Rally around your banner

Hurrah for the flag of the free! May it wave as our standard forever,

The gem of the land and the sea, The banner of the right.

Let despots remember the day, When our fathers with mighty endeavor

Proclaimed as they marched to the fray, That by their might and by their right

It waves forever.

lyrics from The Stars and Stripes Forever

When Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness, Amalek attacked them. Moses ordered Joshua to choose some men and go fight Amalek. Moses said he would stand on the top of a hill with the staff of God in his hand. During the battle, whenever Moses held up his hand Israel prevailed. Whenever he lowered it Amalek prevailed. As fatigue grew in Moses, Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one man on each side of him. In this way Moses’ hands remained elevated and Israel overwhelmed Amalek on the battlefield.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner…” — Exodus 17:14-15a

This name of God “Jehovah Nissi” — The LORD Is My Banner — is no incidental thing. Moses is that generation’s visible mediator between them and God. He is a type of Christ. In his declaration, “The LORD Is My Banner,” he is making a clear statement on behalf of the people he represents.

Thid-TatteredFlagDon’t forget, the banner of any people is the thing around which they rally. On the battlefield it was (and is) their focal point. It was their entire identity. From their banner a people draw their worth.

Moses has declared that God, Himself, is the Banner of these people. God is their sole identity. He is their defender, sustainer and their inheritance. Their identity is that they are God’s Chosen People.

This is an exclusive relationship.

You can only have one banner.

Oh, it may be possible to identify with more than one banner for a while.  If you have an ally in a cause, as the U.S. did in World War II, you can have a sort of joint allegiance. Americans could take refuge around the Union Jack, the banner of the British, because the British were fighting alongside Americans with the same objectives. But allegiances change. Don’t forget, it was from the British that Americans had to wrest their liberty through a long and bloody conflict. Today’s allies can be tomorrow’s enemies. So, ultimately it really is possible to have only one allegiance.

But, some may want to argue that it is possible, and even honorable, to serve “God and Country.” This is a common conviction among many Christians. It is especially common among evangelicals in the United States where religion and patriotism have become so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable.

But, if you claim Jesus as your Lord, then you might want to seriously reconsider His words…

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” — Matthew 6:24

Jesus doesn’t say you “shouldn’t” serve two masters. He says you “can’t.”

Besides, evidence is mounting that suggests the kingdom represented by the Star-Spangled Banner is no longer an ally of Jehovah Nissi. In fact, the kingdom represented by the Star-Spangled Banner is daily placing itself at odds with the Kingdom of God, as these stories clearly illustrate.

I believe the day is fast approaching when the rulers of this earthly kingdom will demand you rally around one banner or the other (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Don’t wait for them to make such a demand — rally around your banner today.

For me the decision is already made. I appeal to Scripture and allow the book of Joshua to express my thoughts on the matter…

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:14-15

Despite the claims of John Phillip Sousa in “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” ultimately every banner will end up on the dust heap of history — every banner except one…

…and around this last banner will rally a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue to the glory of God alone.

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Thideology News of the Day

Here are a few interesting tidbits from around the internet today…

Freedom

Every July 4th, Americans commemorate America’s independence from England. It is an occasion worthy of celebration. In the history of the world there are far too few instances where individuals have come together to throw off the shackles of tyrants.

Thid-FoldedFlagWhen the colonists drafted the Declaration of Independence, they listed the string of abuses committed by King George III of England and his government agents. Contained in that list were references to high, confiscatory taxes, being forced to house British soldiers, being forced to allow soldiers into ones home to search for… well… whatever they wanted to search for, and just generally being treated as a kingdom asset to be used at the king’s discretion instead of as a free individual.

But, too many Americans will make the mistake of assuming, since they are free from England’s tyranny, that they are free from all tyranny. This is just not the case. In fact, America now exists in an increasing state of tyranny that (in many cases) exceeds the tyranny of King George III. Consider…

  • Americans now pay higher tax rates than did the colonists under King George III.
  • The U.S. government is actively seeking to curb (and even eliminate) a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.
  • The U.S. government collecting the private information of citizens without their consent and without warrants. A practice that a former member of the Stasi (the East German secret police) says will be used against citizens.
  • The U.S. president now regularly issues decrees (in the form of “executive orders”) that carry the weight of law.
  • U.S. government agencies (the IRS) are used to intimidate political enemies of the president.

This list, which goes on and on, provides crystal clear evidence of one inescapable truth: America is free from England, but America is not free.

All of this reminds me of a line from the movie, “The Patriot.” Mel Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin, is debating with the delegates of the South Carolina legislature whether or not to join other colonies in seceding from England. He asks this question, “…why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king can.”

In that simple question, Gibson’s character hits upon a key doctrine — one that must be properly understood if we are to ever enjoy true freedom — the doctrine of man’s depravity.

Mankind is evil. This is a fact that is clearly declared in Scripture…

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” — Isaiah 64:6

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” — John 3:19

“The heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” — Jeremiah 17:9

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” — Ephesians 2:1-3

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All of these things come from within, and they defile a person.” — Mark 7:21-23

But, even if you don’t believe the Bible, the fact that mankind is inherent sinful is clearly observable in the world around us. Our innate selfishness, cruelty, greed, deceit, pride, foolishness is recorded throughout human history.

This fact was not lost on America’s founders. James Madison knew it, and insisted that governments only be established with precautions taken to limit the amount of power consolidated in one place.

“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” — James Madison

Thomas Jefferson knew it and helped outline (in the U.S. Constitution) the kinds of precautions Madison was talking about…

“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson

But power is addictive. And when evil men get their hands on power, they always try to accumulate more. That is why, over the course of more than 200 years, the federal government of the United States has morphed from a very small, limited government into a bloated leviathan that recognizes no limits on it’s own power.

So, where does that leave Americans who recognize this march toward totalitarianism? Where are most people (who want to reverse this trend) expending their efforts? I’ll tell you…

… In getting the “right kind of people” back into office.

Thid-TatteredFlagThis is why a proper understanding of the doctrine of man’s depravity is vitally important. We must understand there is no “right kind of people.” If you think we just need a better president, better senators, or better representatives then you are ripe for some very bitter disappointment. You are essentially saying the answer is to take enormous amounts of power out of the hands of infinitely corruptible people and put it into the hands of other infinitely corruptible people.

We’ve done that — for years.

Remember, just because a man occupies a government office does not mean he discards his sinful nature or his fleshly tendencies. Power is a strong temptation. An unregenerate man can’t be trusted with it. A regenerate man (a Christian) has been instructed by his Lord to “flee temptation” and ought to refuse such power.

We certainly have no business placing our trust — our faith — in a collection of mere men simply on the basis that they are called “the government.” Men are incapable of being better collectively than they are individually. This is why you can always count on the state to violate the rights of others, the biblical doctrine of man is in effect regardless of the number of men in the group.

So, does that mean freedom is lost for good?

No — because true freedom was never dependent upon men in the first place.

Men are slaves to sin…

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” — John 8:34

We are all helpless in our bondage to our own sin. If left to ourselves, we will always do evil. But real freedom comes when we are set free from this sinful nature that plagues us all.

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” — John 8:36

When God removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, capable of responding to Him, we see ourselves for who we really are. We see others for who they really are. We recognize there is only One who is worthy of the kind of devotion we too frequently give to other men because they happen to hold some office.

I feel completely free today. Not because all of the despicable things the U.S. government has been doing don’t apply to me — they do. But because I know they are on a short leash. My Lord and my God has them completely under control. They will not exercise one iota of power over me that He does not allow. He may allow them to exercise more control than I think they should, but I trust Him.

Look to Scripture. Look to history. God has allowed tyrants to reign before. But it has always been for a purpose. His beautiful plan of redemption is unfolding on the pages of history and, in the end, even the wicked deeds of tyrants will have been nothing more than the sovereign maneuvers of a Holy God.

I am free today with a freedom no man can take.

If you want freedom — I mean real freedom — don’t look to the flag…

Look to the cross.

Thideology News of the Day

American Idol

I have long maintained that the most prominent idol in America is America. I freely admit that I was once the greatest offender, having a love of country that far exceeded my love for God, His Word, or His Son. God revealed my sin to me and I suspect it is because my eyes were opened to this particular sin in my own life that I so readily see it in the culture around me. But, I am greatly encouraged to know that I am not the only one. Laurance Vance has been pointing out this particular sin for longer than I have. Today he offers a little self test for those who wonder if they love their country more than they love God. Warning: You may be offended — which brings us to another matter…

The Truth is Offensive

The “Weekly Dose of Spurgeon,” a regular feature on the Pyromaniacs blog, points out that the truth is frequently offensive. But please note, Spurgeon points out that the offensive nature of His message never prevented Jesus from proclaiming the truth. After all, the Gospel, itself, is highly, highly offensive.

Thideology News of the Day

Biblical Discernment Desperately Needed

Our world is full of people who apply the name “Christian” to themselves who have no concept of the Gospel. It is imperative, therefore, for actual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to A) know the Gospel, B) be aware when false teachers stand up and proclaim a false gospel, and C) call them on it. Consider just the two examples of this from this past week…

Against ALL Enemies, Foreign AND Domestic

When officers in the United States Army enter the service, they take an oath…

“I, (state your name), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of (state your rank) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Their oath is to defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies — foreign AND domestic. You may be thinking that domestic enemies of the Constitution are rare, and really no threat at all. I disagree. The Constitution is under assault daily…

Memorial Day is upon us. We will all likely hear that it is fitting for us to honor those who “fought for our freedoms.” It is true that many have fought for America’s freedom in the past. But, if the military wants to continue to enjoy the distinction of being the ones who “fight for freedom” perhaps they need to know that the greatest threat to our freedom is not from some other country — it’s from Washington, D.C.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Judge Andrew Napolitano thinks…

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Thideology News of the Day

  • My first stop on the internet each day is daveblackonline.com. Yesterday He offered the following thoughts concerning the church…

Much of what we call “church” today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.

  • The Lord’s Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.
  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.
  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.
  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.
  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.
  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.
  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.
  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers.

The New Testament shows us that the great need of modern Christianity is to return to biblical faithfulness and the profound simplicity of the New Testament.

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The War Prayer

Mark Twain, the American writer, humorist, and philosopher, was avidly anti-imperialistic. He maintained that people — including groups of people up to and including nations — should mind their own business. He also recognized that people — especially when grouped together in nations — are prone to interfere in the affairs of others. This, of course, often results in war.

Toward the end of his life, Twain wrote a poem entitled “The War Prayer.” It is a scathing indictment of the blind nationalism that frequently leads to war with no regard for its causes or consequences. In particular it is an indictment against those who call for war in the name of God or who call upon God for success in their endeavor to interfere in the affairs of others.

His poem has been made into a short film. Please watch…

By the time Twain wrote “The War Prayer” he was a highly successful and influential writer. Yet even he was reluctant to publish this work for fear of reprisal. He was afraid the story would be considered too “sacrilegious.” Twain still had to earn a living and did not want to be seen as a lunatic or fanatic.

His illustrator, Dan Beard, asked him to publish it anyway to which Twain replied, “No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I’m dead.”

It was left unpublished until after his death in 1910.

Twain was likely not a Christian. Many of his writings indicate this. However, I find it interesting that even a non-Christian can recognize the destructive influence of man’s sinful nature and that our prayers, when guided by our flesh instead of by the Spirit of God, are selfish and self-glorifying.

It is more interesting (sad, even) that those who most frequently engage in such prayers call themselves Christians — the very ones who ought to repudiate such prayers. What does it say about those of us in the Church, when even a non-believer can recognize this error on the basis of empirical evidence alone? Not only do we (believers) have access to the same evidence, but we have the clear instructions of our Lord…

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” — Matthew 6:9-13

Perhaps we should take our cue from the Lord, rather than from men. Perhaps our mission should be the spread of the Gospel and the demonstration of Christ’s love to the nations — not the expansion of a worldly empire by the conquest of nations.

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