Posts

TRUTH | 40 Days of Focus, Day 16

Image
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
(Exodus 20:16) You know what phrase I'm tired of hearing? "Fake news." It seems like we are watching from the sidelines as the talking heads on TV try to tell us what is true and how we know. Everyone has a different truth, or "alternative facts" as some might say. Something either happened or it didn't. It doesn't seem that complicated.

But on the other hand, it makes sense that we do this, and it's not a new phenomenon. All of us operate under various cognitive biases, or preconceived ways of interacting with the world. These biases alter our perception of reality. They "help" us determine what is true or not.

For example, confirmation bias is our tendency to search out and pay attention to only evidence that backs up our already held beliefs. The bandwagon effect is our tendency to believe whatever everyone else is believing or thinking. The continued influence effect is …

GIVE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 15

Image
“You shall not steal."
(Exodus 20:15) I doubt many of us are guilty of violating the letter of the law for many of the 10 Commandments. I would say most of us aren't murderers or adulterers. And most of us are probably not thieves, either. I'm sure most of us, if we realized the cashier at Walmart forgot to scan an item in our cart, would then turn around and go pay for it as soon as we realized the mistake.

But like the others, if we get to the positive intention behind the prohibition, it might reveal a different story. Let's think of the command like this:
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
(Matthew 22:21) When we cheat on our taxes we are stealing from the community. When we withhold our collection from the offering plate we are stealing from the church. When we hold back part of our lives as "off limits" to God we are stealing from God. James reminds us:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Fat…

FAITHFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 14

Image
“You shall not commit adultery."
(Exodus 20:14) We've all heard the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Actually, that's a myth. First, in no way does that mean your particular marriage only has a 50% chance of lasting a lifetime. It simply means that at one point in our nation's history (a couple decades ago now) for every 2 marriages in a given year, there was 1 divorce. The divorce rate was half that of the marriage rate.

This phenomenon occurred on the heels of court rulings that gave women more authority and control in filing for divorce proceedings. When women were given the chance, they were finally able to end a bad marriage. Imagine being stuck in an abusive marriage, or knowing your spouse is sleeping around, and not being able to do anything about it.
In reality, however, the divorce rate has been on the decline - dropping around 18% over the past decade? Why? Because newly married young people are staying together longer. True, fewer young adul…

LIFE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 13

Image
“You shall not murder."
(Exodus 20:13) I think it's safe to assume that the majority of us could read this command and think, "Done. Next!"

All in all, it seems pretty easy not to kill people. I personally don't know any murderers. The overall rate of murder and violent crimes is on the decline throughout most of the country. So...odds are that you will see command number six and think, "I'm good."

But you know it's not that easy. If it were that easy, Jesus wouldn't have had to bring it up in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."
(Matthew 5:21-22) I find it helpful to refr…

HONOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 12

Image
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
(Exodus 20:12) The first four of the 10 Commandments deal with our relationship to God. We have no God but YHWH. We will not craft an image or idol depicting God in order to worship it. We will keep God's name holy. We will consecrate a time of Sabbath rest to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God and each other.

The fifth commandment turns the focus toward our relationship with others. What is the very first relationship we ever experience? Our parents. Like it or not, you do not get to choose your parents. They are with you for life. Our nuclear family is the primary metaphor for how we understand and relate to God. If we are to think of God as our Father or Mother, like biblical imagery often does, we better take those relationships seriously.

Side note: I find it fascinating that both Father and Mother are mentioned as worthy of honor. Most patriarchal soc…

SABBATH | 40 Days of Focus, Day 11

Image
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
(Exodus 20:8-11) Sometimes I think we forget just how revolutionary the Bible is/was. Remember that this was a nation of former slaves. How many holidays do slaves get? Zero. How many days off in a week did they get? Zero. To live was to work.

For God to take this nation of former slaves and then REQUIRE one day of complete rest from work EACH WEEK was truly foundational in granting them a new identity. They aren't slaves anymore, and to prove it, God says stop working.

The whole notion…

NAME | 40 Days of Focus, Day 10

Image
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."
(Exodus 20:7) Your name is the loudest, most important word in your vocabulary. From before you were born, you were probably addressed by name. Your parents chose a name that was important and meaningful to them in some regard. When someone needs you, they call your name. You want people to know your name and call you by name. If they don't know your name, especially after some time knowing you, or they get your name wrong, it can leave you feeling insulted or demeaned.

It can be frustrating to hear your name too much, however. When someone says your name just to say it, that almost feels like an affront, an abuse of your identity.
"Daniel. Daniel. Daniel. Daniel. Daniel. Daniel..." WHAT?!

Or worse, when someone ascribes some actions or beliefs to you, associating your name with something you would never do or think or condone, it can leave you feel…

IDOLS | 40 Days of Focus, Day 9

Image
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
(Exodus 20:4-6) The second of the 10 Commandments is a prohibition against crafting an image of a created thing in order to bow down to or worship it. Remember, the Hebrew people have just spent many generations in the land of Egypt which was overrun with idols and images. They were everywhere! If you go to Egypt even today and look at the ancient ruins, there are temples and idols and statues and carvings everywhere you look. They depict the pharaohs and the gods, retelling their collective stories in which they found their identity.

Some pharaohs ramped it up to ele…

ONE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 8

Image
And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me."
(Exodus 20:1-3)A quick summary of what happened after the creation accounts in Genesis: God made man and woman, placed them in a perfect garden, and gave them one rule - don't eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A serpent showed up and convinced them otherwise. They ate, they got expelled, their oldest son killed his younger brother - you know...typical family stuff. Things got worse until God sent a flood to wipe the slate clean and begin again with Noah and his family.

Then God called Abraham who would become the father of a great nation and through whom all the peoples of the world would be blessed. Miraculously Abraham and Sarah were able to have a baby boy in their old age. They named him Isaac. Isaac had twin sons named Jacob and Esau. Jacob tricked Esau out of his blessing and birthright - you know…

REST | 40 Days of Focus, Day 7

Image
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
(Genesis 2:1-3) When was the last time you rested? Like, really rested?

I'm sure we've all seen the statistics and research about how Americans are among the most overworked people in the world. Americans on average work longer hours per week than their European counterparts, and they receive fewer paid holidays. We have no guaranteed maternity leave, while other countries insist on granting mothers and fathers paid family leave while their children are young.

We go on fewer vacations, take fewer sick and personal days, and we work more overtime than we should. We buy into the lie that busyness equals productivity. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

I'm s…