9 years ago today I took a vow. Now, every vow is taken before God and God definitely holds us accountable for our words (Matt 12:36). A vow has the power to direct our lives for good or bad and creates a strong spiritual push in a specific direction that limits our choices in that our words obligate us to fulfill them. I can think of a number of people I have ministered to who have been obligated to do something completely unhealthy because of a vow taken. I don’t think God wants us to live out of obligation, but out of desire. But, the vow stands until you either fulfill it,
A man who makes a vow to the LORD or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.
… or our Father in heaven releases you from it. (Numbers 30:5)
Jesus Himself taught his followers not to make vows at all.
“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’But I say, do not make any vows!… Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.”
But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.
So, what was my vow? It was to the kingdom of the United States of America and state of Minnesota when I enlisted in the Air National Guard. It went something like this:
I, Nathan Banker, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of Minnesota against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of Minnesota and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.
Today is the first day after having completed two enlistment terms under that vow. I was obligated, before God, and under the power of my own words to fulfill this vow even to the point of death. Also, as a member of the US military, I am not allowed to serve in any other military. I had pledged my allegiance to the earthly kingdom of the United States and I was bound to it by oath before God.
At what point do I think it’s okay to swear an oath of service to an earthly kingdom and think that I can simultaneously swear allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven? The US certainly provides for dual citizenship, but does not provide for dual military service at the same time. It’s a direct conflict of interest.
Then again, is the Kingdom of God a real kingdom? Yes. I’m banking my life on it.
No one can serve to masters.
Was it a sin to serve in the military? Maybe, but in my case, I doubt it. I never had to kill anyone and I fulfilled my vow completely. But, I was divided. In a similar way to how Paul suggested a life of singleness because it could mean a life more singularly devoted to Christ, I had to serve two masters. I had to obey my commanding officers even if it conflicted with my Kingdom values of self-sacrificial love, and I did. I was a servant of the state.
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name.
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.
2 Timothy 2:4
I now serve one master in one army. I have one commander in chief. It isn’t the President. It isn’t democracy. It isn’t capitalism. It isn’t America. I pledge my allegiance to Jesus.
I am indivisible.
I hear a lot of talk in Christian circles about the coming judgment of God on the Nation if we don’t repent from our evil ways and turn back to God. I hear a lot of voices saying that this election is about biblical principles and godly values. I hear believers all over the place saying that this is the most important election in our life times because this or that candidate is standing in opposition to God’s laws.
Who is “we”?
When people say that “we” need to repent from our evil ways and turn back to God, who are they talking about? Every single person in America who is in sin, or just those who are deep in the extra-bad sins? Like what? Like sex traffickers? Those who abduct, rape, use, violate, and throw away precious young and old throughout our country? Not according to all the “prophetic” evangelical voices out there. Judgement is coming because of homosexual unions.
So, if everyone homosexual in the country repents and turns from their evil ways, the God’s judgement won’t come on the nation? Well, no, because we also have the issue of life being stuffed out legally and unchallenged in the country. What do you mean? Like “legal” foreign wars that aren’t approved by congress and have to be technically labels as conflicts because, according to our own laws, we can’t go to war without congress’s approval? Do you mean all those people who are being killed my our military? No? Oh, you mean legally killing people in the prisons through our justice system? No, that’s justified killing. It’s justified because it either is considered justice to kill those who kill us or because other people need to be scared into behaving properly. No, judgement is coming on the nation because we’re aborting babies in the womb.
So, the conclusion is that if homosexuals and those who are getting abortions would humble themselves and turn from their evil ways, God would heal our land.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (bold-ifying mine)
Apparently we are in trouble as a country because our leaders are not very good at upholding godly values and honoring God’s laws in the way we do business as a country. If our political leaders would just do a better job enforcing godly laws and principles, then we would be doing okay.
- God’s law doesn’t create righteousness.
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. Colossians 2:20-23
- God’s law gives sin life.
But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. Romans 7:8-11
- All who life under the law are cursed.
But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10
- Anyone trying to live under the law is guilty of it all if they fail on one point.
For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free (not the law that bring condemnation – 2 Cor 3:9). There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:10-13 (Bold-ifying and additional commentary mine)
The curse of those in authority
People in authority have a special position to bless or curse with their words. We see with with Jacob crossing his arms to bless the younger of Joseph’s two sons over the older one (Gen 48). We see it with Malchizedek blessing Abram (Gen. 14 & Hebrews 7) The more authority someone has, the more power their words have in the spiritual realm to ignite a shift in the heavens.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:19-23 (Bold-ifying mine)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:12-14 (Bold-ifying mine)
What if, we, as people who carry the name and authority of Jesus, have more authority and power than any ruler or power on this earth? As such, what if our words have a ridiculous ability to bless or curse?
Since the church has been given the right to speak in Jesus’ name and Jesus’ name has authority over everything, how are we using that authority to speak over our country?
Speaking the law
So, we have seen that God’s law is a curse on everyone who lives under it because it empowers sin to utterly sinful, which means that they will, without question, break the law, which will result in all the curses of Deut 28. We have also seen that those in authority have a significant amount of power behind their words and that the church has the most supreme authority on earth far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that has ever been named when we use the name of Jesus Christ.
Now, consider what a large majority of the church is saying about this election. “We need to better follow God’s law”, “We need to stand and vote for “biblical” principles.” Most of those biblical principles that people are talking about are simply a desire to return America to live under the law.
Now, the Law hasn’t been abolished, but it has been accomplished. People who live under the law continue to live under the curse of Deut. 28 because the law is still in effect (Matt 5:17). The only solution that the church is offering in the election season and political discussion is for America to better follow the law! But, we can see in Romans 7 that enforcing the law actually brings spiritual death! We are killing the spiritual future of our country by insisting that it follow God’s law. We think we are protecting America, but, as the people of ultimate authority, we are actually killing it! We are the ultimate wolves who think we are the ultimate sheep.
Why does it matter what the church says? Because our words have more power to shift things in the heavens than any other voice in heaven or on earth because we carry the authority of Christ. If all this is true, we have been deceived and are using our ultimate authority to destroy our country’s spiritual condition. This is, hands down, from the enemy. He has usurped the church’s authority and coerced us to speak the curse of the law over our land and our people.
If there is judgement coming on our nation is not because the world is being so worldly. It’s because the church is living in sin. “My people who have been called by My name…” Well, the church‘s sin is nothing compared to the nation’s sin! Not true. We have no excuse for any sin. Read 1 John 3. We are no longer defined as sinners, we who have received the circumcision of the heart which is the removing of the sinful nature. (Col 2:11-12) For more info on this topic, check out my other blog Struggle with Sin?
Well, what kind of sins are in the church? How about the worship of the heathen god of entertainment whom we pay our weekly and monthly tithes and offerings to while we suddenly start showing “good stewardship” when it comes to giving to the poor and tithing to our churches; analyzing and critiquing every detail of how every dollar is spent until we feel justified in not giving.
The church needs to humble itself and realize that all the crap we’re in might reflect more on us than “those sinners” out there. The church needs to spend more time praying. Seriously. I’m not talking about your morning two-minute devotion time. Ask Father how much time you should be spending in prayer for something outside of your direct circumstances. And the church, as a whole, needs to break free from the patterns of this world and turn from evil. If that required us to perfectly uphold the law it would include our abomination of the sanctity of marriage (50% divorce rate in the church), our other forms of sexual immorality like pornography, soft porn (TV commercials that we willing subject ourselves to), allowing brothers and sisters in Christ to suffer hunger and death while we live in our 3-bed 1-bath mansions, and our condoning the killing of sons and daughters of God (in the Acts 17:29 sense) because they don’t agree with our democratic/religious stances or they “threaten” our luxury (Iraq, Afghanistan, and future wars with Iran).
In the end, the solution for our country’s woes is not in placing it (or the church) back under God’s law, it is in turning the hearts of men and women to the source that frees us from God’s law by accomplishing it for us. Jesus Christ.
The issue is not that we, as a country, are breaking God’s laws, the issue is how we have suggested we solve that problem. The majority of what I hear from the religious community is that we need to do better at following God’s law. This was never Jesus’ solution because it has never been a possibility. It’s an impossible standard that results in a curse.
I say, “In Jesus name, let America live under grace. Let our sins be forgiven. Let our iniquities be removed and forgotten. Let the grace of Christ reign over this nation, not the wrath of the law. I ask, Father, that you would release our country from your Law and the curses that would follow. Show us unmerited favor in the finished work of Christ. Also, let the church awaken to our own idolatry and turn from our evil ways, turning fully to Christ and living as a follower of His ways. Let the church be forgiven and live under grace. Let her iniquities be removed and forgotten. Heal our land.”
So, how do we vote then? The government obviously has a role to play on earth. “They have been sent to punish those who do wrong and honor those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13 (also see Romans 13). So, you should vote according to however you think the government would be able to better accomplish that role.
You don’t have to agree with me. I welcome your comments and thoughts if you promise to keep it civil and add to the discussion instead of name called and bashing other’s opinions.
I’ve been in the military for almost 9 years now. My enlistment date is coming up really quick: December 1st 2012. That is when I have to decide to stay in or get out. It’s pretty much the half-way point to the 20 year minimum to retire. If I enlist for a third term, it will most likely be for another 4 years. I’ve served all those year in the 133rd MN Air National Guard as a Structures troop. That means that I’m a carpenter for the Air Force. That’s actually how I started my career as a carpenter, which today is allowing me remodel my home into a place of ministry. I don’t know where I would be without the Guard. I also don’t know what use it is to wonder. Hm…
I’ve deployed twice. Same place both times: Kuwait. After three years away I moved into a dorm room right across the hall from my former living space. The running joke for the first few week among those of us who had been there before was, “I think we were just dreaming and we never actually left this place!” Not much had changed except for the work tempo as all the troops moved out of Iraq and needed a place to stay or transition through. It was a lot of work! I spent 4 months of my life there in 2008 and 6 more months in 2012. On my most recent deployment I got promoted to Technical Sergeant (E-6).
In a lot of ways I feel like Joseph who was blessed at whatever he put his hand to. I know that I’ve served well up until this point. My commander likes me (last I heard anyway), my supervisor likes me, some of the troops under me like me. I’ve gotten numerous awards and recognition for my work ethic and leadership ability. I know I could do well there. Maybe even become Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) if I tried for it (which would be a really great retirement deal!). I am second in command in my flight/shop of 9. That leaves a lot of room for advancement in the future. A few people never even make it to TSgt in their entire 20 years, and I was already there by 8. My heavenly Father’s favor has been on me from the moment I swore in.
Therein lies the struggle. Swearing in? Pledging allegiance? Promising my life to defend a kingdom of this world? Unquestioningly spending myself one Sabbath a month on behalf of my country? Volunteering to be separated from my wife for months at a time? Being trained to kill? Declaring our president as lord (in the very real sense – ruler) of my life? Something isn’t resonating here.
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do not take revenge. Forgive. Love. Killing is okay sometimes?
One of my primary functional theologies is that I can trust God. I can trust him with my finances. I can trust him with my house. I can trust him with my family. And, one of the most helpful, I can trust him to stand for justice on my behalf when I am wronged. But as soon as I take matters into my own hands, I stop trusting His. You just can’t do both. How does that apply to a believer in the military who is going over seas to take revenge, or better yet, a preemptive strike on our enemies? I’m getting sick of all the back-door ways that we are making it seem okay to not live how Jesus lived.
What would it look like to lay myself down on the behalf of other people, even my enemies, and trust that this will somehow change the world and truly end all the violence and evil? Isn’t this what Christ did? He humbled himself and told us that in His kingdom, the greatest are those who submit themselves under others like a servant. His kingdom and the kingdom I am sworn to protect right now do not mix very well. Is it even possible to serve two masters?
If I am a disciple of Jesus, my life should look somewhat like his. He avoided violence and condemned hatred at every turn. I am made in His image. Here is my life.
- I am not applying this conviction to anyone other than me.
- The government does have a role to wield the sword to maintain good order according to Romans 13.
- Yeah, Hitler and all that… I don’t have the answers, but I’m aware of the argument.
- Non-violence doesn’t necessarily mean non-conflict or non-action. Jesus didn’t kill anyone when he drove the money-changers from the temple.
- I believe I earned my right to speak my thoughts publicly by serving America for 9 years in the Air Force.
- Please feel free to voice your opposition. I am fully aware that most people in America don’t agree with me on this, including many in my own family. I probably won’t respond unless it is obvious that it is meant to encourage the dialog, not just to tell me I hate America.
- Maybe this post was a bad idea. But, my primary objective in writing this blog is to tell you what God is doing and has done in my life. This is definitely something He is in the process of doing.
- I remember arguing against this position to a number of people from our old church in an open forum discussion about this topic, so I get it. I’ve been on both sides. As a side note, the forum was held at a local bar and discussed over some brews! I think that’s pretty awesome for a church meeting (even though I don’t drink much anymore).