Table Scraps – “OMG” (2015)

IMG_0527Thanksgiving has come and gone and many of us have begun making preparations for Christmas in earnest. “OMG” is the subject of my fourth “table scrap” in the series of words used at family gatherings throughout the holiday season. OMG appears to be a smooth, catchy expression that’s become widely accepted in our culture, having found its way into everyday conversations, song titles, movies and websites featuring obscure facts.

OMG seems to convey a number of emotions ranging from extreme happiness and surprise to fright and horror. It’s much less offensive to people than its predecessors, “Oh my God,” and “Oh, God,” and can be used in many more situations. We live in a world where people feel the need to be culturally relevant  and express themselves as they go about their day. I understand a person’s desire to garner love, draw attention to themselves and fit in socially with their friends. I share the same desire.  Using OMG seems to fill the bill in every instance.  Except I don’t use OMG in my vocabulary but that’s just me.

Some of you are saying to yourselves right about now, but what about the second commandment, you know, one of the ten big ones found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). This would be the commandment God told the people of Israel, “do not misuse tIMG_0524he name of the Lord your God.”

Like many of you, I was taught when I was young that using the Lord’s name in an irreverent fashion was “swearing” and thus constituted a gross violation of this commandment. Now that I am older I am inclined to see this commandment as having more to do with ambassadorship than “swearing.”

What do I mean by that? As a Christian, I have become closely associated with the person and name of Jesus Christ. In effect, I am representing Him. So in every situation life throws at me I find myself positioned as an ambassador for Christ whether I like it our not. So, if I act or speak in an unchristian manner, then I have misused the name of Jesus Christ (this would be a clear violation of the 2nd commandment).  “Swearing” seems to pale in comparison to the responsibility of being an ambassador 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week doesn’t it.

These days, I find myself becoming less rattled when I am around people using “colorful” language.  I am trying to look past the language and see the person beneath it.  Some of these people are members of my family or friends. These are people I love and am praying for. Others are just acquaintances who I am trying to start up a simple conversation with.  In those situations I want my words and actions to be less about me judging their language and more about being a genuine ambassador for Christ.

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Jesus told his followers:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34, 35 NIV

As I contemplate what to think about OMG and its prevalence in our culture, I am reminded of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  They had Jesus labeled a blasphemer.  When one of them tried to expose him as a fraud by asking, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus gave them this response:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

 

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Psalm 119:17-32 (Deal bountifully with me)

god-2925343_960_720Anyone who has tried to keep the 10 commands knows that it is an impossible undertaking, especially if we are to factor in those errant thoughts and motives. Jesus came, not to discard the standard of perfection found in the Old Testament, but to fulfill that standard on my behalf. Jesus’ perfection is imputed onto me so that I can one day stand before God blameless.

This doesn’t make the word of God found in the Old Testament any less relevant to Believers. God sent Jesus, a living, breathing human being, to represent Him. John’s gospel declares, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14 Jesus is the Word of God!

Gimel – Symbol of gathering or walking

v17-20 Be good to me – deal bountifully with me – help me, give me what is good.  Open my eyes – this could be a desire to seek what is truth, but also a request for guidance on what areas of my life need cleansing.  A stranger to earth – a sojourner needs a heavenly compass and a roadmap, to help him find his way.  My soul is consumed with longing – Carelessly pushing God away during times of prosperity or success leaves us wide open to anxiety in times of trouble.

v21-24 Rebuke the arrogant – have you ever been humbled by God for being too proud?  Do you find that people ridicule and criticize that which they don’t know or understand? The world will lead us one way, but often the council of God leads us in a different direction. The Word of God brings life to a dry thirsty soul.

Daleth – Symbol of moving, hanging, entrance

v25-29 My soul clings to the dust – a feeling of being emotionally dead and buried.  Preserve my life – have you ever thought of God’s Word as a life preserver?  Cause me to understand – don’t just help me out of my predicament, show me the way to keep from falling back into it again.  My soul is weary – The words of Jesus “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28) are the perfect balm for the weary soul.

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v30-32 The way of truth – is the path chosen by the Psalmist. Jesus offers himself as the way, the truth and life (John 14:6). Following the way of truth means clinging to the promises (testimonies) found in God’s Word.  I have set my heart – the prophet Daniel purposed in his heart that he would stand up for what he believed in even if it cost him his life.

This week, try substituting the name of Jesus wherever you find a reference to “the word of God” or any of its synonyms as you read this psalm. As you do this, understand that there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and believing in him. Traverse the bridge of faith today and experience Jesus personally.

Table Scraps – “love” (2015)

ullyelynodWith Thanksgiving behind us on the calendar our challenge now becomes how do we carry that attitude of thanksgiving through the entire holiday season? For my third table scrap I thought I’d take a look at the word “love.” No doubt the word was used often in conversation throughout Thanksgiving day at your family gathering. Expressions of love were probably used in reference to family members, football teams, perhaps a favorite food, the weather, and possibly an article of clothing.

How much thought do you think each person put into their proclamation, “I love _______ “? Before you allow a wave of guilt to wash over you, I should point out that we only have one word for love in the English language. So, “I love this apple pie,” “I love your sweater” or “I love God” are verbally expressed the same.

The Greek language has many words for love. Roman Krznairic in his article that appeared in Sojourners magazine lists six different Greek words for love. Three of the four most common Greek words for love appear in Greek translations of the Bible, one surprisingly does not.

Eros.  It is commonly associated with sexual passion or desire. Krznairic calls it a “fiery and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you.” Our culture has become obsessed with this type of love. I find it interesting that Eros is not found in Greek translations of the Bible.

According to Precept Ministries International, eros love says, “I love ____ because it makes me happy” (you can fill in the blank with anything your heart desires).

Storge.   This is the word for self-love. Krznairic refers to is as “philautia” and says “the idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others.” When self-love is abused it takes on the form of self-absorption or self-obsession. Some define storge as natural love that emanates from within, like the love a parent naturally has for his or her child.

According to Precept Ministries International, storge love says, “I love you because you are my child (spouse, parent, dog, etc.).  Krznairic would say, “I love you because I am able to love myself.”

Phileo.  Friendship and companionship are key ingredients in this word for love. It is not referring to the friendship or following that we strive to compile on Facebook or Twitter, however.  Krzainric describes it as “the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who fought side by side on the battlefield. It is about showing loyalty to your friend…”

According to Precept Ministries International, phileo love says, “I love you because we are friends.”

Agape.  Agape is love that is selfless, love that will make sacrifices for others and genuinely cares about their well being. This type of love is rapidly becoming scarce in our society today. Precept Ministries International says, “this love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, 
unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love.” The Bible states that God’s love for us is agape love.  Agape love says, “I love you because unconditionally.”

“For God so loved (agape) the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

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I don’t know about you but when I am struggling to show love to someone, I need only to remind myself of how much God loves me.  With that thought in mind…

How will I demonstrate my love to others this holiday season?

Will I show God how much I love Him by keeping Christ in Christmas this year?

Psalm 119:1-16 (Blessing and Cleansing)

books-1155565_960_720How many of us have attempted to read through the Bible in a year and happened upon the 119th Psalm.  Its 176 verses can be quite daunting.  There are others who attempt to skim through this psalm in one sitting and find it hard to digest. Thankfully, the psalm is divided into stanzas of eight verses each. Each stanza is linked to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet making more practical for the ancients to meditate on and memorize. I have been taking my class through Psalm 119 a couple of stanzas at a time.

Here we go. You get the impression from reading this psalm (believed to be written by King David of ancient Israel) that it’s a compilation of life experiences.  Throughout these experiences David has tried to stay true to the teachings of the Jewish Law found in the Old Testament. I would like to emphasize that this involves more than just complying with the 10 commandments. “Following the Law” would require adherence to the Jewish faith, which includes the observance of all required laws, rituals, sacrifices and festivals described in the Old Testament.

Virtually every verse in Psalm 119 references the Word of God. Synonyms such as the law, God’s word, commandments, statutes, way, judgments, precepts and testimony all reference the awesome nature of God’s Word, placing it on the highest pedestal imaginable.

Stanza 1

The first eight verses highlight the blessings found through obedience to God’s Word.

vv1-3               Those who walk in obedience (whole-heartedly) are blessed.

vv4-6               Highlights a desire to be more obedient in light of God’s commands.

vv7-8               Vow to give thanks as one learns about God’s statutes.

Stanza 2

The second stanza (9-16) focuses on the cleansing aspect of God’s word.

vv9                  A person cleanses his way by obeying God’s Word

vv10-14           A person purifies his way by internalizing God’s Word

vv15-16           We must continuously meditate on God’s Word in order to be transformed by it

Way (v9), the word conveys the idea of transgressing repeatedly, creating a sinful rut of the sort made by the wheel of a cart.

These two stanzas encourage us to go beyond simply reading God’s word and seek to internalize it or meditate on it. Pick one of the first sixteen verses of Psalm 119 and meditate on it daily this week.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Ps 119:11

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Table Scraps – “thank you” (2015)

IMG_0904With the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at some words or phrases we use in conjunction with family gatherings.  For my first table scrap, I chose the words “thank you.”

It would be interesting to count the number of times the expression was used on a given occasion. Would we be pleased at the number of times the words were used, or surprised by its misuse?  Some table conversation:

“…Can somebody pass me the potatoes?”

“Here you go, Timmy,” aunt Sandy replies.

“What do you say, Timmy?”

“M-o-m,” Timmy whined. “Okay, okay – thank you.”

“…I was at Sears the other day and they had this display of perfume samples on the counter. You know, the ones in that sultry commercial with the race-car driver. Well, I snatched up some of those freebies, thank you very much…”

“…Our neighbor must not be doing well. He never made it outside this year to rake up his leaves. The boys and I went over to get his leaves under control. His _____ leaves keep blowing in our yard. You would think the least he could do is come outside to say thank you.”

Saying, “thank you” implies you are grateful for receiving something. Our thanks are directed towards someone besides ourselves, hence the word “you.” As a child I was reminded at every turn to say, “thank you.” After a while it became a habit and now I do it many times without even thinking. For many of us it has become more of a reflex, like having your knee tapped by a rubber hammer at the doctor’s office.

I am a person who believes in prayer and prays constantly for God’s blessing.  Sometimes thank-youit’s for help, healing, protection, understanding, wisdom, mercy… (the list is long and never-ending). How many times have I forgotten to simply say, “thank you” when even the smallest prayer is answered?

The next time you use the words “thank you” consider the following:

  • Have I considered what it may have cost someone, in time, money or inconvenience to satisfy my need, want, or desire?
  • How appreciative am I really?
  • Why exactly am I thankful?
  • Does my expression of thankfulness compel me to act differently?
  • Has my thankfulness changed me somehow, making me less selfish or cynical?
  • Are there more things in my life that I should be thankful for?
  • Who else should I be thanking?
  • While being thankful, have I ever lingered in a moment of gratitude? If so, has it made me see life as being more precious somehow?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV