalt not make unto me any graven image.) But then we put a picture of some guy in robes with long hair carrying a lamb, call him Jesus, and nail him to the wall; Or we put the US Flag up front and honor it it an undue manner.
The Catholics reply, "we don't worship Mary, we venerate her." Baptists reply, "we don't worship the flag, we honor what it stands for." Really? All of it? To some Indians it stands for the Trail of Tears. To some Japanese it stands for bombs so deadly they are still felt today. The list could go on and certainly, many things the US has done can be defended in light of her fight for self existence etc. etc. I'm not debating these various points of history! 
I'm just saying, WHY put this banner at the front of the church? It could be a stumbling-block to people who need Jesus. It could be a distraction to those who need to focus on the Christ of Scripture. The gospel itself is both the Power of God and a stumbling block to the proud and willful. We don't need to add NEW Stumbling Blocks.

There's a banner I am comfortable with, that can stay at the front all year long regardless of season, regardless of what country or nation the church building is in. 
Its the banner of the cross. A rugged cross. An empty cross. A bloodstained cross.
The cross isn't a typical banner but its Biblical.
The cross isn't an image but it reminds us of the finished work of Christ.
The cross isn't to be worshiped, and I don't think its likely to be worshiped, but it points us to Jesus. There is no one else who was crucified who has stayed in the consciousness of men and women throughout the ages, but Jesus. The empty Cross suggests the Risen, Victorious Savior!

Having said that, I'll most likely move the flags toward the front of the sanctuary near Memorial Day, and perhaps leave them there Through July. But I'll remind people they are just reminders of how grateful we should be:
for a country built on freedom, and 
for the people who have served to defend this freedom. And, 
how this freedom has been a tool of God to help bring the gospel to the world.
Even though it has often been a tool in the hands of fallen man for other, less noble, purposes, and sometimes outright atrocities.

Brothers and Sisters, we need to make the message clear and plain. Jesus is ALL the world to me. The Grace of God is Amazing. Our God is an Awesome God!
We are not Republicans or Democrats first, second or third, we are children of the Most high, Heirs with Christ, a peculiar nation, a people made holy by the blood of the lamb. 
We belong to Jesus FOREVER! A nation, country, or ethnicity is temporary and will cease.

Thanks for letting me ramble....
Clark D

1 comment:

  1. ...appreciate your article and in no way see it as "you rambling on." You hit on many relevant points. Appreciate your efforts to get our eyes focused on Jesus Christ the Author and Finisher of our your blog a lot and will visit often...really like what you mentioned about God's requirements for preciseness in the construction of the's cool how He expected that of Israel and then He specifically anointed Bezaleel (highly skilled) to make it happen...when i was at Liberty Bible College in the 70s i got a job as a stone mason's helper, building the Open Bible Church on Pace Street. The stone mason not only loved Jesus Christ with all his heart, but he was also highly skilled in laying stone...loved my job - mixed all the mud, brought him all the stones and the mud, moved the scaffolding and cleaned was super hard work, but i loved it and we praised the Lord every day at work...he used to buy me "sweet water" at break times...he would not have approved the stonewall background on your blog (obvious poor workmanship)...really had to share that out of my respect to a skilled craftsman in the i'm rambling...been reading a lot in the old testament lately...all throughout the interior of the temple the Lord required carvings of cherubs, palms, pomegranates (spelling) all of which were overlaid with gold...also the two huge cherubim with outstretched wings over the mercy seat (also were overlaid with gold)...also Moses' golden serpent (which some actually did worship)...the questions that come up in my mind are, "Why would God have them make such things? They are graven images? Is there some contradiction here?" Most certainly there is no contradiction. Perhaps it is similar to Jesus saying, "My new commandment..." To love one another is not a new commandment, but "to love one another as I [Jesus Christ] loved you" is really different. We are surrounded by graven images everywhere in all parts of our lives. It's not about the graven images, it's about "worshipping God" and we do that in spirit and in truth.


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