Ten Commandments, Third Command

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. Exodus 20:7 NIV

What’s in a name? Did you ever ask your parents why they called you what they did? My middle name is that of my great grandfather’s. It is a rather unusual name, so when I was in school, I never wanted anyone to know it. I would give them my initial, but I tried hard to keep the name hidden. Today, I am proud of the name Aubrey! It was the name of a good Christian man by all accounts. He was well known for His good deeds and His dedication to God. I never knew him, but I will strive to leave behind the positive reputation he left. I am honored to carry on his name.

What do you think of when you hear the name Benedict Arnold? Does traitor come to mind?   What about Mother Teresa? Do you think humility? Martin Luther King? Does equality for all fit? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Billy Graham? What is in a name? A name has meaning, and we apply worth to a person many times based on a name.

God? What do you think of when you hear that name? Jesus? Holy Spirit? I am not even going to insult you by suggesting that you would ever think of using God’s name in a dirty joke or an expletive phrase. If you are a follower of Christ, you surely have more respect for Him than that. But, what importance do you give to His name?

Do you revere His name? Does it bother you for others to insult Him? Are you getting to know more about Him each day? Do you tremble at His word and the realization that the name that is above every name took the time to care for you? If I said the name JESUS would it light a smile on your face?

Are you starting to understand that His name is to be revered, respected, honored, loved and obeyed? When God gave the third commandment, He knew people would hit a hand with a hammer or watch their team win the Super Bowl and express their dissatisfaction by yelling, God _______. His heart hurts at their lack of respect, but God is just as concerned about you and me, the so-called faithful Christian. Are we ascribing to His name the honor it is due?

He is God! He is the designer, creator, sustainer, and planner of the universe! He is greater than all we can ever hope and imagine. He is worthy. Let’s grant His NAME, His powerful, wonderful, ever-lasting name, the proper place in our hearts and minds!

Ten Commandments, Second Command

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Exodus 20:4 NIV

The second commandment, much like the first, is easily dismissed as a not meant for me type of verse. I want to caution you not to close your mind to the application. Most of us, if we our honest with ourselves, will violate this command at some time, maybe quite often in our life.

Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus? What does Jesus look like? Close your eyes for a minute a get a mental image. You have one, don’t you? Is that what He looks like? Has the mass production of a $45 portrait become your image of the living God, Creator of the universe? Wasn’t He the same Jesus who appeared from nowhere among the disciples in the upper room shortly after the resurrection? Can your image of a mere man do that?

Did you wear your cross around your neck today? Was that the cross upon which Jesus die? Does the symbol give your comfort? Do you draw strength from it? What if you lost it? Would Jesus still have access to your heart, or is it only through that piece of metal that He can reach you?

Now, please understand, I am not asking you to take down your Lord’s Supper scene or take off your cross necklace.  I am asking you to consider the image you have of God. Is He more to you than a really good story? Is He more than the legend of the ages or the object on your grandmother’s Christmas card? Is He bigger than a fuzzy feeling in your heart? Is He God?

God is more than we give Him credit for being! The second commandment is to remind us and command us to give God the credit He deserves. He has no equal. There is no image to which you can compare Him adequately. There is nothing wrong with having something around your neck to remind you of your love and devotion to Jesus, but it is not a replacement for that personal relationship.

“To whom (or what) will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)

To whom? Tell God today that everything pales in comparison!

Ten Commandments Series, First Command

Yesterday I spoke to our church about the law, but I did not have time to talk about each of the Ten Commandments. Over the next ten days I will share some devotionals about the Ten Commandments I have previously written for my devotional ministry.

I need to be very clear on this truth, Jesus paid every debt of the law.  Read Romans, Galatians, and even Jesus own words in Matthew 5:17.  Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law, He came to meet its righteous demands, which we could never meet on our own. Still, the law today has value in showing us the things God values, how we don’t measure up, and our desperate need for His grace. The law is a good reminder of the things that matter most to God.  As I share this series, I’m thanking God for His grace.

Commandment One:

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3 NIV

Is there anything in your life that has come between you and your relationship with God? I apologize if I am stepping on some toes, but this is a fair question. No, I’m not asking if you use an Ouija board to predict and plan your life. I’m not wondering if you worship your car or bow down to your TV.

I’m asking if there is anything or anyone you put in front of your personal, intimate relationship with the only one and true God of the Bible. Still looking at me with a puzzled look? Let me share a few examples:

Would you rather be late for work or late to church? Are you more likely to skip your favorite TV show or your morning devotion? Have you ever given up a meal to spend urgently needed time in prayer? Who do you say “good morning” to first each day? What does your checkbook say about your devotion to God? Is the first thing you grab with your coffee a newspaper or a copy of the precious word of God? To whom would your children (or your spouse) say you are the most devoted? Are you insulted more by the use of the Lord’s name in vain, or an insult of your alma mater?

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I hope you have some steel-toed shoes on today! Mine are going to need a good soaking tonight! Remember, Jesus took the Ten Commandments to a higher level. Anything between you and God, anything that keeps you from your fervent, passionate, constant devotion to Him, is breaking that first commandment.

You can rejoice with me that He offers forgiveness, but let’s start today to obey His perfect word! Let’s put Him first! Let’s let Him be supreme in our life! Let us begin, right now, making sure there is NO god, BUT GOD!

And I’ll pray for your toes!

Abraham: The Father of Our Faith (Video)

 

 

We recently began video-taping our services, which for me seems kind of scary, since I’m often the one on camera, but today I talked about the foundations of our faith examining the life of Abraham.  The key to a Biblical faith is that it is based on a personal trust in the person of Christ and the promises God has made.  (You may see me tear up a bit during this service….sorry about that.  It doesn’t happen every week.)

You can watch 10 minutes of the service here. You must loginto TruthCasting to watch the full length service (and see me cry).   Your email address is only used as a login and gives you the ability to forward this message.

God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear (Alone)

I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life. How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more trials on you than you can bear”? I challenge you to show me that in the Bible.  The problem I have with this myth is that it keeps so many believers wondering why they can’t handle their problems, falsely believing they should be able to, because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could.

Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy, just as Christ who calls us is holy.

Consistently, throughout the Bible, I read where at times God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear. Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it.  Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)  Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure”. David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see”. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life! Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”( Oh how I identify with David there!)  Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  (2 Chronicles 20:12)  It sounds like he was facing more than he could handle on his own.

Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear? Absolutely! Positively! If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle, at least more than I can handle alone. The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials, when they are bigger than our own strength can handle, is so that we have no where else to turn, except towards Him. We are faced with one solution, and that we realize Christ is our only hope!

After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) He recognized that this overwhelming time of trouble, that he couldn’t handle alone, had caused him to focus more on the power of God, and allow God to work His perfect will.

Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure? Don’t believe that you can do it alone! You can’t! Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!” Did you get that point? Nothing! Don’t try anything today without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak, but He is available to help, if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest, He is strong!

I did a follow up to this post HERE.

Waiting On God When It Feels He Is Nowhere Around

I met with an awesome couple today that is going through one of those waiting times on God.  I could sense the tension developing in them as their patience, and literally their faith, is being stretched.  I could easily identify with their situation, because I have personally been there many times.

What should you do when it feels like God has forgotten you?

Here are 7 things to remember or do in those times when God appears silent.

  • Be honest with God, those closest to you, and ultimately yourself about your fears.  We are not meant to be silent sufferers.
  • Keep in mind that you are not alone.  All of us go through times of uncertainty.  Even the great heroes of the faith had times of doubt.  Don’t beat yourself up emotionally because you are in one of those times now.
  • Remember that just because you feel a certain way does not mean the way you feel is truth.
  • Recall truth:
  • That God has promised to “never leave you nor forsake you”. Even when you feel abandoned by God, He is closer than you can imagine…and, He cares!
  • That God has promised to work “all things for good”. That means He has a plan, even when it doesn’t seem that He does.
  • Don’t sit still for long without doing something you already know to be doing.  Volunteer, help others, stay busy, pray, seek His face.  Be active in living out your faith during this time.  Idleness is one of Satan’s best friends.
  • Know that God prepares for some of His best work as He makes you wait.
  • Read Psalm 27 and 121.

Have you ever been in a time like this?  I would love for you to leave a brief testimony here to encourage others.

Are You Missing The Best God Has To Offer?

Michael Higdon, our Director of Creative Arts was working on a song for a Sunday a week or so ago. The song is Carrie Underwood’s version of “How Great Thou Art”. I have it on my iPod and suggested we consider it. Michael said as he was preparing this song for practice he had one of the greatest worship experiences he has had in a while.

The next day we were discussing this song again and he said something that stuck with me. He said, “I finally stopped long enough to actually listen to the song with the intent of worship and not just planning it for Sunday.”

Wow! That was a convicting statement. How many times do I miss the truth of a passage of Scripture because I’m too intent on studying the passage so I can teach it on Sunday morning that I fail to apply the truth of that passage to my own life?

That also made me consider what other ways we may miss the big picture of God’s blessings because we are caught in the little picture of the routines of life. Sometimes we literally miss God, because we are caught up in the busyness of life.

The first example that came to my mind is how as parents we often fail to enjoy the blessing of our children, because we are too occupied by trying to provide for their needs (or their wants).

So, here’s a question to consider:

Are you experiencing the best in life, or are you too distracted by the tasks of trying to get there?

How To Hear From God

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me….” John 10:14 NIV

I often get asked, “How do I hear a word from God?” Great question! I know of few people, especially Christians, who wouldn’t act immediately to obey God if they only knew for sure they were hearing from Him.

I don’t believe God means for us to wander aimlessly. God does not intend for you to live your life without knowledge of His plan. (He may make you wait to see the whole picture, but you’ll get it one step at a time.) God wants you to hear His voice.

Here are a few tips to help you in your journey to hear from God:

1. Get to know Him. That is the key to any relationship. How can you hear from God if you have never met Him? You can’t meet Him apart from knowing His Son Jesus. If you have not yet invited Jesus to be your Savior, now is the time!

2. Listen. That sounds simple, but unless you are spending time trying to hear from God, it will never happen.

3. Learn His voice. When you first meet someone, it usually takes a few tries before you begin to recognize their voice over the telephone. If my Mom calls, she doesn’t have to say, “Ron, this is your Mother.” I know her voice by now! (It’s when she says “Ronald” that I know I’m in trouble.)

4. Check it with Scripture! If you have any doubt about what God may be telling you, compare it to His word! God will never contradict Himself.

5. Obey! If God speaks to you, clearly, without question, and you know it compliments what has already been written in His word, don’t waste another second. Obey Him immediately.  If you want your relationship to grow, you will need to establish early on that you will follow His will for your life.

6. Enjoy! Hearing from God is a great thing! It doesn’t even matter as much what He says. The great miracle is that a holy, powerful and mighty God, the Creator, has spoken! That is an event!

Therefore, let me ask you, what is God saying to you these days?  If you could hear anything from Him right now, what would you want to hear?

God’s Going To Carry Us Through

Times are tough. I have been overwhelmed in the last six months with the struggles of our people. As a pastor, I carry the weight of my people’s burdens. I know this is part of the call and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, sometimes I just need a little encouragement.

Thanks to Dave Barnes this song has been that encouragement. It’s first on my iPod right now and my running days have been sweeter because of it.

When I hear this song I’m reminded of Psalm 77:19.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

Be encouraged. God will indeed carry us through.

God’s Patience With Me

I love this passage in The Message Version:

1 Timothy 1:12-16

I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One— of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (MSG)

The phrase that caught my attention in this passage is “endless patience”.  God has been so patient with me in so many ways.  Even when I am impatient, He is patient.

In what ways has He been patient with you?