The Big Ten

No, this isn’t about football, although your girl here is a fan of her college team, which happens to be in the Big Ten…which has fourteen colleges in it. Strange math, if you ask me! But it lays the foundation for today’s devotional, which starts with the premise that God created a big ten of his own, to which Jesus effectively added an expansion that enhances, but does not eliminate, the original. I am talking, of course, about the Ten Commandments.

Some people have the mistaken idea that Jesus came to eradicate the original ten. They are wrong. While Jesus spoke against the minutiae of the many laws that were extra add-ons made by the rabbis of the day, the sanctity of the original ten remains paramount to this day.

Exodus 20 (Contemporary English Version)

 God said to the people of Israel:

I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

Do not worship any god except me.

Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.

Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.

12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.

13 Do not murder.

14 Be faithful in marriage.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not tell lies about others.

17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? In Matthew, Jesus states that he has not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Then he says this:

John 13:34 (Common English Bible)

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.

Think for a moment what the world would be like if we obeyed everything on this list. Think for a moment how different things would be if we just obeyed the new commandment given by Jesus. Wouldn’t the rest of the ten simply fall into place?

Imagine how changed your conversations would be with your family if all of the world lived under these commandments. What would your office “water cooler” conversations sound like? Not being able to lie or covet would certainly change the neighborhood. Sundays would be reverent again. Marriages would stay intact, or die trying. False idols would be forbidden and not tolerated, let alone revered. Our reverence for God would increase, as would our witness in the world. If we loved each other the way Jesus loves us, harmony would reign.

As you continue along on your Lent journey, take a look at this passage again and see how you measure up. God’s Big Ten (plus) still speak to us today. Where is God calling you to obey?

Just as I Have Loved You by Deena Sharp

Top Ten

Some people consider the Ten Commandments to be an outdated model for lawful living. Some people would be wrong. When Jesus said that there was a “greatest commandment” he was in no way trying to say that the rest no longer applied. Indeed, he remarked that the commandments to love God and neighbors were the foundation for all the other commandments:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22 New International Version)

Yet we somehow overlook teaching and learning all ten. We have removed them from our courthouses as though the mandate of separation of church and state is a good reason to deny the fact that our judicial system was built on the commandments. So today we will dive into them again.

As you read through these, use them as a mirror. Do they reflect your life? Are you living out each one with your words, actions, thoughts, and deeds?

Exodus 20 (New International Version)

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.

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

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

I use a “ten finger way” of teaching the commandments to children. It is an easy way for kids to remember all ten by holding up the corresponding number of fingers and making an association with it. For example, if you hold up three fingers on one hand it looks like a W. The third commandment tells us to “watch your words.” You get the idea.

It got a little tricky when I landed on the 7th commandment on adultery. That one is challenging to teach to five-year-olds! Suddenly I realized that to make a seven with your fingers, you have five on one hand and two on the other. AH HA! I explained that the two separated fingers were two people who were married to each other, and the five on the other hand were all the other pretty people WHO THEY WEREN’T ALLOWED TO DATE. Problem solved.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “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.”

Scripture records that when the first people received the Ten Commandments they trembled with fear. How much better off would society be if we had the same respect for God’s law today?

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

Moses assured them that they had nothing to fear. God’s law is given as a safety net that was delivered to save us and keep us from sinning.

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Even in this, we are reminded of God’s saving grace and his activity in our deliverance. Thanks be to God!

Nothing to Fear by Michelle Robertson

Sabbath Snow

Walking with a fellow preacher on President’s Day, we began to commiserate about the fact that we often work on days that most people experience as holidays. Christmas and Easter are the obvious ones, but even those happy little Monday holidays that normal people enjoy don’t usually provide a day off for us. Sermons still need to be written, bible studies need prepped, and urgent hospital visits aren’t canceled due to the calendar. Don’t get me wrong, we love our work. But carving out a sabbath for people who work on the sabbath takes effort. Everybody who has to work on the weekend, raise your hand!

My friend confessed to me that the only time she really feels released from work is on a snow day. The inability to physically get out of the house is the one time she can just let herself have a do-nothing day and relax without feeling guilty. We don’t get many snow days on the Outer Banks, but when we do, it’s a treat.

There is truly something magical about a snow day that helps the world shut down and reflect. I can remember the joy of a snow day when I was a kid. All of Chatham Road would gather on the street for snowball fights, sledding, and making snowmen in each other’s front yards. Snow days are a child’s best sabbath.

Exodus 20 (The Message)

8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town.

For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

I joked with my friend that poor God is looking at all of his hard workers and saying, “What, I gotta send you SNOW to make you take a rest?” God created the sabbath for us so that we might cease our work and spend that time with family, friends, our thoughts, and God himself. That’s why he made it HOLY: it is set apart for his use so we might re-charge and re-connect with him.

Sabbath-making and sabbath-taking is meant to be a blessing to us. Many of my friends work seven days a week for months on end. The Outer Banks is a seasonal community, and our population quadruples with visitors in the warmer months. Our local businesses go crazy when the season begins. Sometimes there is no choice.

So the key here is to create sabbath in ways that accomplish what sabbath is intended to do: to re-charge our souls and re-connect with God. In other words, find a way to create your own snow day.

If God, who created the universe, counted and named all the stars, and set the rising and the setting of the sun in motion took a day off, so can you. Rest. Recuperate. Relax and remember who you are, and whose you are.

Tomorrow comes either way.

Come Unto Me, and I Will Give You Rest by Becca Ziegler