The Christian and the Confederate Flag

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For the past week or so there has been an uproar to “take down that flag”, in reference to the Confederate flag which flies in many places across the Southern States. The cry comes from Democrats and Republicans, from liberals and some conservatives, even Dr. Russell Moore President of the ERLC of the Southern Baptist Convention issues the call to take down the flag.

Now we all know a flag didn’t make a young man shoot people in a church prayer meeting, it was his beliefs which led him to commit such a heinous action. His worldview corrupted his thinking when he open fired on the church prayer meeting. His worldview was his overarching passion at that instant and it caused him to open fire.

I currently reside in Arkansas, a transplant to the South via California. My love for Southern living is abounding everyday. I also know some very godly down to earth Southern folks who see the Confederate flag, not as a sign of racism but a symbol of Southern pride, a heritage marker which says I am a Southerner and proud of it.

Yet on the other side we have hate groups which have embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate and white supremacy. A symbol of a race war, which unfortunately is the predominant message. Before I moved to the South, that is exactly how I viewed the Confederate flag as an Hispanic American. When I moved here I was offended to see the flag flying proudly.

Until I met some of these Southern people, who have loved and embraced my family and I. People who do what they can to help you when your in a bind. People who love and embrace my children as their own.

As I sit back and contemplate on all the fuss concerning the Confederate flag, I see it from three perspectives now. There are people who view the Confederate flag as just a people proud to be from the South. Where people are extremely polite, the tea is good, and the Southern food is great, among other things. To them it’s a marker which says, I am Southern and I am proud of it.

At the same time their are those who use it as their symbol of racism and hate. A symbol for a race war. Hate is what they are selling and the Confederate flag is their brand. There is no denying this.

There is yet another perspective, I believe Paul the Apostle helps us in this area, when writing to the church in Phillipi, he begins warning them about those who say you need Jesus + circumcision for salvation. Paul tells them,

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (ESV) Philippians 3:4-8

Paul says you think you have confidence in your circumcision, let me tell you my heritage, because if any one should have confidence it is me.

1) Circumcised on the eighth day
2) Of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews
3) As to the law, a Pharisee
4) As to zeal, a persecutor of the church
5) As to righteousness under the law, blameless

If anyone can take pride in his heritage, it is Paul. He was the standout, the Hebrew of Hebrews, as he puts it.

Now I know most Southerners out there don’t believe they need Jesus + their Southern heritage for salvation. But look what Paul says in verse 7,

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Did Paul gain from his heritage? Sure he did, if all the Old Testament points to Christ, there must be gain from his heritage. Is there gain being raised in the Bible belt of the South? Sure there is, but notice the very next phrase, I count it as loss.

Why?

Christ is so much more than the heritage you bring to the table.

Paul goes on to say he counts all things, his heritage, money, wealth, fame, future, all things loss because knowing Jesus is worth more than anything. The joy of knowing Christ surpasses anything you bring to the table, by far, there is no comparison.

Paul not only says Christ is worth so much more than all things. Paul goes on to say all things are rubbish and are worth giving up for Christ. The ESV translates the Greek word Skubalon as rubbish but other translations use dung, or as I say, it is all a pile of poo compared to knowing Christ.

Paul says everything I perceive as gain is skubalon, now here is an even bigger statement, in order that I may gain Christ. Paul, very clearly, points out I must give up whatever I put my pride and rightousness in, to gain Christ. As believers, our identity is in Christ, and everything else is a distant second to Him. Christ becomes what defines who we are, above being a Hispanic American, father, husband, wife, mother, or even a Southerner.

For the Christian, Christ is our supreme pleasure and the proclamation of the Gospel is our mission.  If this is true of believers, then we must decide to take down the flag because it is “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Rom. 14:13) ”  I would also contend, not only is it offensive to some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it may prevent an unbeliever from hearing the Gospel.

Paul continues in Romans 14, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat” or by what flag you fly, “you are no longer walking in love (Rom. 14:15).” Love for our neighbor becomes the motivation of the Christian. We must be Gospel people who are uncompromising when it comes to the truth of God’s Word. We also must be Gospel people who submit to God’s word by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ who are deeply offended by the Confederate flag.

Why?

For the Christian, the flag which should be fying above all others is the Gospel which has granted us access into God’s kingdom. Every other flag is secondary to Christ and the Gospel. Here is what Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” or which flag you fly “but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food (or a flag), destroy the work of God (Romans 14:17-20).”

Remember it’s all skubalon compared to the privilege of knowing Christ.

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor’s Library: Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks of Future Leaders

“Growing in leadership is crucial to pastoral ministry, especially in our rapidly changing society. Forward will help you go back to the foundation of leadership, anchoring your life and ministry on the truth of God’s word. It gently reminds you that forward leaders must minister from the outflow of God’s presence in their lives.”

Read the rest of Forward review by clicking here

Meditation Monday: Seeking and Setting

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Meditation Monday is where I share my ramblings and reflections from Sunday’s sermons from Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR, Pastor Todd Howard. We are currently going through 1 John in Sunday School, Colossians in the morning, and Genesis in the evening.

Has Christ made an impact on you? Is your life continually changing because of Christ and what He has done for you?

John the Apostle, speaks about a historical Jesus, who was with the Father in the beginning, but stepped into our world, the Word of life made flesh. Take a look from 1 John,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us (I John 1:1-2 ESVST)

John speaks about a historical event that has continuing impact in his life and produces life change. An aspect of that life change, in John, is proclaiming and testifying the message of the Gospel. Further into his letter he speaks of confessing sin, living in the light, loving our neighbors and more. John’s life was radically impacted by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

In Colossians, we read from the writings of Paul, another man transformed by the life of Christ. His life is radically changed by a historical event that has continuing impact in his life and produces life change. Paul through the Spirit explains to us how to grow in  grace when it comes to living out life change. He shares a vital key,

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-4)

Paul tells us to maintain a posture of seeking and setting our minds on Christ and those things which are eternal. Which in return means not to be preoccupied with the temporal stuff of life. A simpler way to say it, to borrow from the Apostle John, do not love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15).

By maintaining a posture of seeking and setting our minds on Christ, we continue to grow in holiness, which is life changing. But there are those times in our life when we fail, we cave to the pressures of life, we conform to cultural norms, worldly pleasures take precedent, all these and more stunt life change.

In our evening service we learned about one of those setbacks in the life of Abraham. When he listened to Sarah, took Hagar into his marriage bed and had a child. A child, who in their eyes, would be the child of promise, but God had bigger and better plans.

Abraham did what seemed right in his eyes. He bowed to the cultural norms. He took his eyes off the eternal city and promises of God, for the temporal, social norms of his day. Our generation today is still paying the price of Abraham’s lack of seeking and setting his mind on the eternal, on Christ.

How is the historical event (the life and work of Christ) having continuing impact in your life and how is it producing life change?

How many times do we forfeit the bigger and better plans of God by doing what seems right in our own eyes?

Let us meditate on the words of Paul,

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

The Early Bird Gets The Link

Sorry, But Not Really
The board of Creflo Dollar Ministries has apologized for an online fundraising video seeking $60 million in donations for a new private plane, saying the request caused “confusion.”

9 Possible Reasons For Spirtual Drought
Spiritual drought, though a persistent and unwelcome visitor, is not something with which we must constantly live. There are Biblical means by which we can, by grace, put ourselves in the way of refreshment; we can be restored to once again feel the joy of our salvation. But this can only happen if we are able to discern why we might be experiencing spiritual dryness so we can take the appropriate action.

What Will You Say?
It’s the kind of image that takes your breath away, eliciting all sorts of panging emotions—aversion, compassion, and deep, deep sadness. It’s also the kind of image that will become a cultural lodestone for generations to come, like one of those classic Life magazine covers.

Google’s “Undo Send”
The new button let’s users recall sent emails moments after they are delivered. Because who hasn’t accidentally hit reply-all with a snarky response to an email chain meant for an individual, or like in Google’s video below, accidentally sent a poorly worded email about an innocent, romantic walk on the beach to someone unintended?

Precious in the sight of the Lord

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Tonight as my family and I sit at home, we recieved a message concering my Tio (uncle) Marin Cantu Jr, his battle with cancer came to an end. While he is in Fresno, CA and we are in Pine Bluff, AR, my wife and I are struggling with not being able to be there with our extended family to love and comfort them in this time of mourning. We love you all deeply and are mourning with you from afar.

As my wife recieved the latest update, we sit in tears.

But as we mourn, the Lord brought to mind a beautiful passage in Scripture,

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints (Psalms 116:15 ESV)

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As Christians pass from this life into the next, to the Lord it is precious. As I sit and meditate on why it is precious, a few reasons flow through my mind at this time.

1. The curse of sin is finally defeated. As we pass from this life into the presence of the Lord the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh is over. The battle with our sinful passions is gone, victory over the flesh becomes an eternal reality. This is precious.

2. The good fight of faith is over, the race is completed. I have recently taken up jogging for excercise, each time I finish my regimen or complete a goal there is a part of me which celebrates. When the fight of faith is completed and the race of faith is over, when the believer crosses the finish line of mortality to immortality, there will be a celebration like never before. This is precious.

3. Reuniting with those who have gone before us. When we pass from this life into the next we will reunite with those believers which have died before us. My Tio Marin is wrapping his arms around his father, brother, sister, and the many other believers who have gone before him. This is precious.

4. Death is defeated, it is swallowed up in victory. The curse of death is upon us all. When we are born we begin to die. For many death is to be feared. But for the Christian, death is victory. God takes the curse of death and uses it as the avenue in which we close our eyes here and are ushered into the arms of our Savior for forever. O death where is your sting? O death where is your victory? This is precious.

5. When we close our eyes for the final time, the believer will finally see, what we have only seen through the eyes of faith, the welcoming nail pierced hands of Jesus. We will worship like never before. We will fall at the feet of our Savior and cry Holy Holy Holy is the lamb which was slain. Then he will pick us up, look right into our eyes, with a voice full of love and grace He will speak the words we’ve long to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” This is the most precious of all.

Tia Norma and family, our hearts mournfully celebrate with you. We love you very much.

In loving memory of Tio Marin Cantu Jr, Son, Husband, Father, Brother, Tio, Friend, Combat Vetern, Hard Worker, Bivocational Pastor.
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Until Next Time

Soli Deo Gloria

Meditation Monday: Jesus + ? =


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Meditation Monday is where I share my ramblings and reflections from Sunday’s sermons from Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, AR, Pastor Todd Howard. We are currently going through Colossians, our passage this week is in Colossians 2:16-23.

When Paul penned the letter to the Ephesian church, he made a declaration of truth so simple, I don’t know how much simpler he could have put it. Paul explains,

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:4-9 (HCSB)

Salvation comes to us by grace through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Nothing we do can save us, we do not bring anything to the table when it comes to salvation, it is all God. God, who is rich in mercy, replaces our lifeless heart with a heart which beats for HIm. Our identity is no longer found in a son of Adam, a son of sin. Our identity is now in Christ, a son of God, we are raised with Him and seated with Him. God  works in this manner so that His glory and His immeasurable riches of grace will be put on display for all to see.

Rejoice, you are saved by grace.

Grace is the awesome work of God in the lives of believers across the world, and yet, why are we tempted to add our own flavor to the Gospel? Why is it that when a new fad comes along that says you need Jesus +, we are so tempted to buy into it? The Barna Research Group draws our attention to something I find interesting concerning what Americans believe about Jesus,

Among adults who have made a personal commitment to Jesus, most also believe that Jesus is the way to heaven. When given several beliefs about the afterlife to choose from, nearly two-thirds of those who have made a personal commitment to Jesus say they believe that after they die they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior (63%).

The research points out 63% of Americans believe Jesus is sufficient for salvation. On the other hand it also tells us 37% of people who call themselves Christians believe in Jesus + something else will get them to heaven. Jesus + being good, Jesus + following the law, Jesus + you fill in the blank. The funny thing is, the Jesus +  gospel is nothing new, the church in Colosse was dealing with people coming along saying they needed Jesus +  the law, Jesus + visions and angels, Jesus + asceticism.

Paul’s message to them and to us is simple Jesus is enough,

For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:9-10 (HCSB)

Before Paul began dealing with all the false teachings which were floating around Colosse, he told them Christ is enough because Christ is God and every believer is filled by Him. Christ is sufficient to save you, sustain you, to supply for every situation which may arise in your life.  Jesus + anything else is a pseudo gospel, a false hope. Pastor Todd pointed out in his sermon,

If you are filled with Christ, who is God, what else is there room for? Jesus is enough!

Until next time

Soli Deo Gloria`