Posts Tagged ‘God’s faithfulness’

loyaltyIn our daily staff devotional at the Let’s Start Talking office a few days ago, the Psalm was read from a more modern version and, as is often the case, the new words for the ancient expressions caught me off guard.

Specifically, this particular Psalm praised the loyalty of God.  I don’t think this was the chapter but Psalm 100:5 would be representative of the word usage that tripped me up:  “The Lord is good. His love is forever, and his loyalty goes on and on” (NCV).

More familiar versions of this verse use faithfulness or steadfast love.  Is loyalty the same as faithfulness?  That’s what has been puzzling me!

From what I have read, the root idea, at least the initial idea behind loyalty would have to do with the Latin word lex, meaning law.   If you were loyal, you kept the law.  That basic idea grew into a slightly bigger idea relating to the power behind the law.  If you kept the law of the king or your feudal lord or whoever your master was, then you were loyal.

This understanding of loyalty expanded to include the master of your house—probably the husband, also the Father—and so the concept of loyalty to the family and/or clan emerged.

One of the primary uses of the word loyalty in modern times, I would argue, is in association with nationalism and patriotism.  Another synonym might be allegiance.

The dissonance for me was to use the word loyalty in place of faithfulness when talking about God’s relationship to His people.  Yes, the words point in the same direction; in fact, the word faithful is often used in dictionaries to help define the idea of loyalty. Nevertheless, . . . .something feels wrong!

Perhaps my discomfort grows from using the word about God! 

Loyalty is something that is earned, while God is faithful because He is God, not because we have earned His faithfulness.

Loyalties are generally either deserved or demanded.  Who could demand God’s faithfulness?  Who could deserve God’s faithfulness?

Loyalties may shift with circumstances; you may be loyal to the country of your birth, but change your citizenship and swear loyalty to another country for reasons of your own choosing. God is not whimsical or capricious; God is faithful.

Loyalty can have degrees. I am loyal to my country, but only to the point that it does not conflict with greater loyalties, such as God and family.  God, on the other hand, is absolutely faithful. His faithfulness will never be superseded by a greater Good or a greater Love.

Semantical arguments always seem a bit petty; however, words not only express our thoughts, but our choice of words can also change our thinking!  I would not feud over the word loyalty, but I do think it is a smaller word and that it makes God smaller—and that I don’t like.

I like the words the Spirit wrote in Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”    


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Birthday_candlesToday is my birthday. Not a big deal—I’ve had a lot of them—but still, a birthday is a good day for reflection.

As far as I know, there is only one reference to a birthday in Scripture and that is a mention of Pharaoh’s birthday in the story of Joseph found in Genesis 40:20. It must have been hard for people to even know the day of their birth before access to calendars was common.  Calendars have been around since the beginnings of history. God gave the Jews a calendar in order to celebrate feast days remembering their exodus from Egypt, but apparently the average person didn’t really know the exact day of their birth.

In medieval times, I’ve read that people celebrated the saint’s day for which they were named—which probably was the same as the day of their birth. So, for instance, St. Mark’s feast day is April 25, so that would be my day of celebration each year instead of October 23. If my parents had followed medieval traditions, I’d be named Hilarion after St. Hilarion (291-371), one of the earliest monastics. I think I like Mark better!

I was actually named after a very saintly man named Mark Armstrong, who was one of my dad’s best friends. I met him several times as a boy, but have always known that he was a good man and a devoted Christian.

One of the lists that people like to make on their birthdays is of all the things that have changed since they were born. The frequency of change in our times is almost more than we can keep up with, so one of my thoughts this morning has been to make a list of things that have not changed since I was born. Here are a few of my thoughts:

People are still frantically trying to find security. One of my earliest memories is of the people next door who had built a bomb shelter and stockpiled it with canned goods in case of atomic war. And, yes, I do remember the notorious school drills of hiding under our desks to protect us from bombs. I used to wonder if we had enough aluminum foil to cover all our windows. Today, we are more afraid of economic destruction, but I suspect our sheltering strategies are about as flimsy as those bomb shelters would have been.

People still need to be loved. Today the hot issue is same-sex marriage. As a child the big issue was divorce first, then the question of remarriage. Modern Family is quite different from The Partridge Family or Leave It To Beaver but then not so much in each family members need to belong to others and to love and be loved within that relationship.

Our lives are still framed by birth and death. I was the oldest of five children, so I remember the excitement of the day each of my siblings was born. I remember the birth of younger cousins, and, of course, you never forget the births of your own children—and then our nine grandchildren!!  As you get older, your calendar of special birthdays can really fill up!  But then, it starts to empty as well.

My first real experience with death was a boy in my class in elementary school named Guy who drowned in a municipal swimming pool.  Then my grandparents started dying while I was in high school and college. A very close college friend died in a light plane crash when I was in my twenties. Older aunts and uncles died during my 30’s. My dad died when I was 41. Sherrylee’s mother died eight years later. It was hard to lose them.

In just the last couple of years we have lost some close friends of our own age—that’s a real shock. Sherrylee’s sister Linda died of early-onset Altzeimer’s. I have watched my Mom who is now 90 lose almost all of her friends at church, so I start thinking, yes, that time of life has begun.  We may live a little longer now than centuries before—sometimes a blessings, sometimes I wonder—but our lives are still framed by birth and death.

God is still God. Jesus loves me, this I know! Security, love, and eternal life,  everything that we long for, that we work for, that we fight for—everything is found in Him.  I’m so thankful today for parents who taught me about God, for Sister Tew—the first Sunday school teacher I remember at the Riverside Church, for Beryl Hooten, who asked me one Sunday if I was ready to follow Jesus, for Alex Humphrey, my first Bible teacher at Fort Worth Christian,  for great teachers at Harding, for Owen Olbright who invited me to do mission work in the Northeast, for Joe Hacker who encouraged us to become missionaries, and for the many Christians who have continued to teach and encourage and walk with us right up to today.

And I’m unspeakably—deeply thankful for my wife Sherrylee, who has not only been my soulmate—the one I love more than my own life—but my teacher, my confessor, the one who has kept me honest before God. Her love is the most physical expression of God’s love in my life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father!


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