Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12
Many of us come to a startling conclusion about our parents. In our teens, we believe they are one card short of a full deck, but as we age and mature, we realize they are wonderful people – yes, flawed, but wonderful and wise.
Families are the glue of any society, and our relationships with our parents are important from birth until death. There’s never a time where we cease to be our parents’ child, and the calling of God to honor them never ends.
Speaking words of affirmation to and about our parents has dramatically positive effects. God promises that our obedience in this area results in long life. This promise isn’t repeated for any other of the ten commandments, so that should get our attention!
How does that work? Learning to treat our parents with respect and honor takes the pressure off one of our most important relationships. When stress goes down, life expectancy goes up
Reflection: Today as we honor our mothers, remember that your relationship with her is one of, if not, the most sacred of all. If you are a mother, you already know how special and cherished that bond with your children is.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work. Exodus 20:8-10
Under the New Testament and covenant in Christ, we do not have to specifically stop working on Saturday. However, Hebrews 4 tells Christians that the principle of a Sabbath rest remains and still applies for our benefit. God didn’t give us the Sabbath principle to make us weird. He created it because He made us with a need for rest. We function best when we take time off each week to rest our minds and bodies, to recalibrate our priorities, and refocus on God.
Many people don’t know how to rest. We go full throttle 24/7 to accomplish as much as possible and end up making ourselves miserable physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. In fact, being in a hurry can generate tremendous amounts of anger and anxiety. The result is an unmanaged, unbalanced lifestyle.
Finally, the Sabbath principle isn’t just a time allotted off for us to do nothing. It should be filled with things that refresh us: worshipping God, investing quality time in our family, reading the bible, and even just relaxing and getting our thoughts off of the cares of the world.
Reflection: What are some specific things you already do and can begin to do to make a Sabbath rest spiritual principle more meaningful?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7
Too many people live as though God does not matter, and our language reflects this attitude. Sometimes individuals speak of God in ways that communicate they don’t respect Him. Certainly, the third commandment addresses this issue of using God’s name in profanity, but it’s much more than that.
One of the most common exclamations in popular culture is, “Oh, my God!” Scores of contests on game shows say these words every day, and millions more say them in conversations with friends. It is used in society flippantly and without thinking about His honor!
Another vain, empty, and inappropriate use of God’s name is as a hypocritical Christian. Whether we like it or not, and admit it or not, when we confess and profess our faith in Jesus, we are labelled and identified as Christians. This carries the highest of responsibilities and standards. When we live in duplicity, without even speaking Christ’s name, we are still misrepresenting Him and taking upon ourselves His name in vain. As Paul admonishes in Colossians 3:17, whether in word or deed, we must “do all in the name of the Lord.”
Reflection: What are some specific ways you can respect God’s name more?
God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:1-3
God has used many different ways throughout history to communicate with us. At different times He has spoken to people through voices, dreams, calamities, a cataclysmic flood, our consciences, the Written Word, a flaming bush that didn’t burn, and becoming one of us for a brief time of 33 years.
One of the most dramatic moments of God’s desire to connect with us was when He carved stone tablets and gave them to Moses. Also known as the Ten Commandments, on these tablets God gave clear, powerful directions for how to relate to Him and each other. As a preamble to the first command, God reminds Israel of their recent history. God had just freed them from slavery in Egypt, miraculously rescuing them from the Egyptian army, followed by providing food and water in the wilderness. With that in mind, the first commandment clearly states, ‘Keep God at the top.’
Perhaps it’s easy for us to disregard any thoughts of having any problems with idolatry in our lives today. Yet, all around us, people put money, pleasure, and power in the center of their existence. If we’re honest, these matters threaten to crowd God out of the center of our lives too. We may not bow before a golden calf, but our minds can easily be preoccupied with worldly things. Keeping God in the center is a decision and a process.
Reflection: What are some matters that threaten to crowd God out of the center of your life?
He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 1 Corinthians 1:21-22
A survey of church attenders shows that 50% aren’t certain that they’ll go to heaven when they die. They live with both hope and fear, wondering if they’ve done enough, if God is good enough, and if all they’ve heard about God is really true.
Christians don’t have to live with fear and doubt. Look at the words above (1 Corinthians 1:21-22) Paul uses to describe the certainty of our relationship with Christ. He says that God “establishes” us in His grace and forgiveness like an unshakable building on a strong foundation.
He also explained that God sealed us. In the Roman world, the authority of Rome was unquestioned. When a Roman governor put his seal on something, it signified ownership and security. Nothing could break the Roman seal, and Paul infers that nothing can break God’s mark of ownership and security in our lives.
Finally, we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. The constant anointing and presence now assures us that we will never be separated from God. God would not live in us and favor us now, only to abandon us later!
Reflection: Can people be sure of their eternal destiny? According to the apostle Paul, the answer is a resounding yes!
I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Psalm 73:22-24
In this psalm of worship Asaph is angry because he feels he’s received a bum deal. While he is following God and struggling with life, evil people are flourishing. It wasn’t fair! He lashed out at God and also sulked in self-pity. He doesn’t share the details of what he speaks to God, but he does reveal in the summary describing the exchange that he was a “beast.”
In this moment Asaph is at his worst, yet we find God at His “best.” Asaph is ranting; God is patient and tender. In fact, He keeps holding his hand like a parent being firm yet understanding and gentle with their child during a tantrum.
When we are at our worst, we might imagine that God is resentful or that He turns His back on us in disgust. We might have experienced those responses from parents, siblings, spouses, or others, but God is different. He is continually present, holding our hand and guiding us with His counsel and wisdom.
Reflection: Even when we are beasts, He stays near!
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9
Everyone has been and will be discouraged. It is a real and evident part of living that touches the core of who we are, how we feel, and what we believe. We experience highs and lows. We enjoy great seasons that are abundantly positive, and we endure disappointing times that feel immensely negative. The issue is not if, but when.
Discouragement is a test. How will we respond? Are we going to let our thoughts and emotions paralyze us from continuing to live with faith and do good? What we do in these critical moments is largely determined by our beliefs about God regarding what we sow. Paul encourages Christians to not grow weary, and not give up, because in due season we will reap the harvest of blessings.
Every day we will not see the results. Since it isn’t always harvest time, we have to trust the spiritual law of sowing and reaping. This will prevent Satan’s efforts every time! Discouragement is Satan’s way of killing our calling so slowly we won’t realize we’re dying. If you currently find yourself in a discouraged season of life, don’t permit Satan’s schemes to erode your faith, calling, purpose, and ultimate relationship with Christ!
Reflection: No matter the earthly circumstance and discouragement, do not give up!
The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away to be spared from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. – Isaiah 57:1-2
We grieve at funerals because we already miss the person we love, and rightly so. The person’s death may bring a sense of relief if he or she suffered before passing on, but escape from physical pain is only part of the relief believers experience when they walk through life’s portals into the eternal presence of Christ. They also escape the presence of evil.
Fish probably aren’t aware they’re wet, and we probably aren’t aware of the impact of evil on our lives because we’ve never been completely separated from it. As believers, we’ve said no to sin a million times, and we’ve tasted the delights of knowing God, but in this life, the smell of sin has always remained.
At the moment our spirits depart our bodies, an amazing thing happens. All evidences of evil – bitterness, greed, jealousy, hatred, sickness, aging, and so forth – vanish as we enter God’s presence! There, we “enter into peace,” perfect peace that we’ve never known before, with rest and with activity that fulfills us like nothing we’ve ever enjoyed before.
Understanding that this delight awaits us gives us perspective and patience today.
Reflection: How does this new thought give you additional peace and hope?
Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” – John 8:6-7
The crowd wanted Jesus to condemn the woman caught in adultery. They had stones in hand ready to execute the death sentence. As they await a response from Jesus, he stoops and writes. What was he doing?
They were both confused and outraged. Nudges and whispers progressed through the crowd as Jesus quietly and patiently writes. (Some scholars think and suggest he is writing their sins, but the text does not inform us as readers.) Finally, He speaks. It’s a statement. He grants permission – with one qualifier. The punishment must be led by those without sin.
We usually want people to receive consequences for whatever they have done to us. We hold stones of condemnation and stones of gossip in our hands. Sometimes, though, Jesus writes in the dirt of our souls. “Do you remember when you were selfish?” “Do you remember your latest sin?”
When we take a second look at ourselves, instead of others, we realize we’re also guilty. It is time to put our rocks down and walk away.
Reflection: Some find fault like there is a reward for doing so.
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’. – Luke 7:34
Jesus never forgot the reason He came. After a few years of ministry, He could have closed ranks, gathered His followers, and lived a comfortable life as a respectable rabbi. Yet He kept taking risks reaching out to sinners! And He took a lot of flak for it!
The religious establishment ridiculed Jesus because He spent so much time with people with labels and stigmas: “unclean” people, sick people, and people with questionable reputations. They were certain that associating with them couldn’t possibly be God’s will. If those people straightened out their lives and did all the right things, then they would be acceptable.
How do addicts, adulterers, agnostics, and atheists feel when they encounter Christians? How do they feel when they stand next to us in line at the grocery store, coffee shop, or restaurant? Do they sense us looking down our noses at them? Even those furthest from God didn’t sense judgment from Jesus. No, this doesn’t mean Jesus lowered His standard and condoned unholy actions, attitudes, and thoughts. He didn’t lower His standards of righteousness, but raised man’s understanding of love!
Jesus loves and challenges sinners to enter redemptive living in God’s kingdom! Who are the “tax collectors and sinners” in your world? Who are the outcasts at work, or even in your family? Jesus proved to be a friend to such people, and you can too.
Reflection: Like Jesus, will we also embrace being labeled “a friend of sinners?”