“…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”

“…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”
How a good choice goes bad
Why I don’t speed in school zones

Movies, being art, can sum up a lot in one good quote. It’s kind of like “one picture is worth a thousand words.” Me and mine have always loved the great movie lines. One of them is from the Pirates of the Caribbean series: “…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules…”
What a concept this expresses!

It pairs very nicely with 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “but test everything. Keep what is good.” To get right to what I believe (and the point of today’s post): The Bible is filled with guidelines on what is good – but it works in a strange way, mostly from an individual level. “Good” is almost not something that is without exception. ‘Rules’ do not allow for exceptions. ‘The Law’ does not allow exceptions. Hence, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines”. (Movie Quote! “Don’t say ‘hence’ anymore.”)

The guideline this verse expresses to me is: Actually READ the Bible for myself. Every day. Not blindly, but with consideration for how to “use” what I discern in my day-to-day life. (Prayer upon what I’ve read is also a part of the process.)

The thing about faith in Jesus Christ and what one can get from spending this kind of quality time in God’s Word is: that what it says is ‘good’ is generally the same for all of us – but specifically because it’s meant to be applied on an individual level first. (That’s where the school speed zone comes in. I certainly hope that we can all agree that each of us is very purposeful and intentional about driving around schools – not because it’s The Law, but because it’s common sense; it’s a good guideline.)

Dare I say then, that even if one does not believe in God, one can still learn much about living ‘good’ from His book? You better believe it! (That I dare say that, yes. Well, that you should believe in God, too, yes, but let’s not go there – yet. What eventually follows time in the Word, I believe, IS faith – but let’s discuss that in another post.)

Frankly, the Bible is available to be that set of guidelines even more easily in this age of technology, when a good quote (or a good guideline) from ‘The Good Book’ is never more than a good Google away.

SO, what happens to make a good choice go bad? When guidelines become rules. When we stop thinking and deciding, and, instead, do whatever we do do because The Law says so.

Consider Joshua 24:14 The Joshua said to the people, “Now you have heard the Lord’s words. So you must respect the Lord and sincerely serve Him… Now you must serve only the Lord.
:15 “But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
:25 So that day Joshua made an agreement for the people… it became a law for them to follow.

I find the differences between :14 and :15 very interesting, going from “you must serve” to “you must decide” to serve. The former presents as Law; the latter more as guideline. Dare I suggest then, that when we “don’t want to serve the Lord,” we’re actually having more of a problem with being told what to do? Yes! Because we don’t want The Law, we really want our freedom of choice. It may seem like semantics, because the result doesn’t change – we still drive carefully in the school zones, but we’ve chosen to make the good choice. We’ve tested and kept what is good. “It became a law for them to follow” means it became something they didn’t have to and weren’t expected to think about. And that unthinkingness becomes habit. Bad habit.

Obviously, for something like our speed through a school zone, there’s really not that much to think about. But for the bigger issues in life (like, say, our political outlook or our very faith in a creator), our decision has a much bigger impact.

Here’s 1 Thessalonians 5:21 from the Phillips version:
Never damp the fire of the Spirit, and never despise what is spoken in the name of the Lord. By all means use your judgement, and hold on to whatever is really good. Steer clear of evil in any form.
Know why you drive slowly through the school zone.
Note: No school-zone-speeding tickets were torn up during the writing of this post.

Thanks for reading!  As always, please feel free to share this post. I love to hear your feedback – not just on what was said, but how it was written, too.


It’s not “Sharing MY Story”, it’s “Sharing GOD’s Story”

I recently updated my Facebook profile, changing my occupation to “Sharing God’s Story”. Some of you, my dear friends, noticed and LIKEd this.  It gives me a warm and fuzzy to know that you do read my posts (even the ones that don’t touch off political … firestorms.) But, what do I mean by this?

I hope that it is obvious that I am trying to live as a disciple of Christ, meaning that I have dedicated myself to following the teachings of Jesus, Son of Man/Son of God, which may or may not be the same as the Christian “religion”. (What that is exactly is another post.)

In this post, I want to focus on one area, “loving others” – helping and caring for others, and I’ll start with Zechariah 11:4:

The Lord God says, “Care for the sheep that have been raised to be killed.”

In very blunt terms, this verse pairs with the cliche, “S**t Happens”. We all know that some people get a raw deal from life – that life in this broken world is unfair and some of us are, frankly, the sheep to be slaughtered, in a figurative sense. I’m also pretty sure we can all agree that most of us will go through periods of ‘sheepness’, very raw seasons, times of extreme need, but that some of our “needs” can be relative – not always material in nature and sometimes of a severity that is difficult for others to understand. In many ways, we are not equal.

Case in point, my own. I assume, of course, that you are familiar with my and my family’s recent story, of my sudden failing health. There is no question that we needed financial help, because I could no longer work and had no benefits as a contract employee. How I ended up in that situation, at age 50, is the story of my relative needs. I won’t go into the details, but let’s first consider where our financial help came from:

1. family and friends (we started a Go Fund Me)
2. from my church community
3. from “the government”, the last resort (Social Security Disability)

I know that some of us “are not so lucky in our friends as [others]” (movie quote!), and don’t have family and friends capable of giving. But everyone can be a part of a church community – I joined Grace Chapel only in 2011. (I’m conservative because the atheistic left seems to want to remove #2 as an option, and make #3 the first resort – I proclaim we need GOD, but that is a very big other post.)

I should note that, first off, I want to help myself, and I do want to help others, and I assume that we are all alike in this. [Insert your favorite discussion of the definition of help: the giving of a fish to feed for a day or the teaching of fishing to feed for a lifetime.] The point for this post is: we can’t be taught without a teacher. In regards to my non-material needs, my help, the teaching, also comes from God. God has taught me. He teaches all of us. Therefore, it’s HIS story.

The Bible, in numerous places, stresses that we are changed on the inside by God. Philippians 2:13 “Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” All self-improvement comes through the gift of the Grace of God. This is why we say “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s God’s job to change others; our part is to follow through with changing our own thoughts, words, and behaviors – through the power he gives. It’s GOD’s story in the details of our lives.

So, as of 2008, I found myself, changed/saved by God. (again, another story I’d be very happy to share with you.) 1 Timothy 1:15 “Here is a true statement that should be accepted without question: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, and I am one of the worst of them. :16 But I was given mercy so that in me Christ Jesus could show that he has patience without limit. Christ showed his patience with me, the worst of all sinners. HE wanted me to be an example for those who would believe in him and have eternal life.” No matter how many times we fall down, what matters is that we get back up. God extends his hand to help us every, single time.

GOD is the answer, the teacher, not me or any of my efforts. It is crucial that we know and live this humility, because otherwise pride comes, and we fall. i.e. Change the stress in verse 16 from “HE wanted me” to “he wanted ME.” Now it’s all about me: I’m more important than you. How’s that make you feel? Certainly, this is not an attitude helpful to others.

What else is not helpful? The 1 Timothy 1 verse is in reference to those who focus on meaningless stories and family history – pride in who they are, not even for anything they’ve done but because of their ancestors, their circumstances of birth.

This pride in ourselves instead of the humility of being simply one character among many in GOD’s story, rubs people the wrong way and is the cause of envy and jealousy, the spiral downward, the slippery slope.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. :3 (i.e.) Those who know they can eat any kind of food must not feel that they are better than those who eat vegetables (and vice versa). God has accepted [all of us]. :13 Let’s decide not to do anything that will cause a problem for a brother or sister to hurt their faith. :22 You should keep your beliefs about these things a secret between you and God.

All this is to say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We don’t need to be “in your face” about our beliefs. (Sports metaphor! why is it unsportsmanlike to taunt or dance after scoring a touchdown? Unless both teams can celebrate the skill of a great play, act like you’ve been there before.) But I digress.

To conclude: How can I help others, other than with material needs? First, by sharing what I do have plenty of, my faith. GOD’s story in my life, expressed as exactly that. My time in service somewhere, like volunteering on the worship team. Second, by the way I act, speak, and think, humbly. Showing Christ-like characteristics, not prideful ostentatiousness of any kind. 1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” GOD has helped me. He can and will help you, too.

Thanks for reading! As always, I love your feedback – about the subject of the post (was it made plain? was it well-reasoned and researched?) but also about the writing itself (typos? grammar? structure?)

Is my love of word history inherent or inherited?

One of the things that gets me up at 2:00 AM is what I call “word flow” or etymology (the study of word histories), not to be confused with entomology (the study of insects). (Note to self, look up why etymology and entomology are so similar.) Recently (ok, this morning), for reasons not covered here (but maybe in another post, soon), I tracked down the words inherent vs inherit.

I’ve heard these two words used as if they’re related, meaning “something one is born with.” Certainly, they look very similar, spelling-wise (both start with “i-n-h-e-r”). Surely, they must come from the same root word?

Actually, no.  Inherent, meaning “belonging to the basic nature of” (as in “present at birth or time of creation”), comes from the Latin root haerer meaning “to be attached, to adhere, or to stick to”. Inherit’s primary or original meaning is “to receive upon the death of someone” (as in “inheritance”) and comes from the Latin word heres “heir”. Further, that word is related to the Greek word Cheros, meaning “bereaved.” (Just a reminder, Ancient Greece culture preceded and influenced Ancient Roman culture.) So, interestingly, the words are quite opposite, one involving birth and the other death.

Perhaps, because they sound so similar, there was a misuse of one or both at some point in history? (Actually, couldn’t we say that, in general, most of our language develops from misuse or overuse of speech patterns and habits?) Inherit has been used to mean “to have because of genes”or “received from parents”. And there is one connecting definition of both, regarding the choices we make. Inherent comes from the word adhere, which has one meaning “to bind oneself to observance” (of a certain way of living, for example). Likewise, inherit has a meaning “to get (or to choose to live a certain way) because of the influence or example of” (someone).

Those of you who know me may see where I’m going with this (and how I got to these two words this morning, because of who that someone is): Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Luke 17:21 “…Look! There it is! God’s kingdom is [inherent] in you.”

In other words, because I, in choosing (or being chosen by) Jesus Christ, am “one who has inherited or is entitled to inherit or has been chosen to inherit upon Christ’s death”, and I am “one who has come into possession of or who has received as a right or divine portion” and I am “one who was inherently born with and has decided to live with (morally and ethically)” eternal life.

We humans have an inherent knowledge of what is Right and what is Wrong. We have inherited the consequences (a broken world) of bad choices, but we can choose to follow our inherent nature and inherit the kingdom of God.

As always, I love to hear your feedback! Please feel free to comment!