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Where Our Loyalty Lies

"Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness."  Psalms 115:1

“Heavenly Father, when I enter into worship with you help me not be distracted by worldly pursuits.  I want to praise you with all my heart and mind – not as a divided servant.  In my busy day I carve out time to give you glory of which you are deserving of so much more.  So LORD, especially while I am in your house of worship I lift all glory, honor and praise to you and you alone.  Amen”

About a year ago I tried out a new church.  The people were very friendly and the staff welcoming.  We were asked to rise at the beginning of the service and the doors to the worship center opened.  As a color guard entered the room with the United States flag the small band played a patriotic song.  And I thought, “I love this place already.”  

We sang songs calling us to action and freedom and my heart swelled.  When the pastor began his sermon, he was riled up!  He launched into a religious-political speech like no other I’d heard before.  Now, granted many of the churches in my area were shutdown.  This church was in defiance of that action – something I was looking for.  And this pastor was fervent about pushing back against the oppressive state.

I left electrified and full of thoughts of civil disobedience.  It was all right up my alley.  Until I went to my current church’s life group meeting that next week.

I hadn’t even brought up the topic and yet God wanted to speak to me about “church” and where my loyalty lies. He did so through another member.  She, seemingly out of the blue, started talking about her past church searches.  And she said this, “I want to go to a church where the sole focus is on worship and learning about God.  Not about praising a country.”  Whoops.  Now I know some of you may take issue with this.  But notice she didn’t say she’s not a patriot.  She didn’t say praising a country is wrong.  She said she wants what goes on in the House of God to be about….God.

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

This simple statement by this woman suddenly shifted my perspective on who and what I was worshipping.  I was placing country first then God somewhere down the line.  

I recently heard a rumor that the church I am attending doesn’t have an American flag on the worship platform because the pastor worries it would be offensive to black Christians.  It sounded a bit odd so I shot off an email to a staff member seeking clarification.  One of the pastors replied with this:

“The reasons we do not fly a flag on our platform have nothing whatsoever to do with the pastors or elders feeling it might be offensive to black Christians (who I think would find it offensive that people would think they would find it offensive).  Our general philosophy for worship services is that we do not want to have anything on the platform that wouldn’t be on the platform in heaven, if you will. Second, we try to only sing songs that we would also sing in heaven. We have no problem with patriotic songs or the American flag, but we do not feel they have a place in a worship service where we have gathered to worship God.”

Friends, I’ve come to realize having a country flag is not the issue (would we be annoyed if we didn’t see a French flag on the church podium in France?).  It’s always about where our attention is focused.  It’s always about turning our hearts and minds completely over to giving glory to God – especially during set aside times of worship.  Having a country flag in our churches isn’t wrong but if there isn’t one, should we really care if the reason is to put our laser-like focus only on God?

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