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When you enter our Church building (for WE are the Church, the building but a place where we meet) the first thing you see as you walk down the aisle is a Communion Table and on it an open Bible. The pulpit where I preach stands directly behind this open Bible. We are a Bible believing group of Christians. We are not perfect, but we love God’s Word. I am certainly not perfect!
The Bible is not an add on for our Church. It is not incidental to the service. We sing songs that are Bible based. Men are appointed to read Scripture as God places it on their hearts, then to lead the Church in prayer. When we come to the time where God’s Word is shared, as the Pastor I ask the congregation to – if they are able (and all are not able) – to “Stand In Honor Of The Reading Of God’s Word”. Sometimes we read the text that we’ll be studying together – in unison. At other times I will give the audience a handout that breaks the text down as a responsive reading. We focus on honoring the Lord by honoring His Word. Then I say “You may be seated”.
I have not always followed this format in ministry. Though I am an old man (60 years old this year) I am young in ministry. I’ve been serving the Lord as preacher and pastor for about 22 years now. When I first entered the ministry people had great respect for God’s Word. occasionally I would invite pastors I knew and respected to preach in my pulpit. Sometimes these pastors would ask the audience to stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God, something I never did at that time. I saw it as unnecessary. As an expository preacher I quote quite a bit of Scripture as I preach. Should the people jump up every time that I quote another Scripture? Absolutely not. It would be distracting. So why have everyone stand and read Scripture together. Relax, be seated, and learn. But one day I changed my mind.
As I said before, I appoint men to share Scripture and prayer every Sunday. One older gentleman by the name of Jimmy stood up one Sunday and read from the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is an interesting book – you need to read it. Israel had gotten away for obeying the Word of God. As a result Jerusalem was captured by unbelievers, the Temple razed, and walls of the city destroyed. Nehemiah lead a group of Israelites back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and restore the faith of that fallen nation. Jimmy asked the Church to stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word, then read from Nehemiah chapter 8:
Nehemiah 8:1-6 (KJV) And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.  And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.  And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.  And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:  And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Jimmy began to speak about how people had begun to undervalue God’s Word, and this attitude brought sin and destruction into the land. He emphasized how the people – refugees in their own country – lost everything when they lost reverence and respect for God’s Word. Jimmy said that he felt we should show honor to God’s Word by standing for it when no one else will. He called on the congregation to be lights in the midst of darkness, then prayed for the Church.
As Jimmy spoke God’s Holy Spirit began to deal with my heart. I began to think about the big battle going on between President Trump, the NFL, and many of the American people. It seems that during the National Anthem one day a player named Colin Kaepernick “took a knee” rather than standing during the playing of our National Anthem. A wave of other players began to “take a knee” to protest various things they did not like in America, often locking arms to show solidarity. Conservatives were incensed. How dare they “take a knee” during the National Anthem? How dare they disrespect the flag of our Great Nation? Though the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and taking a knee is freedom of speech, many found what they were doing repugnant and perhaps even treasonous. The NFL said it would fine teams that allowed this to go on. The President said those who did so should be fired, that they worked for the American people and were unpatriotic. It seemed like the indignity and acrimony rolled on and on.
I understand the indignity. I entered the Air Force when I was 17 years old, remained in active service for 20 years, then in inactive reserve for 10 years. Over half of my life was spent in service to my country. I love my country, and love its flag. Having traveled the world in the military, often leaving my wife and children by themselves, I can tell you firsthand that our country is the greatest and most free country in the world. I don’t like to see our flag or our country disrespected. I stand during the National Anthem, out of respect. When I was overseas and the flag was raised or lowered I stood at attention and held a salute to the flag until the ceremony ended. But Beloved,
The Flag is man made.
The National Anthem is man made.
The Bible is God made.
Many who go to Church meetings, who were so incensed that Kaepernick and others “took a knee”, do not regard the Bible to be God’s holy Word. Many view the Bible as an “add on” in a Church service. I have heard preachers read a Scripture, then speak for 20 minutes on absolutely NOTHING to do with that Scripture. I have been to Church meetings where the songs that were sung were in direct contradiction to what the Scripture plainly teaches. When Aretha Franklin died (and I loved her singing) hours were spent in speaking of her, but minutes in the Scripture and in focus on Christ. When John McCain died – a great American – his funeral had little to do with Scripture. In most Churches today the title of “Worship Leader” is not bestowed on the preacher but on the song leader. I have preached in Churches where the song leader took much time, leaving just a small slice of time for exposition of God’s optional Word. I have seen people yawn through and take naps or surf the net on the cell phones while the preacher speaks. One lady knitted. Another woman had a child she would not make behave, a child who shouted throughout the preaching time so that none could hear the Word. The Bible says of itself:
2 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The Bible is NOT a collection of books written by dead men, printed on dead trees, and wrapped in dead cow skin. The Bible is God’s Word.
We grow by hearing and doing His Word.
As a preacher and a pastor it is my duty and privilege to disciple the Church, to teach it to cherish God’s Word. Jesus commanded that we “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus cherished the Word of God. He said:
John 17:17 (KJV) Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.
The Church itself is not built on a foundation of brick or concrete, but on the Word of God. The Apostle said:
Ephesians 2:19-20 (KJV) Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone;
The Bible is written by Apostles and Prophets. It’s focus is Jesus Christ. It is God’s Word. When Israel returned to the land that God gave them they gathered to hear the Word of God. They stood to show their respect for God’s Word. Do you have to stand up to respect the Word of God? No. Jesus stood up to read the Scripture, but sat down to preach. He respected God’s Word, and people knew it. I lead a Tuesday night Bible study and, no, I do not ask those men who come to stand for God’s Word. They respect His Word, else they would not be at a voluntary Bible Study.
But those who come to Church on Sunday are a mixed bunch. Some come every time the moon is blue. Some only come when the holidays arrive, or when they are in trouble, or need money. Some are Sunday Morning only believers. Some come out of curiosity. “I heard a Buffaloe preaches here”. But some are faithful to God and His Word. To disciple the mixed crowd to show respect for God’s Word I ask them to stand briefly, then be seated. You don’t have to stand. You can “take a knee”. Some are unable to stand, and others unwilling. That is your choice. But if you’re going to throw a hissy fit over the NFL “Take A Knee” controversy but have little concern for God’s Word, then what does that say of your faith?
So when you’re in our Church on Sunday and you hear me say …
“We’re going to read responsively from today’s text. Please open your bulletin to the inside right hand page. And if you’re able,
stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God.”
… then please stand if you are able, or hush about the flag and the anthem. Me, I’m going to stand for all three. But most of all, I’m going to stand up for my Father’s Word! I hope you do, too.