Archive for the 'Christian Sayings' Category

God Is Love–And Many Other Things

I just finished reading The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson. The Kindle version is on sale right now for $3.99. It’s aimed at new Christians, but with all due respect, I don’t think he is one to write a book for new Christians. I learned a lot. He’s a quote machine. Because of that, it took me a long time to get through the book. I’ve been taking notes on books I read, and I was taking notes and blogging (first four links) on so much of what I read, it seemed to take forever.

I highly recommend it. The book is friendly to new Christians who like to read and investigate more than just the basics. It’s also great for seasoned Christians. He mainly uses Genesis, John and Revelation to talk about who God is and how he deals with people.

The quote below is something I think about a lot. It seems like there is so much focus on the fact that God is love, it’s to the exclusion or diminution of all of the other things God is, as well as having a distorted view of his love as you’ll see below. God is to be feared (which shouldn’t need to be qualified), God is awesome (in the traditional sense of the word–not how it’s used now), he is a God of wrath, judgement, anger, he hates. For those in his Kingdom, these can be comforting things, in addition to warnings. I hope you like the quote.

Why People Today Find It Easy to Believe in God’s Love

If there is one thing that our world thinks it knows about God–if our world believes in God at all–it is that he is a loving God. That has not always been the case in human history. Many people have thought of the gods as pretty arbitrary, mean-spirited, whimsical, or even malicious. That is why you have to appease them. Sometimes in the history of the church Christians have placed more emphasis on God’s wrath or his sovereignty or his holiness, all themes that are biblical in some degree or another. God’s love did not receive as much attention. But today, if people believe in God at all, by and large they find it easy to believe in God’s love.

Yet being comfortable with the notion of the love of God has been accompanied by some fairly spongy notions as to what love means. Occasionally you will hear somebody saying something like this: “It’s Christians I don’t like, I mean, God is love, and if everybody were just like Jesus, it would be wonderful. Jesus said, ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’ You know, if we could all just be nonjudgmental and be loving the way Jesus was loving, then the world would be a better place.” There is an assumption then about the nature of love, isn’t there? Love is nonjudgmental. It does not condemn anyone. It lets everybody do whatever they want. That is what love means.

Of course, it is sadly true that sometimes Christians—God help us—are mean. Certainly it is true that Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). But when he said this, did he really mean, “Do not make any morally discriminating judgments?” Why then does he give so many commands about telling the truth? Don’t such commands stand as condemnation of lies and liars? Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves: doesn’t that constitute an implicit judgment on those who don’t? In fact, in the very text where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he goes on to say just five verses later, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matt. 7:6), which means that somebody has to figure out who the swine are.

In other words, when Jesus says something as important as “Do not Judge, or you too Wlll he Judged,” there is a context to he understood. Jesus, after all, cuts an astonishingly high moral swath through his time. So if people think “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” means that Jesus is abolishing all morality and leaving all such questions up to the individual, they have not even begun to understand who Jesus is. Jesus does condemn the kind of judgment that is judgmental, self-righteous, or hypocritical. He condemns such judgment repeatedly and roundly. But there is no way on God’s green earth that he is condemning moral discernment or the priority of truth. In any case there is more to God’s love, to Jesus’s love, than avoiding judgmentalism.

That means that when we think of God’s love, we need to think of God’s other attributes too—his holiness, truthfulness, glory (his manifestation of his spectacular being and loveliness), and all the rest–and think through how all of them work together all the time. Sadly, precisely because our culture finds it relatively easy to believe that God is a God of love, we have developed notions of God’s love that are disturbingly spongy and sentimental and almost always alienated from the full range of the attributes that make God, God.

the-god-who-is-there

Christian Sayings: I Can Do Everything

But, isn’t “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” in the Bible? Yes, that would be Philippians 4:13. However, many people make it into a motto that means something other than what the Bible means. What’s so bad about that?

Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is.

–A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

God doesn’t make us into superheroes, being able to do everything. The main problem here is that it’s taken out of context and given a meaning that people want it to mean. Scholar Gordon Fee said that the worst thing to happen to the Bible are verse numbers, which weren’t added until many hundreds of years after the canon of Scripture was established.

How can someone have the audacity (great sound editing program by the way) to say that they know what a verse really means? Reading the context often tells us and this is something that I’m still learning I need to do. The NIV translation, as quoted above and by Christians all over the English speaking world, has changed the wording in its updated version, which is quoted below. You can see how this helps to understand that its referring to the previous verses.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:10-13 NIV

Most agree that this is about not being self-sufficient, but relying on Christ or enabled by him. But instead of doing everything I want to do, it’s about being content in every situation God has us in. I’m guilty of having had verse 13 memorized without the preceding context. I’ve since fixed that. Now quote verse 13 as it is above by itself. It begs you to read what’s before it. Some might say that they over-interpreted this verse, but I like the change.

A secular parallel might be parents who tell their kids (or Oprah or Joel Osteen their audience) that they can do anything they set their minds to. That’s not for this blog, other than I would say, “Really? Have you thought about that carefully for just one minute?” (See 1 Corinthians 12:4, 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, and the whole chapter for a spiritual perspective, as one example. This idea would be logical in a secular sense too.)

As an aside, we see athletes use this verse all the time. Part of the reason they can use it incorrectly is because they’ve been successful and can say that yes, it’s true, we can do everything through God’s strength. What about the 99% of people who tried to become a professional athlete and failed? My aside however, is that people often accuse football quarterback Tim Tebow of misusing this verse, simply because he had it on his ‘eye black’ once in college. But I saw two different interviews with him where he correctly, as far as I understand it, explained what this verse means. You can argue as to whether or not it’s appropriate to put the reference by itself on your face for the cameras to see, but we shouldn’t assume that just because someone is a young athlete and quotes it, that they don’t know what this verse is referring to. I write this because I saw it on a Christian blog. Not being the NFL quarterback that he thought he would be at this time, he’s probably benefiting from knowing what it does mean.

I realize it’s not all black and white, right or wrong. Some people use this verse as a way of acknowledging that it’s God who has enabled them to do some things they never thought they could do. Even if they aren’t looking at the whole passage, their perspective is honoring God. I recently saw this in a video of a young, humble, selfless, obedient missionary, and obviously God wouldn’t be at all displeased with them because of a very minor issue with Scripture–nor should we.

In this series, I would like to offer alternate Scripture where appropriate. I won’t be able to go into that Scripture very much. Much of the time, that could be a separate blog post, or even a book, written by someone else. I may link to other posts if I’ve written about them before (or most likely, quoted somebody smarter than me).

Alternate Scripture (all NIV):

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
Psalm 28:7

Take delight in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Our desires need to be changed into what God’s will is.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.
1 Timothy 1:12

A particular prayer from a particular person, but the Lord does strengthen us all and chooses good things ahead of time for each of us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

I write the posts in this series with fear and trembling because I know that I’m not perfect, although I’ve yet to make a mistake as far as I know. I hope to pass on things that I’ve learned, and learn more by putting together the posts and hopefully reading any comments. Some may think it’s nitpicking, but I believe that how we handle Scripture and the Lord’s name is extremely important.

(That was a joke about not yet making a mistake. I hate smilies.)

P.S. – most regular readers of this blog, all 13 of you, will already be familiar with many of the things that will be written in this series. I try to add some extra things that might be less widely known. Although you may be surprised at some things that will come up. And I apologize to people like my wife who hate sports and don’t know the difference between a quarterback and an eighthback.

Words with a dotted underline are hoverable on computers or tapable on mobile devices. Like eye black.

Also see:
Christian Sayings – Ongoing Series | Scripture Zealot blog

Christian Sayings – Ongoing Series

I’m finally starting what I’ve been hinting at for such a long time. Where to begin? Christian sayings, clichés, platitudes, evangelicalisms. This is a start of a series of them. I have made a new category at the right, in case the posts become numerous enough to warrant it.

I’m not giving any away yet. Most are not Biblical. Some have some truth. Some are ways of saying [a] truth, but there aren’t many of those. Some are just annoying little things. I came across a pretty common blog post out there about “What are the most annoying things Christians say?” and I was able to add so many to the original post just off the top of my head that I thought maybe I’d do a series of posts of my own. But this won’t be just listing and making fun of them. Many of us have said them and didn’t realize what we were saying. Many who say them are new Christians and might not be edified by being made fun of. But… well, it just has to be done. So I will offer a post and some videos that do poke fun of some of them; my favorites are below.

I would also like to try to look into why these exist. As far as why human beings in general use sayings, I suppose it’s easier than trying to put things in your own words. It’s also a common way to use kind of a shorthand vocabulary, if the person hearing it understands (see below). With Christians, it can be because of Biblical illiteracy.

I need to explain a little about myself: As far as secular clichés–I’m terrible with them. I still don’t know a lot of them. Sometimes someone will say one that I’ve never heard, even now at 49 years old, I hear one, and I keep asking, “What?” If my wife is with me, she’ll half whisper, “He doesn’t know what that means.” I’m a literal thinker, and not touching something with a ten foot pole (or is it nine yards?) is just weird. Why would you have a ten foot pole, and if you did, why would you not touch something with it? Some of them actually do make sense and are a good way of describing something. Many have interesting origins.

I’m more familiar with Christian sayings, but since the Navigators got me going with Scripture memory and Bible reading early on in college, I always try to say things the way the Bible would, or quote the Bible. But since I don’t like a lot of the Biblish used in English translations, I try to paraphrase a thought or teaching in my own words, as long as I’m confident that I’m doing a good job of it. To me, saying things in our own words shows that we’re thinking on our own. What we’re saying is genuine and meaningful. I never liked following the crowd. We should be conforming to Christ, not each other.

I hope these posts become helpful and that we can use them to think about what we say, how these sayings shape our view of God and how He deals with us, and how we can sharpen each other in developing our theology.

With that in mind, to start off, here are my favorite sources of Christian sayings, or things Christians say, or whatever. The last two are interesting to me because many of the things she says are outside of my vernacular. Many of the things said in the videos are just shorthand, and not necessarily clichés or sayings that I’ll be writing about. So before we think too hard, let’s look at some of the fun stuff.

Do you speak Christianese? | Stuff Christians Like