Bread – Signs

July 21, 2017


Psalm 74

Your foes have roared in the midst of Your meeting place; they have set up their own signs for signs.”  Ps. 74:4

Those who are of the world and are not for God are against God.  “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”  Jas. 4:4b  Therefore, the word “foes” here not only includes people who would see God removed totally from life on earth, but also those who wouldn’t go that far but are still hostile to God and those who are neutral toward God, perhaps believing that there are many gods.  So, God has many foes, many enemies.

But what do the enemies of God do to demonstrate their enmity?  The most obvious way is to work to depose His people on earth, to imprison them in their homes or churches, to make sure that none of their infectious ideas (like eternal life through belief in Jesus Christ) are spoken in the public square or reflected in public policy or laws.

The less obvious way is to create symbols and signs which lead away from God or, worse, mislead people into finding a false god.

Ultimately, unless we are the recipient of direct revelation, we take in our information and our knowledge by words, by language.   The foes of God attempt to create signs and symbols which sound like and look like the words they replace, but which lead away from a sovereign Lord and which therefore lead away from life.

There are many illustrations of this, but I will pick three and hopefully one or more you will find accurate.

The first is our description of God in our own translations of Scripture.   What I mean by that is the destruction of the word “he” or “him” when that pronoun refers to God.  In a sentence referring to both me (a man) and God in every major Bible translation today, any reference to either me or God will be either “he” or “him.”  Very, very, very subtly, by doing so the foes of God have equated man and God to the same level.  Do Christians today have a diminished view of God’s sovereignty, His power, and His majesty?  Perhaps it is because God is referred to in man-made translations as “him” or “he.”  Just like I don’t deserve the royal capital “H,” neither in the opinion of these Bible translators does God.

The second is our corruption of the word “love.”  We “love” football, we “love” ice cream, we “love” our children, and we “love” our neighbor become all the same word.  What has great meaning in a covenantal relationship as between us and God or between us and our spouse is reduced in practical terms to “like a lot.”  When we can love our ice cream with the same meaning as we love our neighbor, why should there be any doubt about why we do not understand the concept of “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”  We may preach about “sacrificial love,” but isn’t it interesting that the word has become so corrupted that we have to try to strengthen it with an adjective to get our point across.  And is there any reason to wonder why we don’t understand what “sacrificial love” is when the real practical translation is “sacrificial like a lot.”

My third example is actually a strange one because it still means something but the meaning is disappearing in front of our eyes.  That word is “privacy.”  When I was young, this was a core concept of life.  When I was in my room alone, I had privacy.  When I was on the telephone, I had privacy.  When I got a letter in the mail, I had privacy.  The notion is related to a strong Christian view that each man is in the image of God and is therefore worthy of respect.  Part of respect is giving each man then the freedom to be alone, to be private.    Some people today believe that the notion of “privacy” is gone in our electronic culture.  E-mails are monitored, we are moving to a cashless society where everything is run through monitored computer, we have “smart meters” which can monitor our internal home usage, we have smart boxes which are constantly listening to “Hey ______,” we communicate through devices which track our buying habits, and we even have laws in place specifying which information is private and which is not.  Of course, the laws that “give” us privacy can take it away.  Finally, our privacy rights (if any we have) in bathrooms are being taken away in the name of social reform.

So, the foes of God set up their own signs (symbols, meanings) for God’s signs (symbols, meanings).

What are we to do?  Well, obviously first we pray for God’s intervention in our worldly affairs.  But the truth is that we can take back the language.  We can substitute our signs for their signs, our symbols for their symbols, our meanings for their meanings.  How do we do that?  I think we do it by becoming a lot more sensitive to the language we use.  For example, let’s reserve the word “love” for where it really matters.  Let’s honor people’s privacy the way we demand they honor ours.

And let’s refer to God as “He” with the royal capital, as He deserves.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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Bread – Words

February 13, 2017


Psalm 52

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?  … Your tongue plots destruction… You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right.  You love words that devour, O deceitful tongue.”  Ps. 52:1-4

I have had the honor from time to time of offering an invocation at a “secular” event.  Every time, I pray that the language we use during the event is language which will build up and not tear down, which will clarify and not confuse, and which will be positive and not negative.  I also ask that the language we use bring glory to God.

Why do I do this?  It is to remind me, primarily, that what I say and how I say it, the words I use, have great impact to either good or evil.

We have been given a tongue to use to communicate and a comprehensible language to communicate in.  With that tongue, we can speak truth or lies, encouragement or discouragement, positive or negative, hope or despair, patience or anger, forward leaning or backward reaching, love or hatred.  We can pick whether we raise up the people we are speaking with or whether we put them down, all in the choice of words we use.

The simplest example of this is how I have heard described optimistic or pessimistic people.  I have heard that optimistic people will say that the glass of water is “half full” whereas pessimistic people will say that it is “half empty.”  Both statements are true.   The first is positive, the second is negative.

In making this statement, we act like somehow the words we us are not our choice, that somehow the words we use arise purely from our psychology, from how “we are made.”

When we say we cannot help what we say or how we say it because that is merely a reflection of who we are, we abandon hope.  This is simply because we are born in sin and, if we remain in sin and if we can only use the words which reflect who we are, then there is no hope for “good speech.”

But as Christians we know that we are no longer who we were before Christ.  In Christ, we are a new creation, with hope for eternity arising from our steadfast God.

Then why do Christians use such poor language?  Why are we so often in the business of putting people down rather than raising them up?  Why are we so often criticizing rather than edifying?  Why do we so readily speak lies to advance our position, when the truth might hurt, but in the end heals and restores?

As we begin this week, let’s start a new experiment where we formulate in our mind what we are going to say before we say it, then test that proposed language against God’s standard of love and hope, then reformulate our language appropriately before we say it?  And then let’s say it.

As Christians, our glass is not only just half full, it is full to the brim and running over in grace and blessings.

Let’s talk like it!

_________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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