Monthly Archives: August 2012

OMG – Thoughts on Vain Words From Psalm 42:6

OMG stands for and means:

  1. “Oh My God” Net-centric abbreviation for the popular exclamation “Oh my God!” (generally used in conversations to exclaim surprise or disgust). Most commonly used by teenage girls who find it depressingly hard to type out an entire word. Reinforces assumptions that humans seem to be getting dumber from generation to generation. (From Urban Dictionary)
  2. “Oh My Gosh” Much like oh my god, or the shortened form omg, oh my gosh can also be condensed into omg, and thus people will have no idea whether you are talking about god or gosh. However, angry Christians who hate to use the Lord’s name in vain, usually type oh my gosh online, rather than oh my god. (Also From Urban Dictionary“Gosh” Used as a mild oath to express surprise. Euphemism for God. (From Merriam Webster)
  3. “Oh My God” O my God, my soul is in despair within me. (From Psalm 42:6) This use of “O My God” indicates emotion, urgency and despair on behalf of the Psalmist toward God.

I was reading Psalm 42:6 this morning and was struck by the emotion of the verse. Both the first and second definition above express emotion, but there is a fundamental difference between the first two and the third. Two are in vain and one is not. One is directed toward God with an authentic sincerity and the other two are empty words to express astonishment or surprise, but God is not thought of for who He is. Rather “god” is used as a thoughtless expression of surprise or astonishment about something when in reality the surprise and astonishment should be directed at Him for who He is.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7

What does it mean to use the LORD’s (God’s) name in vain? It means to use it without addressing Him or giving thought for who He is when His name is used. It is absolute thoughtlessness about God. That’s what using God’s name in vain means, which might also mean we use God’s name in vain even in our prayers and acts of worship – at least if thought isn’t given to what we mean when we use any of the names of God.

Psalm 42:6 is a thoughtful, directed and emotional use of God’s name and we ought to take serious its example, striving for precision as we utter the most important name in all the universe.

And since “gosh” is culturally identified as an alternative way to say God (Sin?), maybe we who fear and love God, should just drop OMG altogether. I don’t see how this abbreviation is fitting for God in any way. Can you imagine the Psalmist writing: “OMG, my soul is in despair within me!”?

We Live in a Hyper-Critical Culture? Are You Too Critical?

I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about us –  though I may be talking about you. Care to find out?

Full disclosure: I admit I can be hyper-critical/too critical, and I suppose I am that way because I am by default a fallible human and because being critical is a part of my training and calling as a pastor so as to identify, refute and protect against false doctrines. Additionally I have become accustomed to critiquing methods for ministry so I can make decisions about what works best. I am by nature and environment wired for criticism.

This spills over into other parts of life as well. For instance, I might be watching a college or professional football game and the quarterback makes an ill-advised throw that results in an interception. If the quarterback is playing for my team I will probably think or say something like, “What in the world was he thinking and doing? I could have made that throw.” Ummmm, reality check; I have never made it on the field to play college or pro football, and even if I had I doubt I could currently back up my claim.

We live in a time that seems to assume we have the inalienable rights to life, love and the pursuit of criticizing others. Take politics as an example. It is standard practice to criticize the other party or political opponent for the most inane things. Candidates criticize each other for having too much money, where and when they vacation, causing hurricanes, and so forth and so on. And by the way, sometimes the criticism is valid, but many times it just serves as filler for the 24 hour news cycle.

So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water because the Bible portrays for us that there are substantive reasons for being critical and there are ways to criticize. For example, Paul in Galatians was quite critical of the people he was writing to, saying they were foolish and bewitched (Galatians 3:1) and that some of them were potentially damned (Galatians 1:8-9). As the preacher said in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1)

So yes, we can be way too critical, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical. Which begs the question of how then do we know if we are being too critical? Here are 5 indicators you (myself included) might be too critical:

  1. You criticize without relationship. If someone knows me and I trust them, I am very willing to receive criticism because I know I can trust them and they have good intentions. If there exists no trust between us because we have no relationship, the criticism is probably going to make me defensive and not receptive. Someone might respond, “Well, what is public is fair game for criticism.” That’s fair. But do you have to criticize publicly everything that is public. Some people just can’t help themselves, and that is worth some self-examination.
  2. You criticize and expect to be thanked for it. This person is constantly criticizing and their intent may be to help, but they are surprised when no one thanks them for exclusively criticizing. These kinds of people are generally avoided and so they conclude that it is always for the reason that they are the only ones who will tell it like it is. Maybe, but it could be they need to exercise a little balance in what they say.
  3. You enjoy criticizing and therefore do it frequently. This goes a bit with the previous and following indicator, but if a person is constantly and personally criticizing others, especially those they don’t have relationship with, there’s a high likelihood that they are overly critical. Criticism should be given with a lot of prior thought and it should be done with the understanding that it is best to carefully pick the hills we are willing to die for. We only have so much trust capital with people by which we can critique them. We better be wise about picking our spots.
  4. You are never satisfied. This person drives down the road and the person that goes faster than them is a reckless maniac, but the person who goes too slow is an idiot for not going as fast as the critic. Everyone on the road, and for that matter in the world, is thinking and doing it wrong.
  5. You constantly find yourself in the minority. There’s a time to be in the minority and stand for  convictions, but if we find ourselves there almost perpetually, the problem may not be everyone else. We might consider pointing the finger back at our own person and critiquing ourselves.

And that seems to be what the Bible would have us do in the first place. I can’t help others until I have first been helped. I shouldn’t judge others until I have first judged myself by the truth. I hope each of us will be as critical of ourselves as we are of everyone else. That might be the most helpful indicator of all.

The State of Christianity – Is This Guy Just a Grumpy Old Man?

AW Tozer lived several decades ago (1897-1963), but it seems not much has changed since then. In his book Pursuit of God, (First written in 1948)Tozer unloads on contemporary evangelical Christianity saying generally it is devoid of people who know how to long for and seek God. See if you his analysis of his own time applies to today. He writes:

The failure to see this is the cause of every serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age-methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. 

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

For this great sickness that is upon us no one person is responsible, and no Christian is wholly free from blame. We have all contributed, directly or indirectly, to this sad state of affairs. We have been blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor, average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own. And for a generation the trend has been downward. Now we have reached a low place of sand and burnt wire grass and, worst of all, we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed.”

Was Tozer out of touch? Was he just a grumpy old man that is now dead and gone – and thank goodness.

-or-

Was he right about his own day and is he still right about ours?

I’ll speak now only for myself; I sense a lot of his critique in me. I see this in me.

We have the best programs and experiences that budgets can buy, but do we seek after God? Or do we simply live like the god we have created?

I think it is worth thinking about.

Relationship Weekend 2012 – Why You Should Come and What To Expect

The 3rd Annual Relationship Weekend (Day) is set for Saturday, September 8th from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In the past we have also met on Friday Night, but to make things less complicated for those who have children and can’t get childcare on Friday Night we are only meeting on Saturday. I am convinced our time will be just as helpful in this format. Also, there won’t be any breakout sessions this year. The reason I chose not to do them was for the sake of time, but more importantly, in the past some of our own members have led breakouts and I wanted them to be able to enjoy the weekend without additional responsibilities.

I hope and pray that you will seriously consider coming to this time. Not only will it be a great time of learning and encouragement, but it will also be fun and a time of fellowship. This is something you could invite anyone to because we all need help in this area – All of us – and I am confident the six-and-a-half hour investment will be worth it.

Registration will begin August 19th. 

You might be thinking: “Do I really need to come to Relationship Weekend?”

To help you, here are some things to think about and an overview of the day.

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or relationship on this side of heaven. We all are relationally broken and in constant need of repair and improvement. Conflict is inevitable and you will either become a master conflict resolution or conflict will master you. Struggling relationships do not get better by ignoring problems or trying the same thing over and over again with the same results.

  •  Do you know where conflict comes from?
  • Do you recognize your conflict style and that of your spouse?
  • Do you know why you do conflict the way you do?
  • Do you know how to converse in a way that resolves conflict or do you only escalate conflict? Worse still, are you an avoider?
  • Do you know how to make relationship repair?
  • Do you know how to end a conflict in a healthy way?
  • Do you resolve conflict in such a way that you trust the other person more or less?

Because we are a committed community and committed to disciple-making, we want to help you honor Christ in all of your relationships. We hope that you value your marriage (future marriage) enough to take the time to learn and change with us.

Main Sessions: The first session will help us see where conflicts come from and help us to diagnose how much trouble our relationships are in based on how we do conflict. The second session will help us to formulate a plan to resolve conflict and help us to end the conflict well.

Gender Specific Sessions: Julie Kellogg, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will spend time with the women discussing the attitudes of a woman that help and hurt conflict resolution. Jeremy Freeman, Pastor of First Baptist Church Newcastle, will be with the men, persuading them to act like men instead of running like boys from conflict. There will also be time for Q & A in these sessions.

Panel Discussion/Q&A: By this time you will have heard a lot of information and suggestions that will hopefully lead to many questions. This is a time for you to ask those questions to a group of people who are resolving conflict in a healthy way.

Planning To Act: The weekend would be a waste if we didn’t actually do something with what we have heard. In this time we will identify some action steps that need to be implemented in our relationships.

The Trouble With Fast-Forwarding

Me. Just tell me what I need to know. Just tell me what’s important for the now time. Get to the point. Get to the application. Now.

Me!Now!

Can you see a child saying this to a parent? I see a lot of adults acting like this and we are all guilty because we are me, and we all are right now (hope that made sense).

And this condition makes us want to fast-forward to what we like and want (maybe need).

There’s a couple of problems with this:

  1. It’s never just about us. For example, a training time is offered at the church on parenting and someone decides that doesn’t apply to them so there’s really no need for them to go. After all, they don’t have children now or their children or already gone. So is it really true parenting doesn’t really apply to them? Not if they are thinking about the possibility of others – They might have children and if so they shouldn’t wait until they have them to begin preparing and surely they know people who do have children that may be able to speak into their life. If self-centered about it right now, when the time comes they may have no words of encouragement or may not be as ready as they would like to have been.
  2. A Narrow Perspective is a Lacking Perspective. Imagine seeing a trailer of a movie and then renting it and deciding you want to go straight to the crescendo because that’s what you saw in the trailer. This might bring a temporary satisfaction but it will only take you so far, leaving you asking many questions that can only be answered by the progression of the whole story. How many times do we find ourselves in a specific situation so we jump straight to the relevant topic. For instance, we need some marital help so we go to Ephesians 5:22-33 to find the instruction of Paul is more than we bargained for and a seemingly unattainable dream. The problem with the fast-forward methodology is that not only did we blow right past Ephesians 5:15 -21, which is the source for Eph. 5:22-33, but we also missed the importance of the gospel (Ch. 1-3) as the foundation for all application. Marriages need Spirit-filled power and they need the gospel. To know what to do where you are, you must read the whole manual. Trust me, you don’t buy a pop-up swimming pool at Wal-Mart, take it out of the box and just start pouring water into it. There are necessary prior instructions and steps and without them you are headed toward a lot of frustration.

If we are to avoid unnecessary trouble, self-inflicted trouble, we must quit thinking only about ourselves, and we must quit trying to fast-forward without understanding why we are, where we are. The process matters and when we try to fast-forward we will probably find ourselves rewinding because we need an unselfish perspective.