The first commandments address our relationship with God. How do you love God? Here is what it looks like.
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The first commandments address our relationship with God. How do you love God? Here is what it looks like.
IMPACT! is middle school ministry for 6th-8th graders. Together with adult guides, the young people spend time building relationships and exploring their faith. During the year we have retreats and service opportunities. This year our theme is Basic Christian Teachings. We will look at the ways God chooses to come to us and how he guides us. We will use a biblical approach informed by the teachings of Martin Luther and others as we grow in living out our faith.
If you know any young people who might be interested in this journey we are taking together, email Pastor Dana, firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to get a handle on the ten commandments it is helpful to look at the commandments from with the eyes of Jesus.
28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Jesus organizes the 10 commandments around what we call two tables of the law.
The first table is summarized as: Love the Lord your God. The second table is summarized as: Love your neighbor as yourself.
So we see, the purpose of the commandments is love. We don’t keep the commandments for our own benefit. We keep them as a way to love God and our neighbor. In order to understand this, we have to go back to the where the Ten Commandments come from.
I heard a good way to describe this is from Pastor David Lose. He uses the phrase, “19 comes before 20.”
First, Exodus 19.
19 Exactly two months after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. 2 After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp there at the base of Mount Sinai.
3 Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”
Here we see that everything begins our relationship with God. We are God’s sons and daughters. His people. God makes a covenant with us. Makes a promise. God is our Father. We are his people.
Author Mike Breen shows this using what he calls, A Covenant Triangle.
God is our Father. We receive our identity from him as his sons and daughters. This comes first. Only then does God make a claim on our behavior. Our obedience. This comes second.
The order is important. First, our identity comes from our relationship with God. Then God calls out our obedience to Him.
In other words, 19 comes before 20.
You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’
19, our relationship with God the Father.
And only then, do we get to the commandments. That’s 20, as in Exodus 20.
20 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
And then he follows with the commandments..
So, 19 comes before 20.
Our obedience, following the laws of God, comes as a response to our relationship with God. Our identity.
First in a four week series on the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 19 speaks of God establishing a covenant, a promise, with his people; his sons and daughters. That’s relationship. Our identity is given to us freely by God.
Then in Exodus 20 God gives us the Ten Commandments. Only after he has established the relationship does he call out our obedience.
In other words, 19 comes before 20…
2 Be faithful to pray as intercessors who are fully alert and giving thanks to God.
Have you seen those Geiko insurance commercials about more?
Like weight lifting dudes, guy cutting his lawn, and neighbors putting up Christmas Lights.
The message is you get so much more when you have confidence in what Geiko brings. It is a confidence that builds the more you realize you receive more.
I am reminded of this when I consider prayer.
When you want more of anything when it comes to God, you learn to expect more. You learn to see more. You learn to be open to hearing from God.
Consider this example from the Old Testament, for instance. 2 Kings 6.
Let me set it up. Aram is an enemy of Israel. Elisha is the great prophet of Israel who prays constantly and hears from God, not only about himself but about his people, Israel. Through his prayers he hears something the King of Israel needs to know about their enemies, and he lets the King know the enemy’s plans.
2 Kings 6 beginning at verse 11.
11 The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”
12 “It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”
13 “Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” 14 So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
Elisha is a man of prayer and he knows things and sees things that others don’t. Notice it is not because he is special. Not because he is highly gifted. It is because he has a praying relationship with God.
Elisha’s servant can see what Elisha sees because he pays attention.
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Prayer is so much more than we think. Direct connection with the creator of the universe and an ongoing relationship of trust, wisdom, direction, and power available to those who call out…amazing…
Let me give one example of what it means to live a Jesus kind of life.
You see the word “kindness” being thrown around a lot today. It’s big in advertising. Branding statements. All the good branding statements are biblical. Like Northridge hospital, part of the Dignity Health organizations. Branding statement.
Well, I’ve noticed not one of the businesses talking about being kind or kindness has the #1 solution as to how you can actually make progress in your kindness.
You know why we have a tough time actually being kind? We have a tough time being kind because we are too rushed to get things done.
Haste has worry, fear, and anger as close associates.
Hast is a deadly enemy of kindness and hence haste is the enemy of love.
This is why when you are running all over the place, trying to get from here to there, you’re not someone anyone else wants to be around. Deadlines, being late, rushing because you have so many things to do…well you need help.
You are the person who is speeding in and out of traffic from one red light to the next so you can get some place 38 seconds faster.
You are the pushy guy elbowing me aside so you can get checked out at the store as quickly as possible. You are the mom who doesn’t have time to notice your kid is usually quiet today, because you’ve got to get her to the next practice or the next lesson or something else you came up with that you thought would be good for her so she could get ahead or get in the right school or at least do better than you did. There is one thing the overbooked and rushed kid will learn. She will learn to be unkind too.
Is this you?
Are you rushing for your life?
Or are your rushing from the life Jesus wants for you?
Yes, think of Jesus. Find me one example of Jesus rushing to get something done?. Show me in the Bible one place where Jesus overbooked? Where Jesus got irritated.
No, you can’t, because Jesus didn’t live a life where is too rushed to get things done. No matter what is happening around him, Jesus is the picture of kindness.
Why is Jesus so calm? So unrushed, and so, yes, kind?
Because he is a human being who realizes life goes on.
Well, I have a solution. If being too rushed is making you unkind, and if you don’t believe this is happening ask those rushing with you. If this is your problem, you may greatly be helped by doing what Jesus did frequently. Spend a day of silence and solitude so you can see the world survives without your activity. The world isn’t going to end if you aren’t rushing to get there.
Oh but that is impossible! That would be so hard!
OK, another way you can learn the world goes on without your activity is to have a serious accident or illness. Another way to discover the world will actually survive without your input.
What will it be? The worry, fear and anger of rushing all over the place? The unkindness the rest of us have to put up with?
Maybe a good sickness or accident will save you…
Or, how about silence and solitude? That sounds about right to me, eh?
You seem when we prayerfully consider the damage done by our unkindness, and honestly compare it to what, if anything is really gained by our hurry, we will come to understand that for the most part our hurry is really based upon pride, self-importance, fear, and lack of faith, and rarely upon the production of anything of true value for anyone.
And to think this is only one example of living the new creation. To do this one thing, stop rushing everything and everybody, this one thing can change your world.
When do you find yourself rushing?
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Yes, Jesus is the answer. Jesus dies but he is raised from the dead. So, get connected to Jesus and stay connected to Jesus and watch what happens.
Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with the heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm.
Start thinking like Jesus would think if he were in your situation.
Do you think Jesus loses hope? Look at the way he lived. If there was anyone who was a victim, misunderstood, lied to, lied about, hated. But, he didn’t try to blame everyone else for trying to make his life miserable. Of all people who have the right to call himself a victim, it’s Jesus. If anyone could say life is unfair and he is being attacked and he doesn’t deserve it, it’s Jesus. If anyone had the right to strike back, take revenge, attack those who were attacking him, it’s Jesus.
But, he just keeps living. He knows where his power and honor and authority rest. With God.
The world doesn’t have any answers to the dying and rising.
Jesus knew the answer. Knows the answer. Connected to God, you may be dying to some real life right now, but,
Your crucifixion with Christ has severed the tie to this life, and now your true life is hidden away in God in Christ.
Jesus knows this. You can too. Nothing can keep you dead.
Here’s the facts of life.
You don’t belong in the old world or the old world’s thinking.
You are raised with Christ, so you possess a true life in God’s new world, the heavenly world.
The real you is now found in the heavenly world.
You are God’s son. You are God’s daughter. If you don’t see it, you will.
And as Christ himself is seen for who he really is, who you really are will also be revealed, for you are now one with him in his glory!
Here is the truth. The heavenly world is not a super-spiritual world that is going to leave the created world behind.
The biblical picture is of God one day flooding the present creation with the new life which is currently in the heavenly realm.
In other words, one day Jesus the Messiah, who can’t be directly seen with our old world eyes will appear again. All of existence will be transformed and what is at present unseen will become visible, and earth and heaven will be joined forever in the fulfilled new creation.
When this happens, all those who are in Christ, whose death and present true life is hidden with Christ in God, will appear as well, as the glorious renewed human beings they already really are.
That’s you. That’s me.
Who we really are will be revealed.
So, now that we know this, we discover a new way towards a genuine good life where we learn to think of things from a heavenly perspective, seeing things though God’s eyes, as it were. Not seeing things that belong to the present world of decay. The world of unfairness. The world of suffering.
You think things through rather than just going with the flow of the world.
When you grow in Christ, your mind itself grasps the truth that you have died to the old ways of seeing things and your life has been hidden with Jesus in God. When your mind grasps this, then your choices, your will, starts to follow through. You begin to live that new creation and you are glad to be doing just that!
You can live that life right now.
What are some old ways of seeing things you might die to?