Separation of Church & State

I read an article last week talking about the difference between Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Religion.


Freedom of Worship – means you have the right to worship who you believe to be god so long as you are tolerant of other people’s right to worship.


Freedom of Religion – means you have the right to practice your religion.


For most people, myself included, the difference is so subtle that most people don’t see the difference and most people don’t understand the implications on Christianity.  The difference between the two is as follows: Freedom of Worship means a Christian can show up to a church and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but the moment you walk out the door of that building you are supposed to keep your religious beliefs to yourself.  Behind this is the perspective of tolerance – you believe what you believe, let me believe what I believe, and let’s not try to convert each other.  Freedom of Religion on the other hand means a Christian can not only show up at a church and worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but also practice your religion in the form of trying to share Christ with others and convert them to Christianity.


We are told in our culture that there is a Separation of Church and State, and people use this to silence Christians.  But the meaning of Separation of Church and State is different from the practice of Separation of Church and State in the 21st Century United States of America.  Originally in our country, the term was an offshoot of the phrase, “wall of separation between church and state,” as written in Thomas Jefferson‘s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.  The Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut sent a letter, dated October 7, 1801, to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, expressing concern over the lack in their state constitution of explicit protection of religious liberty, and against a government establishment of religion (i.e., they didn’t want one denomination to become the official state church and thus not allow the Danbury Baptists to practice their religion).  So Jefferson responded by saying: “… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”


The original purpose of the letter was not to say we cannot practice our religion or that we only have freedom of worship or that teachers, students, and employees can’t ever talk about their religious convictions, or that Christians cannot let their religious beliefs inform their politics, especially when they run for office.  Rather, the purpose was to protect people in their practice of religion so that they would not be discriminated against.


Think about the above and then think about how far we have gone in the opposite direction.


Friends, Christian brothers and sisters, we have a mission before us – to reach West Seattle, Burien, White Center and Des Moines with the Gospel – may we do it with grace (Jesus’ method of ministering) and yet may we not be afraid for the laws of our country are on our side as we practice our religion.




Deny self and follow Jesus

What does it mean to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)?


–          It means less sleep.

–          It means more meaningful time with loved ones.

–          It means seeking to understand before being understood.

–          It means death to appetites.

–          It means leaning on God’s grace.

–          It means paying attention to what is behind what someone is saying.

–          It means learning to love.

–          It means taking on God’s character.

–          It means discerning the right timing for a conversation about God.

–          It means restraint when the Spirit prompts you to remain silent.

–          It means showing an interest in what others are doing.

–          It means leading by example.

–          It means extending grace to others.

–          It means following God when you don’t want to.

–          It means conforming our hearts to His.

–          It means believing what you know to be true.

–          It means developing self-control.

–          It means praying for the sole purpose of getting to know God.

–          It means being a student of self.

–          It means showing up to meetings on time.

–          It means assuming the best in others.

–          It means seeking to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

–          It means humility.

–          It means being excited when someone walks in the room.

–          It means building people up.

–          It means edification.

–          It means inspiration.

–          It means becoming enthusiastic about the things of God.

–          It means loving what is good.

–          It means trying to shepherd instead of telling someone what to do.

–          It means encouragement.

–          It means looking at ourselves as God sees us.

–          It means not wallowing in self pity.

–          It means a healthy identity of Christ in me.

–          It means He must increase and I must decrease.


Friends at Grace, I admit I am not perfect and that I need to deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus not just on the big things, but the little things as well.  Please pray for me as I seek to become more like Christ.  Please also know I am praying for you. 


“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 

~ Numbers 6:24-6:26  NIV

Tech Communication

I was contemplating technology yesterday when I came home for lunch and my son (4 years old) was doing his “homework” on the computer.  The internet is a great tool and can be used for a lot of good, like teaching my son to read in a fun and systematic way.  So, on a daily basis my wife sets him up at the computer and by this point he is more advanced than his sisters were at the same age.  This is a good thing, but there is something else I noticed when I came home for lunch yesterday; normally he runs to the stairs and greets me with excitement when I walk through the door.  This time, however, he did not run to greet me and when I said hello he did not even turn his head and barely acknowledged my entrance into the room.  So I said, “Son, if the computer is going to make it so that you do not even turn your head and say hello when I come home, we will not be allowed to use the computer.”  I turned off the computer, picked him up, and gave him a tight squeeze for a few minutes until it was time to eat lunch. 


Technology can be a good thing, but I often wonder if it is changing our relationships for the better?


When I was a youth pastor I had two students that were dating who did not know how to communicate; they would talk or argue via text messaging while sitting next to each other on a couch.  Texting can be good, but it can also hinder, hurt, or change communication in a way that cause us to mis-communicate.


The same can be said for communication via instant messaging, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, these are good tools that can help build community, but they can also subtract from the community right in front of us.


I read a book once called “Bowling Alone”, which spoke about the idea that we have intentional and unintentional communities.  About 80 years ago a person’s intentional community was their church, their friends, family, and co-workers.  Their unintentional community was made up of people they came in contact with on a daily basis who they would not normally pursue to be in relationship with, like the milk man, the mail man, the clerk at the general store, the grocer, you neighbor sitting on the front porch in the hot summer months because it was too warm to stay inside, and the children in the neighborhood that you watched play in the street with one another as they built their intentional community.


Then along came the telephone, and people started developing intentional communities with people who were not even in the same room, sometimes ignoring those within the house as they sought to have a more private, uninterrupted conversation.  Add to this air conditioning, which resulted in people staying indoors and avoiding their neighbor, or automatic garage door openers, which resulted in people driving right into their attached garage and entering the house without having to wave to Fred on the way to your private life.  Think of Television, it used to be that people arranged the couches and chairs in a living room for conversational entertainment with those they intended to build community with, now the furniture tends to be situated facing the television resulting in less relationship building.  Have you ever walked into a home where people are watching TV and notice that the people are usually so fixated on what is on TV that they barely acknowledge the person who just walked into the room? Next time you are sitting around watching TV and someone walks in, look around and pay attention to what people do and you will see what I mean.  Now add to this texting, Smart Phones, Lap-Tops, Facebook, and Twitter; it becomes easy to ignore your formerly “intentional community” (family members or people you are hanging out with) making them your unintentional community to pursue an intentional community through technology.


I am not saying technology is bad, but I am saying that we need to learn how to control it so that it does not control us, potentially damaging or hindering the beauty of human relationships, which should involve personal contact.  I write this, through a computer, knowing this is a very good form of communication, but also realizing it does not replace a face-to-face with you my friends.