Ten Commandments, Fifth Command

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 NIV

To honor means to respect and to appreciate, but actually goes much deeper as well. It means to add reputation to or to increase another’s value. When you are to honor your parents, it means so much more than to obey. That is to increase their good name by having one of your own.

What is it like to call you a son or daughter? Can someone be proud of you? I’m not talking about that love a mother or father naturally has for a child. I’m talking about bragging rights, and not about accomplishments either. I remember attending one of my son’s elementary school parent-teacher conferences. I was filled with joy as the teacher showed us paper after paper with 100 or A+ on it. Both my boys have done so well in school academically, but I may have been the only parent that night to ask the questions of my son’s teacher, “What about his character? Does he get along with others? Does he show compassion? Does he strive to make friends with his classmates?” And I even asked her, “Can you tell that he is a believer?” Praise God, I had something to brag about!

Isn’t that what we should aim for: to have a reputation of being like Christ? Is that a noble goal? Could you see this as a necessary part of any parent’s plan for their child’s future? In this all-for-me world, shouldn’t we focus a little more on character?

I praise God often for granting me the privilege of being raised in a Christian family. Both sides of my parents have a long history of being active in church, loving God, and serving Him faithfully. What will I contribute to that legacy? Will it continue or end with me?

You too have an awesome responsibility! Your actions and your heart will determine what is said about your children and your children’s children for generations to come. You are deciding now, based on the way you live your life, what the future will be like for your descendents. The Bible states over and over again that blessings are passed on by generations, as are the curses of God. Which are you leaving behind?

If your reputation was being built on just the last week, last month, or last year, what would it say about you? Would it honor your mother and father? Would it add to the value of your name?

This fifth commandment is a tough one if we strive to live up to it. By the grace of God, may we accomplish His will as we live our lives, striving to be like Him, and create in our hearts a desire to make Him Lord of everything?  Your reputation is at stake! And the honor of your mother and father!

Ten Commandments, Fourth Command

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Exodus 20:8 NIV

The Sabbath was a big deal to the Jewish people. It meant no work, absolutely none. It involved everyone. Rest was demanded; you had no choice. It was a statement of faith. If you loved God, you observed and honored the Sabbath.

What’s changed? Has the word of God gone dull? Absolutely not! The word of God is active, living, never changing! So where do we fit into this fourth commandment today? We are to keep the Sabbath Holy!

Sabbath means to rest. First of all, this means we are to rest. We have somehow determined in this society that it is wrong to rest. We need to join a committee, plan an activity, sign the kids up for ball (soccer, basketball and baseball– all at the same time), be reading the latest novel at all times, fix gourmet meals, compete for the yard-of-the-month club, advance a career, and be lean, trim men or women of God. Whew, that made me tired just typing it!

In all the madness is God able to get your attention? Take some time off, my friend! You deserve a break. Give yourself a rest. Take a Sabbath for yourself. Slow down! Take time to enjoy life! Take a long walk on a long pier! Watch the world go by for a while! Be still and know that He is God!

Remember that every day is God’s. If you are one of His children, your life is in His hands. He is taking you to where there is no more time, but for now your time is His. If you want to fully follow His will (and why would you not?), you will need to take time to rest. God’s creation example to us is to rest. God didn’t need the rest, but it was an opportunity for Him to, by example, reflect on all He had made. We need that time to renew ourselves, as well as our relationship to Him.

And keep the Sabbath (your time of rest) Holy. God is Holy, so be Holy in all you do! What is wrong to do on Sunday is wrong the rest of the week. Don’t have two standards. Be the same on Monday that you are on the Sabbath. Keep your time of rest holy! Whatever you do to unwind, do it to the glory of God. Let others see the reflection on your face and know that you have spent time with the Father. Your time of rest will renew your strength and keep your heart pure.

Finally, look forward to the Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4). One day Jesus is returning to redeem God’s people from this world of sin and disappointment. He will wipe away our tears and clothe us with eternal joy. We will enter our Sabbath rest.  It means the final rest, the one for which we have waited, the one where we share our inheritance with Jesus!

Now that is what I call rest! Are you ready

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!

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?

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?     

One Verse That Could Change Your Life

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  Mark 11:22 NIV

I’m sorry. This was the best I could find.  I searched for a Bible verse that would be inspiring today; something really simple and pointed.  I had hoped to pick a verse that speaks to you in volumes, yet doesn’t make you grab a dictionary.

I really wanted something you could perhaps even memorize and take with you throughout the day that would remind you of an important principle; a life principle even.  I envisioned that it might be something Jesus said because then you would know of its accuracy.

Sometimes Jesus talked in parables, which were easily understood by the group He was addressing, but that may need explanation to those of us outside the field of expertise.  I wanted something applicable to all of us, regardless of our vocation or interest.

I guess what I really wanted was the bottom line, basic theology.  You know, the kind of thing that if you didn’t get anything else, you could hold onto.  This would be a verse that you could teach your family.  People could catch on to it, it would cause people to reflect on their relationship to God and the importance He needs to have in our lives.  I want to find a verse that if you live by that verse and make decisions based on that verse, that you will be living a life pleasing to God. 

For today, this verse will have to do: “Have faith in God.”  I’ll keep looking.