In order to get a handle on the ten commandments it is helpful to look at the commandments through the eyes of Jesus.

Mark 12.28-31

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. After breaking camp at Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and set up camp there at the base of Mount Sinai.

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: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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. 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.

covenant

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.

Exodus 19

You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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. 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.

Exodus 20.1-2

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.

slow down

Let me give one example of what it means to live a Jesus kind of life.

Take kindness.

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.

“Hello humankindness”

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.

ME

When do you find yourself rushing?

Jesus is the Pioneer

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.

ME

What are some old ways of seeing things you might die to?

 

life is suffering

Only when you see yourself as a victim do you lose hope. When you give in to the suffering or resentment.

Because there is something else true of life for every single one of us.

Life is suffering and life isn’t fair.

We live in an irrational age. We live in an age where the big lie is life is divided into victims and oppressors.

It’s so easy to blame society, blame our culture, blame somebody else out there for your problems.

That is so naiive.

Suffering is what we all experience one way or another. There is no clean dividing line between victimhood and oppressor.   There is no answer in pointing outside of yourself to find the answer to all of your problems.

Your problems are 100% your problems. No, you can’t always help what happens to you. But, you are responsible for how you respond. If you are a teenager or older, you are 100% responsible for your attitudes and actions. There is only one answer. Jesus.

Yes, he dies but he was raised from the dead.

So, get connected to Jesus and stay connected to Jesus and watch what happens.

ME

How have you been suffering lately?

Losing Hope?

Colossians 3:1-4

Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection, too. This is why we are to yearn for all that is above, for that’s where Christ sits enthroned at the place of all power, honor and authority!

We are closely bound to Jesus as his followers. What is true of Jesus is true of us.
It may not feel like it.

Learning to believe what doesn’t at the moment feel true is an essential part of being a Christian.
And the fact is, we only act on what we believe.

Believe means trust. We might say we believe in something, but we don’t really believe it if we don’t act as if it is true.

That’s why we can’t let how we feel get in the way of the truth.

When it comes to Jesus there are two key things that are true of him that are also true of us.

One he died.
Two he was raised from the dead.

When we think of it this way, we realize all of existence is about this same thing. Mini-episodes of dying and rising.
Life is suffering. There is so much brokenness that goes on in our lives that it is never a matter of if we will suffer, only when.

If your parents are aging, every time the phone rings and it is your immediate family, you instantly have a thought, “Now what’s wrong?”
Dad fell.
Mom has to go back on chemo.
Think of those who are dealing with sick kids right now.
Or kids who are suffering in different ways.
I have several friends right now whose adult children are battling in some really dark places.
Life is hard. Life is suffering and it all has to do with dying to something. Or literally dying.

Now, what do you do about it?
Do you sit back and wait for the inevitable?
Do you give up hope?
No, hope is what is absolutely don’t give up.
What is true of Jesus is true of you.
Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection, too.
You are alive in Christ. He will not let you lose hope and enter despair. He will shine in the dark places in your life.
What you need is in the heavens. From heaven, Jesus is offering you what you need to face the little deaths of your lives at anytime. Not just the big death, where you die physically and leave this earthly life.

O, we are all going die in that way. No, it’s about living. Currently, we are all living and there is so much to live for!
Jesus is about living the heavenly life here on earth.
You see, he has the power, the honor, and the authority.
There is no one who can tell you to lose hope.

ME

What are your greatest concerns right now?

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Act Like Myself

We speak of the Gospel as God’s good news. Well, what is the good news? The good news is that through Jesus, we are able to live in the presence of God, with God, in other words, and join him, work with him, in expanding his influence in the universe he created. What is my role in all of this? My goal is to be me. To be the person whom God created me to be. My goal is to act like myself.

You see, when God created us, he did something quite remarkable. He made each of us unique. One of a kind. There will never be another person quite like you walking on earth ever again.

This means we will spend the rest of our lives living out the potential given to us specifically to be whom God created us to be. To act like the people God created us to be. To act like myself.

ME

What are some of your strengths when you are in relationship with other people?

IMG_8138

We have just had two recent mass murders in Vegas and Texas. Our hearts ache for all those who suffer. Once again, we are confronted with moral evil being committed by fellow human beings. We immediately look for answers to the question, “Why?”

“Why did this happen?” We are looking for a motive. A reason. Or we get embroiled in debates about mental health issues, safety precautions, gun control, and the like. But, also with these types of horrible events, it is common for people to ask the question, “Why?” in another way. As in, “How could God let this happen?”

This is the classical dilemma that has been called, “God and The Problem of Evil.” It goes something like this.

When we say, “How can God let this happen?” this assumes God could have done something about it. If you don’t believe in God then the question of “Why?” in this case isn’t really pertinent. It breaks down immediately to issues of gun control, mental health, safety measures, and such. Because, if you don’t believe in God, then “Why?” as a philosophical question, easily becomes, “Why not?”  If there is no God, why wouldn’t this happen? The question of “How could God let this happen?” is meaningless. The only question we are left with then is, “How can we get rid of evil such as this?”

But, if you do believe in God, then when you ask “How could God let this happen?” it really means, more specifically, “If God is all-good and all-powerful, how can he let horrible moral evil things happen?” People who believe in an all-good God might say, “God isn’t all-powerful; there are limits to what he can do.” Or, they might say, “There is a reason God let this happen, we just don’t know what it is.”

What if there is another way to look at it for believers in God? Could God permit moral evil to happen and be all-good and all-powerful? Is there an answer to the God and the problem of evil dilemma? I think there is. The best response to this I have ever seen is from Dallas Willard. Here is what he wrote.

God and The Problem of Evil

 

There are very few people who do not ask “Why?” when confronted with the terrible things that have happened in history and continue to happen day by day. This is because we nearly all believe, to some degree, that there really is a God who is conscious of human beings, who is good, and who has sufficient power to prevent bad things from happening. Unless there is such a God, there is no “problem of evil” as usually understood. If there is no God, the only answer to the question “Why are children starving in Somalia?” is “Why not?” We would have no reason to think that they shouldn’t be starving. The occurrence of evil would no longer be strange, and might even seem quite natural–though we would still have the “other” problem of evil, the problem of how to get rid of it.

Certainly the Christian faith is committed to a picture of God and the world that makes every event ultimately redeemable, and therefore permissible, by a personal God who is both willing and able to nurture into being a creation which cannot be improved on. It does not hold that every event is good in itself. Bad things, even horrendous moral evils, do come to pass. But in the vision of Jesus Christ communicated to his people, all human beings–and yes, even the sparrows and the lilies–are effectively cared for. Every person is invited to say in faith and obedience, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

But how can we resolve the classical thorn in the side of such faith, which insists that if God were both all-good and all-powerful, he would not permit the evil things which do happen to occur at all? (We shall concentrate here on the evils that men do or cause, the moral evils. They pose the most serious problem. We shall ask why God permits human beings to do evil.) It would seem that God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful, if moral evil exists, and that we are forced to let one or the other go.

In resolving this dilemma, the first step is to affirm that a universe which permits the development of moral character–one which makes it possible for persons to become the immeasurably precious and even glorious beings that they sometimes do–is of greater value than any world which does not. A world containing only minerals, or minerals and plants, for example, would be of much less worth or intrinsic value than one which also contained human beings as we know them. If personality is not to be regarded as having a very great value, it would clearly be wrong of God to permit the actual suffering and wrong-doing that occurs in order to procure it.

But the moral development of personality is possible only in a world of genuine freedom. To nurture moral perfection, horrendous moral crimes must be permitted by God–though he himself never approves of them, actualizes them or requires them. Nurturing moral perfection (within a suitable world) and not allowing wrong doing is impossible. If a child is never permitted to do wrong, it will never become capable of developing a nature or character that resolutely chooses the good. Good persons must live in a world where doing evil is a genuine choice for them.

But does this not mean that God is limited in power, that there is something he cannot do? Not at all, for the impossible is not something that could be either done or left undone. If the janitor does not sweep the room after a lecture, his supervisor can rightly point that out to him, and require that he do it. But the supervisor cannot require that he both sweep the room and not sweep the room. Sweeping the room and not sweeping the room is not something that can be done or left undone. It is nothing at all. The fact that the janitor “cannot do it” does not mean that the janitor is limited in some way, as he would be if he had no arms and could not hold the vacuum or broom.

To hold God to be limited because he does not nurture moral character while simultaneously preventing choice is like regarding the janitor as limited because he does not both sweep and not sweep the room. Producing people with character without giving them choice is impossible because the capacity to choose is a part of character. So it is not something God “left undone,” for it is not anything at all. It is not something he cannot do, because it is not `something’. Period. God remains of unlimited power. He can do anything that might be either done or left undone.

Hence the presence of moral evil in the world does not mean that God is lacking in goodness or in power. The classical dilemma is dissolved by setting existing evil in the context of the good that God achieves in permitting (but not producing) moral evil.

While this may seem like a “merely logical maneuver,” it in fact yields the conclusion that permits us to see the suffering of individuals, ourselves or others, in the larger world of a great and good God, who has all eternity, and resources beyond our wildest imagination, to ensure that the life of every individual who suffers, in whatever way, is ultimately one that even that individual will receive with boundless gratitude.

If all the individual has is `this’ life, then clearly evil, pain and frustration is not redeemed. But seen in the context of God’s world as a whole, seen as but a part of a life that never ends and endlessly becomes more and more glorious, there is no evil individuals may suffer that can prevent them from finding life to be good and God to be good. Theirs is the perspective of St. Paul, who speaks of great suffering as “our light affliction, which is but for a moment and which produces for us a weight of glory far greater than it.” (II Cor. 4)

The child dying in famine is ushered immediately into the full world of God in which it finds its existence good and its prospects incomprehensibly grand. There God is seen, as he now surely is not seen, to be good and great without limit, and every individual received into his presence enjoys the everlasting sufficiency of his goodness and greatness. There is no tragedy for those who rely on this God.

It is the hearty assurance of this for the individual–which we here do not attempt to prove, but only to show that it is not automatically ruled out by the presence of evil in our world–that empowers the individual to deal with the “other” problem of evil: namely, how to get rid of it. If I am truly concerned about moral evil in the world, I should at least worry as much about my responsibility for it as about God’s. By ceasing to do evil I can make a significant impact on the moral evil that is in my world. By trusting the goodness and greatness of God, I can turn loose of the chain that drags me into moral evil: the chain of self-deification, which puts me in the position of the one I trust to take care of me. Nearly all evil-doing is done under the guise of `necessity’. “I wouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, hurt others but for the fact that it is necessary to secure my aims–which of course I must bring about.”

By contrast, if I rely upon God, I can relinquish the realization of my aims to him. I can stop doing what I and everyone else knows to be wrong, and I can calmly cease co-operation with immoral behavior occurring around me. I also can stand against the evils in my world, unconcerned about what is going to happen to me if I do. We need not try to be perfect. We can concentrate on just doing a lot better. That is the surest way of vastly improving the world we live in.

And by far the best way of taking this stand is by simply relying on Jesus Christ to guide and help us. The life that is in him is the best light that has ever been given to human beings. The surest sign that God is who we hope he is is the presence of Jesus Christ in human history. By trusting him the best we know how, we will begin to share in the eternal kind of life that belongs to God. We will begin to live in the world of the Twenty-Third Psalm, where we “fear no evil,” where “goodness and mercy shall follow me all of the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That will be given to us in response to our trust. Experience will confirm it to us.

Because I make my living as a university professor and philosopher I am frequently asked, in so many words, “Why do you follow Jesus Christ?” My answer is always the same: “Who else did you have in mind?” I am open, I am willing, and I always seek to know more. But so far I have found no one who remotely compares to Jesus Christ as a practical guide to how things are and should be in human life. He proves to be one who is in touch with reality in depth and who guides me evermore into a life that comes to terms with evil in all of its dimensions. He brings us into the path leading to an experiential solution for the problems of evil.

 

empty-tomb-he-qi2

John 20
12There she saw two angels, clothed in white, one at the head and one at the feet of where Jesus’ body had been lying. 13’ Woman,’ they said to her, ‘why are you crying?’ ‘They’ve taken away my master,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they’ve put him!’

Mary sees the two angels. Peter and John didn’t see angels when they were just there. Maybe it takes tears in your eyes to be a lens to see angels.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

They have taken away my master, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.

Mary calls Jesus her “master.” This same word is used for “Lord.” Mary’s honored leader. In another Gospel we are told that Mary had had seven demons attached to her and Jesus had delivered her from them. She was healed. Mary, who is a faithful follower of Jesus all the way from the foot of the cross to this empty tomb, now.

Is she crying for the loss of her Lord? Is she crying because she is thinking about the uncertainty his death will bring to her life? Is she crying because evil has won out over good? We don’t know.

But, now, it is time to turn around.

ME

When was the last time you cried? Think about those circumstances and what Mary is feeling.

Mikvah

John 1

The people who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They continued to question him. ‘So why are you baptizing’, they asked, ‘if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?’

The Pharisees are checking John out because he is announcing a strange new message from God. When he dunks people in water, it’s a new thing for a prophet. In the Old Testament this is not spoken of.

There is ceremonial washing that becomes a custom for the Jewish people just before the time of Jesus. It is called a mikvah. There are several mikvahs outside of the temple of Jerusalem, for instance. People even had personal mikvahs attached to their homes.

You immerse yourself in a mikvah. There is not someone there immersing you. But, a mikvah is not a bath. In fact there are many regulations passed down about what is a proper mikvah and one rule is you have to be clean before you go in! Immersing in the pool is a sign of purity.

Nature with rivers and oceans provided the primordial mikvahs. So, we see the constructed mikvahs, beginning in the first century BC until present day, make it possible to have this sign without having to seek out bodies of water.

With John the Baptist we see a combination of a prophet announcing God’s plan and a mikvah- like immersion as a sign of a fresh start and a new way of thinking.

In Matthew 3:11 John explains, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God.”

To repent is to think at a higher level. Here the turning to God and turning away from sin is a better way of thinking. A sign to begin again.

ME

When you are bathing or showering, think of it as a time to connect with God and remember you are baptized.

IMG_6508

John 1:21
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“No.”

 

Elijah isn’t even the most important prophet in Jesus’ day. Moses is #1. In Deuteronomy 18:15-18 God promises to send a prophet like Moses to lead the people.

 
“…I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.”

 
This unknown like-Moses prophet is expected by the people of Jesus’ day. John said, “No,” to this prophet, too. John is getting ready for someone else.
A hint of this prophet arriving will come later in the Gospel of John. After the feeding of the Five Thousand the Jewish people think Jesus is this great prophet. (John 6:14)
When those men saw the sign which He had done, they then said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

ME
What does it mean to you that God is already talking about Jesus to Moses?

you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“No.”

Elijah isn’t even the most important prophet in Jesus’ day. Moses is #1. In Deuteronomy 18:15-18 God promises to send a prophet like Moses to lead the people.
…I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.
This unknown Moses-like prophet is expected by the people of Jesus’ day. John said, “No,” to this prophet, too. John is getting ready for someone else.
A hint of this prophet arriving will come later in the Gospel of John. After the feeding of the Five Thousand the Jewish people think Jesus is this great prophet. (John 6:14)
When those men saw the sign which He had done, they then said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

ME
What does it mean to you that God is already talking about Jesus to Moses?