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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood




“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:8,9, NIV)

Fiddler on the Roof has proven to be one of the most popular and enduring musicals in our culture.

The story is set in 1905, Czarist Russia. Tevye, the peasant dairyman, is father to five daughters. He attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions in the face of outside influences. He tries to cope with the edict of the Czar evicting Jews from their villages while also dealing with the challenges from the strong-willed actions of his three oldest daughters.

In one of the most famous songs from the musical, Tevye forcefully defends tradition and ends the song by saying: “Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky … as a fiddler on the roof!”

When Jesus talks about tradition it’s not because He has a problem with tradition. After all, He instituted the tradition of Communion at the Last Supper. His objection comes when tradition sets aside God’s commandments.

I grew up in an atmosphere that mixed warm spirituality with a lot of rules that mostly had the word “don’t” in front of them.

I could never understand, for example, why male ministers preached against women wearing red lipstick while they wore bright red ties. Historically, the reason evidently was that in the early part of the 20th century lipstick was an identifier of an immoral woman. I was a teenager at a camp meeting when the evangelist compared women wearing lipstick to an old barn. He said, “When you farmers paint that barn red and it later catches on fire, the first thing that begins to crackle and peel is that red paint, and the same with you women when you get on fire for the Lord!”

The key always is learning to distinguish God’s commandments from human traditions.

I think of it this way. Suppose I want to ride my bicycle across town. You come to me and say, “But you cannot do that because riding your bicycle across town is a sin. It’s forbidden in God’s Word.”

I then go to the Bible and read it through and through, and I cannot find such a prohibition anywhere in Scripture. So I get back on my bicycle. You come to me again and say, “But I know it’s wrong for you to do that.”

So I get off my bike and again examine the Bible to see if there is any underlying principle that would prevent my riding my bicycle across town. Finding none, I get back on.

Then you come to me a third time: “But if you ride your bicycle across town people will see you, and some of them will lose their faith because of your bad example.” So I have to get off my bike for the third time and determine whether that is a true or false statement. If I would cause others to lose their faith, then I will forego riding my bike. But if I determine that others just want something to criticize, I’ll get back on my bicycle and happily ride across town.

When I think this way about what I should and should not do, I keep a healthy perspective on commandment and tradition.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, may I never let observance of a tradition substitute for loving You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength; and loving my neighbor as myself.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2013 On Your Mark

2012 On Your Mark

2011 On Your Mark

2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

Podcasts of On Your Mark are available in video and audio.
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