Make Someone Feel Valuable (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Everywhere you go, do whatever you can to make someone feel valuable

Many people do not feel all that valuable or valued. In fact, many feel worthless and unwanted. As Christians, we know this is not true. God values every single human being, and the price He paid for them was the cost of His Son.

Not everyone is open to our Christian message however, but that does not mean we cannot communicate their value. We value the people in our lives, yet often do not show it or neglect to tell them.

If you truly value your spouse or children, then make an effort to show them that. There are myriad ways you can do this, but one of the simplest and most effective is just to say “thank you!” You or they may not think it a big deal to cook dinner every night, or put the bins out, or work every single day, or raise the children. But do not take these things for granted, and make sure you let them know you appreciate them and what they do.

Similarly, for those outside of your household, you can still recognise their value. Whether it is the local shopkeeper who has helped you during this time of lockdown, or the nurse or care worker who has looked after you or a relative, you can ensure they know how valuable they are and their contribution is.

Everywhere you go, do something to show the people around you how much you value and appreciate them. A note of thanks or encouragement can brighten someone’s day. Use social media to promote some one, service or business which has helped you out. Be a blessing and go the extra mile to recognise those who work tirelessly behind the scenes or who are rarely thanked.

You can make a difference. You can shine the light of Christ in this often dark world. What will you do this week?

Say What You Mean (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Say what you mean, and mean what you say

Some say talk is cheap, but actually it can be very costly. How many relationships were ruined after someone said something in anger that they really did not mean. Words can leave deep wounds, yet we seem to respect them so little in our society. A single misplaced tweet can be enough to cause outrage the world over.

Say what you mean. Be clear with your words and make sure everything you say is what you mean. Don’t be hasty and don’t let your temper get the better of you. Better to remain silent that unleash words which cannot be taken back.

Similarly, mean what you say. Don’t be a person without integrity. Do not say one thing and do another. If you make an appointment for 7pm, make sure you are there on time and be a person of your word. If you hit something unexpected that makes you late, call ahead.

Your children remember what you say, and they remember when you don’t keep your word. If you promise to take them out on Saturday, you had better make sure you do. Trust is more easily destroyed than built. One broken promise can devastate trust for a lifetime.

God is the perfect example of this to us. He says precisely what He means, and means every single word He says. There are no broken promises in God; if He has said it, you can consider it done whether you see it yet or not.

My words fall far short at times, but I strive to be a man of my word and to never say a thing I do not mean. I am challenged today, and hope you are too. Let us all come up higher and be people who keep our word.

You Are What They Need (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

You may not feel like the one they need, but you’re the one they’ve got. And it’s not an accident!

As a parent, I rarely feel like i’m doing a good job of it. Sometimes I see myself reflected in the behaviour or words of my children, and it isn’t always pretty! Being a parent is the best but toughest job there is. I often feel like I do not know what I am doing myself, let alone helping to shape another life and ready them for the world.

The same is true at work sometimes. People come to me asking for help and advice, or looking for a solution to a serious problem. I feel a tremendous pressure to come up with the right answer, even if I haven’t a clue what it is!

Bottom line – I’m only human, and I’m just doing my best. The same is true for you I’m sure!

You may not feel like the right person for the job, whether that is a form of employment, caring responsibility or anything else. Even if you do not feel like the one that is needed right now, you are the only one that is there, and that is no coincidence.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, whatever job, whatever family commitments, you are there for a reason. God has specifically placed you there and you can deal with what is in front of you.

That does not make it easy of course, but draw strength from God to do what you need to do. Take heart in the fact that there are no accidents, and God has chosen you and placed you in your situation to bring Him glory in whatever way you can.

You might believe others are more qualified or better suited, but God chose you. Trust Him to have made the right decision, and do your very best with His help.

Who Are You When No One is Looking? (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

How you act when no one is watching you is who you really are.

How you act and behave when no one is looking says a great deal about your character.

I am a manager at work, and it is very interesting to see how some staff behave when they think you are not watching them.

At one place I used to work, the staff arrived early and the managers not until later. It was surprising how little work was done in those minutes before the managers arrived. Some staff would read the paper while others surfed the web. Others might ask a colleague to clock them in even if they were not ready to start work.

The temptation to cut corners is powerful when no one is watching us. We might think if no one knows, then there’s no harm in doing a slightly less than perfect job.

But God is always present. And for the Christian, we must live before God as if He is always watching… because He is.

We need to do the right thing even when no one is watching us. That’s called character, and who we are when no one is looking should be no different than if we are being carefully observed.

Do you live two distinct lives? The one when someone is present, and the other? If so, I encourage you to remember that God is always with you and sees all that is done in secret. And the person you are when no one is watching is who you really are.

Working Hard

Writing is a funny thing. Some days I sit down at the keyboard and in minutes have a thousand words down and a blog post ready to go. Some days not. Today was one of the latter days.

I’ve stared at a blank screen for some time, and done a few miles of pacing up and down the room. It might be because i’ve been working on other projects and my creative juices need replenishing, but who knows.

It got me thinking about the various gifts and talents those in the church have been given by God. Whether spiritual in nature, musical or administrative, God has liberally given us all gifts to use for His glory in supporting the Body of Christ.

Yet just because one has a gift in a certain area, does not mean its use comes easily to them. I hope I have some small gift of writing and teaching, and yet today neither has come easily. I’ve had to work hard at it to get the words out.

Having a gift in any area does not negate the need for hard work and practise.

I am reminded by this verse penned by the Apostle Paul:

So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Philippians 2:12 (WEB)

Paul is not telling his readers that they must work to achieve their salvation. Far from it. Paul went to great lengths to preach the Gospel of grace meaning that salvation is a gift from God and achieved by Christ’s work at the cross. We cannot earn salvation any more than the Old Testament believers could fulfil all aspects of the law. We all need a Saviour to be our substitute.

Paul is saying that we ought to work out our salvation, that is, live it out in our everyday lives. We have it already, it belongs to us because of Jesus, so now let’s live like a saved people.

From the moment we accept Jesus as our Saviour, we begin a journey. On the one hand, we are sanctified at that very moment, but on another, we must work towards sanctification through surrendering ourselves to God and His ways.

Similarly, Paul tells Timothy:

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness.

1 Timothy 4:7 (WEB)

Another translation renders this verse as “train yourselves to be godly.” While we fully possess salvation, we must also train ourselves for godliness. It takes work to do this.

God makes us righteous in our spirits, exchanging our unrighteousness for Christ’s righteousness. That position will never change. But we are more than just our spirits, and our mind, will and emotions all need to be trained in line with God’s Word.

Romans 12:1-2 tells us to renew our minds that we might be transformed into Christ’s likeness. This is a process which takes time.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (WEB)

In the same way, we are given spiritual or natural gifts by God the Father who made us. These gifts must be trained and practised in order to grow strong and effective.

My teaching gift has been apparent for some time, and yet I still have much to learn to use it effectively. I must study to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word, and I must practise both writing and speaking, learning what works and what does not. There is no shortcut to doing this.

Perhaps you are a natural singer. Even so, you will still need to practise the songs you sing, harmonies and melodies, and different ways you can use that voice.

Perhaps your gifts are in church administration. Again, you too will need to practise those skills to deploy with great effect. You might need to learn how to use a new accounting system or piece of software, you might need to learn different organisational skills or you may simply need to give time to tidying, clearing and sorting.

Do not neglect your gift. It is a precious thing, and it needs to be nurtured to grow strong. How can you develop it for the Lord today?

Apparent Contradiction

Some accuse the Bible of contradicting itself, and cite that as evidence for not being able to trust it. The premise is correct, and if even one part of the Bible is flawed, then you cannot trust any of it.

I want to address one apparent contradiction today, and point out why it is not any such thing.

I follow a number of Bible reading plans, and one is a chronological reading plan. This just means that instead of reading the Bible in the order it appears in the book, you read it in the order it happened in reality. This can be extremely helpful in understanding how the Bible fits together as a whole.

Today I was reading from the books of 2 Samuel in the Old Testament. 2 Samuel follows 1 Samuel, as you might expect… and gives the account of Samuel the prophet, Saul the first king of Israel and his successor King David.

1 Samuel ends with the death of King Saul, and 2 Samuel starts with the same event. Yet, the two accounts are different.

How did King Saul die?

The Philistines fought against Israel, and the army[a] of Israel fled before the Philistines. They fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines pursued Saul and his sons. The Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons. 3 The heaviest fighting was directed toward Saul, and when the bowmen who were shooting located Saul, he was severely wounded by them.

4 Saul told his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised people will come and run me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer did not want to do it because he was very frightened, so Saul took the sword and fell on it. 5 When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him.

1 Samuel 31:1-5 (ISV)

And from 2 Samuel:

The next day, a man escaped from Saul’s camp! With torn clothes and dirty hair, he approached David, fell to the ground, and bowed down to him.

3 David asked him, “Where did you come from?

He answered him, “I just escaped from Israel’s encampment.”

4 David continued questioning him, “How did things go? Please tell me!”

He replied, “The army has fled the battlefield, many of the army are wounded[b] or have died, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.”

5 David asked the young man who related the story,[c] “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 The young man who had been relating the story[d] answered, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa and there was Saul, leaning on his spear! Meanwhile, the chariots and horsemen were rapidly drawing near. 7 Saul[e] glanced behind him, saw me, and called out to me, so I replied, ‘Here I am!’ 8 He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ So I answered him, ‘I’m an Amalekite!’ 9 He begged me, ‘Please—come stand here next to me and kill me, because I’m still alive.’ 10 So I stood next to him and killed him, because I knew that he wouldn’t live after he had fallen. I took the crown that had been on his head, along with the bracelet that had been on his arm, and I have brought them to your majesty.”

2 Samuel 1:2-10 (ISV)

This is a clear contradiction. Saul could not have killed himself, as it says in 1 Samuel 31 and also have been killed by the man from 2 Samuel 1. The Bible must be wrong… right?

For a long time, I missed the obvious answer. I read both accounts and could not understand how both could be true. It left something of a question in my mind.

The answer is simple though. Both are not true. And yet, there is no contradiction here.

There is no loophole or trickery to make both true, or to deny the contradiction. In short, the man from 2 Samuel 1 was lying. Not everyone recorded in the Bible is telling the truth, and this man came to King David with a story about how Saul had been killed. But it was fabricated.

In reality, I can only guess, this man found the body of King Saul and removed the crown and bracelets. He then raced to tell King David what had happened thinking he would be rewarded. He believed that David would have been happy to hear of the death of his enemy, and would reward this man for being the one to give the fatal blow. He was wrong!

Meanwhile, David asked the young man who had told him the story,[j] “Where are you from?”

He answered, “I’m an Amalekite, the son of a foreign man.”

14 At this David asked him, “How is it that you weren’t afraid to raise your hand to strike the Lord’s anointed?”

15 Then David called out to one of his young men and ordered him, “Go up to him and cut him down!” So he attacked him and killed him.

16 David told him, “Your blood is on your own head, because your own words[k] testified against you! After all, you said, ‘I myself have killed the Lord’s anointed!’”

2 Samuel 1:13-16 (ISV)

David, far from being happy to hear of the death of Saul, was outraged that this man would dare raise his hand to the Annointed King of Israel! So he has him executed for his crime.

This is but one example of apparent contradiction of course, and critics will often point to other things to find fault with the Bible. I believe that contradictions are not in the text, and in fact these apparent ones can lead us to new revelation of what God is trying to say to us.

The Word of God is perfect, and we can fully rely on it. Perhaps we do not understand every part of it, but that does not mean it cannot be trusted.

Do not worry about the parts of the Bible you do not understand, pray about them and ask the Spirit to reveal their meaning to you. Instead of focusing on what you do not understand, pay attention to what you do understand and make sure you live it out in your life.

Thank God for His precious Word to us!

Preach the Gospel (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words… let me tell you, you do have to use words!

St Francis is often attributed to having said “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words!” There is much truth in this, and our lives and actions should certainly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

I am certain however, that St Francis never intended this phrase to become an excuse not to use words.

While our actions do indeed speak louder than words at times, we must all be ready to speak and proclaim the Gospel of Christ clearly when necessary.

When sharing the Gospel with someone, we may only have at most sixty seconds before they move on, decide they are not interested or want to hear more. We should all rehearse and practise that one-minute Gospel presentation. Don’t stumble over the words in the heat of the moment, have them stored away in your memory so that you can call upon them when needed.

Words without action may be ineffective, as we ought to give people a reason to listen. But actions without words to back them up may not give people a clear understanding of what Jesus has done for us all.

God made the world. We broke it. We deserve punishment for this sin. But God loved us and sent His Son to take the punishment for us. He died on a sinner’s cross, but rose to life again after three days. If we accept Him and put Him in charge of our lives, we can enjoy a new relationship with Him.

Let the world see this in your actions, and tell them what Christ has done!

Taking the Lord’s Name

After a little break yesterday, we return to our series on the Ten Commandments. Today we start thinking about taking the Lord’s Name in vain.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 2:7 (ESV)

For many people, this commandment starts and ends with saying God’s Name in inappropriate ways. I think this commandment goes much deeper than that, and we will discuss that in a moment. For now, let’s address the issue of misusing God’s Name as a curse or swear word.

I don’t know how or when the name of Jesus became a curse word. It seems rather odd, and if you yelled out the name of some other religious figure when you hit your thumb with a hammer, you might be considered rather weird!

Every time someone uses the name of Jesus, or shouts “Oh my God!” in this way, they clearly misuse God’s name. It shows a lack of reverence for the Creator of the universe. We have no doubts all slipped up at times, uttering a word in anger we should not have. For the Christian though, we must endeavour to not use the name of God in this way.

This commandment clearly covers this issue. When we swear using Christ’s name, we break this commandment and must stop.

The commandment goes further than this though. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is far more than just uttering a curse every now and again. It is really about representing God in the world.

When we take His name, we literally taking His name on and representing it in the world. It might be like the police officer you see robbing a bank – clearly they are not representing their office and position well!

When we become Christians, we are making a commitment to Jesus and should not do so lightly. This is illustrated, for me at least, at a public baptism. When my children were young, we chose not to baptise them, favouring instead that they make their own decision when they were old enough. We held a thanksgiving service when they were born, and as parents promised to raise them in the church. Late last year, our two eldest daughters decided to be baptised and both us as parents and the church made clear that they were making promises to God and they should not do so unless they were committed to fulfilling them.

As Christians in the world, we are observed and scrutinised more than most. Has anyone ever said this to you: “That’s not very Christian of you…” Even the world holds us to higher standards than the average.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain is to say you are committed to Him and following His ways, but to act quite differently. It is really hypocrisy, and something the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were guilty of throughout the Gospels.

Jesus’ most challenging words were for those who were supposed to be “religious” and yet treated people most unfairly. They kept the finer points of the Law, and did things to be seen by others, yet they lacked to do the most important or weightier parts of the Scriptures.

“How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but have neglected the more important matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the things you should have practiced, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23 (ISV)

Likewise the parable of the Good Samaritan gives us some help here.

After careful consideration, Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of bandits. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 By chance, a priest was traveling along that road. When he saw the man,[h] he went by on the other side. 32 Similarly, a descendant of Levi came to that place. When he saw the man,[i] he also went by on the other side. 33 But as he was traveling along, a Samaritan came across the man.[j] When the Samaritan[k] saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Luke 10:30-34 (ISV)

Who do you think best represented God in that story? The priest and the Levites were the ones who had “taken the Lord’s name” and yet left this man in desperate need alone and without offering a jot of help.

This commandment encourages us all to take our Christian walk seriously. Encountering Christ should lead to a change in our behaviour, and if it doesn’t, then we must ask ourselves if we have really surrendered fully to Jesus.

Jesus is not just our Saviour, He is our Lord also. Many of us are more excited about salvation than we are about Lordship and surrender. But they come as a package.

If you are anything like me, then you will be challenged by this commandment. I take my relationship with God seriously, but I could do more. Let this be a challenge to us all to come up higher and to properly represent the name of Jesus on the Earth.

Idols

Yesterday we looked at the first of the Ten Commandments telling us to worship no other gods but only God Almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You can read that post here – No Other God.

Today we continue on by considering the next commandment. This one, I believe, is closely connected with yesterday’s one.

“Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.

Exodus 20:4-5 (GNT)

God is not against sculpture! Yet He clearly commands the people of Israel not to make any images of animals or beasts. Why would that be a problem?

As we mentioned yesterday, the people of Israel had just escaped the clutches of Egypt and had been surrounded by a culture which worshipped many gods of different kinds. Many animals were worshipped also, or their images used as a focal point.

God did not want the Israelites to adopt this practice. For them, God was the only One to be worshipped. They were not to make images of created things, but should worship the Creator Himself alone.

Any “god” made by human hands is no god at all.

Such a practice may seem rather alien to our ears. I don’t recall meeting anyone who made themself an idol or image and began to worship it. So does this really apply to us?

Absolutely!

While we may not worship carved images much these days, there are plenty of things we might describe as idols in our lives.

The idolatry of money springs immediately to mind. We all need money of course, and it is important to work and pay our bills. But how many people actually end up worshipping their money, unhealthily obsessed with their bank balance or possessions? It is one thing to love one’s job, but quite another to work incessantly for the bigger house, better car, or latest gadget. All such things are temporary.

There are countless other examples. Fame is one. People idolise pop stars or movie actors, many of whom are engaged in all manner of sinfulness on and off screen. If not chasing after the superstar, they may be seeking fame itself believing it to be a high achievement.

Idol worship can come in less obvious forms as well. Family, for example, can become an idol to some. It can start with just wanting to be a good parent or spouse, but grow into a dependence or even our very reason for being. There is no suggestion at all that we should neglect our family responsibilities, but neither should they become the most important thing in our life, that is, above God Himself.

Jesus made this point in Matthew’s Gospel:

“Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples.

Matthew 10:37 (GNT)

Again, to be really clear, Jesus is not saying we should not care about our families. We absolutely should love and care for those close to us. What He is saying is that Jesus must be first and foremost in our lives, even above our family. That is a real challenge.

What are the idols in your life? Are there things which are taking God’s rightful place?

Exodus 20:5 goes on to say that God “tolerates no rival” (from the Good News Translation) and in other versions of the Bible says “I am a jealous God.”

God is the only One in the entire universe who has a right to be “jealous.” For us, we are no better than any other human being. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards so have no right to look down on anyone else. Yet God is perfect, and wonderful, and He is the Almighty. No one and nothing compares to Him. When we worship other gods or make idols for ourselves, we are rejecting God’s perfection for something quite inferior.

God goes on to remind us that He will punish anyone who hates Him. These feel like difficult words, and many will argue they are not the words of a loving God. Such accusations are false however, and show a lack of understanding of who God is. He gave us life and breath and everything else, so how dare we even dream of “hating” Him?

Those who say what they will ask God when they meet Him in heaven, and I don’t mean out of curiosity but rather out of accusation. A well known atheist in the UK claimed he would question God about this or that. No he will not! When we see God in His full glory, we won’t dare question Him! It is hubris to think so.

There is but one God, and we should worship Him alone. We dare not make for ourselves anything that we use to replace Him. “You shall have no other god before Me!”

No Other God

We continue our series on the Ten Commandments which I started last week. Strangely enough, I started by talking about stealing in my post – It’s Not Really Stealing. I then gave a bit of an overview of the Ten Commandments in my post – The Ten Commandments. You don’t have to have read these before today’s post but please do go back and catch up if you can.

We find the first and most important of the commandments in Exodus chapter 20, verse 3 stated below.

God spoke, and these were his words: 2 “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.

3 “Worship no god but me.

Exodus 20:1-3 (GNT)

The Ten Commandments were given to the people of Israel as they left the nation of Egypt, which worshipped all manner of gods. Similarly, they were heading for the Promised Land via the wilderness, and the people they would later evict or destroy would have their own gods to worship. This commandment therefore was to ensure that God’s chosen people worshipped the One True God and none other.

We may be tempted to think that it therefore does not apply to us all that much. But I think that’s wrong, and in fact, this commandment is as relevant now as it ever was.

Thinking specifically about the UK, it was perhaps only two or three generations ago that the vast majority of people still went to church. These days, church attendance is in the minority. So if anyone now has a question of a spiritual nature, church might not be the first place they go to answer it.

Many people view all organised religions as one and the same. Some even suggest that they all worship the same “god” but do it in different ways.

The reason, I believe, that Christianity stands out is that in no other religion that I am aware of, did God come down as a Man and surrender to death for us all. Other religions have principle leaders or founders, but only Jesus became our substitute and took on the punishment we deserve. Other religions ask for obedience, whereas Christianity asks for surrender to the One who has obeyed it all.

So, when we read that we should have no other gods before God Himself, then it is still very much pertinent to us.

Jesus Himself claimed that He was the one and only way to God.

Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.

John 14:6 (GNT)

Many people claim that there are multiple ways to God. Different religions offer different paths, but all lead to God. Jesus disputes this emphatically.

Some claim they have no need of God at all. They think that life is just fine the way it is, and God plays no part in it. Yet the Bible teaches that God is Sovereign, and that He is in control of all things. Life without God is akin to what we call hell and not the life we live now.

To worship no other gods before God Almighty is to imply that we should be worshipping Him fully. Worship can be hard to define, but to worship God is to put Him not just front and centre, but for Him to be the only thing that matters.

What is the most important thing in your life? Is God the be all and end all for you? If not, then what can you change to make Him so?

We sometimes confuse worship with singing or music. We sometimes think of worship as a church service. More than either of these things though is living a life of worship. We worship God, or should do, with our every breath. As we work, rest or play our focus should be on the God who made the heavens and the Earth.

There is only one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Worship Him this day and always!

The Ten Commandments

Yesterday I wrote about one of the proverbs, and it was ultimately a post about stealing. You can read it here – It’s Not Really Stealing… I referred to one of the Ten Commandments which clearly tells us we should not steal. It got me thinking about the Commandments as a whole and so perhaps this will turn into a miniseries!

When I was young, I remember discussing the Ten Commandments at school. I imagine most children today are not taught or shown such things. That’s certainly true in the UK. We take the Bible out of schools, don’t teach children God’s ways and then wonder why we struggle with morality in society!

Some may think that the Bible is not relevant today. Even more so, we may think the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with modern life. Yet I hope what I said yesterday about stealing reminded us all how relevant these things are.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments into two main categories. we could put it simply like this: love God, and love people.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

This is a wonderful summary. Our whole lives as Christians should be focused on loving our Heavenly Father and on loving the people in our lives. That is no easy or small task!

So what exactly are the Ten Commandments? Many of us might struggle to name all ten! Here they are:

God spoke, and these were his words: 2 “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.

3 “Worship no god but me.

4 “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 6 But I show my love to thousands of generations[a] of those who love me and obey my laws.

7 “Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.

8 “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. 11 In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.

12 “Respect your father and your mother, so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.

13 “Do not commit murder.

14 “Do not commit adultery.

15 “Do not steal.

16 “Do not accuse anyone falsely.

17 “Do not desire another man’s house; do not desire his wife, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns.”

Exodus 20:1-17 (GNT)

Some may see these as rather old fashioned to our ears. Some will wonder what relevance the Sabbath rest has to us Christians in the 21st Century. Have any of us ever had any issues desiring our neighbour’s animals? Probably not. 

Yet when we dig a little deepr, we start to see that these Commandments reveal certain problems we may have hiding in our hearts. We might describe this “problem” in different ways, but it is essentially the problem of sin. 

We can examine the Commandments in turn and see how they fit in to modern life. I imagine if we all chose to live by them, even for a short time, we would be amazed at the changed state of the world. 

For now though, let’s look at the effect of the Law. Paul goes to some length to describe the purpose of the Law in his letters in the New Testament. I don’t propose to look at those now, but instead point you to an event described in the Gospels involving Jesus. 

The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

John 8:3-11 (GNT)

The teachers of the Law brought this woman to Jesus to try to trap Him. If He let her go, then He was breaking the Law – that is, one of the Ten Commandments. If He condemned her, then He showed the crowds He was no different from them. 

Whenever the teachers thought they had Jesus trapped, He always showed them up. This is no different. 

Instead of answering them straightaway, He stoops down and begins to write on the ground. Many have asked, “What did He write?” For me, this is part of the authenticity of John’s Gospel. Were this account fictional, you would never leave out such a detail! 

In our minds, we imagine the ground where Jesus was writing like a sandy beach. He scratched out whatever He wrote for all to see. The ground by the temple, where Jesus was, is actually quite rocky. So, in a sense, we see the finger of God writing in stone… a clear allusion to the Ten Commandments of Moses. 

It is my opinion that Jesus was in fact writing the Ten Commandments. As the teachers began to see and comprehend what He was writing, they began to realise their own guilt and shame. Jesus told them that whoever was without sin should throw the first stone. As they read the words of the Ten Commandments on the ground, they realised they too had broken them and deserved the same punishment as this woman. 

It is noticeable that they left, oldest to youngest, perhaps because the older we get, the more we realise how sinful we are. 

The Ten Commandments teach us our need for a Saviour. We have fallen short in many ways, and sin has corrupted our entire lives. 

Only the saving work of Jesus Christ at the cross can remedy that. Amen.

It’s Not Really Stealing…

The Lord hates people who use dishonest scales. He is happy with honest weights.

Proverbs 11:1 (GNT)

Some people accuse the Bible of no longer being relevant to life in the 21st Century. I totally disagree with this! Never more has the Bible been more relevant than right now.

As I sat down to write this morning, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to talk about. Usually when this happens, I start to read the Proverbs as they are so rich with life lessons and wisdom. I did not have to read for long today before I felt this verse was important to discuss.

I am working from home at the moment due to the COVID-19 virus. While our office is technically open, nearly all employees are able to log in from home and do their daily work from there.

I thank God for my employer who has been extremely supportive during this time. They have been more than understanding about how we do our work while balancing caring responsibilities.

We all had a chuckle the other day as a colleague’s young child burst into the room where he was conducted a teleconference and shouted, “Daddy, I’ve done a poo!” before he could trigger the mute button!

So what does any of this have to do with this verse from Proverbs? I can’t recall the last time I saw a set of balance scales, let alone used one. I certainly have never used one in my working life…

In context, this verse is about being honest. If you imagine people selling goods by weight in a market, then you will start to get an idea of what this is about. A customer would ask for a pound of whatever product they were buying. The seller would use their balance to weigh it out. You would have the product on one side, and the weight on the other. When they balanced, you knew you had the right amount.

The problem with this system was that dishonest sellers would use weights which weren’t quite true. They may be marked as a pound weight, but actually be slightly less. The result was that the customer was cheated and did not get what they paid for.

This happened to me once. I bought a bulk pack of coffee beans. I ordered one kilogram, but when it arrived I weighed it. The package only contained around 900g of coffee, and so was 10% short. When I complained, I was told the weighing machine they used had a certain tolerance or error margin. Some customers may get less than a kilo, while others slightly more.

Perhaps this was true. Perhaps I was just an unfortunate customer who got slightly less, while someone else a little more. I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt – but isn’t it funny how it so rarely works out in our favour?

Again, you might be thinking what does this have to do with anything?

The point of the proverb is that we are to be honest in our dealings. If we are selling something for a particular weight, then it should actually weigh that much. It is about integrity.

For someone like me who works in an office role, I rarely interact with customers nor do I sell a particular product. But the principles can still be applied.

If I am paid to start work at 9am, but don’t arrive until 9.10 then I am using an unjust balance – that is, I’m stealing that 10 minutes. Is it really stealing? Actually, I think it is and unless we work those extra ten minutes at the other end of the day or take a shorter lunch break, we are taking something we have not earned.

This is very much pertinent to our current situation. For me, working at home with four children running around can be very challenging. As I say, my employer has been very understanding and is allowing us time to sort out domestic issues. I should not take advantage of this however.

God wants us to be people of excellence. He wants us to be a good example to the world. Even if the rest of the world thinks it is fine to steal a few minutes here and there, we live to a higher standard. We are not satisfied to live below par just because no one is looking, because we know God is always looking.

Some say the Ten Commandments are old fashioned or even irrelevant. Not so.

Do not steal.

Exodus 20:15 (GNT)

This is a pretty straightforward commandment.

God has not changed His mind.

While we may not enter a store, pick something up and leave without paying for it, we sometimes fall a little short. If an online shop makes an error and sends you two items instead of one, and you’ve only paid for one, then you do not have the right to keep it without checking with the store. Offer to pay for it or return it, and many stores may just tell you to keep it. This has happened to me more than once.

Do not steal. It sounds simple, but can be applied in many ways in our lives. God has convicted me while writing this, and I hope it encourages you to come up higher and reach for excellence in all you do.