Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

I grew up in the farm fields of Northern Illinois. It was corn and soybean country, the breadbasket of a nation. I played in the fields, Felicia and I joined pretty much every teenager in DeKalb working in the fields of the DeKalb Agriculture and Research Company. The flying ear of corn was a symbol of pride.

Hard work, honesty, love of family and love of country was a part of Midwest DNA. We flew the flag of the United States on a 20-foot-high flagpole that my father had erected in concrete.

On every national holiday the citizens would line parade routes, miliary flag bearers would lead the parade, the High School marching band would process by, Shriner mopeds moved effortlessly in figure eights, old soldiers would hobble down main street, and the good patriots would salute or hold their right hand over their hearts as the Star-Spangled Banner was sung.

Later at a local park, there would be picnics and games, service clubs would sell food to support good causes, and the Honor Guard would return for a three-volley 21-gun salute. My friends and I would scurry about trying to retrieve the shell casings.

Like most Americans, I have descended from immigrants. My family came to the new world in search of a better life in the late 1800’s. They came from England, Scotland, and Norway.

My father was in the Pacific theatre of World War II, my uncle Johnny was injured with the Marines on Guadalcanal, my aunt Janice was an army nurse, my uncle Jim flew Air Force missions in Korea and my cousin Larry served on the ground in Vietnam.

The flag was honored, the love of country was a part of our fiber, sacrificing for freedom was a consistent thread in our family story. At my condominium home in Useless Bay, I fly the colors and recognize the debt I owe to those who have gone before me. I love my country and celebrate this land where people have the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I realize that from the founding of our country that the promises were skewed in favor of the privileged. I recognize that not all had or have equal opportunity. But coming from a family of farmers who were too poor to own any land, I feel blessed to have experienced the American dream.

What place does Patriotism have in the life of Christians?

Does God have some special affinity for the United States of America?

From the dawn of creation there was a self-evident truth; we did not create ourselves. We came from God, you can give that God any name you want, but do give credit to the author of all life who gave you your life.

The 10 Commandments start with an undeniable truth, a word of promise, a definitive statement; “I am the Lord your God.” Nothing can change that reality. Nothing can separate us from God or God’s love. It is a given. We have a relationship with God if we acknowledge that relationship or not.

Given that reality, God commands us saying, “You shall have no other gods.” Not money, not fame, not work accolades, not the Seahawks, not academic achievement or the power that comes with conquest. Everything we do should start with the defining relationship in our lives, the relationship we have with God. We are to love the Lord our God, that understanding will inform us and inspire us to love and serve our neighbor.

When the commandments switch their attention from heaven to earth, they move directly to the nuclear family.

Our primary responsibility in this world is to serve and care for our immediate family members. Parents, spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Christians should not try to save the world, the climate, or the suffering poor if they are neglecting those that they have vowed to care for at home.

God first, family second, and then and only then does our attention turn to our communities and our dedication to our homeland. Patriotism is commendable, but it can also be dangerous. Christians must not let the love of country keep us from loving God and from serving our families.

Our love of country is subservient to our love of God. If our country is acting in a way that is contrary to our Christian calling, then we have an obligation to resist.

If our country asks us to do anything contrary to the teachings of Jesus, then we are to resist. History is laden with stories of Christians who have died resisting.

History is also littered with stories of Christians who let their love of country overrule their love of Jesus. Many atrocities have been perpetrated by Christians who forgot the order.

The order is important. If anyone: parents, pastor, political leader, or boss, asks you to do something contrary to the will and calling of God you are to resist.

My flag will continue to fly on the Fourth of July. I am not a big fan of fireworks, but I will celebrate the freedoms that I have been given. I will pause to offer thanks to those known and unknown patriots who have given me those freedoms. I will not put blind faith in any President, Governor, General, coach or teacher.

I will continue to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, but I will do so guardedly, no salutes, my hand will not rest on my heart, as I will be doing my best to keep that heart focused on God.

There is nothing wrong with patriotism, but the order is critical. God, family, country – those three should never switch positions. When God created the earth there were no borders, no walls, no barbed wire fences running along random lines on a map. There will be no flags in heaven, choirs will replace armies, and there will be no more tears, “for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

God Bless the USA? Absolutely! Does the USA have some privileged status with God? No. Categorically, no.

The children of God in Brazil, Russia, and Afghanistan are equally precious to the One who created them.

Happy Fourth of July! I will see you tomorrow in church. There will be plenty of time to grill and to set off fireworks later, after all, the order is important.

One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, I am your

Pastor Jim

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