Combating Independence Day Anxieties

On Monday, July 4th, 2016, Americans will celebrate the 240th annual Independence Day. On July 4th, 1776, the United States declared its independence from England. Americans will gather in various locations to watch fireworks and cook outdoors to celebrate their freedoms. However, this Independence Day is marked by various anxieties. Americans have watched many of their cherished freedoms diminish at the altar of political correctness. Many are uncertain about what lies ahead for their beloved nation which has served as a bastion of freedom for 240 years. Bible-believing Christians comprise many who hold such concerns. How is it possible to truly relish in Independence Day with such anxieties tormenting us? I would like to suggest four ways to combat anxiety on Independence Day.

1. Combat Independence Day anxieties by trusting in
God’s sovereignty.

The sovereignty of God is more than a doctrine of a solid systematic theology. God’s sovereignty provides a distinguished trust. When a person acknowledges that God is in control, worries and concerns tend to fade away. Divine sovereignty is tied-in to God’s omnipotence. John S. Feinberg notes that God’s sovereignty means that “God is the ultimate, final, and complete authority over everything and everyone…God’s sovereign will is also free, for nobody forces him to do anything, and whatever he does is in accord with his purposes and wishes” (Feinberg 2001, 294). If we were to understand that God is moving to bring about a certain end in mind, saving as many people that He knows would be saved, then the anxious times we currently experience would lose the power of uncertainty. For nothing is uncertain with God.

2. Combat Independence Day anxieties by remembering the Church’s past redemptions.

If you are like me, then you have a long-term memory problem. By that, I mean to indicate that I often find myself forgetting about the ways that God has moved in my life before this time. I eventually worry about things that God has already delivered me from in the past. A classic example of this behavior is found with the disciples. Jesus had fed 5,000 men along with countless women and children with a few loaves of bread and fish (Matthew 14:13-21, ESV). The sum total of those fed that day probably ranged in excess of 20,000 people!

Interestingly enough, the disciples were met with another instance where their food supply had dwindled. Jesus told the disciples again, just as He had previously, to feed the crowd. The disciples, yet again, said, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place” (Matthew 15:33, ESV)? I can imagine Jesus saying, “Seriously?!? Are you kidding Me?!?” Well, that would be my response nonetheless. It’s easy for us to forget about how God has moved in the past.

As the modern Church faces restrictions in religious freedoms, it is important to note that the Church has experienced situations like this in the past. In fact, the Church was born in a hostile society where believers comprised the vast minority. God has delivered the Church in uncertain time. Naysayers who claimed that the Church would not make it 100 years from their time have been greatly disappointed countless times over. Voltaire is such an example. Before worrying about your present, remember the Church’s past.

3. Combat Independence Day anxieties by working the present calling.

Many modern Christians are tempted to become calloused and angry over the situations arising. While it is imperative that we stand up for religious freedoms and take our voting responsibilities seriously as Americans, we must not forget the primary calling upon our lives. We are not called to be patriots first, Christians second. Rather, we are called to be Christians first, patriots second. Often believers are tempted to focus more on the things we oppose than the things for which we stand. It must be remembered that the entire law of God can be summarized into two commandments, as Jesus masterfully put it, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT).

Our first love must be for God and God alone. But in addition to this, we must remember that we are called to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? It is the Christian: both conservative and otherwise. It is the Arab and the Jew; the Muslim and Hindu. It is the Buddhist and Sikh. It is the Wiccan, the Atheist, the Agnostic, and Secularist. It is the Republican and the Democrat. It is the Liberal and the Conservative. It is the White person, the Black person, the Asian, and Latino. It is the American, the Canadian, the Russian, and the Mexican. It is those who live like you and those who do not, those who share your values and those who do not. All of the aforementioned individuals are made in the image of God…even if the person mentioned doesn’t realize that fact.

This brings us to the issue of calling. What is the primary calling for the Church united? Jesus has told us from the beginning that our primary calling is to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NLT). Does this mean that we still stand for the truth uncompromisingly? Absolutely we do! But one’s stand must never be allowed to waver one’s commitment to love others the way Christ instructed. If we remember to see others through the lens of Christ, then we will be better focused on the task at hand.

4. Combat Independence Day anxieties by acknowledging future victory.

Beloved, I was reminded of a great truth the other day in my devotions. I came across Paul’s reminder to the Church of Rome where he notes that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:18-19, 28, NLT). Russell D. Moore tells us that a good way to remember the future coming is to walk around in an old graveyard and while doing so, he writes,

“think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent. And that’s when life gets interesting” (Moore 2014, 721).

Undoubtedly, we live in uncertain days. But the promise that our heavenly Independence Day brings us is that we are redeemed to live a life without worry and anxiety. Our sins have been forgiven. We have a purpose and a high calling upon our lives. So, this Independence Day, instead of mourning the things we have lost as Americans, why not focus on the things we have gained through our risen Lord Jesus?

© July 3, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Moore, Russell D. “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014.

Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Scripture marked NLT comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2013.

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Christians in American Exile

This article is written after a weekend of turbulence in the United States of America. Last Friday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. This website does not normally engage in more controversial social issues as this site seeks to build unity rather than division. However, in this case, it seems that a response is necessary. Yet, the response I was led to provide in our church service is the same response I feel led to provide on the website. The response will not engage the issue of same-sex marriage nor will it address the issue of marriage (Lord knows that the blogosphere and social media have exploded with comments pertaining to those issues). This response deals with the ever-increasing reality that Christians—by Christians here, I mean those who take the Bible seriously in its morality as well as its theology—find themselves in exile in their own land. Bizarre as it may seem, especially heading into the Fourth of July, many Christians feel that this land of the free does not provide them with as much free expression as it once did, thus leading to the feeling that Christians are in exile in America. But, one should know that this is not the first time that the faithful have found themselves in the minority. It is not the first time that the faithful have found themselves strangers in their own land. In fact, God has allowed such times to occur to bring forth several realities. Such realities can be seen as the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after having been exiled in Babylon for several years. When Ezra, Nehemiah, and others came back to rebuild the Temple, they discovered these realities. This article will deal with three.

Exiles Acknowledge the Faithful Have Always Been a Minority

God may allow exiles to occur in order to remind the faithful that they have always been in the minority. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).[1] The fact is—the people of God have always been in the minority. But this brings the church to another reality.

Exiles Purify the Faithful by Identifying the True People of Faith

One may query, “But hasn’t the church been in the majority in American public life up until now?” Yes. But such an acknowledgment does not indicate that everyone who claimed to be a Christian really was a Christian. In a society where being a Christian is easy, it may be that some become “Christians” for reasons beyond that of true acceptance and surrender to the risen Christ. For instance, I knew a person who never acted like a Christian, yet everyone observed that he attended a local church every Sunday. Someone asked him, “I notice you go to church. Are you a Christian?” He said, “No, not really. I just attend church because it makes me look good to those in the community. It is job security.” When exiles occur, the people of God are reminded that this is not their home. This is a fallen world. When faith is tested, the people of faith will rise to the occasion. Those who are not will fall. When Ezra and the people of God returned from exile, they rebuilt the Temple. Yet, not everyone was excited about this endeavor. Ezra denotes that “many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and he sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:12-13). Some may claim that these tears were tears of joy. But the next chapter indicates that the people of faith encountered great opposition against the building campaign. All of this demonstrates that the people of faith will rise to any occasion because of the empowerment of God and the faith in which they hold (e.g. Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Others will fall. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to see what a person is truly like, put them in power.” The same could be said in that if one wants to see the one who truly has faith, put them in situations where the person’s faith is tested. Like separating wheat from chaff, the wheat will remain and the chaff will be blown away.

This does not mean that the church gives in or gives up. It means that the church must look up and reach out.

Exiles Strengthen the Faithful

Finally, one will note that the faithful are strengthened during times of exile. It is an odd thing that when the church faces its most pressing times, it is then that the church becomes the strongest. The darker the times, the brighter the light of God shines through the church. This does not indicate that bad times are good. It simply indicates that God uses dark days to strengthen his people. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). The faithful will remain standing and in fact will be strengthened during what appears to be a Christian American exile. Looking back in history, great times of distress have accompanied great times of revival.

Conclusion

So how should a Christian respond in such difficult times? As one may have noticed, there will be some who become angry and filled with hate. Such should not be the response of the Christian. Yes, we become frustrated. Yes, we become irritated. However, a true believer will not respond in hate. Second, some will fall away. Some will become so frustrated with the drama that they discontinue their ministries and/or their work in the church. But such is not demonstrative of a true believer because the “one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). This is not to say that church attendance saves, but rather that one who continues to endure is the elect of God. Perhaps the best response is given by the apostle Paul who wrote that the church should “excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love is genuine” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8). Excel church and be excellent! Those are great words of wisdom. During this time of exile, let your light luminously shine while standing firm upon the foundation of faith. Stand for biblical convictions, but never stop loving those around you–including those with whom you disagree.

© June 29, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

What is Still Good About America: An Evangelical Christian’s Perspective

What is Still Good About America: An Evangelical Christian’s Perspective.

Are American Professional Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

Are American Profession Sports Leagues Losing Their Professionalism?

By: Pastor Brian Chilton

    

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “professionalism” as:

“1     a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

b : engaged in one of the learned professions

c(1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession

(2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

2       a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs 〈a professional golfer

b : having a particular profession as a permanent career 〈a professional soldier

c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return 〈professional football

3       : following a line of conduct as though it were a profession 〈a professional patriot.”[1]

As far as the second definition, it must be admitted that pro sports are still professional in the sense that athletes are getting paid for a service rendered.  However, for this article, the first definition will be targeted, particularly the definition of 1c…”characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.”  Three issues stand out in regard to professional sports leagues in the modern time and the evangelical Christian.  The first relates to that of politics.

Technical Standards or Political Platform

It cannot be said that all sports leagues are guilty of what the NFL and NBA are commonly guilty of committing, but since the NFL is the most popular league right now, the NFL must be examined.  The NFL is, quite frankly, the most guilty of all in allowing their league to become a “political platform” instead of maintaining technical standards.  Take Sunday Night Football on NBC for example.

During the halftime show of almost every Sunday Night Football game, NBC commentator Bob Costas, who is known for his liberal bias, will give a political topic that may loosely be based upon the game.  Let me ask you this: is this a proper platform for Costas’ political agenda?  When a person logs on to our show “Redeeming Truth Radio” at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton, the listener knows what he or she is going to hear.  However, is it fair that Costas is allowed to give his opinion without a differing opinion allowed to be given?  Some will say, “Well, that is the media not the league.”  While that statement is true, the league is allowing this to transpire.  The league permits these platforms because the league depends on the media to a great degree.  How successful would professional sports be if not for the media?  The driving force behind professional sports is money.  The apostle Paul accurately diagnosed the love of money long ago when he wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).  The love of money causes all kinds of problems.  This love of money has created another unprofessional manner of conduct: a seeming control of beliefs.

Courteous and Businesslike Manner or Control of Beliefs

Another attribute of professionalism is courteous and businesslike manner of conduct.  This courteousness should be revealed in the appreciation of all points of view.  However, this is not the case.  A great case in point is the “blackballing” of Tim Tebow.  Tim Tebow, the former quarterback of the Florida Gators and former quarterback of the Denver Broncos, was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.  Why?  Tebow led the team to a first-round victory in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers that year.  Tebow was a great moral player.  While I will admit that he was not the best player that has ever played the position of quarterback, he did hold his own.  It was clear that John Elway, the owner of the Broncos, had his problems with Tebow.  Why?  It had more to do with the religious and political convictions of Tebow more than Tebow’s football performance.  Now that the Jets have dropped Tebow, it does not seem that Tebow will be hired by another team…at least not by the time this article was posted.

Some have dismissed this as a lack of performance by Tebow.  The listener hears such responses as, “Tebow’s playing style does not work in the NFL.”  Well, is it not the same playing style of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers?  Is it really playing style or beliefs?

Clearly, the problem with Tebow is something much deeper.  Why is it that Tebow was ostracized for his beliefs?  Or was it rather that Tebow was ostracized due to the vocalization of his beliefs?  This seems to be the going trend in the NFL.  Worship the league.  Don’t be an individual.  The famous “end zone celebrations” are so restricted that the originality of the celebrations are taken away.  But, this takes us to another problematic issue with professional sports.  It seems to be the new reigning religion of America.

The Real Problem: America’s New Religion

What is the religion of America?  Some would say that professional sports are the new religion.  With the passionate focus on football, baseball, and other sports with the lack of zeal towards God, truth, and things of substance, it could be said that perhaps sports really are the new religion of America.  Chad Gibbs of the Washington Post writes,

16.3 million is certainly a lot of people, in fact it’s almost as many as 17.3 million, which is the number of people who attended an NFL game in 2009. You see the reason so many people in America check ‘Christian’ on these Religious Identification Surveys is because football is usually not one of the choices. Because if we are being honest here, and who isn’t honest on the Internet, America is really a football nation.[2]

 Could this not be part of the problem with America?  Could it not be that we are falling into the same trap that those of the Roman Empire were before the Roman Empire’s collapse?  After all, sports are only games on the level of Monopoly, Uno, Chess, and Backgammon.  When football coaches speak of running a “play,” it is just that…a “play;” playing a game.  Could professional sports be nothing more than a delusional fantasy…a delusional fantasy that helps people lose focus on the troubles of life: a dreamland where a person can pretend to be a sports star with no apparent problems?  But the truth is, sports stars have their own set of problems.  Some stars have greater problems than the ordinary Joe would ever have to face.  That is at the heart of a delusional fantasy.  The grass is always greener on the other side until you get on the other side and see that the grass is not as green as once thought.

Conclusion

At the heart of it all, there is nothing wrong in enjoying professional and college sports as long as the enjoyment is kept in healthy moderation and does not become a means of escaping reality and responsibility.  The problem lies when leagues lose their professionalism to promote a certain agenda onto the populace.  A greater problem is that many Americans are content with living in a dream world of football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.  It is an opiate that helps to keep a person from dealing with the big issues of life.  Karl Marx once said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  This is of course self-defeating because Marx is giving a religious statement which must then be seen as his own opiate if true.  Acknowledging God’s existence and having a relationship with the Lord does not hide one from his or her problems.  As a matter of fact, God helps us deal with important issues…big issues…and resolve the problems in our lives if we let Him…and if we listen to Him.

Although sports are okay to enjoy in moderation, people must give sports their proper place.  If sports or games of any kind become an opiate for the people (keeping them from dealing with the important issues of life), it would be easy for a person to be brainwashed with any passing fad that the sports leagues wishes to promote.  The combination of unprofessionalism in many sports leagues coupled with the populace allowing professional sports to become their new religion can lead to a mindless, immoral, group of lemmings. This is extremely dangerous.  If one does not believe the danger involved, look at the Roman Empire.  See how the people were engrossed with the games while atrocities were committed.  See how brutality became the norm.  The parallels between the Roman Empire and our modern culture are uncanny.

This is not what God brings to His children.  God through Jesus Christ brings freedom, courage, and morality.  As Paul writes, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father” (Romans 8:15, NASB)!  It is not suggested that a boycott or anything of the sort be conducted against these sports leagues.  I will continue to watch football games and cheer on my favorite teams.  However, it must be suggested that sports, especially in lieu of the recent unprofessionalism, be kept in proper perspective.  For it will not matter how many touchdowns you threw, home-runs you hit, free throws you earned, or goals you scored when you stand before God on Judgment Day.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton


[1] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[2] Chad Gibbs, “Football: America’s National Religion,” Washington Post. September 3rd, 2010, accessed June 3rd, 2013. {http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/09/football_americas_national_religion.html}.