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MEEK | 40 Days of Focus, Day 20

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Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
(Matthew 5:5 | The Message) Google defines the word "meek" as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. It's closely related to humility. We have a hard time with those words in our society. It's a shame that meek rhymes with weak - because that's not what it means. It's a shame that humble and humiliation share the same root. We associate humility and meekness with weakness and fragility.

A Clydesdale may be meek and submissive, but that in no way means he's weak or fragile. To be meek is to harness your power, to control your strength, and not to impose your will on others by force.

Again, it's closely tied to humility. To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.

I always find…

MOURN | 40 Days of Focus, Day 19

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Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
(Matthew 5:4 | The Message) Enneagram Type Fours are commonly known as Individualists or Romantics. They tend to be more creative types - painters, musicians, authors, poets, etc. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and they want to be seen by the world as unique. They are driven by a desire to be special, different, authentic, but most of all to be accepted for who they are. You may not know who they are from one week to the next as they try on different personas and styles.

But the thing that really sets Fours apart from most other types is their comfort with melancholy. Fours tend to be drawn to sad movies, heartfelt TV dramas, and emotional indie music. They embrace sorrow like it's a close friend. It's been said that Fours don't have emotions, they are emotio…

POOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 18

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Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 | New International Version)  You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
(Matthew 5:3 | The Message) When we focus in on aspects of Scripture like the 10 Commandments, it can be easy to think religion is all about following a set of rule and regulation. For the Jews, it wasn't just the 10 Commandments. All together the Rabbis tallied 613 commands in the Torah. Beyond that they developed their own traditions and practices to act as a sort of "hedge" around the commands so they wouldn't even come close to breaking them.

For instance, the command to keep the Sabbath Day holy evolved into an elaborate system of regulations concerning how far one could walk, what tasks could be done if absolutely necessary, and trying to define "work" as tightly as possible. Religion became more about rights, rituals, rules, and regulat…

CONTENTMENT | 40 Days of Focus, Day 17

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“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:17) I've always thought this command was somewhat out of place. All the other previous commands having to do with our treatment of others were very action-oriented. Murder, adultery, theft, lying - these are all things we can actively do to a person to cause harm. But who does it harm to covet?

What does it even mean to covet?

If you ask Google to define the word, here's what you get: yearn to possess or have (something). Some synonyms include "desire," "be consumed with desire for," "crave," "have one's heart set on."

So this final of the 10 Commandments is more about an inward attitude than an outward action. In fact, this could be the one thing that leads to all the others. Look at what James says about this.
What causes fights and quarrels amo…

TRUTH | 40 Days of Focus, Day 16

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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…