Christians

The Jewish Advantage

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So, do Jews have anything that others don’t have? Do they get any benefit from being circumcised? Yes, the Jews have many benefits. The most important one is this: God trusted the Jews with his teachings.

It is true that some Jews were not faithful to God. But will that stop God from doing what he promised? No, even if everyone else is a liar, God will always do what he says. As the Scriptures say about him,

“You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win when people accuse you.” [Psalm 51:4]

When we do wrong, that shows more clearly that God is right. So can we say that God does wrong when he punishes us? (That’s the way some people think.) Of course not. If God could not punish us, how could he judge the world?

Someone might say, “When I lie, it really gives God glory, because my lie makes his truth easier to see. So why am I judged a sinner?” It would be the same to say, “We should do evil so that good will come.” Many people criticize us, saying that’s what we teach. They are wrong, and they should be condemned for saying that. (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭1-8‬ ERV)


We (US Americans) live in a culture of much entitlement. Many American Christians believe that God gave us a favored status among nations. I believe this is true up to a point.

If by favor we mean that God has shown us great blessings, yes. But He has not shown us favoritism because we are better than others. It is only because He is gracious by nature.

But, in my opinion, we have squandered this favor. How? In the way we tolerate immoral and unethical behaviors, such as abortion on demand, pornography and sex trafficking, and lack of integrity and accountability in so many ways.

God entrusted the Christian church in America with much favor and great resources. But it seems we have squandered this, as well. How? We are more influenced by the relativistic culture around us than impacting it with the integrity of the truth entrusted to us by God.

We can choose to uphold the truth of God by how we live, or compromise it by our example. But God, and the truth of God, will not be changed nor morphed by our compromise, nor by ever-changing culture.

God entrusted Israel with the Law (teachings), and He likewise entrusted the Christian church with His grace and truth. So, God had higher expectations of the Jews, just as He does of the church.  ©Word-Strong_2015

Do What We Say, Not as We Do

Photo credit: lightstock.com What about you? You say you are a Jew. You trust in the law and proudly claim to be close to God. You know what God wants you to do. And you know what is important, because you have learned the law.

You think you are a guide for people who don’t know the right way, a light for those who are in the dark. You think you can show foolish people what is right. And you think you are a teacher for those who are just beginning to learn.

You have the law, and so you think you know everything and have all truth. You teach others, so why don’t you teach yourself? You tell them not to steal, but you yourself steal. You say they must not commit adultery, but you yourself are guilty of that sin. You hate idols, but you steal them from their temples.

You are so proud that you have God’s law, but you bring shame to God by breaking his law. As the Scriptures say, “People in other nations insult God because of you.” (‭Romans‬ ‭2:‭17-24‬ ERV)


Self-righteousness infects all of us. No one is free from it. We look for ways to make ourselves look good, or at least better than someone else. So, we use a sliding scale of "goodness" that makes us appear to be better than others.

This text in Romans was first written with a Jewish person in mind. They knew God, the living God. God Almighty chose them as His own people. Their identity was wrapped up in that belief, and in the (Mosaic) Law given to them so they would be examples to other people who worshipped idols and many gods.

Today, it fits those of us who claim to be Christian believers. We say we know the right way, the only way, and often think its our role to get everyone else following our moral code, because our way is the right way. We can quote Scriptures to back this up.

Only one problem, and it's a big problem. We often don't live up to our own expectations for others. People take note of this—that our example doesn't always match our self-righteous talk.

Christian believers are called to be living examples of the one, true, Living God. As the expression goes, we need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

So, the issue is not knowing the right way, it's living it. Our daily life needs to reflect the gracious and humble nature of Jesus our Lord. ©Word-Strong_2015

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/