Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday's Word...TEN: One & Only (Part 2 of 5)

This is part 2 of a 5 part series. For part one: CLICK HERE

It doesn't matter how familiar we are with the rest of the Bible, the Ten Commandments are famous—well, at least the idea of them is. A lot of us would probably have a hard time naming all 10 if we had to. I don’t know about you, but it seems like whenever I try to think through the Ten Commandments, I always start with what seem like the “big” ones: “Thou shall not kill,” “Thou shall not steal” and then maybe, if I’m on a roll, I’ll go to “Thou shall not commit adultery.”

Why do you think we go to those first? Sure, they’re important. But what about the first commandment? The second one? What's the third one? If I asked you, many of you would probably say, “I don’t really know. I just know they’re important, and I’m keeping them—whatever they are.”

Last week we said that we have this idea that God is all about rules, but when we step back and look at the big picture we see that relationship always precedes rules with God. He calls us His children first and then asks us to trust Him. 

Exodus 20:1 says: God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (NIV).  That's sort of the history lesson that we talked about last week, the context. But God keeps going and gives us the first commandment. He says in verse three, “You shall have no other gods before me” (NIV). Literally, you shall have no other gods beyond Me or in addition to Me.

Essentially, here's what God says in the very first commandment—“I want to be your one and only God.”

Now, I don’t know how Moses responded when he heard God say this. But if I had to guess, I would say his reaction was something like, “No kidding. After all we have been through together, after all You have already done for us, do You really think we would go looking for another god? This commandment seems like a no-brainer. It doesn't really seem like a commandment at all because this is something we already get.”

Why would God even have to say that? The reason is because every culture in the world up until that time had multiple gods. In fact, historically, it would have been unbelievable, unheard of even, that a nation would decide there's just one god. God was saying: “Instead of having a god for healing, a god for farming and a god for relationships and love, I want to be your one-stop shop. I want to be the one Source, the one God you depend on for everything. If you've got war issues, you come to Me. If you've got illness issues, you come to Me. If you've got money issues, you come to Me. Whatever your issue is, nation of Israel, I don't want you to have multiple gods. I want to be your one and only—because I am the One and Only.”

Now that's huge. God is saying that recognition is more important to Him than obedience. What’s more important to Him than just simply doing a bunch of stuff and keeping a bunch of rules is God being center stage in your life. And if we’ll do this, keep God as our one and only, then the rest of these commandments almost take care of themselves; the rest of the commandments just fill in the details and the gaps. This commandment is like the umbrella all the other commandments fall under. It's not just a rule that God happens to make the first commandment. It's the starting place for anybody who wants to function in a relationship with their heavenly Father. 

Now, let’s look at the second commandment in verse four: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (NIV). In other words, God's saying, “Not only do I want to be your one and only God, but I don't want you to attempt to build any kind of monument, any kind of statue or form anything with your hands that represents Me.”
At first glance, the second commandment seems like a repeat of the first. But it actually addressed something that would be difficult for the Israelites to grasp because of the culture they've come out of. See, everybody who had a god had a representation of that god. No matter what god you worshiped, there was some kind of idol, statue, building or something that stood for that god. And when you were in front of that object, you were in the presence of that god.

God knew something about the Israelites, and He knows something about us. God knew that it was in them, just like it is in us, to want to have an object to worship. God knew that, and in response, He says: “Here's the deal—don't you dare create anything that represents Me. I am unrepresentable. Whatever you create, I am bigger. Whatever you build, I'm more majestic. Whatever size you make it, I'm more powerful. I don't want you to even attempt to fashion anything that represents Me.” Basically, God is saying, “Look, don't try to make Me manageable, make Me a location or try to compartmentalize Me. I don't want you to think of Me as an idol that you can be in the presence of and then be out of the presence of. I'm bigger than that.”

I think there is a reason why we hesitate to tell our heavenly Father He is going to be number one, that He’s going to be center stage, and that everything else is going to be organized around Him. I think that somewhere along the way we have gotten the idea that God's ultimate goal is to make us good. And when it comes down to it, that isn't really what we want. Whenever we feel like someone is trying to make us good, we assume they are trying to keep us from something good. Isn't that our struggle? Think about it. When your parents won’t let you do something, isn't your first assumption that you’re going to miss out on something good? Whether we realize it or not, we think the same thing about God. As long as we think God is trying to make us good, we're going to resist.

So let me put your mind at ease. God isn't trying to make you good. God’s ultimate goal isn't trying to make bad people good. God just wants to keep free people free. 

The decision to make God the center may be one you make not once, not twice, but over and over again because it’s just so easy to shift your priorities. Something new comes along—some new opportunity, some new relationship—and very subtly the center of your life starts to drift. All of a sudden you are making decisions and living life not with God at the center, but with this new “little g” god in the center. And it may take a while for your life to start to look like the car whose front end is out of alignment, but eventually you find that life isn't working well. And you have to be willing to take an honest look at your life and ask what is at the center. Have you compartmentalized God and made Him only one component of your life? 

The most important decision you make is what you place in the center of your life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday's Mentions 10/29/12

There are some people that are making a difference and you just want to share their story. This one caught my eye a while back. It's about a little girl who wanted to make a difference. Her name is Rachel. And this is her story:

Rachel Beckwith's Mom Visits Ethiopia. from charity: water on Vimeo.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Five...10/26/12

1. Favorite Infographic - Instant America via Orange Leaders

**Click image to see full infographic

2. Favorite Social Media Article - Top 5 Things Parents Should Never Do on Facebook

3. Favorite Discipleship Article - 5 Tips for Discipling New Believers

5. Favorite Video - Games We Play

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday's Word...TEN: The Rules (Part 1 of 5)

This week I will begin a 5 part series called "TEN," a fresh look at the Ten Commandments. I taught this to a group of adults on Sunday nights a while back, but thought it might be good to shake the dust off of it and share it with you all here. Feel free to engage in the comments at the bottom of the page. 


Every religion has rules. Many of them very similar to Christianity. The main idea for most religions is that there's a "good God" and there are "bad people." As Christians we often translate this into the assumption that we've got to get more “good,” that we've got to act better in order for God to accept and love us or to get into His good graces.

Where do we get this idea? For me most part, it comes from the story of the Ten Commandments, or our understanding of it. 

The idea that God loves us and accepts us based on our behavior didn't come from God at all. God's message is just the opposite. 

God's rules reveal what's important to Him. Prior to the Ten Commandments being given, God had (after 400 years of silence and His people being in slavery in Egypt) led His people out of Egypt under Moses' leadership. 

See, a lot of us may think we know the history of the Ten Commandments already. But we come in halfway through the story. All we see is this big, powerful God ordering some things from a ragtag group of people who don’t know any better than to obey His demands. But that isn’t the whole story. And if we aren’t careful, we’ll miss the bigger story—we’ll miss the greatest message you or I could ever hear. We know from looking back at what happened in Egypt that by the time God gave the commandments, a relationship between Israel and God had already been set into  place. God had already acted on Israel’s behalf. If we miss this, we miss the whole point.
God acted first. God moved first. God proved Himself first. Before the rules, before the requirements, before God asked anything of Israel, God made His character known. He made His love known. He made the relationship known.

This is how the Ten Commandments start:

  “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:1 NIV).

Rules are never the starting point for a relationship with your heavenly Father. The number one thing for God was simply, “Will you trust Me? I have shown you my power. I have showed my concern for you. Will you trust me?" The rules are simply a confirmation of the relationship that already existed. 

God has invited you into a relationship based on nothing you do but on something He’s done. He has delivered you through the blood of His Son. God is not a God who operates through guilt manipulation. God has already made it clear that more than anything, a relationship matters, and His rules are simply a confirmation of that relationship. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday's Mentions...10/22/12

I'm taking a brief hiatus from my Monday's Mention this week: enjoy a throwback...well, I use that term a previous post:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Five...10/19/12

Here's your weekly dose of insight, helpful things, and a little bit of fun:

1. Favorite New Pixar Short - Partysaurus Rex

2. Favorite Reminder of the Hope We Have In Christ:

3.  Favorite Article for Dads: 3 Essentials to be an All Pro Dad

4. Favorite Marriage Proposal (Caution Guys...this one might make you cry.)

5. Favorite Fresh Prince Throwback:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday's Word...DOUBT (Part 2 of 2) - 10/17/12

This is the 2nd and final part of a series on doubt. For part one: CLICK HERE

Last week I said that everyone has doubts - everyone. The good news is that we don't have to feel guilty about it. We can embrace our doubt and allow it to lead to belief. 

So, how do we take all the doubts that we have and live from a position of faith? What do we do when doubts creep in on the big stuff, like God? When we doubt that God hears us when our lives are a mess, or our social life is non-existent, or temptation is stronger than its ever been? What do we do when we doubt that God is even paying attention or even care about our lives? What do we do when we doubt whether God is there at all?

Belief is comprised of one or both of the following two things: our knowledge and our experience. The strongest faith is formed when we use knowledge and experience together. When we combine what we know with what we experience, we can navigate through our doubt.

Right in the middle of the Bible, the book of Psalms overflows with the kind of emotion found in knowledge and belief. Many of the Psalms describe events in the life of King David. Psalm 13 doesn't have a specific story attached to it, but I think these words could have been written at almost any time. Check out David's words:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2 NIV).

Ever felt that way? For a "man after God's own heart," David sure sounds like he's dealing with some doubts! Thankfully, the Psalm doesn't end there. A few verses later he writes:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6 NIV).

What? Is this even the same guy? How did he get from the point of having all of these questions to saying things like "I trust in your unfailing love?" 

This is key: David started with what he felt and ended with what he knew. He was honest with God in his frustration. He did this like a friend who just needed to be honest. Maybe he felt forgotten, but he knew his trust was in God.  

Check out more of the Psalms to see how the writers dealt with their feelings!

Here's how this plays out in our lives:

1. When you doubt, be honest about it. How has God shown up in your past? What is he doing currently in your life? What do you see God doing in the world around you?

Once we are able to see what God has done and is doing through both our experiences and our knowledge, we are better equipped to manage the doubt.

God is bigger than your doubts.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday's Mentions....10/15/12

It's Monday and it's time to give a shout out to those who are seeking to be "rooted in God's love." When we set out to create the "rooted in God's love" initiative, we wanted to set before you a clear, practical, and measurable plan for each of us (ourselves included) to grow to become who God created us to be.

The Psalmist wrote: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13 NIV84)

He designed us for great things to make His name great, to make His name known before all peoples all over the world. For some, becoming "rooted" means doing something that the world sees as "a big deal," but for others it may simply be an act of obedience in something that we are currently being disobedient.

So, today I am not "mentioning" a particular person, but instead asking you a question...where are you presently disobedient to God? Are you learning to be obedient in Study, Prayer, Stewardship, Discipleship, Community, and Service?

I was reminded in our small group last night that we all need people who we will allow to speak truth into our lives, no matter how painful. For many of us, this can be difficult to accept, but it is critical for each of us if we want to make it from where we are to where God wants us to go.

Our church staff and leadership hope that you are taking advantage of some of the many opportunities we are seeking to create as steps for you in your journey.

Wednesday nights, for adults, is Deeper Life. We hope to offer groups that will meet you where you are. So far this semester we have offered General Bible studies for you to grow as you understand the greater context of God's Word, Cliffs Notes: An overview of the Bible, and a one-night seminar about technology and how to help your family navigate the challenges of it.

This Wednesday we begin a new 4-week series called: Married People. During these four weeks we will delve into 4 Core Habits of Healthy Marriage. Can't make it on Wednesday night? Join us for the "encore" class that will meet in The Loft on Sunday mornings during the Sunday School hour. If you have questions, contact the church office.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Five...10/12/12

Here are 5 of my favorites for you this week:

1. Favorite Family Photo - Via
I think every family has one of these pictures...I'll be keeping mine to myself, however!

2. Favorite Parenting Article - Parenting Tweens Through Technology - Via

3. Favorite Marriage Article - Men Need Stickers - via (part 2 of the article can be found here)

4. Favorite Video - High Five Etiquette

5. Favorite Thing as an Introvert...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday's Word...DOUBT (Part 1 of 2) - 10/10/12

Today starts a new 2-week series on Doubt. Let me know what you're thinking in the comments below:

You remember when you first began to doubt the existence of the tooth fairy? When you started considering the validity of a fairy who collected little children's teeth? The whole concept is creepy. She sneaks into your room while you're asleep and takes teeth. Ever wonder why we believe this in the first place? Ah...yes, the cash. As the whole fairy thing begins to unravel, the idea of a giant bunny that delivers eggs every spring or a man in a red all gets sticky. 

When it comes to doubt, the only thing we know for certain is that everyone has it. We often talk about people who doubt as less spiritual or weak. We associate certainty with strong leaders. What if I never doubted. What if I never questioned the existence of the tooth fairy? While I might be an interesting person to talk to, you certainly wouldn't take me seriously. Doubt isn't always a bad thing. It can actually be a very good thing or a very destructive thing.

The Bible tells the story of a man who mastered learning to live in faith while dealing with doubt. His name is Nicodemus, and he is one of the few people, apart from the disciples, who the Gospels record interacting with Jesus throughout the course of Jesus’ ministry. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, so he was kind of a big deal in the Jewish community. If you think about the synagogues as a kind of private school for that time, the Pharisees would be like the honor students—the ones with the high SAT scores and off-the-charts GPAs.
Nic and Jesus had an interesting dialog in John chapter 3:

Nic: “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2 NIV).

Jesus: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3 NIV).

At this point, Nic has to be confused. He was tracking with Jesus until this point. Here we begin to see his doubt:

Nic: “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4 NIV).

Somehow, it didn't seem to matter that his first encounter with Jesus left him with doubts. We know Nic continued to work through some things with his faith. The last time we hear from Nicodemus is in John 19, following Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus' disciples had all scattered in fear, the women were mourning and only two men remained to deal with the aftermath: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Nicodemus, an otherwise pretty important guy, took time off from a major Jewish holiday to come to the cross to prepare Jesus for His burial.

Somehow Nic managed to believe and to live in spite of his doubts. 

We have to figure out what we are going to do with the faith that we have. We don't know that Nicodemus ever got all of his questions answered. There's no book, chapter, and verse that says so. We have do determine what we are going to do with the doubt that we do have. 

Let us learn to embrace the doubt and allow it to lead us to belief.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday's Mentions...10/8/12

Yesterday was our Annual Fall Festival and it went great! A big thanks to Carla Williams for putting it all together and making a memorable day for the entire church family and community guests!

Upcoming Dates:
- This Wednesday, Oct. 10th - A special 1 night seminar, "Protecting Your Family in an Online World" in room 307 at 6:30 PM
- Date Night, Saturday, Oct. 13th 7-9 PM in the Family Life Center
- Small Groups resume next Sunday, Oct. 14th
- Married People Wednesday night classes start Oct. 17 in room 307
- Married People Sunday Morning classes start Oct. 21st in The Loft

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Five...10/5/12

Here are some things to brighten and inform your day:

1. Favorite Pictures: Colorful Portraits of the Saddest Impersonators You’ll Ever See

2. Favorite Marriage Article: 4 Commitments for Building a Successful Marriage - Michael Hyatt

3. Favorite "No Way This Is True!" Article: How Much the Tooth Fairy Gives in 2012 - USA Today

4. Favorite Advice for Dads - A Secret for Dads - Reggie Joiner (Be warned...this one got to me pretty bad) [And the follow-up here from his daughter]

5. Favorite Dad: I'd like to think I'm a pretty cool dad, but this guy's got me beat in the mechanical department:

Have a great weekend!

Don't Forget:
- Fall Festival Sunday from 4-7:00 PM
- Family Internet Safety Seminar this Wednesday at 6:30 PM on the 3rd Floor.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday's Word...Rhythm (Part 4 of 4)

This is part four of a four part series called Rhythm. If you haven't read them, you can click on part 1 / part 2 / part 3)


God created people to be in relationship with each other. This is not an earth-shattering truth. We've looked at Eden and the rhythm that existed there. The Bible says that God made Eve because it was "not good for man to be alone." I think it was more than just about Adam wanting a pretty girl walking around naked. It's more than just the need to be able to make more humans. God made Eve because He knew that all people need relationship.

We weren't created for just any relationship. A tick can have a relationship with a dog. That's not the kind of relationship we need. We need rhythm with others. Right rhythm means that we need to be in right relationships. When our relationships are out of whack, our rhythm with those people is messed up and that spills over into our relationship with God (are you beginning to see how all of these--God, others, and self--are closely tied together?).

You can't say that you have a great relationship with God if you loathe someone at work. Hating people and having enemies are the opposite of having a right relationship with God. These two ways of living are incompatible. 

So, we find "nice" ways of handling this. We find "acceptable" levels of disdain. We avoid that person, talk about him or her when they're not around or vent to our close friends about how much we secretly really do "hate" them.

Jesus says, "you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'" (Matthew 5:21, NIV)

Jesus reached back into the Law (10 Commandments), to the ancestors of the people those laws were written to and says: "Y'all remember that one?" He's about to give a new interpretation of that law altogether!

“‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘”Raca,” [worthless] is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell’” (Matthew 5:22 NIV).

See what Jesus just did there? Jesus teaches that murder is bad, but that there are other ways to murder someone. If you hate that person...murder. If you've treated them wrong, if there is friction between you and someone else, then you have a big problem. He continues:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV).

Does this seem radical to you? That means if you are coming to worship and you don't like that man or woman or have belittled this person or refuse to give grace to that person over there--you might as well not lift your hands and sing the songs. God basically says, "I'm not going to hear you out until you make that right!"

To Jesus, our relational, emotional, and spiritual lives are all connected--in the same way musical instruments come together to play a song.

When you are out of rhythm with others it affects more than just the two involved. A fight between you and your wife affects how you treat other people. (I think you know what I'm talking about.) Ultimately, though, it affects our relationship with God. Our relationships aren't just indicators of our relationship with God, they are mirrors of our relationship with ourselves. 

I think, then, that you can begin to see why rhythm is such a big deal to Jesus. It isn't just about the other person. It's about you and God. It's about you and you. It's about the rhythm of your life being interrupted. 

Side note: Some of us have been on the receiving end of being belittled and broken by someone else’s words. The things people have said or done to you, how they made you feel--that hurt is very real. Some of you feel it daily. I don’t want to discount that pain, but what those people said or did had nothing to do with who you are. They made you feel weak, but you’re not. The only way you could really be weak is to lash out at them, returning cruelty with cruelty. But to be strong, return kindness for cruelty. See beyond your own pain and see the pain of your “enemy.” 
Today, you might need to go to someone and plead for their forgiveness. Some of us might need to grant forgiveness. 

To be in rhythm with God, we have to be in rhythm with one another. This is how it is supposed to be. God wants you to be in rhythm with Him, getting in rhythm with those around us is a step towards that goal.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday's Mentions...10/1/12

Last night we had almost 80 people gather at Heavenly Haven Farm for a church-wide event. Everyone got to pick a pumpkin, go on a hayride, check out the animals at the petting zoo, and take a walk through nature. It's a beautiful place to witness all of God's majestic creation. What a great night!

Becoming "rooted" in Service:
While we may not have Wednesday night groups meeting this week, I want to take a minute and remind you of something you might not think too much about. Every Wednesday night from 5:50-6:20 we serve a family-friendly meal in the Family Life Center. Primarily, two people are responsible for that happening. Kim Mason and Cindy Beams voluntarily head that up each week. They give up their time to go shopping the day or two before, prepare food both at home and at the church on Wednesday afternoons, come in early and setup the food tables and get things all ready so that we can bring our families and have an enjoyable meal before going to our individual groups.

They are certainly aware of their gifts and using them in service to share Christ. Thank them for being "rooted" in service.