WHY SEVEN TIMES?

I’ve been working my way through Psalm 119 (which by the way is the longest chapter in the Bible) and was struck earlier this week by verse 164. The NIV translates the verse, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.” The NLT renders it, “I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just.” And The Message paraphrases it, “Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way you keep everything running right.”

Both the NIV and NLT, as well as most translations, suggest the author’s praising of God is done in response to his instruction to his people in his word. In The Message, Eugene Peterson expands the reason to include God’s oversight and involvement in his creation.

While I like Peterson’s thought, I’m good with the majority opinion as well. My question is, “why praise God seven times a day?” I don’t think the Psalmist is declaring that he will praise God at least seven times a day, but no more. In other words, I think less than seven times a day works, and I think more than seven is good too.

The number seven is used a lot in the Bible beginning with the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest in Genesis 2:2. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is filled with the number seven beginning with the letters to the seven churches in first chapter and throughout the book. I remember from Sunday School as a child learning that the number seven in the Bible is the number of completeness and perfection. 

Most usages of the number 7 are referring to the exact number. For example, in II Kings 5:1-14 the Syrian general Naaman was told by the prophet Elisha his leprosy would be healed if he dipped in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman went and dipped seven times, and he was healed.

Back to Psalm 119:64 – if we follow the example of the writer, do you think we need to keep a count and make sure we praise God seven times a day – no more and no less? I don’t.

I think the Psalmist’s report to God that he praises God seven times a day is a challenge to readers of the Psalm to follow his example. We need to take note of God’s blessings and recognize how he has and is working in our lives. With that recognition we offer our praise and thanksgiving to him on daily basis. It’s not about doing it seven times a day, but about cultivating praising God as a way of life.

To praise God we don’t have to be at church, in a small group, or at a prayer meeting. We don’t have to say something out loud nor do we need to close our eyes (especially if we are driving!)

One final thought – we don’t praise God for his benefit, we do it for our benefit.

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TO WHOM ARE YOU LYING?

It would be a very rare person who could honestly say he or she has never lied. My sense is that anyone who says she or he has never lied would probably be lying. You’ve lied, haven’t you? I know I have.

How serious is lying? Most readers probably know that the ninth of God’s top 10 commandments in Exodus 20:16 is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (KJV). That wording seems to limit the context of a lie, but I don’t think that’s the intent. In the New Testament in Ephesians 4:25 the Apostle Paul instructs, “So stop telling lies” (NLT) and in Colossians 3:9, “Don’t lie to each other” (NLT).

Not to be judgmental, I’m guessing all of us lied to our parents on occasion; and I’m also fairly confident our parents lied to us at times. And chances are those of us who are parents did the same. I’m not accusing everyone, but think of the lies that have been told to teachers, police officers, friends, employers, spouses, and on and on. As unsettling as it may seem, we lie sometimes because we want to be kind and nice – are you always completely honest when someone asks how you like what they are wearing?

Some may try to lie to God himself, but that doesn’t work.

What got me to thinking about this whole idea of lying was something I read in the book of Psalms last night I had never read before. In Psalm 119:29a (in the New Living Translation) the writer asks God, “Keep me from lying to myself.”

That got my attention, and after some thought I began to wonder if that was a petition I too should present to God. Do I lie to myself and do I need God’s help to keep me from lying to myself? My answer – yes.

I think we lie to ourselves without even realizing it. And that’s why reading Psalm 119:29a in the New Living Translation got my attention. We often lie to ourselves when we make excuses for things we shouldn’t have done or said and when we don’t say or do things we should have said or done.

Sometimes we are like children protesting “it wasn’t my fault,” “he/she started it,” “she/he had it coming,” “I didn’t mean it,” “it was an accident,” and many more. We lie to ourselves to feel better about those times when in retrospect we wish we could have a do over.

Lying, of course, is something we are not to do as children of God and followers of Jesus. I do believe there are rare occasions when lying is probably the right thing to do, but I don’t remember a time when it was right for me to do so. Most of us know these things.

What I want to ask you is, do you lie to yourself? If you do, you may want to join the Psalm writer and me in asking God, “Keep me from lying to myself.”

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photo credit: Traveller_40 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/19893353@N00/6888161433″>Pinocchio green hat  – 365 / 047</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

A TRIBUTE TO A CHILDHOOD FRIEND

I was stunned and saddened yesterday to learn that one of my childhood friends had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Charles Bailey is his name, but he wanted to be called Chuck. I appreciated that he let me get away with calling him Charlie.

We met in grade school and became close friends. I was at his house in the summer almost every day and stayed all night on many occasions. He had an above ground pool that we played in for hours and hours. He also had a ping pong table in the basement that gave us many more hours of fun, including games we invented.

We played together on the same Knothole baseball team for several years; he was our catcher and I played first base. One day after practice our manager kidded me saying he’d see me in church on Sunday. Knowing it was within walking distance from my house, Charlie invited me to his church. I went that Sunday and my life was changed by that little church and the wonderful people who welcomed my older brother and me.

Charlie and I continued our close friendship through junior high and high school. He played basketball in high school and I tried football, gymnastics, baseball, and wrestling. I wasn’t very good in any of them and he never was a starter in basketball.

Three things I especially remember about high school include playing a lot of poker, teaching the 2nd grade boys Sunday school class at church, and double dating. He had a blue 1964 Ford convertible that contributed greatly to our dating experience.

As we came to the second semester of our senior year we both decided to attend Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University) to train to be ministers. We were roommates the first year. We both made the basketball team; he was a regular starter, but I started very few games.

Charlie’s first position in ministry was his last. While in college we both became youth ministers. The difference was that my senior minister was supportive and helpful, his was not. Following that experience he never considered going into ministry again.

He got married before I did and I was the best man at his wedding. Three years later I got married and he was the best man at our wedding.

After he married, and after college, our friendship waned. We got together a few times, but I eventually took a church in Philadelphia and after 10 years moved to California. We only saw each other a couple of times and eventually lost touch.

Although we had no contact the last 35 years or so, the news of his death has had a great impact on me. Charlie played a huge part in my life from grade school through college. I wish it would have been easier to stay in touch, but we both went in different directions.

I thank God that Charlie was a part of my life and added so much to it during those early days. I don’t think I ever told him how much our friendship meant to me. Of course it is too late now, but I pray that I will see him again some time and get to revel in our memories of our friendship so many years ago. I am sorry that he is gone.

GOD’S COUNTRY?

With as many at 17 or more genres of music, it isn’t surprising that no one style is liked by everyone. Not everyone likes country music, and it is not necessarily my favorite, but I do like a lot of it. I especially like the songs that honor the Lord.

Country singer Blake Shelton currently has a hit with the title “God’s Country” that intrigues me. In the opening lines the writer says he “got a deed to the land, but it ain’t my ground – it is God’s country.” He then thanks God for the rain that “brings grain and a little bit of money,” and they “put it back in the plate” (referring I’m sure to the offering plate at church). Based on that, he suggests “I guess that’s why they call it God’s country.”

Drawing from an older country song the writer notes “The devil went down to Georgia, but he didn’t stick around – This is God’s country.” Not only that, they “turned the dirt and worked until the week’s done,” only to “take a break and break bread on Sunday” because they’re “proud to be from God’s country.” Towards the end of the song there are references to “getting baptized in holy water,” “saved,” and getting “Heaven bound.”

In the last verse the author tells us “I don’t care what my headstone reads,
or what kind of pine wood box I end up in; when it’s my time, lay me six feet deep
in God’s country.”

I have to admit that in just reading the lyrics, I agree that the song is certainly corny in many respects. Nevertheless, it also expresses an important biblical point. Psalm 24:1 and 2 declares, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

When it comes to the earth, all of it is God’s Country. Not only does the earth belong to God, everything in it belongs to him, including all of the people. And it all belongs to God because he is the creator.

My take on what the song is saying is that if an area is acknowledged by people as belonging to God, it is his country. And that is somewhat true in terms of some areas and places. But the ultimate truth is that everything belongs to God whether people acknowledge it or not. And that it includes you and me – we belong to him.

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~ Olympic Jumping Complex – Adirondack Mountains</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>photo credit: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7156765@N05/45940154205″>Lake Placid  New York