Accept

“Accept one another, then,
just as Christ accepted you,
in order to bring praise to God.”
Romans 15:7*

Accept: to receive with approval or favor, to welcome

Paul told the members of the church in Rome
to accept each other.
Which implies that the members of the church in Rome
were not accepting each other.

What was their problem?

To find out, we have to backtrack a bit, to Romans 14. It seems everybody was caught up in a debate about meat. Yes, meat. Specifically, meat that had been sacrificed to idols and then put up for sale in the marketplace. To eat this meat, or not to eat this meat — that was the burning question. The issue was dividing people and harming the church’s testimony in the community.

Paul called the believers out and said,
“You meat eaters, don’t look down on the ones who don’t eat meat.
You non-meat eaters, don’t condemn the meat-eaters.
Here’s the deal: God accepts both. So accept one another.”
(Romans 14:3, my paraphrase)

We don’t squabble about meat that is sacrificed to idols in our day. But we have our own “disputable matters” (Ro. 14:1). Plenty of them. Does Paul’s advice work if we substitute in our issues? Let’s put it to the test. (Words in italics are subbed in to the actual passage.)

The one who doesn’t wear a mask must not look down on the one who does, and the one who does wear a mask must not condemn the one who doesn’t, for God has accepted him. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. If your brother is distressed because you don’t wear a mask, you are no longer acting in love. Do not, by your choices, destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of masks. (Romans 14:3, 13, 15, 20)

Yep, it works.

Paul leveled the playing field with the reminder that
every one of us has been accepted by Christ.
In all my sin and shame and stupidity,
Christ welcomed me in.
In that spirit,
we are commanded to accept each other.

But if we insist on digging in our heels
and disputing over opinions,
we rob God of the praise He is due.
Father, forgive us.


Help us, Your children, to accept one another.

*Part five in a series on “The One Anothers”

Harmonize

“Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:16*

#1) Harmony: pleasing arrangement of parts, melodious
Go ahead. Enjoy a few minutes of soul-melting harmoniousness.

#2) Dissonance: harsh discord, cacophony
Listen to this now. It’s only 55 seconds long.
It sounds a lot like my 2 year old granddaughter at the keyboard.

Any questions?
Be like #1.

Harmony is not unison. You don’t get harmony by everyone playing the same note. Harmony does not mean everyone thinks the same nor does the same. To live in harmony with one another is to live in such a way that you enrich and complement each other. Together you are more than any of you would be on your own. There is a display of beauty that comes from taking what is distinct and different and making it one.

Is there anything that is more desperately needed in our world today than this? Our country is tired of polarization, division and conflict. The world desperately needs to see something different, and God says, “Let it be seen in the church!”

Colin Smith @ http://www.unlockingthebible.org

Dear God, I want to be a harmonious contributor to the body of Christ. Help me to celebrate our shared purpose of bringing You glory. Equip me and empower me to add to the beauty of Your Bride, the church. Put a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to spew out cacophony. Help us, Your children, to live in harmony with one another.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

*Part three in a series on “The One Anothers”

Honor

“Outdo one another in showing honor.”*
Romans 12:10

When I was in 2nd grade, I was a Brownie. My friends and I walked to the Methodist church after school on Tuesdays. We put on our beanies and brown sashes and gathered around tables in the musty basement. We proudly stood, raised our three fingers and recited the oath:

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
to help people at all times,
and to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Honor.
It’s not a word that gets much attention these days.
So how do we honor each other, as commanded in the Bible?

The word honor in the original language is “time” (pronounced tee-may). It means:

  • to value the worth of every brother and sister in Christ.
  • to show genuine appreciation and admiration for fellow believers.
  • to give preference to one another, putting them first.
  • to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, without jealousy.
  • to extend to another the first opportunity.
  • to serve someone else, even at personal expense.
  • to value the relationship over being right.

Paul gave the same message to the believers in Philippi:

Put yourself aside,
and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Phil. 2:4 — The Message

Get beyond yourselves
and protecting your own interests; 
be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

Phil. 2:4 — The Voice

That’s why it’s so hard to honor one another. It doesn’t come naturally. It takes great humility and unselfishness. We need the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in us to pull this off. But can you see how amazing it would be if everyone in the faith community honored each other?

“Take the lead in honoring one another.”
Romans 12:10 — CSB

Who will take the lead?

“Practice playing second fiddle.”
Romans 12:10 — The Message

Second fiddle, anyone?

Lord, help me to overflow with respect and genuine appreciation for others in my community of faith. Forgive me for putting my selfish desires ahead of others’ needs. Give me Holy Spirit power to take the lead in honoring my brothers and sisters. Show me how to play second fiddle with joyful abandon. Help us, your children, to honor one another.

On my honor, I will try.

*Part 2 in a series on “The One Anothers”.

Devoted

When I hear the word “devoted” I can’t help but think of Sandy, in her white nightgown, sitting on the porch, lovesick for Danny, singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” If that’s not your first thought, then I guess maybe you weren’t a teenager in the 70s listening to the new musical “Grease”. I guess maybe I was.

What does it mean to
“be devoted to one another in love”? *

Devoted: zealous or ardent in attachment, loyalty, or affection; faithful, constant, loyal.

Those are good definitions, but when Paul wrote this, he had something more in mind. Finding the right word was so important to Paul that he invented a brand new word, used only this one time in the Bible.

We make up words all the time.
Have you ever been hangry (hungry + angry)?
Have you ever used a spork (spoon + fork)
when eating brunch (breakfast + lunch)
while glamping (glamorous + camping)?

Paul was a master wordsmith who took two words, mashed them together, and created an expression that was revolutionary.

Here it is:
Philos + Storge = Philostorgos

Philos means intimate, authentic love between friends that wants what is best for the other person.
Storge means unconditional, protective love experienced between family members.

When mashed up, philostorgos means:

  • you can count on me to show up.
  • you can trust me with your truest self.
  • you are a sister/brother to me.
  • I will not undermine, criticize or gossip about you to others.
  • I will encourage you to grow in your faith.
  • I will open up my heart to you and give you my truest self.
  • Our friendship is based on loyal commitment.
  • Our relationship is mutual and life-giving.
  • Our devotion to each other will grow a strong, warm community.

Far from being hopelessly devoted,
this kind of devotion between believers
is filled with hope.

Father, forgive me for my lack of devoted love for those in my community of faith. I confess my flagging commitment and complacent attitude. Show me where my devotion is misplaced and increase my desire to be an enthusiastic, consistent member of my church family. Help us, Your children, be devoted to each other in love.

*Part 1 in a series on “The One Anothers”.
Related post: The One Anothers

The One Anothers

The phrase “one another” is found over 50 times in the New Testament. These words were written to churches, giving practical instructions to the community of believers on how to get along. Evidently, they needed help.

In the original language, the word for “one another” is “allelon” and it’s a plural, reciprocal pronoun. Which means Barney had the right idea:

“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family….”

The first century church was an eclectic mix of slaves and masters, Greeks and Jews, men and women. Congregations consisted of people who would not have associated with each other under any other circumstances. You could say they were people from both sides of the aisle.

The focus of the “one anothers” was on relationships between fellow believers in Jesus. It was crucial for members of the early church to do some really good “one anothering” to maintain their witness.

Around 200 A.D., church leader Tertullian wrote, “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See how they love one another’, the pagans say.”

That kind of church could change the world.

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

I think we’re supposed to love one another.
Plural. Reciprocal.
Allelon.

In a world of division and mean-spiritedness,
the body of Christ has the privilege and responsibility
to display unity and warm-heartedness.

You’re my “one another”.
I’m your “one another”.
Let’s find out how to “one another” each other, shall we?

Two Thumbs Up

I’m back in business.

On September 10th, I strolled into the operating room, chatted with the surgeon about football while he fixed my stuck ligament, and then I strolled back out with three little stitches holding me together.

I did milk it a bit by spending a whole day on the couch watching cooking shows. And I did convince PB that I couldn’t wash dishes for two weeks.

Now that the stitches are out and my thumb is moving every which-way without pain, the gig is up. No more lolly-gagging. Life is good.

I’ll be starting a new series soon!
“The One Anothers”
The Bible has over 50 “one another” statements.
They were given to teach the early believers how to live with each other
in such a way that the church would stand out in their culture as a place of
joyful hope, compassionate healing and warm fellowship.

Seems like now would be a good time for a refresher.

Related posts:
Two Thumbs Down

So Long

Psalm 119 is so long.
It’s 5 months of study long.
It’s 98 blog posts long.
It’s 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet long.
It’s 47,725 words of reflection long.
It almost outlasted a pandemic.
Psalm 119 is a long song.

My thumbs need a rest so I’m going to say
“So Long”
for a couple of weeks.
Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey.
I hope we all come back to Psalm 119 someday
and remember this sweet time in the Word.
And find more treasure.
There’s always more.

sound-of-music-goodbye_thumb[2]

Y is for Yes

Another one of David’s favorite phrases in Psalm 119 was “according to your promise.” When David read the Torah, he saw loads of promises, and he wasn’t shy about reminding God about them.

“Be gracious to me, according to your promise.” (V. 58)
“Comfort me, according to your promise.” (V. 76)
“Sustain me, according to your promise.” (V. 116)
“Preserve my life, according to your promise.” (V. 154)
“Deliver me, according to your promise.” (V. 170)

Along with all the “regular” promises, God made David a “special” promise. In fact, it’s called the “Davidic Covenant”. It went something like this: “David, I promise you that the Messiah, the Savior of the world, My Son, will come through your family line and He will be a King over My Kingdom forever. There are no conditions on this promise, it’s all on Me. You can’t screw it up. Signed, God.”

David had his eye on his son Solomon, wondering if his boy was the fulfillment of that promise. God had His eye on His Son, Jesus, who would come from David’s line one thousand years later. Jesus came the first time to suffer and die. He will come again one of these days to rule and reign.

We have a promise-keeping God. How many promises did God make, exactly? Well, that depends on who you ask. According to Everet R. Storms, there are 7,487 promises in the Bible. (He counted them on his 27th time reading through the Bible.) Biblegateway.com tallies 5,467 divine promises. Another source counts 3,573. But you know what? It doesn’t matter! God knows and He can’t screw it up.

David stood on the promise God made him. We also stand on a whole boat-load of promises. The reason we can be sure about every single one is because of 2 Corinthians 1:20. (And now I’m finally getting to my favorite word.)

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”

yes

Me: Is it true that if I lack wisdom, I can ask and it will be given?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: Will You really work all things together for good?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: If I resist the devil, will he actually run away from me?
Jesus: Yes!

Me: If I confess my sins, will you truly forgive me and purify me?
Jesus: Yes!

7,483 to go….

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with Y is YES.

Tav

Tav is the twenty-second and final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Tav (also written as “Taw”) has the same sound as “t” as in “tall”. Every line in Psalm 119:169-176 starts with this letter. Tav looks like this:

taw

The word Tav means “mark” or “seal” or “sign”. In the earliest Hebrew script, the letter tav was the shape of a cross, much like our English letter “t”.

tav

The last letter of the Aleph-Bet reveals Jesus in a powerful way. The first letter, “Aleph”, showed the God-man who came to be a bridge between heaven and earth. That bridge came in the shape of a cross, or “tav”. Jesus’ death on a cross was foreshadowed in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and Tav.

When Aleph-Tav is seen together in one word in Hebrew scripture, it’s like a verification signature or seal of the Author. It appears in significant places in the Bible, but because it is not translatable, it is overlooked in our English translations. But the combination of Aleph-Tav is all over the Old Testament, about 7,000 times! The combination of the two letters is even found in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1. The message of Jesus’ coming to earth and His death on the cross is embedded in the dawn of creation!

The word “tav” can be found in Ezekiel 9:4, where God put a mark (tav) on the foreheads of the people who opposed the worship of idols. The death angel was told, “Do not come near anyone who has the mark.” This same idea is in Revelation 22:4, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” Some believe that mark will be the Hebrew letters Aleph and Tav.

Tav also stands for “truth”.
The Hebrew word for truth is “emet” which is spelled
Aleph (The Creator)
+
Mem (gives His life)
+
Tav (on the cross).

The gospel is also easily seen in the word “Torah”,
which is spelled
Tav (the cross)
+
Vav (the nail)
+
Resh (the Captain, or Leader)
+
Hey (Behold!).

tavdagesh

Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with Y.

Long Song Study, part Y

Sprinkled throughout the 119th Psalm is a phrase that David used often and it’s here in the last section twice: “according to your word”. That’s a good way to sum up David’s heart’s desire — he wanted to live his life in accordance with God’s Word. “According to” means “in agreement with”. This favorite phrase of David’s reminds us that a life of faith is agreeing with God more and arguing with God less.

Verse 169
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word!
We don’t know if David was aware that this was his final entry in his long song. We also don’t know how old David was as he penned these words. Certainly he was an older man at this point, yet he was still crying out to God and asking for understanding. Not all cries are in desperation — the word used here can also mean “shouts of joy, singing, gladness”. That exclamation point might indicate a triumphant cry!
None of us will get everything all figured out this side of eternity. Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” The key is to continue to seek understanding according to the Word. “To be given understanding means more than to be given cognitive content, it means to be changed inside.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 170
Let my plea come before you;
deliver me according to your word.
David spent his whole life coming to God with his requests and he had seen the hand of God move on his behalf in mighty ways. Coming to the Lord for help was nothing new for David; it was completely natural for him. We shouldn’t expect to “out-grow” our need for God’s help. In fact, challenges often increase as we age, so developing the holy habit of coming before God with our needs is wise. 

Verse 171
My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
David followed his two prayer requests with two promises. The first was to praise God, out loud and profusely. The Hebrew word for “pour forth” means “to gush, blurt, flow abundantly”. After laying out his requests, David went directly into praise, probably before the understanding and deliverance arrived. This was also his holy habit — so many of his songs gush with exultant adoration. Again, it was natural for his lips to pour forth praise because it had been his life-long practice.

Verse 172
My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.
David’s second promise was to sing! Words of praise gave way to songs of praise. Charles Wesley wrote the hymn, “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” and the lyrics always make me smile. Here is Charles, wishing he had 1,000 tongues in his mouth so he could use them all to praise God. And here I am, having more than enough trouble with my one and only tongue. What would happen if I had 1,000 tongues? Yikes. The truth is, we can control how we use our tongues but it’s not easy. James wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (Jam. 3:5-6) The Holy Spirit can redeem our tongues to be used for praise!

Verse 173
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
The pendulum swings from praise to petition once more. It’s like David can’t make up his mind how to pray. I can relate. There is an unresolved tension that oscillates between good days and bad days, ups and downs, highs and lows. We praise Him, we cry out to Him. Over and over and over. But we have something David didn’t have — Jesus, a High Priest that sympathizes with our weaknesses and invites us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. (Heb. 4:15-16) Jesus proved that God’s hand is ready to help us. 

Verse 174
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
 and your law is my delight.
The longing David felt might have been for personal deliverance, but it also may have reached beyond that to the salvation God promised in the coming Messiah. Everything inside David yearned for the fulfillment of the covenant and the establishment of a kingdom that would last forever. David looked forward to the promise with faith, as did all the Old Testament saints. We are the blessed generations who get to look back on Messiah’s coming to purchase salvation while also looking forward to His glorious return. In the meantime, His Word is to be our delight.

Verse 175
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
Years ago, I read this verse in the Message translation and wrote it in my NIV Bible. “Invigorate my soul so I can praise You well. Use Your decrees to put iron in my soul.” I love that! To invigorate means to infuse with life, energy, and vitality. That’s how I want to live — with Holy Spirit energy running through my veins, providing vital praise to my lips. That’s how I want to grow old — with Holy Spirit strength in my inner being, providing iron-clad endurance and faithfulness. 

Verse 176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
Wait. What? What just happened? Can we please lop off this last verse and end on a high note? No, we can’t. Because even though David affirmed his belief, he was aware of his frailty and his dependence on God’s grace. We are lost sheep — “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” But do not forget, God does seek after us, especially in His Word. 

I’m going to close David’s long song with a long quote from “Bible Delight” by Christopher Ash. You can skip it or read it later. However, his comments on this ancient psalm seem to speak right into our present world. 

   “As so often in the Bible, the end of the psalm is not the end of the story. If we think of the psalm as portraying the believer as a building under construction, this last verse is a reminder that the scaffolding is still in place. At the end of this psalm we are still in painful tension. This is how it is. This psalm will not be sung in the age to come.* But for now it is authentic Christian experience. This is so realistic.
‘How are you?’ ‘I really don’t know. I cannot work out whether I am in prayer or praise. I seem to feel both strongly and inconsistently.’ This is the authentic Christian response. There are two simpler responses; and neither of them is Christian. If I just say it is grim grim grim, that is not an authentic Christian response. And if I say it is great great great that also is not an authentic Christian response. The authentic response is to say I really don’t know. I am held by the word of God from a painful present to a glorious future. And that word brings into the present a foretaste of joy, hope, peace and praise. And the praise is all muddled up with the prayer. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry; and I do both at the same time. That is authentic Christian experience.
The people of God delight in the word of God, because this word alone ties us in the pain of the present to the glory of the future. May God help us sing it.”

img_0752

*Mr. Ash seems to think David will not be performing Psalm 119 on the New Earth. Darn. Oh well. He’s got a lot of other good songs and is probably writing more even now. I’m keeping my front row seat.

Next: Tav