Respectfully, Mr. President… America is not “God’s People”

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:9-13

Today, our nation completed something that is rare in our world. A peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to another. There will surely be disagreements, protests and difficulties over the next four years, ­but as always, for all intents and purposes, Friday was peaceful. Admittedly, it was possibly the first inauguration I’d watched outside of doing so in school while growing up. I’m glad I watched. As a fan of history, I was able to watch the inauguration of arguably one of the most controversial presidents, at least in my lifetime.

“The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
– President Donald J. Trump, Jan 20. 2017

As I watched, and listened intently to President Trump’s inaugural address, I caught a scripture reference (quoted from the speech above) and immediately, my hand went to my forehead, followed quickly by my fingers to the keyboard. President Trump referenced Psalm 133:1, which reads in the ESV, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The president seemingly quoted from the NIV which replaces “brothers” with “God’s People.” The president used this verse to infer that America is “God’s People” and as such, that God will protect America. I’d like to take the remainder of my article and your time to briefly address the fallacy of this.

First, the word “brother” used in every translation I could cross-reference, except the NIV. The Hebrew term used is “אָח” literally “brother”. It carries definitions of brother (sharing same parents), half-brother (sharing same father), & blood-relative (kinship, same tribe). The term itself does not carry the definition of “God’s People,” but it possibly could be inferred from the context of the poem. Verse 2 refers to anointing oil. Some scholars believe David penned this Psalm in response to the unity of the tribes who came together to make him their king. And you may think… “Oh, well that sort of ties into a new president.” Not so fast… The key is that if the term “brother” means “God’s People” then it is referring to the tribes of Israel, who were God’s People when the Psalm was written. That term cannot be used today as a blanket statement for another nation, especially now that we live in the latter days, the days of the Messiah’s Kingdom. Jesus opened the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and gave the opportunity to become a “Child of God (Jn 1:12)” to all who would receive him and follow His commands. “God’s People” and “Child of God” are interchangeable. The church is considered “God’s People” because it is made up of His children. America as a whole, however, is not, nor has it ever been.

John 1:9-13 (at the start of the article) shows us that only those who have received Christ and have been born of God (through the commanded “rebirth” or baptism laid out by Christ in John 3:1-21) have the right to become “Children of God.” Romans 6:1-14 outlines the necessity of baptism and how it unites us with Christ, becoming co-heirs to the inheritance of Heaven (Rom 8:16-17). We are co-heirs with Christ because through our baptism and uniting ourselves to Jesus, we are now God’s children, just as Jesus is. Romans 6 also teaches us that the protection which God provides is not from persecution, ill-doing, political scuffles, foreign invasion, etc., rather that God protects His children from sin and ultimately death. And I’m not talking about death of the flesh. Rather this protection is spiritual (cf. Mt. 10:28).

We are saved, because of Christ and our obedience to His commands (Mark 16:16). This salvation is not a salvation from pain and suffering in this world. The Son of God, His apostles and disciples were not freed from pain, suffering, persecution and even the killing of their body, so how could we ever assume that we would be spared these things? Revelation paints a clear picture to the contrary. God’s protection for His children is from eternal damnation. That protection was made possible through His son Jesus Christ. How? Because through Christ, and the following steps, sin is wiped away. Sin is what separates man from God (Is 59:2). Only those who believe in Christ, repent of their sinful ways, and are baptized for the remission of their sins, uniting themselves to Christ in the waters of baptism, becoming co-heirs and a Child of God… Only they receive this protection from death. Instead of death, they receive life eternal. So long as they continue in humble obedience to His will.

Therefore, with respect, Mr. President, America is not God’s People. America hasn’t been “chosen by God” according to what scripture tells us. Those who are “God’s People,” those that are the “brothers” even within Psalm 133, are those who belong to God, and as such we should live in unity with one another. If the term “brother” is used to mean those of the same nation, then again… Yes! All American’s should live in unity with one another; how good and pleasant that would be. However, unification will not come from Washington, elected officials, pundits or the voting booth. The unity of a nation will not come from man, but from a uniting of the hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It is only through Christ that true peace and unity can be accomplished.

Washington cannot save America from destruction of body and soul. Only the church bringing the Gospel message to America can accomplish that. Be the light in this dark world, dear church. Be the salt that brings flavor and preservation to a dying world.

As always, if you have any questions about this, or if you’d like to learn more about how to become a Christian (a child of God), feel free to email me at derek@duckdisciple.com.

— DD —

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How to avoid disappointment

Election Day could hold some disappointment for millions of Americans as their chosen candidate may lose (or win). Last week was a week of highs and lows for me. As a long-time fan of the Cleveland Indians, seeing them back in the World Series for the first time since 1997 was exciting enough. Then to see them with a 3-1 lead and the chance to win the title with just one more win… Just one more! Well… The Chicago Cubs won 3 in a row in a thrilling World Series comeback for the history books. Cleveland, once again, lost. For the third time in my life I watched my favorite baseball team fall short on the biggest stage in baseball. Disappointment quickly gripped me.

So, I did what any other “logical person” would do in that situation… I went to work doing the dishes. I had to occupy my brain with something other than the overwhelming feelings filling my brain space and chest. Tom Hanks once said, “There’s no crying in baseball!” I fought hard to keep the tears back, but a single one squeaked out of the left eye. Then, as I wiped the tear from the corner of my eye, I realized how silly it was to be feeling this way.

Disappointment comes from putting hope in the uncertain. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines disappointment as, “unhappiness from the failure of something hoped for or expected to happen.” See… I hoped the Indians would win after getting a 3-1 lead. I hoped they would win, bringing it back to Cleveland with a 3-2 lead. But I put my hope in the uncertain. An Indians win wasn’t guaranteed. There was too much left to chance. When I realized this, I also quickly came to my senses and realized the only certainty we have is the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

Hope is one of three elements to a Christian’s character: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13).” The greatest of these is love, which helps us understand why “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mt. 22:37)” and “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:12),” are so high on the “commandment list.” But hope is an essential and fundamental element of Christian life, so essential that, much like faith and love, it can be what people see to let them know you’re a Christian.

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” – 1 Peter 3:15

How can anyone know what hope we have in us, if they can’t see it in your life? The hope we have in eternal life should eclipse any hope we have in uncertain things of this world. 1 John 3:3 says that our hope is based on God. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul says Jesus Christ is our hope. In Titus 2:13 Paul goes further and says, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” God made hope possible by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who provided for us hope through His atoning sacrifice. It’s through His death, burial and resurrection in which we are baptized into and thus receive the promise of eternal life. The hope that kindles the fire within. A hope connected to faith and love! A hope based on Christ.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Th 4:13).” Those who are not children of God according to the means authorized in scripture do not have this hope, but we do. Therefore, disappointment should not have a hold on us because of the hope we have in the certainty of eternity with our Creator, Lord and Savior. Amen.

How do you avoid disappointment? Put your hope in things of Heaven and not of this world! Obey the commands of Christ and start with “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).” As always, I welcome your questions and feedback. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at derek@duckdisciple.com.

– DD –

Why Evangelism Matters

The “Great Commission” is a command for all disciples, then and now, to be evangelists – going into the world making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that Christ commands. But why is this so important to Jesus?

The importance of these commands cannot be emphasized enough. In the book of Daniel we learn of the coming Kingdom that would be established by a rock cut from a mountain, not by human hands. 

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” – Daniel 2:44-45 

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream a few verses prior, Daniel details that when the King saw this rock in his dream it became a great mountain and it filled the whole earth (v. 35). The Great Commission, the call for all disciples to spread the Gospel to all nations, is important to fulfill this prophecy. The Kingdom Christ established on this earth, His church, needs to reach all nations. The world needs to hear the Gospel message as much now as they did back when the commission was first uttered. In order for the Kingdom to grow into a mountain covering the entire earth, the church must follow Christ’s command to GO (first and foremost), make new disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded. New disciples means more members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19), members added to His church (Acts 2:41).

In 2015, the Pew Research Center did an extensive look into the religious atmosphere of America. In their search, they found church attendance was down across the board, no matter the denomination. More people were dying or falling away from faith than were being added. In fact, when you look at the statistics, the younger generations are less likely to be in attendance on a weekly basis. Thirty-four percent of Generation X (1965-1980), 27% of older Millennials (1981-1989) and 28% of younger Millennials (1990-1996) to be exact. 

Why are churches shrinking faster than they’re growing? Very simply, I feel churches have turned away from evangelistic outreach, and shifted their focus to creating programs that draw people in. They call these things “ministries,” but are they truly fulfilling the great & final commission of Christ? In the vast majority of the cases, I would posit, “No.” I think “programs” and break-off ministries can be beneficial, if done with the focus of evangelism and not socialization. If those ministries are teaching all to observe Christ’s commands, rebuking sin, and submitting to the authority of scripture, then they’ll find success. The problem is – outside of false doctrines being propagated – these programs are drawing from other churches, not from the lost (for the most part). The lost may be drawn in by the programs, but are they being taught to observe all of Christ’s commands, including His command for water baptism for the remission of sins? Drawing people in, waiting for them to walk in the doors to do all that Christ commands on their own accord is not equal to Christ’s command to “Go.” It’s a  bad plan for growth, to say the least.

It seems like today, the only way a church grows is if someone who is already a Christian moves into the area, or switches churches because of negative things happening at their former congregation, etc. This isn’t true at all places, but very bluntly, I see it more times than not here in the north. For some reason, churches in the south are better at getting out and evangelizing in their communities (side note: I hope to some day dig deeper into the great differences between churches in the north and south). It’s not true growth because it hasn’t expanded the mountain at all. A piece of the mountain simply changed position. In order to make that mountain grow, we need to be growing in the way Christ commands us… Going, teaching, and baptizing new disciples. Growing the church through evangelism.

Evangelism is a responsibility of every Christian united with Christ in baptism, not just the minister, elders and deacons. All disciples. It starts first in the church pews. Making disciples of those who are already in your church building, but aren’t getting the personal study they need. It starts at home with bringing family members to Christ. If you’re keeping all the commands of Christ, your friends likely know you’re a Christian, and they see something special in you. There’s an opportunity to make disciples in your circle of friends. If you’re reading this and you can list 1 or 2 (or more) people that you think you could evangelize to, I hope this encourages you to act on your impulse. Pray hard about the opportunity, that the truth will be shared, and the Gospel ultimately heard and obeyed.

If I can assist you in any way with this effort, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can always email me at derek@duckdisciple.com.
Why are millennials flocking away from churches? That’s a topic for another article. But it all ties into evangelism. Do you have a topic you’d like to read about, or hear my take on? Submit your suggestions in the comments below or email me at the address listed above.

– DD –