Archive for December, 2016

Deuteronomy 5:20

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

“Quid es veritas?” is the question that Pontius Pilate asks of Jesus during their private interview during Jesus’ trial. What is truth? Pontius Pilate founds himself in the middle of a political powder keg. He knew the truth to be that Jesus was guilty of no crime against the Roman Empire. Yet, at the same time, he risks all out rebellion incited by the Jewish religious leaders if he does not condemn Jesus. Truth, objective truth, became a casualty that day in Jerusalem some 1,986 years ago (as most biblical scholars believe that Jesus died around 30 AD). Truth became fluid that day. Truth became whatever was the most political advantageous or least damaging. Although it was part of God’s redemptive plan and he was not caught unaware by any of the actions of the people involved, but Jesus’ earthly conviction and sentence of death by scourge and crucifixion is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in human history. The truth was cast aside for what was politically expedient.

 

The Jewish religious establishment wanted Jesus out of the way for several reasons. Jesus was a threat to the status quo. He had directly called them out on their misguided leadership of the people where their rules and regulations had so far twisted Scripture that you could not recognize it anymore. He was causing the common man to question Jewish leadership integrity. Jesus was saying that their time was done and that a new era had begun where He was the central figure and not them. With Jesus’ large following among the people, he was also a threat to the détente that existed between the Jewish religious elite and the Roman overlords. The Romans would let Israel rule its own internal affairs as long as commerce, taxes, and the peace was uninterrupted. They feared a Roman crackdown if Jesus became a larger and larger political force. Jesus’ rhetoric was that of the truth of God and it was getting everybody stirred up either for or against Jesus. For the Jewish establishment, Jesus was a problem of growing proportions on many levels. It did not matter that He was speaking the objective truth of God. He was a threat to the commerce of the Jewish temple system. He was a threat to the political power that they had carved out for themselves with the Romans. He was a threat to centuries of tradition that had developed around the Jewish faith of which they were the arbiters of what was right and wrong. He was a threat to the social order of Israel of which they were the top dogs. In this way, to them, Jesus was a rabble-rousing revolutionary that threatened to change their whole world. In this sense, the truth did not matter. Truth became a political casualty to them.

 

To Pontius Pilate, losing control of Jerusalem and of Judea was something he did not want. He did not want to have to call to Rome for more troops for a backwater district of the empire. The Jewish leaders deftly backed him into a corner by turning Jesus’ crime into one against the state of Rome by declaring that Jesus had said He was the king of the Jews. Now, it became an issue of whether Pilate was loyal to Caesar. Pilate saw his governorship in Judea as either his way up the food chain in the Roman hierarchy or his way to political oblivion. If he did well in the frustrating province of Judea, he could step up to more wealthy and more peaceful districts. If he allowed Judea to descend into anarchy requiring a large deployment of troops and much bloodshed to re-establish Roman control, he would be finished as district governor and would be relegated to an even lower post, imprisonment, or death. This was a critical moment for Pontius Pilate. He had to do whatever was necessary to maintain the status quo, the peace, the flow of Roman taxes, and the peace. At this moment, the truth did not matter. The truth was a casualty.

 

What is truth? Pontius Pilate did not know how profound his simple statement was those 2,000 years ago. When you analyze Jesus’ trial and crucifixion from a purely historio-political standpoint, it does not sound too different from the world in which we live today. Recently, I read some statistics recently that are alarming. In his sermon, “The Face of Deception” (see http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-faces-of-deception-the-ninth-commandment-timothy-peck-sermon-on-commandments-testimony-32711), Pastor Tim Peck states,

 

“The 1992 book The Day America Told the Truth found that 91% of us lie routinely about things we consider trivial. 86% of children regularly lie to their parents. 65% of married people lie to their spouses regularly. We lie about our weight, our income, our grade point average, our work experience, our age, even how many fish we caught during our last vacation. We hate it when people are dishonest to us, but most of us can’t resist being dishonest to other people.”

 

It was the trial of Jesus Christ and how things have not changed and may have actually gotten even worse today is what I thought about when I read today’s passage/verse, Deuteronomy 5:20, which reads as follows:

 

20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

 

We live now in a day and age where there seems to be no objective truth. Your truth and your reality may be different from mine. What works for you, what is truth for you is OK as long as it does not infringe upon what I perceive as the truth. We condemn our politicians for being politically expedient but they are simply a product of the culture in which we live. Truth is shapable. Truth is a sound bite. Truth is a video recorded on a cell phone. Truth is what I declare it to be. Truth is who gets to the media outlet first. Truth is what serves my or my group’s political ends. Truth is what serves the interest of protected groups. It does not matter the objective truth of a situation. What matters is how the situation plays into the generalized narrative of the culture. For example, shout racism and truth can be damned. Play the race card and regardless of the actual truth of a situation, those who are the targets of the racism claim are vilified and crucified by the press and those who are shouting the loudest.

 

Another example is that Christians are condemned for believing that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. We live in a world where all roads lead to heaven. All religions can be right and true at the same time. They are all after the same thing, right? All of us getting to heaven, right? It does not matter what avenue you choose. You do not even have to choose an avenue also. How can all these things be true at the same time. There can only be one truth. Jesus cannot be just a prophet to some and the Son of the Living God, God in the flesh, the one and only way to the Father all at the same time. Either Jesus, as CS Lewis said, is liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. There is no middle ground. We cannot be at one with the universe by achieving a higher level of consciousness as Hinduism and Buddhism would claim and be basically sinful by nature and in need of an intervening Savior as Christianity claims. We cannot achieve heaven through good works as Islam claims and be saved by grace only as Christianity claims. We cannot be good enough and what works for you may not work for me as humanism claims and be wholly condemned before God without Jesus at the same time. We cannot believe that God does not exist and have the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ at the same time.

 

Saying that the truth is in the eye of the beholder does not make universal truth any less universal. I am betting my eternity on the fact that there is one truth and it is found through Jesus Christ. If we believe that there are universal truths and those truths are expounded in God’s Word, then, we are measured by it and not what is politically expedient. The truth is the truth and it will always be true regardless of whether I want the truth to be what I want it to be. The truth has existence outside of my perception. The truth comes from God and is independent of what I think. Therefore, I believe God to be the arbiter of truth and not me, and not the media, and not the culture, and not who is shouting the loudest. I believe that God’s Word gives us objective truth standards by which He measures us. And we have been found wanting. It is only through the saving grace of Jesus Christ that we are not condemned by the objective truth of God, by His absolute and unchanging moral standards, by His holiness and purity compared to our lying rags of existence that we are in the absence of Jesus Christ.

 

So how do we apply these high-minded ideals to our daily lives? Yes, we are sinners and we have the propensity to twist the truth to our advantage. Yes, we are liars, thieves, and cheats by nature. The takeaway to me is that truth is independent of me and it comes from God. I must live my life as if I do not fashion the truth myself. I must live as though the truth is that I will be on the wrong side of truth at times. I must accept the consequences of violating God’s truth and not try to minimize its impact on me. I must live to guard the truth even when the truth is not popular. God is truth and we must honor God with living our lives in truth and spirit. When we believe that truth is from God and not from our perception, it makes God’s Word the guiding force in our lives in whole and not just in the parts that we like. When we believe that the truth is independent of us and that it is from God, we strive for truthfulness when it comes to our dealings with others. When we believe that truth is concrete, absolute, and independent and that God’s Word is His truth, then, we must believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. If that is then true, then, we should be moved to tears and to action to a world that believes that all roads lead to heaven and any belief system will get you there. If there is absolute truth and that it comes from God and Jesus said that the only way to the Father is through Him, then, we have urgent work to do.

 

Quid es veritas? What is truth? Truth is from God and God says that we are sinners by nature and that we fail when it comes to our relationship with Him and with others. The truth is that we are condemned by the truth. The truth is that we need Jesus Christ as the living expression of God’s truth. The truth is that we need to be covered in the truth and the mercy of Jesus Christ. The truth is that is truth is what our existence is all about!

 

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 5:19

You Shall Not Steal

According to statistics that are available from various sources around the internet, stealing is simply a part of American culture now. For example, an estimated 27 million people shoplift each year (that one out of every 11 Americans). Approximately $13 Billion worth of goods are stolen from retail stores in America each year. If you do the math, that $35.6 Million worth each day of the year. Even more surprising is that employee theft in America amounts to about $50 Billion each year in lost cash, products, wages and false injury claims. Approximately 1/3 of all business failures are caused by employee theft. Approximately 7% of the total expenses of an average American company is loss writeoffs due to employee theft. One in thirty retail employees in America are arrested at some point for theft. The average time employee theft is perpetrated before it is detected is two years. Thirty-seven percent of all employee theft/fraud is perpetrated by employees in manager level positions. Only 46% of theft and fraud is detected through internal controls and internal/external audits. A full 26% of all employee thefts/frauds are accidently discovered by other employees.

 

We live in a culture where theft is commonplace. Police rarely recover stolen property because theft is such a rampant problem that they simply cannot investigate every theft that occurs. Theft is so commonplace that we often do not report it when things are stolen from us. Theft is so commonplace that we would rather just file a claim on our insurance than ride the police on a daily basis to find our stolen property. We had a riding lawn mower stolen about a year and half ago and I have been lucky over the years to be able to say that this was the first time that I had a significant piece of property stolen from me.

 

It was one of those situations where you walk out into your garage and you don’t realize it at first but something just seems not right. So, you just kind of stand there looking around the garage trying to figure out what’s wrong. Then, it clicks in your brain. There’s something missing here that should be here. Then, you realize that it is your riding lawn mower. It is supposed to be right there but now it’s not. You go in the house and you know your wife would never be on that machine but you ask her anyway if she moved it. She laughs, says no, and asks why incredulously. Then, it sinks in. It’s been stolen right out from under your nose, probably while you were just feet away in your living room watching TV the night before. Now, it makes sense when you had to leave the house early the previous Sunday why the garage door was a quarter of the way open. You found that odd at the time. Usually, the garage door is a yes/no situation. It is either all the way open or it is shut. Even if you break the sensor beam that prevents it from shutting if somebody walks through the beam as it is shutting, the garage door will stop and retreat to the full open position. It has never been a quarter of the way open. It was weird but it really didn’t register that something was amiss. I just hit the clicker in my truck and closed it the rest of the way. It was not until the following Saturday when I was in the garage that I realized what had happened. The peculiarity of the garage door made sense now. Then, I got more and more pissed as I thought about it. We paid for that lawn mower with my hard earned money made at doing a honest day’s work for and honest day’s pay. Someone, with nothing better to do than suck off the tit of my hard work, comes along and just thinks it’s OK to steal my property. Burns me up to think about it now!

 

Identity theft is another thing where people with nothing better to do that get my goat too. These people, if they put all the effort that they put into stealing identity data would be so valuable to our economy. But no! They would rather suck off us who work for a living. Identity theft costs our economy $24.7 Billion annually. I bet each one of us reading this blog right now has had one or more of their credit cards’ card number compromised in the last 3 years. It is the fastest growing of the forms of theft in America.

How depressing is it to rattle off all these annual statistics on theft just in our country alone. Over $100 Billion in retail theft, employee theft/fraud, and identity theft alone each year. Every day theft is around us. We take it for granted now. It was these statistics that I thought of when I read today’s passage/verse, Deuteronomy 5:19 which reads as follows:

 

19 “You shall not steal.

 

How do we reconcile living in a world like this where billions and billions of dollars of other people’s property are stolen every year? How do we observe the commandment but yet live in a world where stealing is almost a given part of life? What can we take away from this commandment that we can apply to our daily lives?

 

I think first it is a command to live a life above reproach. When you have opportunities to steal, even when no one would be the wiser, that we honor God by not taking advantage of those situations. Those staples that belong to the company that are sitting on your desk at home need to be returned. Those post-it notes too. When there is a Coca-Cola sitting in the fridge in the breakroom for two weeks solid and nobody has claimed it, we leave it there. When we have opportunities to pad our expense report without anyone questioning it, we report what we actually spent. If you have a per meal limit on your expenses at work and one meal is $5.50 over the limit for that meal but the next meal you are $10.00 under the meal limit, you report the extra $5.50 as a personal expense even though at the next meal you were under the limit. We treat our jobs as if it were our own company. We treat our jobs as if we are working for God (because we are).

 

In our personal lives, when we are given too much change by a cashier, we go back and inform her or him that they gave us too much change. When a cashier does not ring up all our goods brought to the check out, we let her or him know that you missed this item. When we fill out our taxes, we report things as they actually happened rather than stretching the truth to the point that it loses its elasticity even if it costs us more in taxes or less of a refund. When we have a chance to steal a piece of gum, we don’t. May we present ourselves as people who are honest and transparent. May we bear good witness to the name of Jesus Christ.

 

That’s the ultimate takeaway from today’s commandment is that we are a reflection of Jesus Christ when we become His child. Sure, we are sinful people and we make mistakes. If we have inadvertently stolen, we fess up to it and make it right. At the same token, we must live our lives with the intention of being above board and beyond reproach in the way we conduct ourselves. We make sincere efforts to NOT have our character called into question. We want to hold Jesus’ banner high. We want to be different from the statistics. We want the world to say, why would you bring me back the $10 extra in change that I gave you by mistake. We want that to be a start of a conversation about how Jesus has made us different. Just like our kids are reflection of who we are as parents, we are a reflection of Jesus Christ when we are saved by His grace. What kind of Jesus do you want to portray to the world at large? What kind of Jesus are you actually portraying to the world? Will it bring honor to His name?

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 5:17

You Must Not Murder

Have you ever wished that someone was dead? Maybe, your life would be better off if they were not alive. Maybe, you would never physically do the deed of killing that person but you just wished that they no longer existed and would welcome news that they had met their end. Maybe, you have never felt that way. Maybe, you have. If you have been lucky enough to never have felt that way, you probably need to read no further. Maybe, you are a better person than most.

 

There are those people in life that seem hellbent on making our lives miserable. I am sure that if you have lived 54 years as I have, then, there is probably one person that comes immediately to mind that fits the bill. I am generally a mild-mannered person who avoids conflict whenever possible. Often, I avoid conflict even when I know I am right. Often, I avoid conflict just to keep the peace. I disdain conflict. Part of it has to do with the fact that I am more of a deep thinker. I ponder things and mull them over in my mind and such. Whereas, in the midst of conflict, you must be a quick thinker. You must get your ideas together and express them in a cogent way quickly or you will lose the fight that you are fighting. Another part is that I always think that there is merit to another person’s opinion so standing firm in my own opinion is not an absolute. If you have that attitude, you often avoid getting into those shouting matches of strict yes-no, you’re wrong/I’m right positions. Another is simply a lack of self-confidence in myself that my opinion is valid, that I have a right to feel the way that I do. Being a people pleaser such as myself, you tend to not think that you have some innate right to your own feelings and opinions.

 

Having said all that, I will have to admit that during my divorce from my first wife that I had those feelings of wishing she were dead. That divorce was the divorce from hell. During the first year after our separation, she would harass me by phone. She would harass me in person. She would harass the girl that I was seeing (that would become my second wife). She lost complete control of her senses to the point that she used our children to claim that I had molested my daughter. This was her defense at court when I brought her up on contempt charges for not allowing me to see my children. It was her aim to destroy me. If should could no longer have me, she did not want anyone else to have me either. The pressure was relentless. It was unending. It was part of her daily routine to see what she could do to me today. It was during this time that I admit to being so angry at her that I wished she no longer existed. There were times during our face to face confrontations that I felt so angry that I could have made that happen. However, mostly, it was just thoughts of how much easier my life would be if she were not around. Execution of any of these feelings was prevented by basic morality and my feeling deep down that somehow I deserved all the punishment I was getting for having ended the marriage.

 

Have you ever felt that way about another person? It was those feelings that I had toward my first wife that came to mind when I read through this passage/verse today. There is only one person that I have ever came close to remotely wishing “no longer existing” on and she was my one. Although those feelings were short-lived and eventually I began to feel sorry for my first wife for the way that she let our divorce consume her life in one way or another the rest of her life, I still felt that anger and had those thoughts in 1993-1994 that were sinful. Let’s read what the Bible says at Deuteronomy 5:17:

 

17 “You shall not murder.

 

Short and sweet. One of the shortest verses in the Bible but one of the most powerful in all of the Bible. Violation of this commandment has marred human existence from the beginning. “But I don’t murder people!” you may say. Good. That fulfills the letter of the law. Jesus, however, explained that even hateful anger breaks the spirit of the commandment (Matthew 5:21-22). Have you ever been so angry with someone whom you believed had mistreated you that, for a moment or several moments, you wished that person no longer existed? Jesus tells us that we have violated this commandment when we harbor deep seated anger in our hearts that we refuse to let go of. Even if we have not committed the crime that violates the letter of the law, we are morally guilty before God for having committed murder in our hearts and must seek forgiveness from God and repent of our sinfully harbored thoughts. We must commit ourselves to releasing these thoughts to the Lord. We must commit ourselves to praying for those who persecute us. We must allow the Lord to handle their sin and not us.

 

Who is your one? Who is that person that just gets your goat? Who is that person that gets under your skin? Who is it or who was it? Maybe there is someone in your past that is no longer an active part of your life that you still harbor hatred toward? Who is it? Take them and lay them at the cross. It is time to forgive and hand them over to the Lord.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 5:16

Honor Your Father and Mother

She sometimes gets up at 4am so that she can leave Lyman in enough time to pick up her mother at her mother’s assisted living facility in Gastonia and take her to an 8am doctor’s appointment. She sometimes has to get up in the middle of the night and go to Gastonia when her mother is sent to the emergency room. This is the life of my wife at times. Her dad is in a skilled care nursing home also, though he requires less “management” than her mom. Her parents are 91 (her dad) and 84 (her mom) years old, respectively. They live about an hour and fifteen minutes away from us in the Charlotte, NC area. It is not always easy to be the go-to child when it comes to her parent’s care but that is the way of things when you are the only daughter among four siblings.

 

The roles have been reversed almost as you watch my wife with her parents. Sometimes, she must be forceful with them by saying this is the way things are going to be. Sometimes, she has to scold them when they are acting childishly. It is no glamorous thing to have aging parents. There will be no news conferences for my wife lauding her for the care and attention that she gives her parents. There will be no medals or awards. When we of the baby boomer generation, the me generation, have aging parents, it tests our resolve to not be selfish and frustrated at the constant care that our parents will need as they grow older. When their health starts to fail and they require day to day maintenance, how are you and going to react. Are you going to be ready for the daily grind and constant care that is needed for an aging parent? Are you going to abdicate that full responsibility to a nursing home and forget about your parents and go visit them once or twice a month for an hour or are you going to dive in and do the dirty work on constantly checking on their care, taking them to doctor’s appointments, sitting with them, talking to them, being there for them?

 

We honor our parents in their old age by giving them the same attention and constant care that they gave us while they were raising us to adulthood. Regardless of what we thought of our parents’ parenting skills growing up, regardless of how we rebelled against it after we left home, there will come a day when we have a choice to shuck our responsibility to be actively involved in the care of our aging parents or embrace it as a way to honor our parents for what they have done for us. There were scary dreams that they comforted. There thousands of diapers they changed for us. There were the broken hearts massaged when that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend dumped us. There were those times when we got stranded by our friends and they came and got us. There were those times that we got in trouble that they simply picked us up and took us home (discussions and restrictions to be dealt down later). There were all those inconvenient ball games or school events that they came to. There were tough times and the good times. They were there and they were present. There were graduations where they beamed with pride. There were weddings where they cried at the passing of time. There were births of grandchildren where their spirits soared.

 

My wife often talks about the dysfunction of her family growing up living in a home where dad was a poor man’s doctor. They were foreigners living in the South of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who did their best to fit into the culture they adopted. They tried to live the lifestyle of a wealthy doctor but whose practice served the lowly and downtrodden of the area. It was all a strain and so hard on a family trying to fit into Southern culture of the times. The growing up years were tough. But there were good memories of boating trips on the lake, vacations in New Orleans, vacations in her mom’s home country of Venezuela. But as soon as she was old enough she married and got out of the house. There were many years of struggling with the way she was raised. She had a difficult relationship with her mother for many of my wife’s adult years. She loved her mom but there was always the mother-daughter thing between them. It was not until the last 8 or 9 years that my wife simply let go and saw that her mom was not perfect and that she never was going to be. Now, my wife simply loves her mom because she is her mom not because she is trying to make her mom measure up to some ideal. She cares for her mom. She cries over what is happening to her mom’s health. She does all that needs to be done for her mom without expectation of a thank you. That is what true love is. That’s what parents do for their children growing up and that is what we should be doing for our parents as the age.

 

It was this idea of watching my wife take care of her mom and dad from somewhat of a long-distance and how that is honoring to her parents that I thought of this morning when I read the passage/verse for today Deuteronomy 5:16 which says:

 

16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

 

I think that what I see with the way my wife honors her parents as they age is what we all have to come to with our parents. Sure, there will be frustrations with our parents but we just have to love them. We love them as the imperfect creatures of God that they are. We give them grace as we have been given grace. We realize that they did they best that they could with the talents that God gave them. Because they are imperfect and sinful creatures just like us, they made and make mistakes with us. They are not perfect. We often give others grace that we will not give our parents. They deserve grace too. Certainly, there are some of us who came from abusive homes or homes where our parents were not godly people and sometimes, in those cases, we have a lot to forgive. And I know that such forgiveness is hard to come by. However, we have been forgiven much as sinners before God through Jesus Christ. We sometimes just have to give that anger at abusive parents over to God. We forgive. We may not give that type of parent complete access to our lives but we can forgive. We must forgive as we have been forgiven.

 

For those of us lucky enough to have lived in homes where our parents were not abusive or sinister to us, we have to forgive imperfections as well. We simply must realize that our parents are just as human and flawed as we are and just love them for having loving us and cared for us. When we realize that they are imperfect and just love them anyway, what freedom there is in that. In that way, we can care for them in love as they grow old. Taking care of them becomes our way of honoring them. We just love them. It no longer becomes an imposition, it becomes our way of honoring their existence. It becomes our way of saying thank you for having wiped our butts for more times than we can count. It becomes our way of demonstrating grace, the grace that we have been given through Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Keep the Sabbath and Make It Holy

Yesterday was a unique Sunday in Christmas Day fell on a Sunday. One would think that it would happen every 7 years but that is not the case. With Christmas being a fixed date and with leap years and all, it takes a mathematician or a very bored person on Christmas break to figure it out. There is a twenty-eight year cycle that is required to establish the pattern. Within that cycle, Christmas will fall on Sunday 4 times. Only four times in 28 years and then the calendar cycle repeats itself. Yesterday, it seemed as though Christmas being on a Sunday was an inconvenience to many. Church attendance was down at our church. It was expected by us on the staff at the church. That is why we only had one service yesterday and it was a scaled back, acoustic only production with a shorter than usual message from our lead pastor. Even then, we were only at 50% of capacity for the one service. Sure, we had Christmas Eve services on Friday night and two services on Saturday, so that might explain the reduced attendance on Sunday. But I am sure that there were many of our faithful at LifeSong that did not attend church at any of our services between Friday and Sunday because of Christmas trumping church. Isn’t there a great irony in me making that statement, “Christmas trumping church.”

 

Sunday is the Christian Sabbath day. Christmas is the day that we, as Christians, have chosen to annually celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It would seem that Sunday would be the ideal day to celebrate Christmas. It is the holy day of the week to us as Christians and then Christmas is one of the two holiest days of the Christian calendar along with Easter. However, yesterday, for many of us, church was something we had to fit in the schedule if we made it all to church. The irony of it all was not lost on me yesterday as we scurried off to church. At church we had a skeleton crew because many of our staff and volunteers were either not in town (our area now is as much people from somewhere else as it is people who have grown up here) or had family obligations or were on vacation. Many ministry leaders at our church (like many others I am sure) had to scramble to fill slots with volunteers. Then, after church on Christmas Sunday, we much like anyone else, worked diligently to get ready for a family celebration. Not that any of these things are bad. Christian values include placing a high priority on family and certainly part of Christmas is reconnecting with family. However, it did give me pause yesterday to think how the act of Christmas get-togethers among families or even the Christmas morning act with our own immediate families around our tree was often more important than the Christian Sabbath. Please don’t get me wrong, this writing is just an observance of the oddity of Christmas on a Sunday and not condemnation. It is, to me, a quandry of what to do on these four Sundays in the 28 year cycle where Christmas falls on a Sunday.

 

How do we reconcile the two? I think the answer lies in the passage for today, Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Let’s read through it today:

 

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

 

I think the way that we as Christians reconcile our family commitments and our travels on Christmas Day when it falls on Sunday is that we must make the reason for Christmas a priority. We must make Christmas a celebration of the birth of our Savior first and foremost on Christmas Sunday (and any other Christmas day for that matter). If we have made church something we add into our daily lives rather the central focus of it, then, Christmas on a Sunday is an inconvenience. If our journey with Jesus is a box that we open up on Sunday and put back on the shelf the rest of the week, then, Christmas on a Sunday is an inconvenience. If the fellowship of the saints (church) is an integral part of our lives, if our relationship with Jesus Christ is a priority, then, we see Christmas on a Sunday as pretty darn awesome. It is the day of the week that we designate to corporately worship God as Christians, Sunday, and then add in that it is the day of the year that we have chosen to celebrate the birth of the whole reason for being Christian, Jesus Christ, then, what could be more special.

 

To worship God for what He has done through Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. Immanuel. God with us! He broke into human history so that He could live the perfect life, the sinless life, so that He could be the sacrifice for sin to end all sacrifices for sin. He came and lived among us. He experienced everything that we experience. He experienced pain and suffering as we experience it. He experienced joy and laughter as we experience it. He experienced birth and death as we experience it. He experienced every emotion that we experience it. He knows our existence. Yet, He was without sin and His sinless life, death on a cross, and resurrection reconciles us to the Father. On Christmas, we celebrate that most important beginning to His time among us that changed the world. We celebrate Jesus every Sunday but to be able to celebrate it on the Christian Sabbath day is a double dip! It is the cake and eat it too!

 

May we honor God every day. May we take time out as a priority once per week to celebrate what God has done May we on the Sabbath take pause from madness of life to worship Him. May we four times each 28 years, make celebrating the birth of Jesus Christmas on a Sunday a priority that trumps everything else. May we figure out ways to place that Sunday at church as the thing that we schedule around rather than force into our schedule. Make we make the Christmas Sabbath the unique calendar twist that it is and schedule all else around it.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 5:11

Do Not Misuse the Name of The Lord

We got back home safely from our weeklong vacation in Orlando safe and sound yesterday so my daily blog will resume now. It was my plan while I was out of town to continue to write my blog daily but things just didn’t work out that way. I have been battling with a sinus infection for about two weeks now and I guess my throat is has gotten so irritated that it must be like hamburger meat down there. While we were in our hotel suite in Orlando, I started waking up in the middle of the night with these “coughing fits” that would wake me up in the middle of the night and then I would be up for an hour trying to stop coughing and then another hour or so trying to settle down and get back to sleep. So, it was a round of coughing, a round of settling down, a round of a hour or two of sleep and then repeat. I would end up sleeping until 9:30 or 10:00 each morning just to get enough rest to not be a zombie while we were out exploring each day. As a result, I never really had time to sit down a write my daily blog. It was disappointing to me because these blogs are more for me than anyone reading them. As Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 tells us that we should continually work to bringing our salvation to its completion where we have willingly and in honor of our God gone through the hard process of sanctification. These blogs help me grow deeper in my relationship with God. So, because of circumstances this week because of my sinus infection while on vacation, I have missed a week of growing in Christ. I am glad to be back to my regular routine today.

 

Speaking of those coughing fits that I have been having in the middle of the night this past week, it seems appropriate this morning that we would be arriving at Deuteronomy 5:11. During the middle of the night during these bouts of uncontrollable coughing, I have to admit I may have misused the name of the Lord. I may have not spoken it out loud as I would move to the couch in the other room and shut the door so as not to wake my wife in the bedroom of our suite, but, I was speaking it inside my head. Oh God, please make it stop. I may have used the curse word beginning with God (in the South, it’s all one continuous word not three separate words of God ____ it!). You know that feeling when you get so completely frustrated with yourself, other people, or circumstances that you let it fly. It would have been different if these coughs had been productive. You know, producing phlegm, where you could say, at least I am expelling this sinus drainage yuck out of my chest. However, these coughing fits are nothing but my body’s reaction to a dry and irritated bronchial tube. There seemed like there was something torn or something in my bronchial tube that my body was mistaking for something that needed to be expelled. In reaction, these uncontrollable coughing bouts would come up during the night as I was sleeping. Knowing that I needed rest for whatever we were going to do the next day, I was exasperated. All I was wanting was a glorious night of continuous uninterrupted sleep. You know that feeling. You’re tired from a day of walking here and there, doing this, riding that, standing in line, standing in line, sweating from the Florida heat wave in December, you know, ya just want to crash and sleep until the sun peaks through the curtains in your hotel bedroom. But noooooo! You wake up every night coughing your head off uncontrollably sometimes to the point that you could not catch your breath (and yes I am going back to the doctor on Monday). We get stretched beyond our limit and sometimes we misuse the name of the Lord or we start negotiating with the Lord which always begins with an “Oh God!….fill in the blank here….!!!

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you misused the name of the Lord or you negotiating with the Lord as if we have negotiating power with Him. Many of us may remember those days were over-imbibing in the alcoholic spirits may have caused us to negotiate with God. You know those nights of your youth where you were making offerings to the porcelain god in someone’s bathroom and you begged God to make it stop. Many of you may have been there and done that and probably had to throw the t-shirt! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Make it stop! Make the room stop spinning! I promise I will never do this again! You know the drill. I have been there before myself in my younger days. I was even there this week as I was overcome by these bouts of coughing that seemingly would not end. Oh God! Oh God! Please make it stop.

 

It was this idea of how we violate one of God’s basic commandments sometimes on a daily basis that came to mind this morning as I read through our short passage/verse today, Deuteronomy 5:11 which reads as follows:

 

11 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

 

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His name in vain.

 

So, then is using the name of the Lord involving a curse word or negotiating with God and exclaiming His name as you do it….a sin? We tend to dismiss the significance of this commandment. We speak it but I do not think that we truly understand its gravity. We think that there are more serious commandments than this one. Adultery. Idolatry. Taking the Lord’s name in vain seems to not be quite as serious as these infractions. However, it goes to the condition of the heart. What comes out of our mouths reflects our hearts, our souls. Our words reveal the truth of who we are. We are to love our God so wholeheartedly that we do not equate ourselves with Him. We know our place in relationship to Him. When it comes that name, it should make us pause. It should not be a name that we flippantly use as part of general conversation. Back in the 1970’s, there was a commercial for the investment firm of EF Hutton (that no longer exists – eventually getting swallowed up into what is now Smith-Barney) whose jingle was “when EF Hutton speaks…people listen!” That is the thing that we should remember with God’s name is that when we speak His name it should be a moment of reverence and awe. It should be a moment where everybody stops and listens. We should hold His name in such high esteem that the mere use of His name brings us a moment of pause.

 

We often proclaim by God that we are doing His will. We often proclaim that God told me this or that God told me that. When we invoke the name of God as being the guiding reason that we are doing something, it better be consistent with Scripture whatever we do. Otherwise, we are taking the name of the Lord in vain. His name is holy because He is holy. We should honor Him when we invoke His name. Anything less is a sin that requires forgiveness through Jesus Christ and a repentant heart on our part.

 

This commandment is violated by anyone of us who does not place God in the highest esteem in their lives in words, and in deeds. This commandment points us to the fact that each one of us will most likely violate this command many times in our lives. When we make God equal to us. We violate this command. When we make God commonplace, we violate it. When we make God our buddy to the point that using His name loses its value, we violate this command. We all stand convicted by this one command. This one command violation no matter how few times you have done it or how many times condemns us to hell. Plain and simple. No matter how good you were at avoiding other sins such as adultery and idolatry, etc., this one violation condemns you and me. We are sentenced by this command on honoring God’s holy name as evidence of His place in our life. Done. We are gone. We are sentenced.

 

This one command and our inability to keep this one, just this one, points our desperate need for Jesus. It points to the necessity of Jesus. We gotta have Him. Without Him, we are sunk by our own inability to keep the commands of God. We need to realize the gravity of what we are up against without Jesus. Without Him, we are condemned even by one violation. We are at His mercy. We need Him. He makes us holy in the sight of God. He restores us to the Father. Through Jesus’ holiness, the Holy Spirit can dwell in us and begin the process of sanctifying us and making us more and more like Christ until we become perfect when we join Jesus in heaven.

 

Oh God! Oh God! Teach me to understand how holy you are an how your name should only be used in great reverence and awe that reflects how I perceive you in my heart. You are not my equal. You are far greater and immense and holy and amazing. I am small in comparison to you. Even your name is far greater and far more holy than I am. It is reminds me of your holiness and my sinfulness and how I desperately need to covered by the holiness of Jesus Christ, your Son! Oh God! Oh God! Forgive me for the ways that I flippantly invoke your holy name and help me to repent and turn away from such dishonor to you!

 

Amen and Amen.