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!

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?

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.  

Knowing the Will Of God

The world and all its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17 NIV

Some of my best growth times with the Lord have been during teaching times with my children. I remember when my son asked an important question, “Daddy, what is the ‘will of God’?”

Now, he wasn’t asking, “What does God want me to do?” It was more general than that. He simply wanted to know what the phrase “will of God” meant. He had heard others say the term many times, but he never understood it. My hope is that you and I can also grow through this experience.

I explained it to him, as I understand it, that God’s will can actually be described in several ways. First there is God’s individual will. That is for the individual decisions you and I make each day. You know that God cares intimately for you, even down to the number of hairs on your head. God does allow, however, for you to make some decisions for yourself in life. You may choose what to eat for breakfast or you may choose a red car instead of a blue. It isn’t that God doesn’t care which you get, but He most likely will allow you to make that decision.

Second, there is God’s moral will. God’s desire for you is that you develop your character into the image of Christ. He will present you with every opportunity for you to do just that, but you will play a part in how far you grow spiritually. You may choose to love your neighbor as yourself or you may choose to be a very selfish person. God, however, is very concerned about your character, and for His moral will for your life. In fact, God cares more that His moral will for your life be done than His individual will, because God is in the character-changing business.

Third, there is God’s sovereign will. God has a will that is set in stone! It won’t change. It can’t change. It always stays the same! For example, God cannot help but love you because that is His sovereign will. God cannot break His promises, because that is His sovereign will. Some things God has set into motion, and they will never be different.

I don’t know what God’s individual will is for your life. (I hope for you it is Wheaties and a shiny red convertible.) But I can tell you this. His moral will is that you be like His Son Jesus. That begins with your sincere faith in Jesus as your Savior! And better yet, His sovereign will says that once you do, He will reserve you a place in Heaven!

One thing I’m absolutely sure of…you can’t be in a better place than within the “will of God”!

Situational Evangelism

Sometimes sharing your faith with them is a matter of helping them understand their circumstances in light of God’s plans and desires for their life.  If you can connect the two points, a relationship with God makes much more sense. 
Recently I received this email from an Internet friend through my devotional ministry (http://www.mustardseedministry.com).   My friend knows how to share her faith, but the situation appears so desperate it has her in quandary of where to begin.  (I have changed the names and deleted a few details to protect identities, but the crux of the story is the same.)
Dear Ron,
I need some advice.  I have a friend who has a daughter who lives about 600 mi. away from her, but she is involved in drugs.  My friend (Joan) and her husband are in the process of adopting her three grandsons (all under the age of 8 year old) due to the daughter’s inability to care for them. Joan doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord.  I have a feeling that she has some tough feelings right now.  I really want to bring her to the Lord, but I’m at a loss for some reason right now.  She is in so much pain and she misses her daughter so much. I need ideas on how to share and communicate God’s love to Joan. Thanks so much. 
Dear Patricia
It will take boldness on your part Patricia, but the fact that God has placed her on your heart so strongly is probably God’s invitation for you to share your faith with her, so I would encourage you to act on it, as scary as it might be. Scripture is clear that when we speak on His behalf He gives us words to say.
I would probably approach Joan in terms of a relationship. She loves her daughter in spite of the fact that she is addicted to drugs. She loves those three grandsons. Joan’s heart hurts for her daughter and she would like nothing more than a renewed relationship with her, but the drugs are in the way. They are “separated” 400 miles by distance, but even farther because of the impact. the drugs have on her life. It’s sad, which is why you are concerned for her. 
Now take Joan’s situation and put it into context of her relationship with God. God feels the same way about Joan. He loves her. He wants a relationship with her, but Joan’s sins have separated her from a relationship with God. If she will only believe in Christ’s saving grace she can have the relationship with God she needs; now more than ever.

God bless you as you introduce your friend to Christ.
If God stirs your heart concerning someone near you who is absent of a relationship with Him, be bold and willing to share your faith. Put it into terms of a relationship, then trust God to give you the right words to say.