Sunday, September 3, 2017

Love God...Part 3

As a child I remember first hearing the word vain to describe the wicked stepmother that was always out to get the princess I so adored from the fairy tale of Cinderella. I'd also heard the word when learning of the Ten Commandments during church. But I didn't understand the word. In fact having had the KJV version of the Bible as my first and only exposure to God's Word, I found I didn't understand a lot of words. And being a child of course I didn't think to ask what it meant either. I just went about my business as usual and knew it was something not to be. It was obvious to me at the time that it meant a mean person and something God was against.

Now having an understanding in the Word I realize that the word vain from my fairy tales and the vain that God warns us against are two VERY different meanings.

Exodus 20:7 in the NIV says, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." To study further, the original Hebrew “Nasa” (pronounced naw-saw) literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Then the Commandment continues, “for God will not hold guiltless (literally, “will not cleanse” or “who will not hold him to be clean that carries His name in vain”) whoever carries His name in vain.”

I love that we have different translations of God's Word because there are some words that have clearer resonance than others and at different times in our lives. The NIV puts a whole new light to God's third Commandment and part of Jesus' 1st Commandment on how to love God by respecting and having reverence for His name.

Some people believe that because there are so many versions of the Bible that it has become corrupt. I have learned that if you study the original words from the original manuscripts and their meaning they have the same meanings of the more modern words that have become our vocabulary today. I highly recommend keeping the KJV version side by side as well as a concordance with the version you are studying so as to make sure you are getting the correct context and also to follow up, if you're like me, what you were taught previous to coming into understanding.

So the definition of vain is "useless, producing no results" - to me this means we are to honor his Name, that it is to be kept Holy above all others. When we say His name it should affect us and those around us that is for His Glory. James 3:9-10 speaks of the tongue as a powerful part of the body: “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” Our goal is to be consistent in our use of words, so they would serve as a blessing to God and to others.

I often hear people making remarks with the Lord's name as the means of an interjection at the end of their sentence or as a swear word. It pierces and breaks my heart each time. I know these people don't know God the way I do or love Him, and don't realize they are cursing their maker. I am sure it is just a habit to them now but until I knew the Lord I never realized how many people misuse his Name.

Jesus taught us that God's name is to be hallowed when praying. Reading His teaching of this caused me to ponder greatly on what it meant to me. What is hallowed and what is God's name to me? It was revealed to me that I too misuse His name. I have been guilty of calling on Him at times when I don't really mean it, not purposefully but idly out of habit and taking His name for granted. I have had to learn to identify when I do this with the Holy Spirit's help so that I may ask forgiveness of it right away and humble myself and consider that conviction the next time before I call on His name whether that be in prayer, song, or praising and worshiping.

Names are a pretty big deal to God. Have you ever noticed how He re-names His children once they come to know Him? He renamed Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and Saul to Paul. These are just a few to speak of. Because God thinks so highly of us to name us, it is awesome to know that He calls us by a new identity with a will for our life.  Names can be a pretty big deal to us too. Think about it. When someone uses your name, it really speaks to you; you feel important and recognized.

There are so many names for God that honor who He is. I once learned all His names in Sunday School and at first I felt so foreign to them. But as I grew in the Lord I now find them holy and personal to me. I think my favorite is Emmanuel because it speaks to my heart of the trinity in how God is with us in whole, in all three parts of Himself. Complete. And that He never leaves. I thank God for sending Jesus who lived with us here only to ascend into heaven and give the gift of the Holy Spirit. I thank God that the Holy Spirit resides in me and that I have access to Him through the Holy Spirit because of  Jesus' sacrifice. Emmanuel means God is with me.

Here are other names I identify with God, and there are many lists you can study of names people used from the Bible to find what names for Him speak to you:

Adonai (Lord, Master)
Spirit of Truth
My Comforter
Heavenly Father
Jesus Christ
El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
Prince of Peace

The Lord our God knows His children by the way they speak of Him, of His name. This honors Him and shows our praise for Him. I too find delight when my children call me their mother. It is a special name and I honor it. It is an act of Love to God.

"Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory [is] above the earth and heaven." Psa 148:13

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Love God Part 2

So how do we love God? Do we love Him wholly above everything else or is He just an afterthought? How do you think Jesus loved God? The 2nd commandment explains it well and instructs God's children on this explicitly.

(Ex 20:4-6) "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."

The Hebrew word translated “graven image” means literally “an idol.” In the day of Moses there was a progression of idolatry where people put presence of force in a natural object by making an image of the personality they believe God is. They go as far as making a place for it and spending time with it because in that object they believe the force is indwelling in it.

We have idols of many sources today. Our self-esteem is one of them. Self love is one thing, but to put all our esteem and dependence on ourselves and boast about it to others or to ourselves is ego and creates pride. We also learn to love "things" or fleshly desires (Col. 3:5) and treasure them. These too are idolatrous in their own way because we work hard to get them and love them and want more. These idols create fleeting emotions and are filled with void. It is our faith that lasts. The things you cannot see.

While people don't mean to be this way, it is important to accept it is in our human nature. God wants us to put Him first and foremost in our minds. This commandment refers back to the 1st. God wants us to worship only Him. Is this so terrible? I mean if someone created you and all that is around you for you what is so wrong for Him to create YOU for Him and His desire alone? His jealousy for us is not a humanly emotion where it is wrong to desire something that does not belong to you. His jealousy for you and I is Godly as it is his ownership in us.

Many years ago while in prayer I recall noticing all the different colors of thread in the carpet of our church sanctuary and contemplated them while I focused and prepared my heart to converse with Jesus. In that moment the Lord brought to my attention that those little specs in that one square pattern on that carpet are like the number of heads of His people. I didn't even notice the rest of the floor and thought to myself, "How could He possibly want me with all these others?" So I asked Him, "Why do you love me?" His reply was simple, "My Creation." I could not have felt more love and understanding in Him and what His will was for my life than I did at that moment. I often re-play this fond memory of mine and am brought back to that place of love all over again.

Loving God by not creating other idols in our lives truly expresses ourselves to Him and allows communion with Him in a special personal way that only comes with this type of worship that he desires in us. If you truly love Him, there is nothing between your worship for Him. If there is, admit they are idols and ask God to help you abstain from them and come to Him first when tempted so that your love can be purified with Him.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Love God Part 1

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37-38

How to love God is to strive in believing in and following the first 4 of the original 10 commandments. Before being born into the Holy Spirit (John 3:5) I naively thought it was a list of "to do" and "not to do" items. Since then so much has been revealed to me as to what each really means which is why I wanted to emphasize each in its own post.

The commandments that were given in the Old Testament seemed cut and dry right? And if someone could not keep them they had to offer sacrifice to clean them from that sin. The book of Leviticus, while tedious to read, is a recording of the laws God instructed Moses to give to the Israelites and Priests on how they were expected to live as well as respond to the commandments when they were not kept. Very much different from today's commandments of loving God and loving others isn't it?

Today those original commandments are no longer binding to our eternal life. The law was fulfilled for good when Jesus, God's son, was offered as the final sacrifice from God for our sins. (John 3:16) He gave up His only Son to demonstrate His own love for us and offer Jesus as the way for reconciliation with Him. He knows we can't always keep the commandments because we are fallible, but if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we hold these commandments dear to our heart and desire to keep them knowing that Jesus died so that we may be clean once and for all. As you learn to walk with the Lord it becomes intrinsic day to day to repent when His gentle conviction shows how you may have fallen short. Following these commandments is one of many ways we show our love to God.

So thinking about the 1st commandment, "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3) how should we read this? God expects us to have a holy respect for Him. Something separate from anything or anyone else. Why?

God created us, similar to our fathers here on earth. He loves us, also similar to our own fathers. Now not everyone has had the experience of a loving father here on earth. Or perhaps there was no relationship at all or maybe it was broken. Some just do not hold a respect for their parents, so as you can see it may be hard to convey this example to all but if you haven't had a relationship with your parents, you can always choose to have one with God and still make things right with Him while you are living on earth.

Just as fathers do with their own children, God taught the Israelites how they should live. He still teaches us today through our relationship with Jesus as our Savior. He provides us with consequences so that we may learn the seriousness of His love. And like children who don't understand always why, we learn to trust Him. We need to realize we are a child of God and love Him.

Reading in the Bible the Israelites' and Priests' relationship with God might sound like nothing but rituals or sacrifices, but God looks at the heart. What they did and how they showed respect to Him were so much more than as if a means of "buying" their cleanliness. Their relationship to God was like a child to their Father. Like the relationship we have with our earthly Father, this relationship bodes deep and meaningful of love for Him and wished to please Him.

Thinking about this the verse where Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) applies to us today. Come to God as His child. Come only to Him, to no one else. For He is referred to in our Father in Heaven in the Lord's prayer when Jesus taught his disciples, "Hallowed be His name" -For He is our Father. Amen.