WHAT DID YOU MEAN?

I have often heard that the English language is very difficult to learn.  There are so many “rules” which are “broken” so often that it almost makes the rule meaningless.  And so often, we use the same word to mean something quite different in two different situations.  For instance, one word can mean a vocal part or a brass instrument.

Recently, “Mr. Smith” agreed to accompany our church choir on a musical instrument.  The choir director mentioned this to another member, saying that “Mr. Smith” would be playing a baritone.  The response was “a baritone what?”  to which she said, “a baritone”.  The inquiry then was “a baritone saxophone? a baritone what?”  She responded: “a baritone baritone.”   After a frustrating conversation, it became clear that the choir director was speaking of an instrument and, although musically inclined, the church member had never heard of an instrument called by that name.

BARITONE
The baritone horn, or sometimes just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn familY.

If a man says he is a baratone, does that mean he is a brass instrument?  Of course not.  But, how often do we say the correct word and others hear that word but interpret it with a meaning very different than what we thought we conveyed with the word?

Jesus recognized this problem as the distinction between what Scripture says and how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted those same words.

“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [whoever says Raca, which is a Greek word of contempt] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

The Pharisees and Sadducees were repeating one of the Ten Commandments as expressed in the Old Testament without understanding the scope and intent of that commandment.  They were using the same words but meaning something much less than intended.

Another example relates to adultery.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28

Again, same words but different and expanded meaning. 

The misunderstanding of the words expressed by God through Moses in the Old Testament was not a surprise to God and it was not something that only became apparent when Jesus came into His ministry.  The Prophet Isaiah said:

“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.””

Isaiah 29:13-14 NLT

When we speak of our God to our neighbors, we need to be clear about Who we are talking about.  Although He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it, He is not only the creator.  Although He is God, there are no other gods above Him.  We may have gods that we look to, gods such as money, fame, even family or health; but nothing is anything even approaching our God.

Beloved, the bumper sticker with all the symbols of other religions with the term “Co-Exist” cannot be the philosophy of the Christian.  We certainly recognize that others believe in gods.  But, those ideas are not the same as the one true God of Scripture, whose Son is Jesus Christ our Savior.

Be careful of what you say and how you say it.  Mean what you say and be ready to stand up for your faith.  Our world needs to see Christians who are committed and willing to say that God is the only God and Jesus Christ is His Son and the only way of salvation.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 ESV 

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior.  I pray that I would be willing to stand and affirm this truth in witness to others and that Your Holy Spirit would give me the strength and grace to so witness to the glory and honor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

CAMPING AND CICADAS – LIVING SLOW AND LIVING FAST!

We were camping at the Panther Creek State Park in Morristown, Tennessee recently. It is a beautiful park, with great facilities including a playground, swimming pool, trails, big fields for soccer or just for running, and beautiful overlooks.

Panther Creek State Park Campground
Panther Creek State Park Campground
Panther Creek State Park Overlook
Panther Creek State Park Overlook

Differing camping styles was on vivid display since there was a tent camping couple immediately next to our RV and a small tent across the street for a family with two children.

Tent camping couple
Tent camping couple
RV camp site with gear
RV camp site with gear
Family tent camping
Family tent camping

It was glorious. Time to relax, to read, to just contemplate the glories of our Lord’s creation. When we had the campfire along with the obligatory s’mores, the two girls from across the street joined in, and later their parents came to tell them it was time for bed, and then the girls’ parents sat down and joined our circle of conversation. What a great way to meet people and share our Christian experience, around the campfire!

At this campground, the RV backed up to the woods and the fireflies in the evening were myriad. Each evening when dusk descended, the chirping of thousands of cicadas was heard, loud and clear, in a way that is impossible in urban life. We might hear a couple of crickets in the backyard: but in the campground woods, the din from the cicadas was positively deafening.

Cicadas. They are an interesting creation of our God and a direct counterpoint to a camping experience – talk about fast living! The 17 year cicada lives underground, around the base of trees in forests and woodland areas, and they dig tunnels in the dirt as their living quarters for 17 years. Then they come out from their underground nursery, after maturing for all those years, by climbing out of “escape chimneys” that they have dug to the surface.

When the ground temperature reaches 64 degrees Fahrenheit, they receive a signal. The insects rise up and wriggle out of their burrows to take to the sunlight and fly to freedom, well actually they are not so much looking for freedom as for a mate. Then, after 4 to 6 weeks, during which time the males have mated and the females have laid their eggs underground, they die. Seventeen years later, the ritual occurs again, and the beat goes on.

The Preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible considers life under the sun and calls it “vanity”. R. C. Sproul and other theologians don’t define “vanity” as being vain or of interest in and to oneself, and it certainly is not a table in the boudoir. Rather, Biblical “vanity” is defined as being “futile”. In other words, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes is saying that life is futile – there is no point to it and it just exists and repeats without any ultimate meaning. That certainly seems to be descriptive of the cicada’s life.

But, whether or not the cicadas are a 17-year-occurring annoyance or if they have a significant role to play in the ecological foundation of our world, it is certain that our human lives are not meant to be played out in such manner. We are not insignificant insects to God, the Creator of thousands of galaxies.

The fact of the matter is that God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to this sin-sick world. He died for us to pay the price of our sin. If we believe that he died and rose again from the dead, and if we repent of our sins and claim Him as our Savior, by faith we will be declared to be a Child of God.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes concludes by saying:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commands, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Do you want meaning for your life? There is no secret or magic pill.  To find meaning, just reach out and grab the outstretched nail-pierced hand of Jesus. Fear God and keep his commandments.   This is the whole duty of man and woman!  This provides life’s meaning.  This is fulfilment!

Amen and amen.