Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rethinking the Pledge

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation
Under God
With liberty and justice for all.

Did you know that the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist named Francis Bellamy?
Did you know that the original salute to the flag, called the Bellamy Salute, was not placing the hand over the heart but extending the full arm forward towards the flag?
Did you know that originally Bellamy wanted to say not 'liberty and justice for all', but 'liberty, fraternity, equality' patterned after the ideals of the French Revolution?
Did you know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested a change in salute when he grew uneasy with its similarity to Der Fuhrer's salute?
Did you know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower inserted the words "under God" to differentiate this pledge from similar pledges indoctrinating the citizens of communist countries?

And good people like you and I have grown up, not just saying it in school, but teaching it to our children
and making it a part of important civic ceremonies
and linking it to patriotism.

But I think we err.
I think we err grievously.

What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism?
Well, this blog has always been about pursuing Truth.
So, really, what I mean is what is the difference between patriotism and nationalism to the believer?
I think patriotism is a good thing.
It is loving the land God has put us in.
It's a contented 'bloom where you're planted' kind of civility.
And what does a Christian patriot look like?
I think he is a good citizen.
He does right by his neighbor.
He leads a law-abiding life.
He prays for his leaders.

Christians can be American patriots
and Korean patriots
and Russian patriots
and Saudi patriots
and Iranian patriots.
In fact, I think God requires that of all believers.
I think the principle of 'moral proximity' makes that so.

But what of nationalism?
Nationalism is 'My country, right or wrong.'
Nationalism cheers for the homeland, sings of the homeland, fights and kills for the homeland
in an eerily idolatrous way.
Nationalism responds to attacks on the homeland's soil by shooting first, asking questions later.
Nationalism is not concerned with the other side of the dispute.
Nationalism assumes a moral superiority about the homeland...
an 'exceptionalism.'
Nationalism defends the homeland--no matter what--and let everyone else be damned.

But the worst thing about nationalism is that it distracts the believer from his real citizenship. Nationalism can be the red herring dragged across the patriotic path that diverts the believer to from his one true allegiance--the Kingdom of God--and his one true King--Jesus.

In a sense, every believer has a dual citizenship.
We have our eternal citizenship which transcends national boundaries and languages and cultures.
And we also have our temporal citizenship wherever our sovereign God ordained to plant us.
It is right and good for a Christian to be a patriot.
Our comportment at every level should reflect the glory of the God we serve.
But it is wrong for a Christian to be a nationalist.
It is wrong for us to be unthinking drones of the State.

We are a holy priesthood, a royal nation.
There is no such thing as a "Christian nation"...
except for the invisible Church of Jesus Christ.

So be a good citizen.
Obey the law.
Love your neighbor.
Pray for your leaders.

But save your allegiance for the King.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2011 CC Song of the Year

Are You fire?
Are You fury?
Are You sacred?
Are You beautiful?

I don't know if you've ever 'done business' with the Lord.

But I have.

I grew up in a Christian home and accepted the Lord when I was six years old. I had been one of those hellions as a small child who made my mom cry everyday. And everyday, my dad would come home and send me to the spanking room. And everyday, he would spank me, pray with me, forgive me, and wipe it away. ("Wipe it away" was a practice my folks used after discipline in which they and I would swipe the back of our hands across our foreheads to signify it was not just forgiven; it was forgotten.)

One of those terrible days, God opened my eyes, and my dad prayed with me to accept Jesus.

To hear my parents tell the story, there was an immediate change.
No more daily visits to the spanking room.
No more heels-dug-in rebellion.
Instead, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I was exlporing something new:

I had a great relationship with my parents, and I really did want to do the right thing now.
I didn't run away or run with the wrong crowd.
I was pretty good at submitting and doing what I was told.
But I was still a little spitfire.
Oh I wasn't blatantly rebelling anymore.
But I could out-passive/aggressive anyone on the planet.
And I was opinionated.
And I made my opinions known.
Like they were fact.
(Just ask my old headmaster, Mr. Smith.)

More years went by. And this little spitfire grew up to be a big spitfire.
(Just ask my husband or my in-laws.)
I had the idea that I knew all there was to know.
And that included God.

I guess I thought that I had figured you out.
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How you were mighty to save.

Let me repeat.
I thought I knew all there was to know about God.
"How could you be so foolish?" you might be asking.
And that would be a good question.
I grew up in the Church.
I was actively discipled by Christian parents.
I waited for a Christian man to marry and got my parents' blessing.
I started having children, whom we dedicated to the Lord.

Yeah. This girl was on the fast track to sainthood.

Then we moved to Texas.

That was an answer to prayer.
God had been growing our family in Florida, and we were bursting at the seams.
I stood in the garage one day and said aloud,
"God, do you see this? Are you going to do something about it?!"
I was indignant.
Certainly, we were doing God's work.
And God's work deserves God's blessings.

So the move to Texas was obviously God's answer to my prayers.
He was going to bless me with a big house
because He's in the blessing business
And I deserved it.

That was not what happened.
I'll spare you the boring details.
Suffice it to say, I did not get my big house.
I got an apartment.

Third floor.
Four kids all under the age of five.
Yeah, this was making a lot of sense.

And then the fateful day came.
God was not working out for me.
I was doing everything right,
And He was stuffing me in some lousy third floor apartment.
So I threw a shoe.
Not in the way a horse does.
No. I threw a shoe...
Across the room.
I yelled at God, "I'm done with You. I quit! You haven't done anything for me!"

I'd like to tell you I immediately clapped my hand over my mouth in instant repentance.
But that did not happen for a full twenty-four hours.
That's when God stepped in.
That's when I knew that I had done something horrible.
That's when I knew that I was a sinner, a worm,
Standing in the presence of a Holy God.

I had put God in a box.
I had been serving a God of my own creation.
He was sovereign...
when I allowed Him to be.
And I strongly encouraged Him to do what was good for me...
as long as He didn't dare do what was best for me.

I think I made You too small.
I never feared You at all.

Suddenly, though, I was confronted by the holiness of God.
I fell down on my face.
I don't know how long I lay on that apartment floor.
God let me stay there.
And in His mercy, He let me live.
But we did business down there, God and I.
I fell down a know-it-all princess.
I came back on my feet a humbled bondservant.

Where have I even stood but the shore along Your ocean?

The holiness of God.
It is utterly fearsome.
It shut my mouth
and opened my soul
to who God really is.

What do I know of holy?
What do any of us really know of holy?
What can we possibly know of holy this side of heaven?

The 2011 Carmel Conversations Song of the Year:
What Do I Know of Holy by Addison Road

I know the song debuted in 2009, but I only heard it for the first time this year. And it will always remind me of that day when God showed me a glimpse of His holiness.

What do I know of holy?
Not much.
But I want to never stop learning.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Beloved Disrepair

My bedroom threshold. It is the great divide between the acceptable and the forbidden.

Let me explain.
On my side of the threshold stand my bookshelves. They are loaded with fictional classics from Dickens, Bronte, Tolkien, Orczy,and Hugo, as well as non-fiction gems from Piper, Mohler, and DeYoung. Want to borrow a book? Pull up a chair and have at it.

But cross the threshold holding one of my books without my permission, and I become the Balrog.

I love my kids...and I love my books.
When I ask for a book for birthday or Christmas, I mean I want a book that doesn't have the cover ripped off
or the corners bent
or the the dust jacket missing.
I want it to be there when I want to read it
and re-read it.

When I pick up The Hobbit--my Hobbit--and find that the front cover is gone,
I start to rumble.
And it ain't pretty.
When I find that one of my books has mysteriously found its way to a living room end table,
I start to grumble.
And I look around at the downstairs bookshelves packed double deep from floor to ceiling,
and I wonder why the kids can't find something interesting on their bookshelves.

The kids can see the red glow of my indignation coming down the hall.
And just like Gandalf and company, wisely, they run.
Fly, you fools!

I love my books...and I love my kids.
So my indignation subsides.
I turn a blind eye to my curled pages...
("Just where exactly were you when my book and your water were trying to occupy the same space?!?!?!)
and I am thankful that my books are in disrepair.
Beloved disrepair--
for a book that is not worth reading
is simply not worth owning.
Below, you will find my 2011 reading list: 72 books in all.
And I must draw your attention to a couple of them.

As for non-fiction, the most important book I read this year was Elias Chacour's Blood Brothers. It changed me. Told from the viewpoint of a Palestinian Christian during Israel's fight for statehood, this autobiography documents the unacceptable treatment of Palestinians--who were there first--at the hands of , not so much the indigenous Jews, as the European Jews who moved in and staked their claim on already occupied land. I cried. Today, Chacour still fights for peace in this war-torn region.

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson, was a sleeper hit, in my opinion. I had inadvertently stumbled across this little gem while shopping for a good book for my then 10-year-old son. He plowed through the first two books (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darknessand North or Be Eaten), and then we read them aloud. Don't be fooled by the offbeat humor. This is a powerful tale, and I couldn't finish North or Be Eaten without crying. Jake already finished Monster in the Hollows, which is up next in the Saga, and the rest of us can't wait. It's a beautiful story.

Give Me This Mountain by Dr. Helen Rosaveare
Generous Justice by Tim Keller
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
Fire Breathing Christians by Scott Alan Buss
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce by John Piper
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Out of the Depths by John Newton
Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles
The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock
Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
Scandalous by D.A. Carson
Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day by Scott O'Dell
Five Thousand Year Leap by Cleon Skoussen
Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul
Divorce Dilemma by John MacArthur
Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney
Thirty One Days to a Better Understanding of Prophets and Prophecy by Mark Weaver
Magna Carta by James Daugherty
The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur
Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
Ink on His Fingers by Louise Vernon
It is Well by Mark Dever
Think by John Piper
Common Sense by Glenn Beck
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Willing to Believe by R.C. Sproul
Priority of Preaching by Christopher Ash
Lord Foulgrin's Letters by Randy Alcorn
Lady Molly of Scotland Yard by Baroness Orczy
Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
Mr. Pipes and the Songs of the Reformation by Douglas Bond
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin
The Big Three by Dr. Henry Morris
A Palestinian Cry for Reconciliation by Naim Stifan Ateek
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
Word-Filled Families by John Barnett
Book of Dragons by E. Nesbitt
The Stone and the Glory by Greg Harris
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant by Terry Felber
Appointment in Jerusalem by Lydia Prince
The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson
Genesis in Time and Space by Francis Schaeffer
Dragons of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp
End of the Law by Jason C. Meyer
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury
Blame it on the Brain by Edward Welch
The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
Just Jane by Nancy Moser
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Latham
Aunt Dimity: Snowbound by Nancy Atherton
Expository Listening by Ken Ramey
On Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
North or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Give Me Liberty: the Uncompromising Statesmanship of Patrick Henry by David J. Vaughn
Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur
Get Out of Our House: Revolution by Tim Cox
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier