Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't crowd the plate! -Joshua 1:7-8

"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."  Joshua 1:7-8

This is a wonderful time of the year to be a big baseball fan!  I'm a big Cleveland Indians fan myself!  I'm especially happy after they beat the White Sox!  They won both games yesterday!

I used to play little league baseball.  It was a lot of fun even if I wasn't the best player in the world.

Today I was thinking about the importance of following the rules when it comes to baseball and when it comes to life.

In the verses listed above God is commanding Joshua to hold on to the laws and to follow them without turning from them.  God seems pretty serious about it.  Actually God makes a correlation for Joshua about the importance of living by the law, following the rules and being successful in life.  Personally, I believe that's one of the most important reasons we have the laws.  They're not there to simply punish us and point out when we're wrong.   Rather they help us to prosper and help us to be a blessing to others.

Yes, indeed  the Laws are meant to keep us out of trouble but when we don't follow the laws we often get burned.  I think that sports is a good example of this.

Take hitting for example.  If you break the rules by standing on the plate while hitting or even if you crowd the plate too tightly you're likely to get hit!  Now if you're only a little league player getting hit is not a matter of life or death.  I can tell you that from first hand experience because  there was one season, before I received my glasses, that it seemed the only time I got on base was when I was hit by the pitch!

Perhaps I had a bruise or two but the pitches in little league probably hover around the 50 to 60 miles an hour depending on your age but in the pros you could get hit by a 90 + mile hour fast ball! Ouch!

The point is.... if you stay on the right side of the plate  (or the left side for the lefties, ha!)  You're much less likely to get hit but if you aren't following the rules..  watch out!

Life is like that as well.  When we don't live according to God's law the possibility that we will suffer consequences is greatly increased.   

And just like there's a big difference between the little league and the big league pitch, consequences for our sins seemed to increase with our age and the situation.  Considering the crucial challenges ahead of Joshua and the Children of Israel they better prepare for the 100+ fast balls.

I find it amazing sometimes how people blame God about the pain and even the sickness they suffer from.  I can sympathize with them just as God does but I can just hear God yelling from heaven to some of them saying,  "Stop crowding the plate and you won't get hurt!"  Frankly I shake my head because a lot of people stand ON THE PLATE, if you know what I mean, and they expect to still be standing by the end of the day!     

Indeed all of us probably crowd the plate more than we should.  Just like we tend to push the speed limit we tend to test the limits of God's laws as well.

Don't be fooled by Satan's lies.  Sin and living on the edge might seem fun for a season but when we follow the laws not only will we avoid some broken bones we have a much better chance of hitting the ball out of the park! 

To Ponder:  Why don't we thank God today for his laws and guidelines for life!   Let's be thankful for the blessings we've received when we and others have followed the laws.  And if you're crowding the plate a little bit.  MOVE BACK! into God's perfect will.

Be sure to find a church to worship God tomorrow morning.  Let's remember to observe the Sabbath and keep it Holy!  Besides it's a great joy to worship God and make the Lord first in our lives!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Courage in the face of our struggles - Joshua 1:9

Our faith and our courage are proven and tested best under fire.

It's one thing to say that we believe. It’s one thing to know the Bible, the laws and the right thing to do and yet a very different thing to live by them. But live by our convictions we must!  

Some people wonder if God tests our faith by causing challenges and pain in our life. I tell them God doesn't have too.... life is filled with enough challenges all its own. Now it is true that sometimes I think God allows us to face certain trials and pains for one reason or another. Thankfully out of God's grace we don't experience all the pain this life has to offer. Thankfully by God's grace we do drive to work and back safely and the drunk driver doesn't always hit another car.

No, I don't think that God tests us but if we are to live in this world of troubles and sin we will face our share of pain. Unfortunately, most of us will never become self-made millionaires who can hibernate on a deserted tropical island far away from the idiots of this world.   

In Joshua's case, as with most of the great heroes of the Bible,  trials, worries, fears, and, yes, great pain would come to him precisely because he was confronting the evil world as a Godly leader. It is true that sometimes Joshua's greatest defeats came as the result of his failure and the failure of the people to obey God's word. However, his worries and struggles were no less challenging when he was doing everything right. That is just how life is most of the time but because we are human we don't like the world to work that way. We want to be blessed when we've been living right and when we mess up we understand why we get ourselves into trouble. With this thinking in mind, when we can't see a reason for our pain, we tend to blame God and shake our fist. God understands this of course and the Bible is filled with people who cried out a variation of our favorite complaint,"Why me, Lord!" I've said that a couple times over the past couple of years myself.

Yes, over and over God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Why?  Simply because life is hard especially for those with the courage to face the evil of this world head on. But know this, "If you are standing for what is right, God is standing behind you and with you. If you let God, he will also carry you."

I offer these words to all of my friends who are suffering. Especially for those who struggle with Trigeminal Neuralgia like I have suffered over the last two and a half years. God is with you in the pain. Pain is not our enemy. Of course, it is not our friend either! Pain is not the enemy but giving up and hiding out is. But God surely understands and is with us during those times as well for God draws near to those who are in pain.  

Personally, since I've received healing following a surgery in February, I have come to the point that I am thankful for those two years. I've learned much about myself. I didn't give up. I wish I could say I didn't complain and do my share of hiding out. My wife would correct me if I said that! No, I am not the ideal patient but through the pain I have learned much. I know that I'm a much better counselor and I have much more confidence in most areas of my life. I've learned that God is able to hold us even through the most difficult struggles. If you can make it through Trigeminal Neuralgia, you can make it through just about anything.

So to all my friends from the Trigeminal Neuralgia group I offer these words: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD, your God, will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 That truth was given to Joshua but it seems to me we can embrace that truth as well because it comes from the heart of an unchanging God who loves us.

To Ponder: If you lack courage, hand your cares to the Lord for God cares for you.   

These are the words of Jesus to you today: "Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

God bless you and give you strength and courage.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Be Strong and Courageous - Johua 1:9

Ok I have to tell you that this is probably one of my all time favorite Scriptures to preach about.   I know I may say that a couple times over the next two years but I really mean it when it comes to this passage. 

Joshua is also probably my favorite person in the Bible to preach about so I will try to resist the urge to blog every day. (hopefully I won't have as long a blog post as today's either!)    

So Why do I like Joshua?  Simply put he was a man of great courage.  He was a great leader.  He was faithful to God.  But also because he didn't run away from his fears.   

Fear and courage are by no means opposites.  The most courageous people are those who move forward and do the right thing despite their fears.

So why do I think that Joshua was afraid?  For me it starts with the fact of how many times God and Moses tell Joshua to be strong and courageous.  Moses had successfully led the children of Israel to the foot of the promise land.  Joshua had been Moses right hand man and he would succeed Moses to lead this mighty nation of wanderers.   Moses would help the people out of the place and the mentality of slavery.  Joshua would take this free wandering nation and make it into an army and into a nation where they could put down their roots.  Much is said about Moses exploits to free Israel from grip of the Pharaoh and to lead God's people through the wilderness but Joshua was equally as great a leader.    

Joshua and the people of Israel now had to learn to fight.  They had to farm the land.  No one had done that in 40 years.  They had to learn to be self sufficient.  At the same time they needed to continue to be totally dependent upon the Lord.  They had to be strong and courageous in the face of some of the greatest obstacles imaginable.  Joshua knew it.  Moses Knew it and God knew it so several times it is written in Scripture instructing Joshua to be strong and courageous.  In Deuteronomy 31:8  Moses tells Joshua "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  In Deuteronomy 31:24 it says, "The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun:  "Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you."   Just read our passage for this week.  How many times does God tell Joshua to be strong and courageous and not  be terrified or afraid.  Why would God repeat this so many times and why would the author of Joshua write it so many times?  Simply because Joshua was probably afraid and so he should have been.

My guess is that you have some pretty big challenges in your life.  My guess is many of you have reason to be afraid.  Being afraid is not a sign that you lack faith it says your human.   God knows your human.  However, notice that everytime God instructed Joshua to be strong and courageous he didn't just stop there.  He didn't just say, "Come on Joshua take it like a man!" No God promised to be present each step of the way.  Joshua could be strong and courageous because he knew that God went before him and no matter the struggles and the pain, God would never leave him or forsake him.   And that my friends is the promise that each of us has today.  Trust God!  Life may be painful and I know it is for many of my friends but God is with you and God is faithful.

To Ponder:  God is with me.  God is faithful to his covenant with me.  I can stand tall.  I can have faith.  I can move forward.  I can be strong and courageous!   Remember there is no pain and no mistake that God cannot fix if we are walking with God.  But just like Joshua had to move into the place of promise, so too we have to be strong and courageous to keep walking and keep doing those things God has called us to do. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Covenant God! Deuteronomy 7:8,9

"8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."  (Deuteronomy 7:8,9"

"Covenant" isn't a word that we hear just every day.  A Biblical covenant is basically an agreement between God and God's people.  The exception to this was the covenant God made with Noah following the flood when God promised "all people" to never destroy the earth with a flood.  

In today's text we are referring to the Mosaic Covenant which includes the laws as spelled out in the Ten Commandments and the Torah or first five books of the Bible.  In this covenant as well as all of the Biblical covenants you find that God is the initiator,  the administrator of the blessings, and the one who pays the greatest price to make and keep the covenant.

His covenant is always a covenant of love.  The greatest love of course was shown in the New Covenant which was sealed in the very blood of Christ who died on the cross.  Christ would take the punishment for our sins and our failure to abide by the terms of all the previous covenants.  What we could not do Jesus did for us.

The point that amazes me is that God is a covenant God!  From the covenant he made to Noah through Jesus, God shows faithfulness, grace, and love.  

What is our part of the covenant?  Our part it is to make the Lord our One God above all things in our life.  We are to love him through our worship and obedience and to serve him with our life.  That is our part of the covenant relationship.  His part is to love, protect, bless and give us eternal life.

But what happens when we break our part of the covenant? Does God punish us or turn away from us?  No. 

God sent his son Jesus to die for us thus taking the punishment of our sins upon himself.  Again through God's grace he has done in Jesus Christ what we could not do ourselves.  To receive this grace all we must do is confess our sins, call upon the Lord and believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

1 John 1:9 reminds us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Romans 10:12,13  also proclaim: "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich to all that call on him.  For whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

God is always faithful to His covenant and love.  God is love and God cannot go against his very nature.   This is good news indeed!

God is serious about the covenant that He makes with us.  As we obey the covenant and put God first in our lives we are truly blessed and that blessing, which goes beyond our salvation, is handed down to our children and to our children's children....  They are still responsible to respond to God's call upon their lives but the way we live today will bless them and make it easier for them to respond.

You might say that in the same way the curse of alcoholism, other addictions and sinful behaviors is handed down from one generation to another so it is that blessings can be handed down from one generation to another.  

So what kind of inheritance are you handing down to your children?

Let us celebrate the faithfulness of God and trust that as we walk in obedience and love God will provide for us and leave a blessing to the next generation.

To ponder:  Your obedience and love for Christ is a much better inheritance to hand down to your children than any amount of money you may leave behind.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Being holy (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 1:15,16)

  "For you are a people Holy to God.  The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples from the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."  Deuteronomy 7:6

So what does it mean to be holy?

Disclaimer #1  Ok.... I know I'm a pastor and I'm not supposed to answer those kinds of questions.  You know the questions that no one is asking... but if you're out there reading this you are no ordinary audience!

Disclaimer #2  I'm not sure I have a perfect answer to the question but because blogs are more like a conversation than an academic exercise I think we will both be fine.  So if you're looking for a definitive answer there are some wonderful sources and dictionaries.

Well without getting into the whole discussion if Israel continues to be God's holy people or not,  I want to remind us that the New Testament also has something to say about being holy.  1 Peter 1:15,16 says,  "But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy."

Like it or not we are called to be the body of Christ and because Christ is holy we should be holy as well.

In brief let me point out three words or thoughts I have which help me to understand what it is to be God's holy people today.  

1.  Holy people are called.   If you read yesterdays blog you'll remember that we are called by God because God loves us and not because we are the best.   Actually I think everyone in the world is called but by God's grace we have accepted the call.

2.  Holy people are set apart or set aside.  On one level you might think of the practice of setting aside the fine china to be used for special occasions.  In a similar way we are set aside for a special purpose.

3.  Holy people strive to live a righteous life.  Now this does not mean that we are better than others.     No we are just called and set aside for a special purpose to give glory and honor to Christ.   Actually if we have any hope of acting like holy people it will only be due to the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  Indeed only God is truly good.

   As we live the righteous life we aren't putting ourselves in a place of honor.  We aren't being snobs.   You know the sayings about being "Self righteous" or "Holier than thou"     Rather as we do our good works before all people God receives the praise.   See Matthew 5:16 it says,  "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

To Ponder:  I like to think about life this way.  We are called and set aside to be like spotlights shining our light upon Jesus.    The clearer and more precisely I aim my light and my life, the better people will be able to see a glimpse of God's full glory.  Indeed salvation comes to people as they see Jesus and receive Him.   We can't cause someone to take the step of faith but we can shine the light on Jesus!

So remember you are the Holy light of the world! Let your light shine because the world out there is a pretty dark place and we have an awesome God who deserve the spotlight!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lord Chose you! Deuteronomy 7:7

When I was young there were times when I would hate gym class!  I know other times it used to be my favorite but I always hated when they would choose sides for teams because depending on the sport I was always one of the last chosen.  It was humiliating to be passed up time after time after time as one of my friends would be chosen for a team.

Yes, there is something wonderful about being chosen and for the people of Israel they were chosen first among all the nations as God's elect!   Now that is sure to make you feel special! 

 But why were they chosen?   Was it because they were the biggest and the best?   Were they chosen because they were the most obedient and devote to the Lord?   Our Scripture tells us that this wasn't the case.   They were chosen because God loved them and God loved them because God chose to love them.  They were God's chosen people and it must have felt wonderful!

Just imagine the front row seats they had to see the glory of God?  It must have been wonderful to watch as God opened up the Red Sea for the slave nation of Israel to go through untouched by the Egyptians who drowned as the sea crashed over them. It must have been frightening but also wonderful when God passed over their homes sparing the lives of their first born sons.   It must have been amazing to have the presence of God lead the people like a pillar of fire at night and a cloud of fire by day!   They were God's special nation.  Not because they were the biggest but because God chose them out of his unconditional love!

Now does that mean that all of their days were filled with blessings from above!   Frankly sometimes it must have felt like they were chosen to lead the charge in an impossible battle.   But as long as they trusted in the Lord they also witnessed some awesome victories!

Today we are chosen as well.  This time we have been chosen by Christ and we haven't been selected first to play on the kick ball team. (I was usually last on that team back when I was short and scrony).    NO!  We have been selected as the Bride of Christ!  Christ beloved choice! and why? Simply because God is love!   Actually Jesus died on the cross so we could be chosen!   The Bible says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.   Christ chose us.... it was His gift! and even the ability to have faith and receive it is a gift of God.

So today take joy in knowing that no matter what happens....God is with you.  God loves you and if given the choice... Jesus would have died a thousand times for you.  But praise God once was enough.

But remember being chosen isn't the same as having an easy life because we are chosen for a purpose and sometimes as we fulfill the purpose it hurts but God is always with us.

To Ponder:  What am I doing as God's chosen son or daughter?  What am I doing to let others know that they can be chosen as well.   Remember there are many people sitting on the side lines waiting for the hands and feet of the Body of Christ to call their name.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What We Bring with us. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

"These commandments that I give you today are to be open your hearts. Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:6-9

When I was young I used to remember being in a Sunday School class or in a youth group setting and we would play this game called "what would you bring with you?".   Back then it seemed like there was a real problem with people being lost on a deserted Island so the question in the game went like this.   "If you were to be stranded on a deserted Island and you could only take 5 items with you what would those items be?"   Now our mothers of course would want us to take a change of underwear or something practical like that. ha!  I think I would take a Wilson volleyball to keep me company. 

Well we could have fun with about four of the items but being the good "Christian Kids" that we were we knew that one of the "right answers"  had to be the Bible.   To tell the truth we probably said the Bible to avoid a long lecture by the Sunday School teacher about the importance of God's word......

Today this game isn't nearly as fun because people could say they would take their Ipod, tablet or cell phone with a Bible already loaded on it along with pictures, video games......  Hopefully you could also take a solar charger with you.  My point is that even as children in the church we knew we should take the Bible with us.

 Our problem today is the Bible tends to takes up more space on our coffee table then it does in our heart.   Actually as a pastor when I visit people in their homes, I wonder if the Bible on the coffee table is more for my sake...  Perhaps they think I'll feel more at home with the Bible around.  (Ok... I'm just joking.  Actually, I don't mind that you display your Bible when I show up as long as you book mark our text for this week and ponder it in your heart if only for a brief moment).   To tell the truth I believe that most of us do truly value the Word of God.... especially those who would take the time to read my blog!

The key for God, as expressed in our passage for today, is not simply having a Bible in hand but to have the Bible in heart.  As parents we receive the added burden of  impressing the commands on our children's hearts as well.  The idea of course is to know the Word of God enough to share it with our children.  And like everything else the best way to get it into our heart and into our minds is to prepeat the words,  write them out, repeat them some more and by all means live by them!

Sadly most of us probably know the rules and commands regarding games like baseball than we do about the word of God.   However, no matter how many excuses we use regarding not understanding the Bible and not having time to read it,   God makes it very clear in passages like ours today that we are indeed required to become familiar with the commands, laws, and the words of Scripture.    Yes,  God believes that having the Bible on the top 5 items is a very good idea.

Thought to ponder:  What creative ways can you come up with to meditate upon the Word of God throughout the day?  What ways can you impress the word into your children's heart.

Give me your comments!  Let's share some ideas!   Maybe your good at memorizing Scriptures.   Let us know how you do it!   Or maybe you can share what five things you would bring with you on the deserted Island.   May the Lord bless you as you "walk through the Word".

Monday, June 10, 2013

Preparation for Life

When you're on your way on a great journey it's imperative that you plan ahead and pack well.  This often means a long list, a road map, GPS, snacks and drinks (you have to eat), and of course appropriate clothing. 

When my kids were young and we went on vacation it seemed like there was always some little thing that I would forget like a camera, or a check book, sun screen, swimming suite (Mine once) , Sun glasses, alarm clock or any number of camping supplies.  Once we left some medications and not too long ago I went on vacation without enough pills in the prescription.    Oh and lets not talk about the things that we have lost on a vacation!  (Rental car keys......cell phone....) That might come up in a future blog!

Now in most cases I was able to either live without what I forgot or buy a replacement but there are things that we really can't replace and it's imperative that we bring them along.

Our text for this week speaks of those things that we cannot leave behind!

Moses and the Children of Israel were awaiting entry into the promised land.   The Book of Deuteronomy is all about what the Lord instructs them to bring with them into the land and how they are to live in this new land.

First and foremost they had to bring God with them and they had to fix their love and attention on God above all things.  Our passage for today contains what is known as the Jewish Schema.   It was repeated regularly by every good Jewish person down through the ages.   The first sentence of the Schema says,  "Here O Israel: The Lord our god, the Lord is one."   The first paragraph of the Schema deals with the acceptance of Divine rule. This section consists of an affirmation of belief in God's unity and in His sovereignty over the world, the unconditional love of God, and a commitment to the study of His teachings.

God knew that there would always be a temptation for the people to follow after other gods and after ungodly ways of living.    If you were to look at the history of Israel throughout the Bible this tension is evident every step of the way... many times with disastrous consequences.

This week lets look at the journey;  both Israel's journey and our own.  In addition.   Let's remember that in the journey of life it's not good enough that we make it.   Remember we have a responsibility to teach our children and help them to have the best chance of success which comes from writing the Word of God deep in our hearts.

So let's get our lists out and start packing for the future.    (Now where is my Son glasses?...... and my Bible!)

Thought to ponder:  How am I passing on my faith to my children?  When is the last time I've talked with my kids about what I believe?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Putting first things first Ex. 20:2-6

"You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your god, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."  Exodus 20:2-6

So what do you think?    What does it mean to put God first?   As Christians we all know that we should put God first but how do you do it?   As parents we know what it means to put our children first.  Unfortunately, most men know what it means to put their jobs and ambitions first.  And it's easy to see that many people put their toys and pleasures first..... but how do we put God first?

You can often tell what is first in your life by looking at what you do with your time and your money.  Chances are that the things that are most important to you also take up the most of your thoughts and attention.   This only makes sense because what is first in our heart is quiet often what's first in our minds and if we aren't careful those things can become our gods.

So this brings us back to the question.   How can we put God first?   Do we just try our best to think about God more, give to God's church more, and do more things for God?  Do we put God first by reading the Bible?   Do we put God first by trying our best to live our lives in moderation being sure not to lift any of our passions to a place that they don't belong?

All those can be great things but we have to be careful because putting God first is not the same as marking off a list of to do's.   Putting God first is synonymous with loving God first.  We all know that love is all about a relationship and while having a relationship involves time and money, God isn't interested only in our sacrifice.    God's interested in our heart first.  When our heart is in it God is more than pleased with our sacrifices.   However, with that said I think God is also pleased when we get up early in the morning to pray even though our body keeps on telling us we want to go back to sleep!

Putting God first isn't simply about following a set of rules or scheduling a set amount of time each day.   God knows our heart and when we ask, God will give us the capacity to love Him first!

 Personally I find that my love for God grows the more I serve others.  In addition I believe our love grows as we learn to praise and worship God from the depths of our heart!   I’m sure I will blog about that someday soon.

I have found that we fall in love with those things that we put the most effort into.    So put what you have into your relationship with God. Pray and read your Bible and follow some good blogs and Bible study material!  And by all means hang around those people who love God!!
In the end God will help you to put Him first.   We learn this as we walk through the Word together.

So what do you think.  How can we learn to put God first?   Pray about it and share your comments!  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Can't a little fear be a good thing? Ex. 20:18-21

Now I know that I said that God didn't create the commandments so we would hear his judgment but I can just hear some of you saying, or at least I hear myself saying,  "But isn't a little fear a good thing?"

You'll notice that I didn't end the Scripture text at verse 17 when the commandments ended.  I included the response of the people in verses 18-21.  They were afraid because of the thunder and the lightning and the sound of the trumpets.  They were trembling!  They cried out to Moses.... "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die."  Exodus 20:19 NKJ

As I was typing I couldn't help but to think about the 10 Commandments movie where Charlton Heston stood on the rock with his arms outstretched with lightning in the background and the tablets in his hands.   It was a scary and powerful scene.  Yes I can understand their fear and I can understand our fear of God especially when we see major lightning storms or tornado's.   But is fear a good thing or a bad thing?

There is a saying that goes something like this.   "If you fear God you will fear no man."  I think I saw it on a church sign so if it was first said by a famous person let me know so I can quickly quote them.   I'm new at this blogging thing and don't want to get into trouble.

But I believe the saying is true that if we have a healthy degree of fear of the Lord it will help us to keep from sinning. 

When it comes to the commandments itself, I think it is good for us to seriously consider the consequences for our actions especially if we are steeling, lying, and hurting others.  Perhaps the greatest sin of our time that people tend to have no shame about is the have no other gods before God.   I believe that there are consequences hear on earth when we act in disobedience to God's laws and to man's law.   As Christians we understand that when we break a law it doesn't mean that we lose our salvation. (oops.... doctrine alert! I know some of you might differ with me of that or at least have some qualifiers)   However we do put wedges between us and with others.   So we should be fearful of such things.  Yes healthy fear is a good thing that can lead us to righteousness and holy living which will only serve to build up relationships and not tare them down.

But if you are feeling guilty or perhaps a little disciplined by the Lord,  remember we don't need to be afraid for the Lord disciplines the one's he loves.    Yes the law is a teacher and most of the time we learn best when we are afraid to fall asleep in class.

Thought to ponder:   If you're fearful because you look at the mess you've made of your life.  If your life looks like a mixed up finger painting.  Remember God sent Jesus not to condemn the world but to save the world through his son.  John 3: 17   What wonderful lessons we learn as we walk through the Word with our lord.

Monday, June 3, 2013

God's wonderful Masterpiece!

Exodus 20:1-21     The Ten Commandments

So what was God thinking?!   Did God actually think that we would be able to live by the commandments?!   Think about it.   God created us.  God watched us since Adam and Eve in the garden.   We were never able to do the right things for very long.  So why create a list of such lofty laws?
 If God wanted to make us feel the guilt and convict us of sin then  the Ten commandments would surely do it!  But this week I don’t want to look at the law as a list of impossible expectations.   I could easily blog about how our world breaks law after law after law.   It could be depressing.   No today I want us to look upon the 10 commandments like a beautiful masterpiece.   It's a work of Art!  A picture of a perfect life.  A portrait of the single focused and truly blessed life and it’s only appropriate that these should be proudly displayed, thoughtfully admired and prayerfully followed.

Some people think about God as a great judge and the Ten Commandments as the rules of life.   Some fear that judge and when they read our text for this week they feel beaten down and defeated.  But I don’t believe the Law was ever meant to do that.    It was meant to be a beautiful image of how to walk with God!   Yes it is a goal to strive after,  but what God wants most is not our sacrificial efforts to obey each law out of fear of punishment.     God wants our love and as we obey we display that love.   In addition as we obey we avoid the traps of sin which come to destroy us.   Think about it… isn’t it wonderful that God has given us a picture to follow?  Will we perfectly obey the laws?  We all know the answer to that question.    Remember God paints masterpieces.  We tend to finger paint and mix up all the colors.

So today think about the law as a beautiful portrait of a life well lived.   Remember we are not saved by obedience to the law.  If that were the case no one would find salvation.   We are saved by Grace.  Ephesians 2:8 and 9 reminds us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." NIV 
Things to Ponder:   I invite you to admire the commandment as you would a great portrait and ask God to paint strokes in your life which cover your imperfections and recreate you into His masterpiece by the power and love of the Spirit.