Monday, May 30, 2011

Kevin DeYoung on Patriotism and the Church

There are approximately 25 nationalities in the church where I'm an elder. Every Friday (we worship in a Muslim country) is a little vision of Revelation chapter 7:9-12.

Last year there was a young man from the US who was doing a semester internship in Dubai and attending out church. He had never had an extended experience outside the US and God was teaching him some important things about his heart for the ALL the nations.

One Friday after the service he said, "It's amazing to experience this church... You don't pray for the troops (like my church back home). But if you did, who's troops would you pray for?!"

Along that theme, Kevin DeYoung, a US pastor, author, and blogger writes on Memorial Day celebrations and the church...
We (Americans) should pray for service men and women in our congregations. We should pray for the President. We should pray for the just cause to triumph over the evil one. We are not moral relativists. We do not believe just because all people are sinners and all nations are sinful that no person or no nation can be more righteous or more wicked than another. God may be on America’s side in some (not all) her endeavors.
But please think twice before putting on a Star Spangled gala in church this Sunday. I love to hear the national anthem and “God Bless America” and “My Country, Tis of Thee,” but not in church where the nations gather to worship the King of all peoples. I love to see the presentation of colors and salute our veterans, but these would be better at the Memorial Day parade or during a time of remembrance at the cemetery. Earthly worship should reflect the on-going worship in heaven. And while there are many Americans singing glorious songs to Jesus there, they are not singing songs about the glories of America. We must hold to the traditions of the Apostles in our worship, not the traditions of American history. The church should not ask of her people what is not required in Scripture. So how can we ask the Koreans and Chinese and Mexicans and South Africans in our churches to pledge allegiance to a flag that is not theirs? Are we gathered under the banner of Christ or another banner? Is the church of Jesus Christ–our Jewish Lord and Savior–for those draped in the red, white, and blue or for those washed in the blood of the Lamb?
In some parts of the church, every hint of patriotism makes you a jingoistic idolater. You are allowed to love every country except your own. But in other parts of the church, true religion blends too comfortably into civil religion. You are allowed to worship in our services as long as you love America as much as we do. I don’t claim to have arrived at the golden mean, but I imagine many churches could stand to think more carefully about their theology of God and country. Churches should be glad to have their members celebrate Memorial Day with gusto this Monday. We should be less sanguine about celebrating it with pomp and circumstance on Sunday.

You can read the rest of his post here.

(ht: Justin Taylor)

Monday, May 09, 2011

HRH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum Visits the American School of Dubai

My wife works half time as a nurse at the same school my kids attend here in Dubai: The American School of Dubai. It's the oldest American curriculum school in Dubai and they just moved to a brand new campus in Al Barsha. The campus is spectacular.

Today Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum visited (one day notice) to tour the new facility. Flags were handed out to all the students and the day was spent getting ready for his arrival and then in welcoming him.

When we arrived 9 years ago I saw Sheikh Mohammad driving down the road or on the beach several times during the first couple years.

Then as Dubai exploded in growth and Sheikh Mohammad became the countries Vice President, rather than Dubai Crown Prince, he became less prominently seen in public.

Here's a picture my wife snapped with her phone camera this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Christian's View of Osama's Death - Part 2 (Thankful)

As our dinner conversation continued I interjected, "As much as I'm sad that he was not a Christian before his death, I'm also thankful upon hearing this news".

"Why thankful Dad?"

I'm thankful because the Bible teaches that God has put governments and earthly powers in place to restrain evil and even punish evil, at least in an 'earth-bound' sense. God even uses governments and leaders who do not believe in him and do not submit to his law or believe his gospel.

Osama bin Laden was a man who ordered the murder of thousands of people. I believe it was right to order that he be hunted down and stopped. That is the role of the state, as fallible and imperfect as it is.

But I don't think that my thankfulness should turn to jubilation or celebration. That implies vengeance and that is not something that Christians are to take on (Rom 12:19). As thankful as I am for this event, the scenes of partying, flag waving, and raucous singing of songs like "We Are the Champions" seems grossly inappropriate for Christians because even God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:23).

These two feelings, sadness and thankfulness, remind me of the two Kingdoms of which I'm a part. First I'm a part of the heavenly Kingdom because of faith in Christ. My citizenship is ultimately in heaven. This is my most important citizenship (Phil 3:20) and my desire to see all men come to a saving knowledge of Jesus is the sentiment that brings sadness at Osama's death.

But I'm also a citizen of an earthly Kingdom; the United States. And I'm commanded by God to obey the authorities over me in this Kingdom as well, in as much as they don't force me to disobey God. So I'm glad when the government restrains and punishes evil as God has intended it to do. (Incidentally, I'm also a resident of the United Arab Emirates and I see it as my duty before God to obey their laws and be subject to their government as well, in as much as they don't command me to refrain from doing something that God has commanded me to do).

The goal of the people in the first Kingdom, local churches, is to spread the knowledge of God and his Gospel (see Matt 28 again). And a major goal of the second Kingdom, the State, is to uphold earthly justice, restrain and punish evil (1 Peter 2:14). It's the proper role of militaries to defend, protect, and restrain evil but the role of the church in the world is take the Gospel to the nations.

And so you and I live with a cross section of responsibilities and citizenships, both "in the world but not of the world". That's how I can be both sad and thankful for Osama's death.

Note: Some of you have commented on what it means to "love your neigbor" if your neighbor was Osama bin Laden. I would hope you would share the gospel with him (if possible). Or at least wouldn't you want the gospel shared with any jihadist? One popular account these days is of the conversion of son of a Hamas leader. What if no one had shared the gospel with him? And I would hope too that you would pray that any murderer would be caught and punished for his actions. Loving people doesn't mean we let them do whatever they want to do, but it doesn't include withholding the message of hope from them either.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Christian's View of Osama's Death - Part 1 (Sad)

We finished thanking God for our dinner and then began eating.

"So Osama bin Laden was shot and killed yesterday. There are pictures all over the internet of cheering Americans waving flags celebrating. What do you think a Christian should think about his death? How should we think about this event in a Christian way?"

"We should be sad because he wasn't a Christian" piped up Emma, my youngest and only not-yet-a-teenager.

As much as I'm glad that a mass murderer has met with justice (more on that in another post) I agreed with her. To think about the world from a Christian perspective means to think about it from a Gospel perspective. And anyone who has not repented and believed in Christ still has the condemnation of God to face. (John 3:18) That's true for him and it's true for everyone else as well. It's why we share the Gospel with everyone and anyone. (Matt 28:18-20/Acts 4:12) Because the gospel message is the only thing capable of removing the condemnation of God from us and making us adopted sons and daughters of the King.

In the 2 Chronicles 33 there is a story of King Manasseh. If ever there was a despicable human being it was him. Charged with leading the nation of Israel in the ways of God, he did the exact opposite. He led Israel away from God. Injustice, murder, immorality, and idol worship all grew during his reign. And as if to characterize his evil reign with one sentence, it says he sacrificed his own children on the altar of foreign gods. (2 Chronicles 33:6) He literally put his children to death in a selfish attempt to gain favor with the foreign gods of the nations around them.

So God brought other nations to conquer Israel in judgment. And Manasseh was led away in chains and thrown into the prison of his captors. That seems just doesn't it?

But God is so rich in mercy that he moved in Masasseh's heart to truly and deeply repent of his sin. Sitting in that dungeon was the mercy of God to awaken him to his own wretchedness. He truly and deeply repented. And God forgave him.

Not only that but God eventually had him rescued from prison and restored to the throne in Jerusalem.

Now that's amazing grace.

If God can forgive Manasseh then there is hope for everyone else on the planet. People like Osama bin Laden and even me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dubai Muslim Christian Dialogue - Raw Audio

The following is the 3+ hour audio of the recent Muslim-Christian Dialogue held in Dubai on March 6, 2011. The event featured Thabiti Anyabwile and Bassam Zawadi as speakers. Video is being currently produced and will be available in April.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Great Quote: The Aim of Music

The aim and final end of all music should be none other
than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed
is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical
bawling and twanging.

... J. S. Bach (1685-1750)