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10 Commandments

God’s Big Ten: Christian Assassins!

Today we’re looking at the 9th commandment.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Originally this is spoken in a legal setting. Do not lie about so-and-so. In the ancient world there was so such thing as forensic experts. There was no C.S.I. Jerusalem. The testimony of others was critical. Yet, then, just as today, finding multiple witnesses without personal attachment was hard to do. Everyone is personally attached – it’s difficult to remain neutral. That’s one reason I tell young couples not to get their parents involved in marital conflict because parents have a hard time not taking sides with their child. If you need a mediator, parents are usually NOT the best choice.

The same is true in legal matters. Don’t bring in a family member who has bias. Often times you will see family backing up something they KNOW to be wrong simply because they cannot go against family. You need to find an impartial person who is not going to give false testimony. People who give false testimony against others assassinate your character.

minion-ninjaThe character assassin is a crafty ninja. He goes around and he starts telling untruths about others. He pulls out his ninja swords and cuts people down with his lies and deceit. God says, “This isn’t the way I want my community to function!”

A healthy society depends on people being honest. So in the OT they actually had a law that said if someone lies about someone, the punishment that would have been on the accused now falls on the liar. It’s a reverse punishment. (Deut. 19:18-19).

If someone is on trial for his life, a liar caught giving false testimony must pay with his own life. God is very clear that lying about others in order to damage or would someone is NOT okay!

Even Jesus says false testimony defiles a person. One time when the religious leaders were upset with Jesus because his disciples “defiled” themselves by not washing their hands before they ate, Jesus told them, “It’s not the food going in that defiles you. You’re not toilet_flushingdirtied until the stuff comes out of you!”

Yes, even Jesus enjoyed bathroom humor.

But it was a double entendre. What comes out of a person’s heart is what defiles him, things such as evil thoughts, blasphemies, and false witness. (Matthew 15:1-20) Lying about others doesn’t just damage them. The false things we say about others defiles us – makes us unclean.

While we may not find ourselves defending untrue allegations in court, we will find ourselves the victims of personal, false attacks on our character and behavior. This commandment carries beyond legal attitudes and into all of the ways we talk about other people

We can be character assassins without ever going to court. We can participate in gossip, rumors, and slander, and spread falseness without ever seeing the inside of a court. Rumors are a form of social bullying – to bring a person down and to put the gossiper up high.

You might have been the victim of a character assassin who is spreading false junk against you. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the chain of passing along the rumor. There are really three ways to approach character assassins.

If you’re the one talking – STOP IT!

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? There’s no need for you to be spreading false garbage against other people, no matter what they may have done to you. It doesn’t matter how they have behaved towards you in the past, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Jesus once said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus IS truth, so speaking false junk is directly opposed to Jesus Christ. How can you claim to be a follower of Jesus if you actively participate in spreading falseness?

If you hear something about someone else – STOP IT!

Call time out. You don’t need to be involved. But we love dirty laundry (Don Henley song…), especially when it isn’t ours. Our own dirty laundry we hide, but we revel when we see other people’s. There’s no room for such behavior in God’s kingdom.

Ignorance is no excuse. Do you ignorantly pass on false info? We see so many do this with the internet. Now you have the opportunity to have tens of thousands of people passing on ridiculously bogus info (Lotto math; Obama curtains, etc.). If we looked at our online behavior through an OT lens and we were punished with the same punishment we’re asking for the person we’re speaking against, would we still be so quick to spread the lies?

IF YOU DO NEED TO BE INVOLVED (like this is a life-or-death situation), DON’T PASS ON INFO OR ACT ON INFO BLINDLY – VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY. When you spread stories about others, you can’t take it back. Labels stick, and are often impossible to scrub off. Think about what you say.

Words have power.

If you’re being talked about

This is the hard one. You can’t control what comes at you but you can control what you hold on to and how you behave. There are 5 ways we can behave when people bring false accusations against us:

  1. Live in such a way that, if people accuse you, others can see that it’s bogus. (1 Peter 2:12). Sometimes that means going above and beyond – walking a fine line and not taking an easy road. It means our behavior is impeccable.
  2. Go to the source and try to reconcile (Matthew 18). This is dealing with it man-a-mano. Keep it off FB!
  3. Never stop being polite to those who hurt you. Just because someone may have been a jerk to you doesn’t give us permission to be jerks back to them. We are called to treat everyone well, the way we want to be treated, in spite of the injuries done to us.
  4. Tell the truth to anyone who asks (without seeking to tell everyone!) Don’t lie. Don’t cover up. Don’t be vindictive. But calmly and simply be a truth-teller.
  5. Don’t give people more ammo to attack you with – be calm, honest, and discreet. When people spread false things about you, most people want you respond in an angry way. It adds fuel to the fire and justifies them in their own minds. You can’t feed the trolls. Starve the trolls.

These five things don’t leave us feeling satisfied when we’ve been wronged. There’s no justice being done. But Jesus calls us to be a new kind of community – a community that treats each other well and speaking only truth.

We don’t listen to falseness. We don’t spread falseness. We respond appropriately even if attacked. And even though we might want to fill their mouths of our attackers with superglue, that doesn’t seem like a very Christ-like thing to do… 😉

 

Questions for Reflection

  • Have I participated in spreading false things against others?
  • Have I been passive while hearing other people spread false things about others?
  • Have I lived with such integrity that people wouldn’t believe false things?

God’s Big 10: Let’s Talk About Sex

pair-97059_1920Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me….aaaaand that’s enough of quoting that song. Seriously, though, our culture is obsessed with sex. Many people seem to have an attitude that anything goes as long as you are not physically hurting someone else. After all, who are we to tell others how to live?

I don’t think God is too concerned about hurting feelings. He’s not giving us 10 suggestions. That’s more of Dr. Phil’s lane. God’s giving us the commandments that are to be foundational for our lives, and that includes human sexuality. So we get to the 7th commandment:

You shall not commit adultery.

One line!

It’s just one sentence. I wish it were that simple. I wish we could say, “Here’s the word for today. Be on your way.” It SEEMS self-explanatory. We can open the Bible, read the sentence, and say, “Huh! I didn’t know that. Now I’ll go change the way I live!”

But real life doesn’t work that way, does it?

While the Old Testament was about the behavior and monitoring the actions of people (like committing adultery), the New Testament is about the heart BEHIND the behavior. So once again we turn to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.eye-211610_1920 It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Man, Jesus doesn’t pull punches! It’s not just about the bad behavior, but everything that leads UP to the behavior in the first place. He would seem to be pretty serious about this topic. Why is it so important to catch lust early and to refuse to tolerate it? I think there are some reasons

First, affairs don’t just happen to you. It’s not something you fall into, no matter what garbage Hollywood tries to show us. You don’t go walking down the street and then, BAM, you’re in an affair. “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!?”

No, they start long before that. Where our eyes lead our hearts will follow. And just as we build up a tolerance to substances, we can build up a tolerance to adulterous situations. It’s just a look, a glance. It’s just a little innocent flirtation. It was just a long hug….

Nobody jumps into bed with another married person in one day. If we don’t keep ourselves in check, we start to go down the wrong road. We don’t even have to go looking for it – it seeks us out. It finds us!

If you want to see how our culture has become numb to lust over the years, just look at department store catalogs. Way back in the day, underwear and lingerie sections of the catalog would simply have the picture of the clothing lying on the table. You see it, but it was not appropriate to see it on a person.head-1069140_1280 Now catalogs don’t just show the underwear on people, but the editors try to make them look as tantalizing as possible.

But I’m pretty sure if I put on the boxer briefs the guy in the photo has I won’t suddenly have 6-pack abs. Are they trying to sell me on the underwear or on the image that goes with it?

How prevalent is this problem in our society? It’s so prevalent that Playboy Magazine has made a move to remove nudity from its pages. It’s no longer a nudie mag. Why? Because you can find the same content (and worse) online for free. So Playboy is shifting its publishing priorities to keep up with a sexually bankrupt culture.

The problem of lust doesn’t apply only to men. Women are also susceptible to lustful thoughts. Stereotypes aren’t always accurate, but men seem to be more visually oriented and women seem to be more imaginatively oriented when it comes to lust. For men, lust tends to accompany images (magazines, websites, videos, etc.). For women, lust tends to accompany things like romance novels and stories! Their imaginations can take them to far off lands with Ricardo. Romance stories about teenage vampires or 50 Shades of Grey drive women’s lust.

God’s design for healthy sexuality, in behavior AND thought, is between a man and the woman he is married to. Anything outside of that falls outside of God’s intended design for sexuality. It’s easy to make sure our behavior is right but be twisted inside. That’s why Jesus says our inside needs to match the outside. It’s not just about behavior but the thoughts that no one else can see.

In our culture we like to ask the question, “How far can I go?” But that’s the wrong question. The real question is, “How holy can I be?” Christian liberty allows us to do a variety of things while our conscience is still clear. But be clear – liberty does not give us permission to engage in lustful behavior, no matter how we try to justify it.

“It’s not porn, it’s just the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.”

Or

“It’s not lust, I’m just reading the novel and fantasizing about someone doing that to me and taking me away from here.”

Any sexuality that moves beyond the husband/wife relationships is not appropriate.

Look at Samson. He was a strong dude physically. He was a weak dude morally. He was like Superman. Superman is impervious to everything EXCEPT kryptonite. Samson is impervious to everything except women. They are his weakness. This isn’t a condemnation on women. This is condemnation on the lust within Samson that brings about his own downfall.

His eyes find the wrong woman. His heart follows.

Broken heart
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before you know it, his eyes have led him into a series of jacked up relationships, and his lust ends up bringing about his own death. All because he cannot control his eyes. So how do we protect ourselves?

Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes that I have not looked upon another woman.” It starts in the heart long before it ends up in the bed. Where our eyes wander our hearts follow.

Where are your eyes? Where is your heart?

Stop wondering about how far you can go as a Christian. Are you doing everything you can to protect yourself, your eyes, and your heart?

 

Questions for Reflection

  • Do you desire to be a faithful person – faithful to God and faithful to your partner (or potential future partner)?
  • What are you willing to do to fight lust in your life?

The Big 10: Murder Most Foul!

C’mon, preacher. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve got the 6th commandment down – piece of cake!

“You shall not murder.”

I don’t think anyone would disagree that murder is not cool. Whatever you’re feelings are about justifiable homicide, war, etc. – everyone seems to agree that murder is not okay. So we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this one. It’s just that one little line. Instead, we’re going to jump right to the New Testament:

MATTHEW 5:21-24 ~ 21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus takes the Old Testament idea of the action (murder) and converts it to a matter of the heart (anger). We can’t get away with avoiding behavior any more. We are confronted with the attitude and heart that underlies the behavior.

This is a problem for me. I could avoid killing people all day long. Getting angry? That’s a whole ‘nother matter! anger-794699_1280Jesus is saying that what’s on the inside can separate us from God. We can’t hate each other on the inside and then go pretend that everything is okay. But we do it all the time. Something happens and fills us with anger. Then we walk into church and we put on a happy face and say, “Praise Jesus – God is good!” We’re two-faced liars who would rather be passive-aggressive towards people than to be open and upfront.

Jesus says, “I CALL SHENANIGANS!”

He calls us out and says that the things we have between us can get between us and God. Don’t try to get right with God when you’re not right with everyone else. Let’s be honest – we do it all the time. We come to worship while harboring anger towards other people. And how often are we intentional about reconciling that anger before we worship? It almost NEVER happens.

Anger by itself is not wrong. We see examples in the Bible of God getting angry. We see Jesus getting angry. It’s not wrong – it’s part of the character of God. And if it’s part of the character of God it’s part of how we are wired. No, anger is not wrong.

How we DEAL with anger is where we go wrong.

Ephesians 4:26 ~ Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.

Anger is not bad – it’s part of who we are. Paul seems to believe that we can be angry and not sin. Anger is an attribute of God. God’s anger is a right reaction to moral evil and injustice. It’s not about personal insult or hurt. When God sees moral evil and injustice, God gets angry. What God gets angry about; we can get angry about in a righteous way. We can spot injustice and be righteously angry. When we get angry about our personal causes and offenses is where we run the risk of getting into sin.

Anger in and of itself is not wrong. The question is simply, “What are we angry about?”

What we get angry about and how we deal with that anger are the important things here! Anger can stir up trouble and have harmful consequences.

There are 3 Primary Causes of Anger:

  1. Injustice – We can get angry about the things that God gets angry about – when it’s about faith, righteousness, and justice.
  2. Frustration – something blocks us from our desired goal/outcome.

upset-534103_1920Frustration can cause anger. It’s NORMAL to respond in anger to frustration. If my desired outcome is to get all of my kids out of the door and into the van by a certain time and they fail to comply, my children are being roadblocks to my desired outcome. They are preventing me from my plan. And I get steamed – I become angry. It’s an easy anger, but it’s not a good anger.

  1. Threat/hurt – injury, insult, attack, etc.

Any time we’re injured, see an injury coming, or perceive any kind of threat (physical, emotional, etc.) our normal response is to get angry. Have you ever whacked your thumb with a hammer? We respond in anger. Did the nail do anything wrong? Nope. How about the hammer? Nu-uh. Yet we get angry over the hurt.

The same thing happens in relationships. When we see someone flirting with our significant other and we feel some sort of threat we respond in anger. We might call that type of anger jealousy, but it’s still an anger response.

It’s normal.

But just because anger responses are normal in these situations does NOT mean it’s okay to hold on to our anger. That’s why Jesus comes along and says, “Your anger is keeping you from your relationship with God.” Just from a physical point of view, holding on to our anger can cause real health problems. Living in freedom from anger can heal our souls AND our bodies.

But it often easier said than done. My dad’s side of the family is Scottish. My mom’s side is Irish. People often joke that I’m genetically bred to be angry. But there is no DNA excuse – we can’t skate by simply because of where we’re from. So here are some practical steps to letting go of the anger.

  1. Acknowledge/identify the anger – Who am I angry at? What am I angry for?

Confess to God. Confess to the person you have an issue with. Stuffing your feelings deep down inside is only going to make you sick. Tackle it head on (lovingly, if you confess to the person you have an issue with).

  1. Restrain your outbursts – no matter how mad you get it’s not gonna change the past. How you handle your anger IS gonna change your future.

I remember a classic Disney cartoon in which Donald Duck was taking an anger management class (via a record player). The voice on the record told him to try 10 second countdown timer – when he felt himself getting hot under the collar he was supposed to count down from 10 to zero. Whatever it takes for you, find a way to practice restraining your outbursts. Give yourself time to cool down.

  1. Let compassion replace resentment – get a different perspective; is there ANY other way to look at what’s happening?

When it comes to our anger towards other people, we can go a long way in letting go if we try to see the situation from another point of view. From my shoes I’ve been wronged, sure. What would happen if I tried to see it from an outsider’s vantage point? What about from the vantage point of the person with whom I’m angry? Find compassion for what they’re going through rather than focusing on your own sense of indignity.

  1. Resist ruminating – the 10 second replay button has to GO!

Going over and over and over and over situations that make us angry do nothing to help us cool down. In fact, they usually keep the fire stoked. If we’re serious about keeping our anger under control, we need to stop replaying the situation in our heads. Find something positive and lovely to think about instead. I’m not saying to ignore the situation and sweep it under the rug. I’m saying that we don’t have to re-live it day after day and hour after hour.

  1. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not take your anger out to the general public (like Facebook).

It only serves to escalate the problem and doesn’t allow you to forgive. The public route is merely an attempt to justify your anger. If you have to talk about it, talk to the person you’re angry at and not the entire community.

So What?

Jesus calls us to right relationships – to reconcile conflict as best we can (sometimes that’s not going to be possible – it is a two-way street) It’s time to let go of the anger we’ve been holding on to and time to move forward.

 Questions for Reflection

  • Who am I angry at?
  • Have I tried to work through the anger or am I holding on to it?
  • What would happen if I let go of the anger?

The Big 10: Swear to God

Welcome back to our journey through the 10 Commandments! We’ve already looked at the first two commandments. Now God continues with the 3rd commandment.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

How many of you have ever been taught that the commandment means “Don’t have a potty mouth” swearingand don’t swear and curse. But it’s not about profanity. It’s about making oaths and promises.

At some point, most of us have been lied to by someone. Sometimes the liar declares with total conviction that he’s telling the truth. Have you been in a situation like that? You don’t believe the story and they tell you, “SWEAR TO GOD!” In the military, Sailor’s stories often start with, “I s*** you not.” Military member’s stories are less believable than any other stories – maybe only 20%!

Just because someone says, “Swear to God!” doesn’t mean that their words are going to be true. They can say that and still tell you lies. I asked some people about jobs that have reputations for being filled with liars: lawyers, contractors, politicians… It’s impossible to go through an election season without hearing both sides declaring the other guy is a liar! “He’s a lying lying-pants.”

I genuinely believe that most politicians are not trying to deceive the public. I think that they hear and believe spin and then repeat bad info without ever hearing the truth. Then they sully their name with “lies.”

Dale Carnegie talks about the power of the name. Our names are the most important word in our language. If you have an unusual name or a name that’s spelled or pronounced oddly, how do you respond when people say it incorrectly? Or when people are writing your name and misspell it? Like having the last name Linzey with no “d” and no “s.” Or when telemarketers call for my wife…

When I was in Chaplain School we had a Nigerian national whose name was 6 syllables long . Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants would approach him, look at his name, and resort to simply calling him “Chaplain O.” They would never learn how to say his name. In his culture it was an insult.Name He took it as an insult every time someone refused to learn his name, so I took it upon myself to learn his name and the proper pronunciation. When I said it his eyes got wide and his jaw dropped open.

The name of God is more important. God is saying, “Don’t take my name lightly. Don’t think you can throw my name around in your lying and in your declarations. My name is not cheap. My name is not dirt – don’t treat it as such. My name is holy. My name is sacred.”

He’s saying, “Don’t use my name to add weight to your words.” That’s what oaths are all about. It saying that our words alone are not trustworthy, so we give them added weight. “I swear….” If that’s not enough we’ll swear on the Holy Bible. As though throwing God into the mix will increase the truthfulness. Have you ever heard, “Swear on a stack of Bibles!” As though each Bible increases the truthfulness of your statements. If we have to swear on a stack of Bibles to convince people, what does that say about all of the other words that come out of our mouths?

It tells me that we’re untrustworthy people. It tells me that people think we’re full of it – that people think we’re habitual liars unless we swear on a stack of Bibles. Don’t use God’s name. It really comes down to our character and our honor. Deuteronomy 25:13-16 says:

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

The scales were used to buy things. Some shop owners would put bogus weights on the scales to make the cost seem greater than it should be. But God is calling us to live a life that is so sparkly that resonates with honesty in every fiber that nobody EVER requires us to swear any kind of oath.

Even kids learn early on: “Do you pinky-swear?” Why the pinky? pinky-swearWhy not the thumb? Who knows. What about “Scout’s honor”? Is if my credibility as a Scout gives my words MORE weight than normal. Why do we swear? To give our words weight. Even the Apostle Peter, when being accused of being a follower of Jesus, swore that he wasn’t part of Jesus’s crowd (Matthew 26:72; Mark 14:71).

We are people who will swear false oaths to protect ourselves from trouble. Sometimes we do it to manipulate others (used car salesmen, anyone?). We make all sorts of oaths, but it all comes down to adding credibility to our words because we feel that what we’re saying isn’t trustworthy enough. It’s a problem when we feel we have to call God in to lend weight to what we’re saying.

Integrity matters. Character matters. Why? 1) God is a person of integrity and character, so we need to be. 2) Relationships thrive on honesty and integrity but shrivel up and die without it. In marriage, it means that your spouse believes your behavior when you’re by yourself is the exact same as it would be if he/she were right beside you. That’s integrity. Honesty and integrity breeds trust.

People will never have to wonder or question our words when we live lives of integrity and honesty. How do we live swear-free lives (not profanity, but integrity)? It comes down to a yes/no lifestyle. Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Jesus says don’t try to back up your words with something stronger. You’re saying that you’re not normally trustworthy, so you’re bringing in your big guns. Jesus says it’s not supposed to be that way. We’re supposed to live lives of honesty and integrity that does not throw around God’s name lightly. No oaths necessary. You should know that my character backs up my words.

I want to be known as a person of honesty and integrity. This world trains us to gloss over the truth. We are okay with “partial truths” and “white lies.” We train ourselves to be dishonest. We must start living a yes/no lifestyle. Forget about oath-making, just live honestly. “Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to it, to an agreed upon standard.”

Practice being honest in the little things. Practice being honest in the big things. No promises and oaths needed – we just live as people of our words in everything we say and do. When we become people of integrity, people will notice. They will take our words seriously. Don’t misuse the name of the Lord. Instead, live a life of honesty, regardless of the consequences. Let us be trustworthy people.

Questions for Reflection

  • Am I a person of integrity?
  • Can people trust my words or do I need to add weight to convince people?

The Big 10: No Other Gods

It’s my joy once again to lead an online devotional Bible study. This time we’re going to spend some time looking at the Big 10 – God’s foundational commandments to His people.

footballLegendary football coach Vince Lombardi had a habit every season; even if his players had been on the team for years, where he would get his players together, hold up a football, and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

When we have the fundamentals in place, then we have a solid foundation for playing a strong game. That is what the 10 Commandments are for us. They are foundational for who we are and how we are to behave.

People get weird when we talk about laws and commandments, though. We don’t want to be told what to do. And sometimes laws can be funny things. There are some stupid laws on the books. These are some I found:

– It is illegal to impersonate a person of the clergy.
– Bear wrestling matches are prohibited.
– It is prohibited to sell peanuts in the county after sundown on Wednesdays.
– No member of the clergy is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit during religious services.
– It is forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck.

Usually laws exist because something happened. WHO WAS SITTING ON A GIRAFFE’S NECK?!? We normally don’t put laws on the books to hurt people – we think they are going to help. Some poor giraffe got hurt because a doofus tried to fish from way up there.

This is the point of the 10 Commandments. It’s not about God trying to twist our arms into behaving appropriately. It’s about God trying to restore things back to the way they were created to be. God’s trying to teach us what a perfect world looks like.

And God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

It all begins here – you will have no other gods beside me. This one commandment provides the framework for all of the commandments. Israel had just come out of Egypt with their many gods. Have you ever hung around someone so much that you start to pick up on their mannerisms and expressions? It’s really easy to see this between parents and their kids. familyOne day the kid realizes, “Oh, gosh! I’ve turned into my mother!” Or, if it’s really bad, your wife will tell you, “You sound just like your dad.” Without realizing it, we begin to conform to the people we spend a lot of time around. As Proverbs 27:17 says,

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

The people you are around will influence and shape who you are. If you hang out with dull people you will become dull yourself. If you want to be sharp, you need to surround yourself with sharp people. Israel had allowed the foreign culture and foreign gods to have too much influence, and God begins his commandments by setting things straight.

Yahweh is not one among many – He is to be the ONLY one

This command is renewed in the New Testament in Acts 4:12 ~

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Even though this world frowns on religious exclusivity, we cannot escape it. The Bible is clear about it. There is no other way. All roads do NOT lead to God.

The question to us, then, is, “Who is influencing us and rubbing off against us?” What threatens God’s place as #1 in our lives?

There is only one God.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me” (Isaiah 43:10).

Questions for Reflection
– What’s your number one commandment?
– What is the overarching principle that drives your life?
– Is God first? Or is he merely one among many?

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