Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flying the Flags

I sometimes think that I'm a little bit persnickety (overparticular and fussy). Sometimes I chase after traditions that aren't commonly practiced. Other times I snub common place traditions that I don't understand.

After a summer of VBS-ing through various towns, I got very good at my pledges in churches. I helped with 7 VBSs in 9 weeks. We said the pledge to the Christian flag, the American flag, and to the Bible 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

Pledge to the Christian flag:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One brotherhood, uniting all Christians in service and love.

Pledge to the Bible:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible-God's Holy Word. And will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And will hide its words in my heart-that I may not sin against God.

For those curious, this site summarizes the history of the Christian flag: how it was developed, when it was developed, what it stands for, etc.

My church has the American flag on stage right (the place of honor) and the Christian flag on stage left. And I'm not too fond of that. I run through multiple alternative scenarios...
1. The Christian flag should be given preference over the American flag and should get the coveted stage right spot of honor.
2. Every country that has a Christian inside its borders should have its flag displayed in churches around the world.
3. No flag of any country should be displayed inside a church.

And cue the patriotic-fueled arguments such as "America is a Christian nation." This is actually false. America is a nation where its people have freedom of religion. America has no national religion (see the first amendment). Under God was added to the American pledge in 1954 when America was anti-communist and the Communists were anti-religion, so therefore America was pro-religion. "In God We Trust" didn't become our national motto until 1956.

However, my first scenario is distinctly against "the flag code" which I didn't even realize existed. Section 175.k (it starts at 170) says that "when displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience." The Christian flag even has its own code of conduct.

Personally, I am against one nation's flag being displayed in the sanctuary for several reasons:
1. The church transcend national borders. Why should we elevate one nation over others?
2. The world was divided at the Tower of Babel and the creation of different languages. The church was united at Pentecost when people spoke in tongues. Insisting on national flags in the sanctuary doesn't show this unity.
3. There is no gender, social class, or nationality in the church (Col. 3:11, Gal. 3:28).
4. This is an ongoing argument and for some, a stumbling block (1 Cor. 10:31-33 and Matthew 18:6).
5. We can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). Which comes first? Our God or our country?
6. America does things that the church doesn't endorse, but we still display its flag? Think abortion, war, lying, adultery, and other things which are directly against God's word.
7. Our top citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20)

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be respectful and obedient to our nation, which does give us many freedoms and rights. These rights have been paid for by the blood of those who fought, served, and sometimes died for our country.

My point is that God and our relationship with Him comes first. He doesn't play second fiddle to anyone or anything. When the protocol of the American flag dictates that it has to be given preference over the Christian flag or any other flag, I get a little bit persnickety and don't want my nation's flag to trump my faith.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Waiting

Wait for the Lord. / Be strong and take heart / and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

I am not a big fan of waiting.
I don't appreciate it when I feel like my time is not being valued by others.
Yet sometimes, I must wait.

As I waited for over *TEN* whole minutes on hold on the phone, I wasn't pleased. The longer I waited, the more impatient I became, but the more likely that I was almost through to a real person. I felt compelled to wait...I needed to talk to someone to figure out how to schedule a highly important certification test for my degree. And so I waited.

As I waited for over *TWENTY* whole minutes (railroaded...again), I was mostly peaceful. I mean...I had a pbj sandwich...I had a Bible...I had praise music. I could see the caboose from where I was sitting and so I thought that it would be past soon. It wasn't. The train people backed up the train and hitched more cars to it. Two trains passed on the second track while I waited. I kept waiting. I was convinced that the train would be moving anytime now. It whistled. It gave off steam. It rocked back and forth. But there it stayed for twenty minutes. I was convinced that if I did drive back the way I came and go over the tracks at a different place, that the train would be gone by the time I reached the same place from the other side of the tracks. And so I waited.

The longer I wait for something, the more my paranoia grows. I feel like if I hang up or drive off, I'll have wasted my time spent waiting...so therefore I feel compelled to wait it out. I get antsy and want to move to feel like I'm making progress. If I'm waiting at a cross-walk and need to wait for the light to change, I'm tempted to cross all three other directions (even though it'll take longer) just to feel as if I'm doing something.

I got to thinking, as I waited, how long do I wait on God? Do I give Him ten minutes? Twenty minutes? Thirty minutes to answer my prayers or show me the way? How long do I give Him before I try things my way?

What are ways that we can improve our waiting on God?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seven Deadly Sins

Lust...Envy...Greed...Sloth...Gluttony...Wrath...Pride...The seven deadly sins.

There's just one problem...these seven sins are never grouped entirely together in scripture. (True story).

Open Bible has a collection of Bible verses that are related to bad sins.

Keep 10 Commandments gives a nice summary of how the seven deadly sins were collected as a list. (Spoiler: a Pope finalized the list in the 6th century).

There are several passages that mention vices and negative qualities. Probably a few of the more well-known ones are found in Colossians 3:8, Proverbs 6:16-19, and Galatians 5:19-23.

Colossians sums up negative qualities as anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.5 negative (and rightly so) qualities.

Proverbs has a slightly longer list: haughty eyes, lying tongue, innocent-blood-shedding hands, wicked scheming hearts, feet that hurry to evil, lying/false witnesses, and conflict-stirrer-ups.

Galatians provides a "vice" list and a "nice list" (as does the rest of Colossians 3):
Vice: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies,  etc. (I bolded factions because I found it interesting that factions would make the list with all the "super" sins.)
Nice: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Bottom line: the seven deadly sins fit with the message of scripture. At least one part of the Bible addresses
lust, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, wrath, and pride, but not one part sums them all up, in one place.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Intercession

We don't always have the words to pray. Sometimes I am able to find the words within me to express what I feel. Other times, I got nothing.

Sometimes when I have a close call when driving, the only word that comes out of my mouth is "LORD!!" It's not that I'm taking His name in vain or am blaming Him for the rain, ice, sudden stop, or other bad conditions on the road. That is the extent that I can pray at that moment. When this happens, I am reassured that the Holy Spirit is interceding for me.

I am thankful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't have the words (see Romans 8:26).

I am thankful that we aren't restricted to praying with a certain posture, words, or number of people present.

I am thankful that we serve a God who hears and answers prayers.

I am thankful for friends and family members who pray for my husband, our life, and me.

What are you thankful for, in regards to prayers?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

By Our Love

Reverend Fun has hilarious comics. Today, I encourage you to check out their "By Our Bumper Stickers" comic.

Have you noticed that sometimes people's actions don't actually match their bumper stickers, t-shirts, or Sunday morning activities?

To be candidly honest, a lot of people have been hurt by church members with not very Christian behavior (and non-Christians with non-Christian behavior). (And a lot of people have been helped by Christians and non-Christians alike).

Christians still are human. Placing our faith in Jesus doesn't automatically purge our urge to curse, yell, gossip, drink to the point of drunkenness, or other negative qualities. As humans, we do have good days and bad days. We succeed and fail.

At the same time, Jesus tells us (as recorded in John 13:35) that other people will know we are disciples of Christ, that we are Christians, by our love.

So does our lives show this love? Or do we depend on snazzy t-shirts and bumper stickers to let others know of our faith?

How can we better show this love?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Spanglish, Messianic Liturgy

The thought struck me recently that I am really an odd mix of denominations and traditions.

My mom's Methodist.
My dad's American Baptist.
My sister's Southern Baptist.
My hubby and I are Nazarene.

My sister and I attended the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.

My hubby (a Nazarene) went to a Wesleyan University and met me at a Baptist campus ministry.

My roomie and I semi-regularly attended a local Messianic Jewish congregation.

Although I attend a "low church," I secretly (or not so secretly) love liturgy and many high church traditions (once I understand *why* the traditions exist).

My hubby and I will be doing mission work in South America. We're learning Spanish and sometimes sing in our Spanglish.

So I research Spanish; I research the church year; I research the Jewish traditions and history that are prominent in the New Testament.

And it's wonderful, this blending of traditions in my multi-denominational faith. For every church I have been to has worshiped the Father.

Is your faith a mix of different traditions? What type of traditions are present in your faith?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Sacrifice of Praise

This post was sparked from a Book of Common Prayer side article, shown on August 17th.


"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." -Hebrews 13:15

This may come as a surprise to some, but I'm opinionated. As I've been researching the church year and actively examining what I believe and why I believe it, I sometimes end up at odds with traditions. I was taught by my campus minister to make sure that the songs I sing a) are Biblically sound and b) are true for me. (i.e. I can't sing "Wherever He Leads, I'll Go" unless I have a passport and am willing to leave the country).

I started judging the songs and not singing the ones that didn't fit the criteria listed above. I became a sort of song-elitist.

But then I came across a reading in the Book of Common Prayer talking about offering a "sacrifice of praise." The reading pointed out that the body of Christ has a lot of diversity. Worship is offered to God around the world, in many languages and many styles. When I insisted on a particular song style or tradition, I am making worship about me, not about worshiping God. I was challenged to praise God instead of snubbing songs, because if a song isn't my particular cup of tea, it probably is meaningful to someone else and that is leading them to worship God more fully.

One benefit of liturgy is that it attempts to keep the focus on God, instead of my personal preferences. By having set readings, I can focus on praising God, instead of evaluating which word choice I prefer. Now if there's a song that seems to contradict scripture, don't sing it if you don't want to, but instead of pouting or glowering, pray to God and thank Him for anything you can think of.

Worship is bigger than me. It's bigger than my preferences. It's about God. Is that where my focus is, or am I focused on my likes and dislikes?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It´s An Epiphany!!!!

"We three kings of Orient are/Bearing gifts we traverse afar/Field and fountain, moor and mountain/Following yonder star."

Happy Epiphany.

In the liturgical year, Epiphany is when we celebrate the Wise Men finding Jesus. Carols.org gives the lyrics to the carol and a brief history of when it came to pass. I didn't know the song have 5 entire verses.

There are some misconceptions about the Wise Men.
A) Tradition says there were 3 Wise Men/Magi/Kings, but the verses referring to the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) don't say how many there were. They gave three gifts, but that doesn't necessarily mean there were only three gift givers.

B) The song says "We three kings" but Matthew 2 says "magi" or "wise men"

C) Our nativity scenes show the wise men at the stable/manger. Matthew 2:11, says "On coming to the *house,* they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. (emphasis added). House. Not stable. For this reason, the high church celebrates the arrival of the wise men, 12 days after Christmas.

The following scriptures (Matthew, Luke, and Isaiah) for Epiphany was taken from the Nazarene hymnal, but the devotional ramblings are mine.

Matthew 2:1-9, 11 tells of the Magi (wise men) traveling to find Jesus, finding Jesus, and then returning home. 

Luke 2:30-32 is part of Simeon's praise to God from when Jesus was presented in the temple, as an 8-day-old baby. Simeon says (pun slightly intended) that Jesus will be "a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel." This revelation to the Gentiles started when the Wise Men sought out Jesus.

Isaiah 60:1,3,19b,20b talks about how the light has come, nations and kings will be drawn to the light, God will be our light forever. I wonder if we get the idea of the "Three Kings" from Isaiah 60:3 mentioning kings will come to the light.

So have a happy epiphany. Celebrate the fact that salvation has come to the Gentiles!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Christmas by Candlelight

As the 12 days of Christmas come to a close, I feel drawn to reflect on my Christmas morning.

I woke up at 8 am. I got up quietly, to allow my hubby to enjoy his chance to sleep in.

I tossed the ingredients for homemade cinnamon rolls into the bread machine. Cinnamon rolls are a family tradition for my hubby´s family on Christmas day (that and smokey links)

While the hubby was sleeping and the rolls were rising, I delved into my devotionals. Passages on prophecies of the birth of Christ and the story of birth of my Lord were first. More passages on New Testament Christian living followed. Reading by candle-light brought out the romantic and nostalgic in me.


Devotionals by Advent Light


3 hours later, at 11 am, the cinnamon rolls were finally done!!

Breakfast and then presents followed. Quality time with my hubby flowed into a larger family Christmas.

Christmas was a day of quiet reflection, loud laughter, special feast foods, and joy.
The 12 days of Christmas are practically over, since Jan. 6th is Epiphany.
The new church year continues on. In just over a month, Lent will be offering us a chance to prepare our hearts for what the Lord has done for us through His death and resurrection.

What´s your take-away from this Christmas?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Flickering Flame

I've recently taken to burning candles and drinking (even more) tea. As I immersed myself into student teaching, I would often find myself at our dining room table, with books, notebooks, papers, and my computer.

The candle was to provide a pretty scent.

The tea was for peace and energy. (I view tea as a Sabbath in a cup).

Before student teaching, when I would burn a candle, it would only be lit for a short while before I left to do other things and safely blew it out. During student teaching, I would have it burn for hours (with me right beside it, Mom).

I learned something watching the candle's flame (besides that I had a short attention span): Sometimes the flame burns low, but it doesn't burn out. Many times during my hours of lesson planning and grading I thought that I would need to grab a new candle due to an over-taxed lit candle, but the flame kept burning. It came back stronger.

Keep burning, little one!!
 I have a similar rhythm in my faith. Sometimes I'm burning strong; sometimes I'm almost burnt out. All the time, God is with me.