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November 19, 2015, 12:10 PM

Warning



I think it is only fair that I give you fair warning. The last five commandments all deal with social issues, and social issues can become political issues. It seems to me that any time we begin to deal with social and political issues; we begin to tread on thin ice. People begin to get defensive and we all tend to get offended. 

Well, here is your warning. At some point in dealing with the next five commandments, I am going to offend you. Probably a lot. And, that is ok. It is good for us to get offended from time to time. We may not enjoy it, but as Christians it is good for us. I say that it is good for us because, as Christians, our desire is to align our heart with God's heart. 

I rarely get offended because someone agrees with me. When I get offended, it is usually because someone attacks or challenges something that I hold dearly. But, it is only when those things are challenged that I am forced to examine them in light of God's heart. Then, and only then, am I willing to honestly listen to God. 

Many times in our culture we get lured in to the trap that there are only two sides. But, all too often, neither side is 100% true to the heart of God. As Christians, our goal is not to pick a side, but rather to follow our King. 

We live in a culture that is easily offended and eager to fight. Many people, myself included, point to this as the great flaw of our country at the moment. I however am beginning to change my mind. I think that our greatest flaw may not be how easily we are offended, but rather how arrogant we are to believe we are always 100% right. 

As Christians, we must continually acknowledge that God is right, not us. We must continually seek to be closer to the heart of God. Finally, we must not waiver in following our king. So, over the next five commandments: let us dive deeper into God's word, strive to be closer to God's heart, and allow God to offend us where we are wrong. 




November 12, 2015, 11:25 AM

Jesus Honored His Father



When we consider the commandment to honor your mother and father, we often sell it a little short. Sometimes we assume it simply means that we are to obey mom and pops. Sometimes we begin to think that it applies to a phase of life that we eventually get to outgrow. Sometimes we forget that honoring the parents is a life long journey. But, when we have questions on what honoring our parents should look like, we need only to look to Jesus. 

In Philippians chapter two, Paul lays out exactly how Jesus honored God the Father. He wrote: although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men....becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul explained that even though Jesus was God, He did not hold that as an excuse to not honor God the Father. Even when that meant that He had to step out of heaven. Even when that meant that He had to be born as a baby. Even when that meant that He had to grow up in a hard life. Even when that meant that He had to endure the cross. As Jesus prays in the garden just before His arrest, trial, and death; He honors His Father by saying “not my will, but yours, be done.

Paul goes on to explain that because of His obedience to the will of the Father, the Father has “exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.”  Jesus lived out the commandment to honor your father by always being where God the Father wanted him, doing what God the Father wanted done, and saying what God the Father wanted said. He did this for the glory of God and the good of us. 

His honor had an outward focus, included obedience, and resulted in glorifying God. The result of his honor was more honor. I believe that our efforts to honor our parents will require similar things and bring about similar results. For sure, our efforts to become more like Christ will result in honoring our father and mother like He honored God the Father.   




November 5, 2015, 11:13 AM

Remembering the Sabbath



The issue of “Remembering the Sabbath” is often a complicated one, especially for “goal oriented” “type A” Americans. This commandment is often overlooked as less important than the others. It is easy to see the value of not stealing and obeying your parents. We totally get that God does not want us to kill each other. But, why does God insist that everyone take a day off?

Let's consider a few of things that may help us understand the value of this commandment. First, God doesn't exactly tell us to take a day off. The remembering the Sabbath comes with the task of keeping it holy. Second, we need to understand what remember means. This isn't “remember that one time when we....” as in remember looking back. This is more of a “remember your anniversary and plan accordingly” as in remember looking forward. Lastly, we as a culture have an upside down view of work and Sabbath. 

Work is our opportunity to add value to the community as a whole, but we often confuse it as what adds value to our life. I believe that this is because what we really value is money and the independence it brings. We work to get money so that we can spend that money on what we value. That has led to a culture where the people that distract us from real life (athletes and entertainers) are worth millions, while those that truly add value to life (teachers and stay at home moms) are worth very little. If we really valued life then teachers (who work to cultivate and protect life) would be paid higher than brokers (who work to cultivate and protect money). 

If we believe that work is what adds value to our life, then we will view Sabbath as a missed opportunity to add value to our life. Instead, the Bible views work as how we add value to the community. The Bible views Sabbath as how we add value to our life. 

To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy means that we must first plan ahead and make provision for it. This means that we arrange our lives and our work around our worship. This keeps God at the forefront of our purpose. Second, we must use that day to worship God, experience His presence, and enjoy His blessings. This means intimacy with God. This means realizing the greatness of God in his creation. This means enjoying the generosity of God in the relationships that He has given you. This means soaking up the beauty of God in sunsets and the smiles of your children. This means consuming the creativity of God in the variety of flavors and good food. 

Sabbath is an opportunity to add value to your life through connecting with God through worship and through His creation. 

 

 

 

 




October 23, 2015, 12:32 PM

Don't Take God's Name in Vain



Today we are taking a look at the third of the Ten Commandments. I don't know about you, but this is one that I have been guilty of oversimplifying for most of my life. The commandment means that we are not to use the name of God incorrectly. But, that does not mean that we are simply to avoid using it in a negative sense or as a swear word.

One of the ways that we abuse and break this commandment in our culture is our loose use of the term Christian. There seems to be a movement towards not using the term Christian because of this. People who are serious about their faith may choose to refer to themselves as a Follower or Christ or a Disciple of Christ. Some might argue that this is simply trading out phrases that all mean the same thing. While that may be true, the fact that there is a felt need to differentiate between a common Christian and a follower of Christ is a huge red flag.

On one hand, it means that we as the church in America have failed to live up to the name Christian. Is it possible that we, the American Church, have let the name “Christian” become so diluted that we have to defend our identity within our own culture? It means that in our  culture, the church has allowed people to live as though they know nothing of Christ and yet identify themselves as “little Christ’s”. How could we, as the church in America, have been so complacent with letting so called brothers and sister take the Lord's name in vain?

On the other hand, perhaps it is evidence that our pride has backed us into a corner and forced us to be Christians who have forgotten that we are to be “little Christ’s”.   Perhaps our effort to to distinguish our attempt to follow Christ from those who we deem as not real Christians is evidence that our pride is getting in the way of displaying the grace of Jesus. Jesus labored hard for the spiritual maturity of his disciples, and then called them to do the same thing for others (Mathew 28:19-20).

Perhaps both are correct. To call yourself a Christian should mean something. The world should get to expect you to live a certain way. We should hold ourselves to the high standard of being “little Christ’s”. We should also be showing grace and laboring hard for the spiritual maturity of others as we engage in Jesus' command to make disciples.

To do anything less is to take His name in vain.

 




October 16, 2015, 2:05 PM

Personal Idolatry



This week we have come to the commandment dealing with idolatry. The bible is far from silent on the subject of idolatry. Perhaps, next to pride, idolatry is talked about in the harshest of terms. But when we consider that pride is simply self idolatry, it becomes clear that God has a zero tolerance level for idolatry. Our problem is not in understanding that God hates idolatry. Our problem usually lies in identifying our own idolatrous ways. 

In my studies this week, I found this paragraph very interesting. It is from the New American Commentary on Exodus:

Ancient people also believed in three categories of gods, all of which any individual was likely to differentiate by his or her own beliefs and worship: the personal god, the family god, and the national  god. For most Israelites at m 32) as their family god, but they would always have Yahweh as his national God. No Israelite, no matter how totally immersed in idolatry, would ever answer no to the question, “Do you believe in Yahweh?” But most, at most times in Israel’s history, would, sadly, see him only as a national god (the one who had brought them out of Egypt or the one to whom they would appeal in times of war). Their greater day-by-day loyalty in worship would be directed toward the various idols representing their various categories of gods.

I think that it is important to note that God was included in their idolatrous worship. No self respecting Israelite would have denied his belief in the one true God, or the importance of worshiping him. The LORD had his rightful place in their life and the nation as a whole. 

I think this parallels greatly with where we are as a people. On our one day mission trip earlier this month, almost no one turned down our offer to pray for them. Most people were willing to talk to us about God. Most even admitted to believing in God on some level. But, a very common answer was to express belief in God while also admitting that they did not follow him.

At the heart of understanding the 10 Commandments is understanding the very first statement. “I am the LORD your God”. It is a statement of relationship. It is a statement of His authority and position in our relationship with Him. When we allow other people, places, things or relationships to undermine his authority and position in our relationship, we cease to allow Him to be our God. We may proclaim Him as our National God, but we are worshiping at the feet of personal gods on a daily basis. 

What people or things are threatening your relationship with God by becoming family or personal gods?

What are you looking to as your personal authority other than God?

Will you repent of these areas as idolatry?


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