Truth in Love 30 January 2022

Listening to my radio on the way back from Atkins today, I heard the voice of Diana Ross singing, “I started school in a worn, torn dress that somebody threw out. I knew the way it felt to always live in doubt, To be without the simple things, So afraid my friends would see the guilt in me…” And it started me thinking… Back in 1968 when the Supremes came out with this song about teenage pregnancy, it was a taboo subject. Not that it never happened, but nobody ever talked about it. And certainly nobody ever sang about it. This was in the midst of Vietnam and all the hyper freedom movements in our society. The very thoughts expressed in the song seem to fly in the face of the entire liberation movement with these girls appearing on Ed Sullivan and actively standing in opposition to the entire ideal.
When I got back to the office, the song was stuck in my head, so I did a little research. It was originally written as a blues piece about a poor teenage girl who was pregnant and lamenting her future. But Barry Gordy of Motown wanted a top hit and that wasn’t it. So, he rewrote and rearranged the lyrics to the point where it ended up as the story of a young girl explaining to her boyfriend that they would have to wait until marriage; because she, having been born out of wedlock, did not want that stigma for her own child. Imagine that. Here in the middle of the revolutionary movements of the 1960’s was a positive message for caution.
But apparently nobody listened. As I write today, history shows that in 1968, the number of children born to single mothers was 7% in the US. By 1978 the number had risen slightly to 11%. By 2017 the number had risen steadily and was at 25% of all births. Last year in the US, a whopping 42% of all babies born in the US were born to unwed mothers. And unlike 1968 when it was socially unacceptable to have children out of wedlock, that is no longer the case today. Today, the idea of a “Love Child” even seems to be a positive thing.
But that’s not the way God intended for children to brought into the world. God’s plan has always included the father being not only present in the life of the child, but responsible for the raising and instruction of his children. Maybe it’s time we spent a little more effort encouraging young people to wait. I know it’s an old fashioned notion, but the ramifications are immense. Our youth are under constant bombardment and those, like Rod, who work with them are doing their best to encourage and support them. But they need our support and encouragement as well. Tell them you love them and show them you care.
In 1968, Diana Ross sang that, “No child of mine will be bearing the name of shame I’ve been wearing.” And in 2022, we need to hear that message all over again.

Truth in Love 23 January 2022

As my wife and I were doing our Bible Reading the other night, we got to the part of Genesis where Jacob blesses his sons, near the end of his life. As we were reading through the text, I looked over at her and said, “Some of these don’t really sound like blessings at all, do they?” Her response was that most of them sounded more like curses than blessings. Then we looked again at the text. The Bible we were reading from had a heading for chapter 49 that said, “Jacob blesses his sons”. That’s why we were expecting blessings. But the text actually says: “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘ Gather yourselves together: that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.’” Aha, did you catch that? These were never intended as blessings, but rather were a prophecy of the future generations of Israel. The sector heading was misleading. So what difference does it make?
Quite often we have a tendency to forget that in our Bibles there are necessarily some opinions of man interspersed with the word of God. Among these are simple things required for translation purposes such as inserting a definitive object (a, an, or the) before a word to make it easier to read in English. Other times, it might involve translating an idiom into a more correct understanding rather than a literal rendition which might have a completely different meaning. (I always use the example that if you asked me for a million dollars and I responded, “Go jump in the lake.”, I wouldn’t actually be commanding you to cast yourself into a body of water. You’d immediately understand that I meant “No” in an emphatic way. Occasionally, there are even words that have taken on different meanings and the translators have had to decide which meaning to use. A classic is the term Holy Ghost. In the 1600’s when the KJV was being written, “ghost” meant “guest” and the idea was that the Spirit of God was a welcome guest in our lives. Through the years, the word “ghost” evolved into an entirely different and somewhat disreputable meaning. So, by the time the ASV came out, the term “Holy Spirit” had replaced the term “Holy Ghost” in our Bibles and remains that way in modern translations. One of the biggest manmade additions to our Bibles has been the chapters and verses which were assigned that way with no apparent reasoning or rationale. It’s quite obvious that the last part of Romans 5 and the beginning of Romans 6 are expressing the same thought and sometimes a verse cuts a sentence in two. And don’t even get me started on study Bibles where someone writes a commentary to tell you what the Bible actually means.
So, back to our dilemma. We quickly realized that these words from Jacob to his sons were not blessings. But they were prophetic. And then we continued reading the word of God, warned afresh to focus on His words and not opinions.

Truth in Love 16 January 2022

Recently, a friend led a devotional using the text from Jeremiah 18 about Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house. Scott did a really good job with his devotional, but as often happens when we are examining a particular scripture, I saw an additional area to explore that he didn’t have time to cover in his lesson. The particular text from the ESV is: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
What immediately came to my mind was the story of my own life. There I was, created in the image of Almighty God for a purpose. Before my bones were knit together in the womb, God knew me and had a plan for my life. His desire for me as for all mankind was that I would come to know His great love for me and simply love Him back. Even as He looked forward to this relationship with me, He knew that I would fail. So, before I was born, no, even farther back, before He created the world, He devised a plan to reunite me to Him. That’s what I see in the potter’s house.
The potter began making a vessel with a specific purpose and plan for it. He was intentional about his design and probably a master at his craft. But the vessel was ruined. Maybe the wheel was a little off-centered or the clay had some imperfection in it, or perhaps his hand brushed against it accidentally. Maybe Jeremiah walking into his shop distracted him momentarily. At any rate, the vessel was ruined. Just like my life when I followed my own paths instead of allowing the Great Potter to direct my ways. My life was ruined. I had gone from being the absolute perfect vessel He envisioned me to be and become a ruined vessel of no use to anyone. But the potter didn’t quit and discard the ruined vessel and God didn’t give up on me! As the potter looked at the ruined vessel, he quickly began anew to remake the vessel into what he wished it to be.
There’s a clue in the next couple of verses that reads, “Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.’” Perhaps the potter changed his mind and made it into a different vessel for a different purpose or perhaps he simply started over and remade the vessel he intended from the start. But he didn’t give up on his work — just like God didn’t give up on me.

Truth in Love 09 January 2022

This morning, there’s a chill in the air and the sun is shining. That’s one of my favorite combinations. It would be even more favorable to me if there was snow on the ground. Yes, I’ll admit it, I like the white stuff. When I see snow covered ground and roofs, i see possibilities for new beginnings. It’s like the snow makes everything look fresh and new again. Now, I have many friends who would rather see 85 degrees than snow and they have the right to their own opinions. I like warm weather too. But, on days like today, you can step outside for a breath of fresh cool air and then step back inside in front of a window and feel the sun’s heat soaking deep into your muscles. You may wonder, did Jesus ever come in from the cold to warm His bones? Let’s look at a few scriptures and see if we can find an answer:
Isaiah 1:18 reads, “’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” Apparently Isaiah and his readers were familiar with snowfall deep enough to cover over the ground. And in Jeremiah 18:14 God asks, “Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from its rocky slopes? Do its cool waters from distant sources ever stop flowing?” Job recounts, “He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ (Job 37:6) The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 147:16, “He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.” And who can forget the wife of virtue in Proverbs 31? Verse 21 says, “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” And while there are many more references to the heat and drought, there are several additional references to the white stuff as well.
So, since unlike the foxes and birds, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, there were probably many nights when He and His disciples slept out in the cold or searched for any available shelter from the wind and cold. What difference does it make? Why does it matter enough to write about it? Because it is just another way that God demonstrated His love for us. By becoming one of us, Jesus experienced the same things we do. Whether it was biting cold, or hot summer days, or even a broken heart because of a friend’s betrayal, He went through the same things we do. So, He understands. God could never experience our pain and weakness from up in heaven. So He came down to experience our lives. So, the next time you feel a chill in the air and wrap up a little tighter before ducking into a warm place, take a moment and thank God for His most wonderful gift.