Auld Lang Syne

Source/Artist unknown

Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.

-Isaiah 43:18-19, Matthew 6:34 and Luke 5:38-9 (The Message)
We are three and a half weeks into the new year.  The big change happened in November and was made official this past weekend.  America said goodbye to one president and said welcome to the new president.
Many more changes are in the air and are coming, as they always are.  God is doing something in the earth.  Trump’s ascendency, like it or not, is emblematic of what God is doing.
Jesus has been building his church.  God is ready to pour out new wine.  And new wine always requires new wineskins.
The wineskin is the structure that holds the wine.  The new wine is the brand-new thing that God is doing.  The old structure will not be able to hold, manage or give leadership to the new thing that God is doing.
After taking in the inauguration weekend, I was musing about that song, “Auld Lang Syne”.  President Trump’s swearing in and his address where the final events of this election season.  But just as important, were the goodbyes and farewells to president Obama.
There has been grace to end a season and begin a new season.  Endings and beginnings are not always this way.  For example, the transition from Saul to David was pretty rocky.

I love this quote:

“The hardest changes are from God’s order to God’s new order.”
Rich Marshall

“Auld Lang Syne”, is a song that is traditionally sang at midnight on new year’s eve, bidding farewell to the old year.  It is also sung as a farewell or ending, to other occasions.  These words are in Scots, and could be loosely translated into English as, “For (the sake of) old times”.
This brings me to the scripture from Isaiah 43.  These verses basically say that if you dwell on the past, you will miss what is presently about to happen.

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.”

Imagine a person who is still talking and thinking about their ex, when they are in a new relationship and you get the picture.

When we have our eyes on what is behind, we do not see what is beside us or ahead of us.  We need to learn to live in the present with God, not dwelling on the past, nor fear-filled or worried about the future.

I love how The Passion Translation puts Matthew 6:33-34:

     “So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him.  Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly.  Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Headship: God, Christ, The Husband, and The Wife

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.

-1 Corinthians 11:3
What is the foundation of a Christian marriage?  Who is the key to a happy, joyful, abundant husband and wife relationship?  And what is the Christ-following husband’s role in regards to his wife?

These are questions that cross the minds of Christians who are married, thinking about being married, or have been married in the past and are looking back or looking forward.  In society, getting married is much easier to do, even though some single people who are searching or waiting might not agree with this; it is easier to do than getting a drivers licence or all sorts of other things we commonly do.

Being married and staying married are much, much harder.  Two people living in a space together, even with rings and the paperwork, does not a marriage make.

Christian marriage is a covenant between two people, both who are in Christ, that is held together by God.  The legal marriage certificate is a contract that in enforced by laws that will come into play if one of the spouses ends the marriage through divorce.

The covenant only works when we work with it.  God holds our marriage together, as we hold onto God.  It is all about our relationships to God and to one another.

We are all in a covenant, the New Covenant, in Christ, with God.  There are always two sides or two parties in a covenant.  Even though God does all the saving in our covenant with him, we must participate or be engaged in it to actualize the covenant in our lives.

We can’t say, “I’m saved”, and then go back to our lives, running our show.  Being saved means we have begun a journey with God, where we give up everything we have and God gives us everything we need.  That may not be the gospel message that you have heard or believed in, but this is the gospel of the kingdom.

When we say we are in the covenant of salvation or the covenant of marriage, the next step and life style is to live in the covenant relationship.  We don’t leave Christ or our spouse at the altar, so to speak, where we said “I do” and then go off on our own, saying, “see ya when I need ya!”.  But that is how some people live towards Christ and towards their spouse.

Before we look at this issue of head and headship, we need to make sure we are saved and look at our salvation.  If a man or a woman is not in a vital union with the living Christ, where they are dying to their selves and living to Christ, marriage will not work.

Many people are legally married, but not living in marriage.  The Bible gives clear instructions on how to live in marriage as Christians.  If you are not first living as a Christian, then you will not be able to or will have troubles participating in marriage, God’s way.

What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11, is, “this is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be”.  If you read the whole letter, you will see that the Corinthians had problems and Paul is addressing the problems and their questions.  Some of them were not doing great in their being in Christ.

Before Paul addresses the issues that were coming up regarding hair and head coverings, he says the statement that I am highlighting, as a foundation or backdrop to a discussion on hair and head coverings.  Paul could have said: “Thanks for remembering a lot of the stuff I taught you about being Christians.  Now, before I get into this issue of hair and covering or not covering one’s head, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

In case you did not realize it, and the Bible translation, HCSB, that I quoted has a footnote to flag this: scholars say that Paul meant husband and wife, when he wrote man and woman, here.  The ESV, for example, does this without a footnote:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Before Paul gets into the hair and veil customs, he grounds things in Christ; and that is how we get this verse and that is the context, which we will go through broadly, in a moment.  The back story to Paul’s admonitions on head coverings, may have been questions or problems with this issue at Corinth.  And Paul brings them and all his readers from then till now, back to our relationship to God and each other.

Before we get into head and headship and the wife being under her husband’s head, we have to say this:  A married Christian woman is a person who is herself in Christ, under Christ, and living her life from Christ; while also being and living under her husband’s headship.  A married Christian man is a person in, under, and from Christ; while also the head of his wife.

There has been an ongoing discussion, a theological debate, about what “head” here means.  Over on one side, some scholars have said that head here means ‘source’ or ‘origin’; while the other side says that head means ‘chief’ or ‘ruler’.  Head (kelphale’) also means the ‘end-point’ of something: the top of a column or the end of a pole.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also called the head of the year. 

Also, head (kelphale’) means controlling agent, but not preeminent.  Our physical heads, having our brain within, rules and has authority over our bodies: our head is the controlling agent of our bodies.  This has nothing to do with preeminence, but everything to do with function.  The head is the boss, from which control emanates, but is not bossy nor controlling.
A body without a head is dead.  It is normal for a body to be under the rule and control or authority of the head.  When we take headship as a metaphor, we see that Christians can and do live without being under Christ’s headship.

In Christ, there is life and outside of Christ there is not life.  If a Christian is not living in Christ, functionally, then they are not living in his life.  Imagine a person who is legally married, but does not live in a marriage.

Living as a room mate, living self centered, not sacrificing, not sharing everything you have, and not laying down your life for your wife; are examples of the husband who is not living under the headship of Christ.

Christ is head of the church, head over all things, the head corner stone, and head of man; and God is the head of Christ and husbands are heads of their wives.  The church can ignore, set aside, or give lip service to Christ being it’s head.  And wives can also not believe in or live under the headship of their husband; and both of these can be happening today, to our detriment.

After studying, reading, listening, looking things up, and reading some more; my conclusion is that ‘head’ (kephale) here in Paul, means ‘authority’, and not ‘preeminent’, ‘source’, or ‘origin’.  There are links to articles, in the bibliography at the bottom, for your further study, if desired.

There have been Christians who are confused about Christ and God, saying things like, “the man upstairs”, or “God is my co-pilot”.  The truth is that God and Christ is king and we need to bow and surrender our lives.  But God is also good, love, and full of mercy and grace.

Christians are the bride of Christ and the children of Father.  God and Christ are not this incredible religion or philosophy that we adhere to.  Being a believer means we give up everything and God gives us a different everything.

It means death and resurrection.  It means leaving our mother and father and getting married to Christ.  It means that we are no longer orphans, but get adopted and become God’s children.

If you do not have these basics, these staring points down; if you are not in and on the pathway of Christ; then having Christ as chief, head, authority, and boss of your life might be a strange and off-putting topic for you.  And it would follow, that if you are a wife, to have your husband over you in any chief, boss, or leader role would possibly be foreign, unwanted, incorrect, and rejected as archaic and bluntly crass.

God and Christ is and are our source, and that is a Pauline idea (Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36).  But that is not what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying.  It is also not saying that one is superior and one is inferior.  Paul is not saying the husband is the inferior to Christ and the wife is the inferior to the husband and Christ is inferior to God.

The text is neither saying that the husband is inferior to Christ nor is Christ inferior to God, and not that wives are inferior to husbands.  But it is saying that there is a hierarchy.  Some of us don’t like that word.

God’s headship of Christ gives us an example to follow.  Jesus lives under his father’s authority.  He did all the good things and said all the good things, under his father’s headship.

The husband lives out his life under Christ’s headship and his wife lives out her life under her husband’s headship.  The wife has her own walk under Christ, while also walking under the headship of her husband.  Christ is the wife’s savior and Lord, but she functions under the authority of her husband.

The husband has Christ as his model for leadership.  Christ’s leadership is sacrificially loving.  The husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, who he is head over.

Men and women are equal before God.  Husbands and wives are equal in value before God.  But husbands and wives have different roles in marriage.

Different positions in the hierarchy does not mean superior/inferior.  That is a worldly perspective and not part of Christ’s way.  Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus Christ is Lord, and not just a man who was a carpenter and a traveling teacher/prophet/healer, who had and still has followers.

“God is the head of Christ”, means God the Father has a role of authority over Christ.  It is a function and role issue.  While the husband is not God, Christ is also the head of him; and again it is a role and function.

Remember how in the great commission, Jesus says, “all authority has been given to me”?  Father gives authority to Christ and Christ gives authority to us.  The one is functionally over the other and gives authority to the other.  Jesus has a oneness with Father, but is also under his headship.

In marriage, the two become one; but the wife is under her husband’s headship.

This is an aside, but if Christ calls a woman, a married lady, to be a pastor; her husband is obviously still her head.  If she is married, a blurb on their church’s website might read, “Sue Jones is the pastor (or lead minister) of Tall Mountain Jesus Is Lord Fellowship, and her husband Larry Jones is the boss of her”.  For anyone worried that she is not under her husband’s headship, that settles it.

To every pastor, preacher, or standing up in front of people in a leadership role person; I would simply ask, “has Christ called you?”  If Christ calls a woman and if Christ gives a woman the desire to serve and teach and speak and minister, and gives her his authority to stand in leadership; who are we to argue with him?

If elders are men and the elders are the pastors, then it makes it difficult to be a woman pastor.  But if Christ not only gifts a woman with gifts and then calls her to serve as a leader, and there is much discernible fruit from her ministry, then we call her a pastor, agreeing that Christ has made her one and his.  He has ordained her and we bless his work in her life.

Also, it would be ideal for a woman pastor to have a qualified elder husband.  His being qualified as an elder actually is an endorsement or qualifier of her standing up and speaking and thereby leading other people.

However, most people don’t make it to the ideal, and being divorced or never married should not disqualify anyone who Jesus desires to use, and he does.

Is Christ the head of all Christians, male and female, husbands and wives, young and old?  Yes, of course.  This passage or section does not need to say that because Paul is talking about roles and functions.

Husbands and wives have equal value and standing before God, in Christ.  But they have different roles, and that is what this verse is saying.  Imagine a narrow path, where only one person can fit at a time and one goes first and the other follows.  That is a picture of roles, not about one person being valued more.

Think about a car, where there is one steering wheel in front of one seat that the driver sits in.  The one who drives and manages the wheel, is not superior, but only in the role, function, and service of driving.  Drivers who drive recklessly, speed, blare the radio, where headphones, text while driving, have their eyes off the road, tailgate, cut off other drivers, or drive the wrong way may be called bad drivers and get in trouble or hurt themselves or others, but being in the role, function, or service is not a bad thing.

And that is the way it is with bad husbands.  Their God given role of being head is not the problem, but what they are doing in their role is the problem that needs correction.  Egalitarianism might be saying that the role thing is the problem, so we need to get rid of that and be equal in the roles.

But the complimentary roles and functions, unique to each sex, are given by God; and are not the problem.  The problem are people who do bad things, act in bad ways, and are ungodly.  Egalitarianism seeks to set us free from ‘archaic’ roles, ‘patrimony’ and ‘misogyny’.

The Bible and the roles for husbands and wives are not wrong and don’t need a re-write.  We need to separate the people who have done wrong, lived sinfully, even while saying they are walking with God, from the God we serve, who has created man and woman, with equal value, but different roles as husband and wife, that compliment each other.

The only way to have a Christian marriage is in and through Christ.  We know that Christ is under the headship of God, but the husband must also be intimately aware of his being under Christ’s headship, for his wife to take her place under his headship.  It is about function and relationship.

But before the husband begins to exercise his authority, as head of his wife,there is something to check.  Is he under or functioning under the headship of Christ?  If he is not, then he needs to come under Christ and let Christ be his authority.

This is the subject I wanted to talk about.  Everything I have said up to this point is an introduction to what I am about to say.  There is a problem today, with Christian marriages failing or being dysfunctional, because the husband is not living under the headship of Christ.

I could and am tempted to give you a list of bad things that Christian husbands do.  I could also give you a list of problems that Christian wives have that are to an extent, the result or fruit of their husband not being under Christ’s headship.  Obviously, Christian wives may sin themselves in ways that are not the fruit of their husbands lack of relationship with Christ, but that is not what I am talking about.

This word, that I am focusing on, that says that, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ”, is found in the context of Paul’s words about hair and the covering of a person’s head.  It may be stating the obvious, but we know that Christ and his headship is for all time and universal; but the issues of hair length, and the covering of one’s head, in Corinthian, Grecian society are particular.  

The challenge for us with passages like this, is to find out how the passage applies to us today.  And we can broadly place many things in the Bible into two categories: custom and command.  The statement, that Christ is the head of the husband is a command, for all Christians: to obey.
But, the words that follow in 1 Corinthians 11, about hair length and veil wearing are in the custom category.  Paul is referring to the customs of their culture and  reflecting on how to be loving, in Christ, in the midst of their particular cultural customs.
The husband being the head of the wife is also in the command column.  If you place that piece into the custom column, then you must also place Christ and his headship over man  in the custom column as well.  And some people do that, who say that the whole Bible is just customs.
At the other side of the spectrum, some might say that this whole passage is of the command type, and we must strongly transpose Paul’s words then to our lives now.  And what this point of view would say, is that, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”.
What is funny, in an ironic way, is that if you were to grow up, or be raised up and discipled in a church culture today, where you were taught, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”, you would hear, and we could say, be indoctrinated, by an argument, that would lead you to believe that veils or head coverings are required by scripture, and the rest of Christianity and secular society that does not practice head coverings, is wrong.  Does that sound like any groups of people today?
This is why critical thinking and cross-pollination is so important and beneficial for Christian strength of learning.  Indoctrination and sectarianism are religion.  Christianity is centered in Christ.
Today, many Christians are centered on their beliefs, doctrine, and customs; rather than Christ.  They say they are centered on Christ.  But if they were centered on him, they would love what he loves, both the lost and all of his different flocks.
Now, here is the context of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:

Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.

A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.

-1 Corinthians 11:1-16
If you use this passage to say that women should wear head coverings, I might say that is ok, but please do not try to force it on others.  It is interesting to note that in Paul’s day and today, in Judaism, in their worship; the men where the skull cap and women let their hair flow down and about.  How did Paul get from that to the other?

The answer is tradition or custom or culture.  If you look around the world, you will see different styles of dress.  In various cultures, women cover up their heads and even their faces.

Corinth and Greece at the time had a culture that the Corinthians lived in.  They had to live and witness for Christ within that culture.

This hair and head covering part is a cultural discussion that we can transpose and glean some wisdom from for today, which is what many even handed preachers try to do, when they speak on this passage.  But that is not the point of my message.

My message is this:  Christ is the center and Christ is the head of man and head of the husband.  The husband is head of his wife, but that will not work out very well, unless that husband is under the headship of Christ.  Any Christian husband who is not under the headship of Christ, needs to start living in and from that place, and any wife who in not under her husband’s headship needs to start living from, in, and through that place.

If we refuse this calling, we are living a double life that is exhausting and not in the peace of Christ.  We will do the religious things to feel good and then be selfish and lash out at others and even make disciples in this wrong way.  Please don’t do it.  Please come home to Christ.

___________________________________
Bibliography:

Brauch, Manfred T.; The Head of Woman is Man?, The Hard Sayings of Paul, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, pp. 559-602, (1989)

Bruce, F. F.; The New Century Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; pp. 103-4, (1971)

Grudem, Wayne; Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or“Authority Over” in Greek Literature?A Survey of 2,336 Examples (1985)

The meaning of κεφαλή (“head”):An evaluation of new evidence, real and alleged, (2002)

Kroger, Catherine; Head, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne & Martin eds.; pp. 375-7, (1993)

Nathan, Rich; Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women To Preach, Pastor & Church Plant, (2014)


Renewing a Friendship

Now the LORD had said to Aaron, “Go and meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him.

-Exodus 4:27 (HCSB)
Photo: Pixabay

Have you ever renewed a friendship?  Life’s circumstances took you apart.  But now, you meet again.  Here are a few tips.

1. When they knock, answer.

When your door is knocked on, answer it.  Don’t give up on people.
 
2. Take out the garbage before having dinner.
If you got hurt in the past relationship, make sure you take out the garbage before you reconnect.  Forgive them, before God.  When you see them again, you get the chance to start over.

3. You can’t win them all.

Keep your expectations in check or neutral.  If your expectations are sky high, you will likely be disappointed.  You will evaluate the encounter as a “glass half empty”, when it is really a “glass half full”.

Come down to earth and embrace the reality that, “you can’t win them all”.  Sometimes, you will re-connect with someone and be disappointed.  Sometimes you will attempt a re-connection and the other person will not answer.  Friendships, even with siblings, require mutuality.  It is a “we” thing.  There is a dance, where we have to gauge whether the other person wants to dance and is dancing. 
 
4. Ask for permission to speak freely, if you need to confront.

Some people exclaim, “I need to say, _____”, or, “I have to confront you on, _____”.  Another way to share (a share-frontation), that I just learned from hearing John Townsend, is to ask, as they do in the military, “(May I have) permission to speak freely?”  If they say, “yes”, then you tell them, gently, how what they said or did hurt you.

5. Say, “That’s not my problem.”

If you are a caring person who likes to help, serve, deliver, heal, or fix people; you may need one last piece.  That is to be able to say, “That’s not my problem”.  This is especially apt when the other person triangles in a third party into your conversation (gossip).

You may have to learn to say, “That’s not my problem”, in your head, a lot.    But, when people are in front of you, asking for your help, that is a whole different thing.

“That’s not my problem”, is short for, “That’s not my problem to fix or solve”. 

“That’s not my problem”, is mainly for when you hear “other people’s stories”. 

When your friend or sibling tells you their problem, you need to keep in mind that they are not necessarily asking for help or want help.  Let them just tell you.  Let it be their problem and let them ask you for help or advice.

There is a dance involved in a relationship where we inevitably tell the other person our troubles.  It is respectful and loving to hold back and not give advice or try to fix them.  We have to find a way to do step 4, above, and ask permission before dispensing advice.

Conclusion

You might take out the garbage so well, that you forget past slights or offenses and truly start over with this person.  You might have so much grace and godly love in you now, that you no longer need them to give you anything and you do not have a need to fix them.

If you can not be in a relationship with someone who takes and doesn’t give much, or who is not whatever you need them to be, then that is your issue to work out.  You might need to lower your expectation of certain people and look around and watch for people who are a better fit for you.

Isometric

With the measure you use, it will be measured to you (and even more).
-Matthew 7:2b, Mark 4:24b, Luke 6:38b

Isometric means “of the same measure” or equal measure.  The metric system is a system of measurement.  Jesus says this saying three times.  It means, “what you deal out, you will get back”, which is how the CEB puts it.  It also means, “you’ll be evaluated by the same standards with which you evaluate others”, which is how the ISV translates it.

Our giving determines our getting, is what Jesus is saying.  Give out negative, you get negative; bless and you will be blessed; love and you will be loved; be generous, and generosity will flow back to you.

If you do not deal out anything, what will you get back?  Nothing.  If you are lonely and want friends, be friendly.  If you need something, then give something.  Money, for example.

If you want and need grace, be gracious.  This is where the judging, evaluating comes in.  Even if you are pointing out negatives that are true, you can do it graciously or ungraciously.  Jesus was gracious when he gave negative evaluations.

It’s something to grow in, for us; to speak the truth in love or to care enough to confront.  If you can not say it with grace and love, then do not say it.  That’s pretty simple.  Sternness and righteous indignation can be under-girded by love and grace.  Anger is allowed (Matt. 5:22), but rage and verbal abuse is out of bounds (Eph.4:26)

So, there is a principle in life to giving and getting.  It is not just about money, but it includes money.  If you give money to get money, then what?  Did you give with love and joy or out of greed or lust?  So, when the money comes back, it will come lovingly and joyously or in a greedy avarice-like, idolatrous way.

If Jesus is giving us a spiritual principle.  What you deal out, you will get back, and sometimes more.

The word is generosity.  Jesus is echoing Proverbs 11:25, “a generous person will prosper, and anyone who gives water will receive a flood in return”, or as the NIV has it, “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

By the same principle, strict, judgmental, stingy, harsh, and mean people will find themselves living in a dim and negative atmosphere that they have brought upon themselves.

Many unhappy people are doing it to themselves.  Cultivating a generous soul is the best antidepressant out there.  Your measuring tape says “love and grace” on it.

Sing To The Lord A New Song

Sing to the Lord a new song!

-Psalm 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, & 149:1; Isaiah 42:10
When God works in your life it is always fresh and new.  God is about redeeming us.  He does new merciful work in our lives every day.  New mercies, new deliverance, and new redeeming works call for new songs.
Even though we have and sing older songs that are good, we should have new songs to celebrate the new, and there will be fewer and fewer old songs on our lips, because there will be more and more new ones.  We don’t throw the old ones away, but God constantly gives us new songs to celebrate the new things He does.  
God is always inspiring new songs.  At one time, each song was new, and celebrated God’s work for the people of that time.  If you look up a favorite old hymn, you might find that the same poet or song writer, of whom you love their song; wrote hundreds of other songs.  Each of those unknown songs were new and fresh, new songs, at one time, and graced the people who sang them.
When we sing a new song, our spirit’s leap within us, because of the fresh message of worship to God that the song puts in our hearts.  Since ancient times, there have always been new songs, because music and words contain endless combinations of expressions of worship and praise to God.  God created us with the endless creativity or our creator.
When you select a greeting card or write a greeting or note, prose, or poem in that card, to your loved one; do you write the same exact words every time, or do you say something new?  It takes some effort to say something, to write something fresh, but some people make the effort, and the receiver of the card is pleased.
The new song we sing is about what God is doing in our lives now.  It is about what God just did for you.  What new thing is God doing in your life?  That is your new song.  If you have no new song, you might not have anything to report on God working in your life.  You might want to look again and re-engage with God and find out what He is doing in your life and get your new song.
God is always working.  God is always redeeming.  That is what God does.  The Father is at work, on the move.  What is He doing in your life?  That is your song.
The new song is a celebration of God’s redeeming work in your life.  What’s the new song, now, for you?  What is the, “wow”, the, “oh my”, or the, “I stand in awe”?  Experiencing God will give you those reactions.  
God does new things all the time.  What new thing has God been doing in your life?  There is your new song.  The old songs are fine, but God gives new songs.  God is the living God who is active doing new things.  Do you see the new thing He is doing in your life?  See it and celebrate it with a new song.
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Photo credit: Carolina Wren from Bungalow Retreat website 

I Want It That Way or Be Thou My Vision

There is a path that may seem straight to someone, but in the end it is a path to death.
-Proverbs 14:12

I was looking at a popular song from 1999, called “I Want It That Way”, that has a chorus that cries out, “tell me why?”

The song starts out with desire that sounds like the Song of Songs, in the Bible.

You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way

I read a book by CS Lewis, when I was in college and starting to struggle with this idea of romantic love, called The Four Loves.  Those 4 loves are affection, friendship, eros, and charity.  We need all four of these.  Charity is the hardest one, which has to do with unselfishness and sacrifice.

Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way

Maybe the reason why songs like this are so popular is that the experience of desire, love, and heartbreak are universal.  You want someone.  That is fine and normal.  But do they want you?

Unrequited love is stuck on ‘why?’  There may be a hundred reasons you will never know and the reasons may have nothing to do with you.  The person stuck on why is refusing to move on, grow, bury it, grieve it, and is stuck on selfishness.

‘Why’ questions are the wrong questions.  The ‘what’ is that you are lovable and somebody else loves you.  The answer to ‘why’ questions are not available to you, even from God.  Perhaps, part of the reason is that God does not want us looking backwards.  As the philosopher/theologian Kierkegaard said, we do understand our lives by looking back; but we don’t get ‘why’ questions answered.

The ‘what’ answer is that God has a unique destiny for you.  The ‘what’ answer is that God loves you.  Those are the answers that give us life and move us forward with meaning.

There are stages of grief, that don’t necessarily run logically, in order; and part of that is being upset and saying, “why?”  The answer is not to, “just get over it”.  The answer is to grieve it, let it go; and letting it go is a process.  The healing process involves letting go and holding on.

What about falling in love?  If you start to explore charity love, you will find real love that is reciprocal.  Love without charity is selfish.  That love wants what it wants and sees the object of it’s love as an object.  We objectify people.

Objects are like pictures or statues.  We posses them.  Selfish love treats people like objects.  Unselfish love, love tempered with charity or agape, treats people as people.  People decide, people have personalities, and real people can love you back how they decide to.

Something to think about is, are you seeing that person you want as a person or an object.  We go after, desire, and consume objects.  But we discover, listen to, invite, make a space for, and become acquainted with a person.

When I was pondering this song, I noticed that the tune had similarities to the old hymn. ‘Be Thou My Vision’.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

This song is about having God, in Christ, be the center of your life.  Make Christ the love of your life and then find the person who you will marry.  Pretty simple.

What Are You Living From?

But these other people’s deeds?  I have avoided such violent ways by the command from your lips.
-Psalm 17:4

One question for the Christian is how to live in the world.  How then, shall we live? There are two ways of life in the world.  One is living from God and the other is to live from your self.  People living from God may struggle to, “do so”, and be on a journey of learning, “how to”, and that is good.

In the other camp, there are is variety of ways that people don’t live from God.  Some purely serve their self, while others serve other gods, and there are those who pretend to serve the real God, but are fakers.  It is worth remembering that it was the (most) religious people who wanted Jesus dead.

The two ways of life in the world are the violent ways and the ways of God’s word.  Every young person has to learn to walk in the way of God’s word.  The violent way says that, “the ends justify the means”, “get all you can and can all you can get”, and “you deserve it”.

These three ways of violence are ways of pure selfishness or robbery.  The word violence means destruction or robbery.  When we do violence, we destroy or rob others.  There is much violence in word and deed in the world today.

The way of, “the ends justifies the means”, stands in opposition to the ways of God.  Doing wrong to do right is not God’s way.  You cannot cheat to get righteousness.  The way of the world is to compromise or be expedient, “for the greater good”.  That is not the way of God’s word.  Follow God’s word and not the violent way.

The violent way that says, “get all you can, for your self”, is not the way of God’s word.  The way of God’s word is to earn all you can, and to give away all you can, while saving all you can; as John Wesley was fond of saying.  Our appetites are to be disciplined.  Our souls are to first seek God, to first give to God; and then satisfaction will ensue.

The way of violence is the way of, “you deserve it”, the way of narcissism.  There were two popular self-help books, I noticed lots of my peers reading, in high school, that gave me pause, even in my young mind: “Looking Out For #1”, and “Winning Through Intimidation”.  I knew that these ideas went counter to what I had learned as a Christian, in church my whole life.

These selfish, narcissistic, human-centered ideas were violent robbery of others.  There is the violent way of success in life where you grab and take and force.  In stark contrast, there is God’s way, expressed in God’s word.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being and with all your mind”,  (Deut. 6:5 & Matt. 22:37).  Secondly, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, (Lev. 19:18 & Matt. 22:39).  That is the summation of living by the word of God that the psalmist has in mind, from Jesus.

The advice from the psalmist who was inspired to write these words, is to avoid the violent ways of the world by living by God’s word.  We know that God’s word is a person who is Jesus Christ.  We live by and through Christ, his words and his life; and it is a cross walk, his cross and mine.

Happy People Know The Shout For Joy

The people who know the celebratory shout are truly happy!
They walk in the light of your presence, Lord!
-Psalm, 89:15

Happy people know the shout for joy.  “Blessed are they that know the joyful sound” is how the New King James Bible says it.  I have known the song that says this for years, but I did not know that it meant more than enthusiastic singing.  In the translation I use, the Common English Bible, it says, “celebratory shout”.  Happy are the people who know the celebratory shout.

I was wondering what this joyful sound was, that the psalmist had in mind.  We might assume that he meant the sound of voices praising God.  That seems like a good answer and that is what I assumed for these past 25 years.  Thank God, for a newer translation, that tries to get closer to the original language’s meaning.

The NIV Bible version has been pretty popular, and it says, in Psalm 89:15, “blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you”.  Even though I use the words, “blessed”, and “blessings”, in personal speech and correspondence; I’m not sure it works with a wider audience today, especially not with those outside our faith.  I’m not sure that I use the word “acclaim” very often or that most people use it.

The ESV translators keep “blessed”, but translate the NKJV’s, “joyful sound” as “festal shout”.  I think that is a good translation that takes us where the Hebrew word teruah goes.  By the way, I am not a Hebrew or Greek scholar and don’t claim to be.  I look these words up and see what the scholars or experts say.  

Even more so than “blessed”, we have to explain what “festal” means.  That is a word I have never used and it is an example of why I do not use the ESV.  Like the NASB, it tries to be literal, but uses words that most people don’t use or know.

So, what is a celebratory shout, the joyful sound?  Have you ever been to a sports game and heard what people do when their team scores?  They yell and shout and hoop and holler. They jump up and down and wave their arms in the air.

Christians ought to be the most happy people around.  What Christ has done is a much bigger deal than the points scored at a game.  If you are a Christian and your songs are about Jesus and God and if that is what the speaker’s sermons are about, why are there no shouts, no cheers?  

Remember the song, “if you’re happy and you know it”?  In that song, we teach kids to use their voices and their bodies.  Adults need that training too.  The church should be the people with freedom of expression to shout for joy to God. 

If you allow yourself the freedom to shout for joy, the next thing is that you might start bouncing a bit.  Soon, you’ll be jumping for joy.  Then you’ll twirl a bit.  Next thing, you are just plain dancing for joy.

The church I am wanting to join is a church where we shout for joy at what Jesus has done.  This is what believers did in the Bible, so why not today? 

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Art credit: Ain Vares, Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth

Insights For Living

  1. You are what you eat and what you focus on or give yourself to is what you become.
  2. Your destiny is hidden in your daily routine.
  3. What you say is what you are.
  4. You can understand your life with your mind by looking backwards, but life can only be lived looking forwards with eyes of faith, hope, and love.

We are designed to worship

A life of bad eating leads to poor health and a chance of earlier death.  There is also a spiritual principle that what we behold we become.  If you behold Christ, you will become like him.  I know it is not enough to just look, but by looking at Jesus we hear him and obey him, imitate him, and have his nature imparted to us and are transformed; which is the Christian life or “Christ-i-an”.

There is nothing wrong with many things in life like work, hobbies, creative interests, and important relationships; but if any of these becomes what we are living for, they will take over.  We were designed by God as creatures that worship Him in relationship to him.  It’s not like God needs or wants the worship or the preeminent place in us to fulfill Himself, but we worship Him and Give him the throne because of who God is.

You don’t know God if you don’t get how worthy of our praise and worship that God is.  Worship is a life and a relationship, not just an expression or time at church.  We were designed to worship the King and then enjoy the life he gives us.  If we get is backwards and begin worshiping anything or anyone else besides God and place God anywhere in our lives to the side, when God needs to be in the center, on the throne, we are in trouble.  We will begin to become what we focus on outside of God.

Seed and harvest

Seeds sown germinate into plants.  In a spiritual sense, we sow seeds daily and they will grow slowly.  We want the short cut of bringing in partially grown or full grown plants to our personal gardens.  Or we might want to buy, borrow, or steal someone else’s harvest that we desire.  But who you will become is actually grown slowly over time.  A journey is thousands of steps.

Often people have a realization that they want to make a change, they want to walk with God, they want to live righteously, or they want to find and move into their destinies in God.  That new path or journey is going to be a series of small steps, small decisions, in minutes, hours, days, and years.

Turning to God and going towards your destiny, living towards the answers is God’s way.  “Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” 

The power of speech

We can be our own worst critics and tear ourselves down with our own words or we can over inflate ourselves into delusion with our self-flattery, believing our own press-releases.  Many of us need self-esteem adjustments.  The narcissistic egomaniac and the self-loathing worm-theologist have in common that their self-esteem is out of whack.  Self love is a good thing.  But we love ourselves because we are loved.  God’s love defines me and makes me lovable.

So when I talk, it reveals my theology and my theology reveals or defines what I believe about everything, including my self.  Bad speech is a symptom of a bad heart.  Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.  If the mouth speaks things that are ungodly, then the heart needs saving; perhaps even deliverance, and there is no shame in that.

There is power in our tongues.  We can bless or curse with our words.  How we talk is very important.  Nasty, sarcastic, or cursing talk is a symptom of a heart that needs to be be saved.

Living by faith

The guidance system does not come on until the rocket has been launched.   We were never called to understand with our minds, but to trust with our hearts.  Christians are called to be a prophetic people who’s lives don’t make sense to onlookers who do not share the secret passion for Jesus.    The call to follow does not carry with it a guarantee of understanding.  The call is a call to love and obey.  He is good and takes care of those who put their faith in Him.

We learn from our mistakes and are comforted in suffering by his grace.  We learn from the lives of others in scripture, in history, and from our elders who have pioneered on similar or same paths that we are traveling on.

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Art credit: Flowers by Roger Webb

    God Notes

    The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
    -John 10:10

    God is positive.

    God is optimistic.  God is a “glass half full” person.  God sees the best in people- what they could be with grace.  God is hopeful and merciful.

    God’s love is relentless and crazy(1) by human standards.  One poet described God’s relentless love as “the hound of heaven”.

    What are you thinking?

    From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. -Philippians 4:8

    That’s life!

    “I have come that you might have life”, and, “I am the life”, Jesus said.  Are you getting his life?  Do you have it?  He came to give us a life.  The Christian’s life is life in Christ.    Go where and do what has Jesus life in it.

    Jesus’ emphasis was on living.  Living with God, living through him, and living with each other.  Our Christian culture has emphasized teaching and learning as the path to spiritual growth.  But we don’t teach and learn the way that Jesus and the Apostles did.  We teach and learn in our heads, through our eyes and ears.  God wants to enlarge out hearts and make us like Jesus in our way of life.

    Just do it!  (That’s how you learn it)

    What do you do for a living?

    Jesus taught his disciples to do it.  The Jesus way is when your teacher is a guide by your side.  The Jesus way could also be called, “teach, do, learn”.  It is kinetic and charordic: chaotic, with order.

    Have you ever been to a birth?  It does not always go as planned and it is messy.  But look at the life.  Children make messes and break things.  Does that mean they should be institutionalized?  No.

    People who are truly living out Christ and learning, have messy lives.  They fail, they blunder, they make messes; but their character is formed and they grow up in the Lord.

    Jesus saves!

    “I have come to seek and save that which is lost.”  Has he been seeking you and saving you?  Has your lost-ness been found?  Are you on mission with Jesus to seek and save lost people?

    Most of all, he loves the children.

    At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

    Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  -Matthew 18:1-5

    How are you doing with being child-like?  Childish and childlike are two different things.

    To be childlike, is to be:

    • Curious
    • Honest
    • Unselfconscious
    • Fearless
    • Trusting
    • Approachable
    • Wonder-filled
    • Playful

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    1. Crazy Love is a book by Francis Chan

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