Thou

We'll be singing some old words in our time of musical worship on Sunday. I thought it'd be interesting to think a little bit about what they mean and why we use them.

Definition of 'thou:' second person singular pronoun, archaic (replaced by 'you'), sounds formal when used today

Did you know that, centuries ago, people used 'thou' as familiar and 'you' as formal? It's kinda like tu/usted in Spanish for the hispanohablantes out there. You would say 'thou' to close friends and family, reserving 'you' for formal situations.

When Tyndale translated the Bible into English, he used 'thou' to refer to God intentionally to show the intimacy in the relationship. When King James authorized the King James Version a century or so later, it lifted over 80% of Tyndale's language word for word, including his use of the word 'thou.'

Over time, French influence on the English language and the growing popularity of formal addresses pushed 'thou' out of usage in common speech. It's usage was preserved, however, in religious settings, due to it's inclusion in the King James Version of the Bible.

Because these religious settings were more formal than people's everyday context, 'thou' began to take on a more formal feel and usage. And that's what's been passed down to us.

We use it today mainly because of it's sound. It can help rhyme schemes and has a smoother sound than 'you,' so it's commonly found in hymns and music (which is where you'll hear it tomorrow).

God doesn't require us to use 'Thou' when we address him, but some Christians still use it in prayer. Some Christians use it in order to be more reverent and respectful. Some also use 'thou' because it fits their tradition and the way they were raised. Some use it because they want to sound more smart and holy than they actually are. Thou canst usually tell the difference (Thou wilt not fool us with thy fancy-sounding prayers, Fancy-sounding Pray-er. We're onto thee).

Worth failing at

"I think this is something worth failing at"

Have you heard me use this phrase before? It's not a phrase I created, but it's one I find helpful.

As we follow Jesus, we frequently find ourselves facing the possibility of failure.

Por ejemplo, we struggle against sin in our lives, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - failure may find us. We will do what we don't want to do. But struggling against sin is something worth failing at.

We try to change the world, to be salt and light for Jesus, or even just to renew the campus, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - what we're building might collapse.

It's scary.

Many of us in and around the W&L community have what personality psychologists call "high achievement motivation." There's not space to really get into it here, but there's some fascinating research that's been done on folks like us. People with high achievement motivation tend to set "moderately difficult but potentially achievable goals." We tend to be highly independent and tend to shy away from risks when we feel the outcomes are beyond our control (see McClelland's research for more information).

But in the following of Jesus, we are constantly thrown into situations where we are not in control and where we have to depend on others: God, our friends, our families, etc. I mean, let's face it: our mission as Christians does not fit into the "moderately difficult" category. What we're called to is impossible without miracles. Love your enemies? Love your neighbor? Love God? Impossible. And here's a danger for us: when asked to try the impossible, we may give up. We may play it too safe.

How can I face a future filled with failure after failure? My identity and sense of self-worth are so tightly tied to my successes. This makes following God seem unsafe. In fact, it might be the most unsafe thing we can do.

But we don't serve and love a safe God or a God who played it safe. In Jesus, we see both radical dependence and an emptying of control (Phil. 2). In the beautiful mystery of the Trinity, the Son - filled with the Spirit - submits to the Father. In the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, though God is still God, God also becomes man and - as man - becomes dependent. And somehow, though he is mysteriously dependent and out of control (don't read too much into that), his identity is not contingent on his performance. He is the Beloved Son - with whom the Father is well pleased - long before he conquered sin and death and the devil.

So...remembering his example and experiencing his presence and power, let's do the things that God calls us to do, things that are worth doing even if we risk failure.

"Amazing Grace" Lyrics

I've had some folks ask for the lyrics to the version of "Amazing Grace" we sang at Large Group this week. It's a great new arrangement by Chris Tomlin and is available on iTunes.

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine"

A key passage on why Christians meet together

If you want to do some further study on why Christians meet together, I'd recommend checking out this beauty from Hebrews 10:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Questions about failure

Here's something to think and talk about this weekend:

Was Jesus a failure? Why might you say 'Yes'? Why might you say 'No'?

I find it helpful for my own following of Jesus to toss these questions into my time with Him every once in a while.

I consistently find two things. Firstly, some of the reasons I might say "Yes, Jesus was a failure" are the same reasons I say "I am a failure." Secondly, the reasons I'd say "No, Jesus was not a failure" are reasons I refuse to use to measure myself and my performance. I think it's pretty interesting.

Maybe I'll post more on this later, but I'll be North Carolina tonight and tomorrow. Think about it, okay?

Failure as faltering

I've been thinking and praying a lot about failure over the last couple of weeks. We've been working through a series on failure and I'm going to be speaking in a couple of weeks.

The Bible actually has a lot to say about failure.

But something's been catching my attention as I've been reading. When the Bible refers to failure, it's often referring to faltering. Here're some examples of what I mean:

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." Lam. 3:22

"My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes." Ps. 38:10

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Ps. 73:26

These images of failing contrast beautifully with the picture of God as one who never fails - who steadys us, supports us, holds us, and upholds us. This seems so meaningful and beautiful to me.

When I fail and sin, I ask God for forgiveness and joyfully receive the forgiveness that He gives me in Christ. But then, when I turn my attention to my struggles against sin, I often struggle on as if I'm struggling alone. And I usually continue failing.

But into this pattern of self-dependent failure the Bible whispers "Your flesh and your heart may fail, but God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever."

So, please continue to struggle against failure and sin, but take courage in this truth: "Though your flesh and your heart may fail, God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever." Struggle and ask for help. Struggle with a grateful heart. Struggle and rejoice in your Help and your Savior - who loves you and is actively and wonderfully and lovingly conforming you to the image of the One we love.

Sexual failure and God's mission

As we've been talking about failure, one thing that I realize is that moral failure is very common on a college campus. Here're some great thoughts from John Piper about how moral failures (particularly sexual failures) can influence our participation in God's mission:

"The great tragedy is not mainly masturbation or fornication or acting like a peeping Tom (or curious Cathy) on the internet. The tragedy is that Satan uses the guilt of these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had, or might have, and in its place give you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures until you die in your lakeside rocking chair, wrinkled and useless, leaving a big fat inheritance to your middle-aged children to confirm them in their worldliness. That’s the main tragedy."

"O my brothers and sisters, when you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure with this kind brokenhearted boldness, this kind of theology, this kind of justification by faith, this kind substitutionary atonement, this kind of gutsy guilt, this kind of unshakable position that you have in the crucified, risen, invincible king Jesus Christ—when you learn to deal with the guilt of sexual failure this way, you will fall less often. Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you."

For the full transcript of this sermon, check out:
www.desiringgod.org and Search: "guilt" and "sexual failure"

John Pearson's sermons on Jonah

We've talked a lot about Jonah this year in GCF. It's my favorite book of the Bible.

I recently ran across some sermons by John Pearson, the RUF campus minister here at W&L. He's an excellent teacher and has some very perceptive things to say about Jonah and how the story of Jonah connects to the story God's writing through our lives at W&L. I've been listening to these sermons while I work this morning and thought some of you might like to check them out.

http://www.wlu.ruf.org/GenericPage/DisplayPage.aspx?guid=43DD67DE-AAAC-49E0-932A-60B8F6ECDC89

Some more thoughts on praying before eating...

Scott Dittman sent this over this morning. He always has great thoughts and great quotes.

"Although we ought always to raise our minds upwards towards God, and
pray without ceasing,
yet such is our weakness, which requires to be supported,
such our torpor, which requires to be stimulated,
that it is requisite for us to appoint special hours for this exercise, hours which are not to pass away without prayer, and during which the whole affections of our minds are to be completely occupied; namely,
when we rise in the morning,
before we commence our daily work,
when we sit down to food,
when by the blessing of God we have taken it, and
when we retire to rest.
This, however, must not be a superstitious observance of hours, by which, as it were, performing a task to God, we think we are discharged as to other hours. It should rather be considered a discipline by which our weakness is exercised and stimulated."
... John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Do I have to say grace before I eat?

Here's a cool article from StudentSoul to follow-up tonight's (WWD)^2

http://www.intervarsity.org/studentsoul/item/say-grace

And here are some reasons I've noticed for praying before eating (there are more, for sure, but here're a few):

Thanksgiving --- God, you provide for us - salvation, love, community - even food!

Worship --- Let our eating be considered worship of you, Jesus, not anyone else!

Protection --- God, sovereign over the universe, protect us from our food!

Health --- God, work a miracle and make this Pop Tart healthy!

Tradition/Solidarity --- Father, we join with our global, historical family in Christ and pray before eating.

Whywedowhatwedo

From our new Short-Talk series...

Why do Christians say 'Amen'? Have you ever wondered that?

'Amen' means literally "it is true" or "so be it." It can also be used as "well said" or "I agree." Lots of Christians treat it like it means "the end." It's kinda quirky, right?

For more information on the origin of the word, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amen

So, why say 'Amen'? Here're 5 reasons.

5) It connects us to our history and our ancient roots
4) In corporate settings, it cuts down on the audience/performer tendency
3) In prayer, it reminds us that talking to God is a special privilege
2) It sounds cool...c'mon that's why we say a lot of what we say
1) Jesus said it (Matthew 6:13)

On a side note, as someone who speaks and preaches a lot, I love having people say 'Amen' when I say something true, powerful, or relevant. As someone who often leads groups in prayer, I love having people say 'Amen' as we finish praying. So, with GCF, don't not say 'Amen' because you don't want to annoy me (double negatives? oh no).