Becoming a Disciplined Person

Too many people see life as a waiting room. People sit and wait for their names to be called. But progress in life – moving forward to maturity and effectiveness in what we do and achieve – does not come looking for us. We won’t achieve great things accidentally. Never forget, as one of my mentors taught me, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Achieving what you want in life takes time, effort, consistency, energy, and commitment. A word for all of this is “self-discipline.”

Self-discipline is what allows us to grow up, mature, develop, learn new skills, hone our present abilities and talents, accomplish, succeed, impact and influence those around us. If you are my age self-discipline is still needed as you work towards leaving a legacy behind when it is time to head home and meet the Master, Jesus. Self-discipline is what makes those things possible and puts success within reach – whatever your goals are and however you determine success.

Here’s the good news. Self-discipline is something you can develop. You don’t need to be born with it. In fact, few are. It is a choice you make and then keep on making. So, let spend a few minutes looking at how to develop self-discipline… Read more

Recent News

Deepest Regrets

It is with a very heavy heart that we express the unexpected passing of Ralph Howe on April 12, 2022.

Ralph loved Jesus and was passionate about sharing this with everyone he met. Ralph always spoke about how it was “the dash” that counted the most. The time between the birth date and end date. Ralph tried very hard to make the dash count every day.

Thank you for your love and appreciation.

More information about where and how you can express your condolences will be released in the near future. Please respect the family’s time to grieve and process this. Private messages can be sent to Ralph’s administrative assistant, Elizabeth (, for the time being.

Learning To Say No!

It’s Monday .. and that means a day when I catch up on all that has happened on the weekend that now needs my attention. I stop reading and answering emails and various texts from different apps on Friday night when I close the office for the weekend. So, they pile up and then on Monday I work to “catch up” and answer as many as I can or should.

You may ask what happens on the weekend that requires that I shut down the office and all that goes on in a ministry office on the weekends? The answer is simple. I work in my study on Saturday (a separate room from my office) to be ready to minister in the evening at a house church that I lead. And Sunday is my Sabbath when I do not work but have a day of rest away from all the normal weekday activities. So, there is always a lot to do on Monday.

As I reviewed the messages this morning I, once again, practiced something that it took me a long time to learn. I had to say “no” to a number of those who wrote or communicated by voice message. Examples:

    • Someone passing through my city sometime in June wanting to drop in and have coffee at my home
    • Someone needing to speak to me right away as it is (was) urgent
    • Someone writing and needing a prophetic word because they are having major problems in life
    • Someone who wanted to come and stay with me for three or four days so we could visit and they could share in (help me with, learn from) my ministry
    • Someone who simply wanted to have a coffee to ‘fellowship’
    • And the list could go on but you get the idea

I simply responded with a polite “no” to each of these and other requests that came in over the weekend. I have a number of criterion when determining how I will answer the different requests. The main one is: Did God call me to do this?” If the answer is “no” than my answer is also “no”.

Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message Version of the Bible and now with the Lord in Heaven, wrote: “A busy pastor is a lazy pastor.” Much of our business is a fruit of our laziness to discern the right things and say no to everything else. So, the key is FOCUS. We need to focus on what the Lord has called us to do at this time in the Kingdom and at this time in our journey of life. 

The problem is: Unsure of our direction and focus, we double our speed. And thus many end up living with stress, anxiety, and eventually burn-out. Living life but not enjoying life. Busy but not productive. Active but not getting anywhere. 

A number of years ago I learned this truth and thus learned to say “no” more often than I say “yes.” I learned that busy is not better. I discovered that it takes stillness and solitude to stay in touch with the heart of God. It became evident that I needed to make time for inner and outer silence so that I could hear the voice of the Spirit. And that this meant learning to say “no”. 

It meant no longer finding my sense of value and worth in what I did but in who I am in relationship to Jesus. That my identity was not to be found in my activities or my profession but  in who I am “in Christ.” 

Learning to say “no” was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do – and one of the best. You might want to try it. Find your God-given focus and then say no to everything that is not within that focus. 

Creativity In a Busy World

I am an introvert and thus enjoy spending time by myself. I enjoy many things shared by introverts – reading, studying, writing, thinking, creating. Introverts are often good at knowing who they are and why they do what they do – because they have taken the time and found the solitude to examine their inner life and deal with what they find. As an ancient philosopher once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I totally agree.

As a result I have learned that I need to be intention about setting aside time on a regular basis for “solitude” and thus time to think, journal, read, and examine. Not only do I set aside time every morning for this, I also set aside a whole day each week. Some might call this a Sabbath. God would. I do! And then in the summer I take my ‘annual vacation’ and spend three weeks by myself camping and kayaking as far away from people and demands on my time as I can get. Three weeks to focus solely on reading, walking, thinking, praying, examining, creating….

Solitude is absolutely necessary if a person is to be and remain creative.

Creativity flourishes in solitude. For me it is essential. I believe that you will become as creative as the amount of time you set aside for it. As noted above, I try to schedule time every day as well as planning extended times weekly, monthly, and annually. There is a relationship between scheduling a time to be creative and being inspired to create.

I love the quote by Willian Faulkner: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine a.m. sharp.”

Years ago a mentor taught me that if I do the right thing regardless of whether I feel any inspiration, then I will become inspired because I did the right thing. The key to increasing your creative capacity is to schedule time for it, and then expect to be more creative during that time. The discipline of developing the habit gives you the results you desire. 

So, this morning and every morning, I schedule time to read, think, reflect, journal, and write. Minimal – I write a blog but most days I take notes and outline thoughts that eventually will direct my life and ministry and may even, one day, become part of a teaching. Every day I write, regardless.

My study is a separate room in my home – a large room filled with books I recently purchased and am reading. Older books are filed in several other rooms in the house in case I need something that is in them. In my study there is no telephone and my iPhone is not allowed in that room. The electronics I use to write and research do not have email or text programming in them. That is office work for later in the day and in a separate room – my office. 

I have purposely created a study that is warm, comfortable, welcoming (there is a great coffee pot) and quiet. No one else is allowed in this room. It is my personal space. And, I look forward to time in that room each day. Creative time. My office (afternoon time) is often a mess of papers, messages, texts, emails, phone calls, and everything that comes with an active international ministry. And, after solitude time in the morning I am ready for the afternoon and evening and what they might throw at me.

What do you have to give that you can create only in solitude? If you are like me, you need time alone to think and create for yourself and others. That creative time of “retreat’ can give you the greatest return on investment in your life.

My observation is that most believers do not schedule enough creative thinking time alone. We are taught to do, to care, to pray, to minister, to reach out to others. We are usually not taught to be quiet and spend time alone in silence and solitude, stillness and in fellowship with the Spirit of the Living God.

Maybe it is time for a change.


Reinventing Myself

It has now been just slightly over two years since I stopped travelling due to the pandemic. And during that time I have had to make major adjustments to both the way I live and minister. And, I have taken time while the pace of my life and ministry is very different and much slower than previously to rethink and, in some ways, reinvent and refocus life and ministry. It has been a slow, sometimes painful, but fascinating journey. 

To continue to be effective in ministry and live a productive life that will allow me to be fulfilled and satisfied (in the right sense of that word) as well as continue to fulfill God’s plan and purpose in my life I realized that I need to:


During the pandemic I had less demands placed on my life and ministry – less travelling, fewer teaching opportunities, less ministry and thus less preparation. So, I disengaged in a number of ways. Less research and reading. Less writing. Less connecting with people (in person). It was like semi-retirement. It is difficult to gear up again when you have geared down. It’s like stepping out of the stands, putting on the old uniform, and getting back in the game. But that is what I have now begun to do.


If I was going to move forward in my older years (I just turned 75) I can’t be half-hearted. I have to reinvest emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Where and how I invest will certainly change as the world has changed. But, regardless, I need to reinvest.


As a mentor of mine taught me many years ago: Yesterday’s success won’t bring success tomorrow. If I am going to be effective in the post-pandemic world (not yet here) and the ‘new normal’ then I need to take time to see what changes needed to be made in what I do and how I do it. It is time to reinvent my ministry for the last leg of the journey (which hopefully will allow me another 20 years). We either improve and change and work to become the best or we end up somewhat irrelevant to the current culture and no longer effective and productive in both a personal and professional way.


I know I also needed to take better care of my physical body. Although my medical reports say that I am in better physical shape than when I was 50 years old there is still a need to exercise more, eat better, take down time to relax and recharge more often (including a weekly day off), and rest. As my daughter reminds me, I need to be acting my age. 

The process and journey is not over and there are a number of changes in scheduling I need to make. There are some relationships I need to walk away from. There are some new skills I need to learn – yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks if he is willing to learn. And there is much to research and understand of the new world we are now in as Covid reinvents itself and war rages on with Russia invading Ukraine and resulting war crimes. 

It can no longer be “business as usual” if we hope to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.

Praying for Others – Part Three

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG)

So far we have seen …

1> I pray that you will know God

2> I pray that you will experience God’s love

2A> Experience the Breadth of God’s Love

2B> Experience the Length of God’s Love

2C> Experience the Depth of God’s Love

2D> Experience the Height of God’s Love

Let’s move on the last part of the apostle’s prayer

3> I Pray That You Allow God to Do Great Things in Your life.

Paul saves an amazing truth for last in his prayer which we have not yet read… And they are words that we need to personally embrace.

Ephesians 3:20 MSG “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

These words apply to you, but they must be activated by your faith. Jesus said, “According to your faith will it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29 The Berean Bible). This is called the ‘faith factor.’ There are many factors that influence your progress in life; many of which you have no control over. Your background, nationality, age, giftedness. These are determined by the sovereignty of God. But there is one important fact that you do have control over: how much you choose to believe in God. God puts no limitation on faith; faith puts no limitation on God.

We simply need to give God room to act in our lives – and we release Him to do amazing and supernatural things by walking in faith. 

3A> God can do anything

That statement is certainly not about your ability, talent, and skill. Nor is it about mine. It’s not about us. It is about God. These words should set the bar of our expectations about God at a very high level. We need to be aware of how great a space there is between what we can do and what He can do. So we need to make room for God to do what only God can do. We do the possible. God does the impossible. We do the natural. He does the supernatural. And all this shows us who He really is. God can do anything.

3B> God is bigger than I am

God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

How much is ‘far more’? It is not a little more or some more. It’s FAR more. It’s so much more that we can’t really comprehend it. The writer of Hebrews tried to use words to give us some kind of idea about how much more ‘far more’ is: “far more than you could ever imagine or guess to request in your wildest dreams!” But even then, we don’t really get it.

Don’t ever try to understand how much bigger God is than us. We can’t. No words can ever come close. God is God and we are not. That is both simple and humbling. His ways and His thoughts are so far above us that we can simply only grasp a small portion of what His plan and purpose in our individual lives really is.

3C> We need to choose to let God do what only He can do

God works within our heart and mind. He does not push us around but gently nudges us by His Spirit that lives within us. God does not force anything on us, not even His love. He offers it to us gently and we receive it by grace. And He works within us only because we choose to let Him do that. The question we all have to answer is simply “How much access will we give God to the various aspects of our life? We can experience as much as we desire and allow. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing about God is that He allows average people like you and me to have access to Him and His unconditional love. 

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 MSG “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

We don’t have much to offer God except ourselves. God wants our willingness, not our strengths. If you think you can do everything on your own and you’re searching for some secret reservoir of strength, then stop. Because there isn’t one. Focus on God’s endless resources. He can do what we cannot do. And He’s willing to do it if you’re willing to give Him credit for it.

God’s invitation is extended to you. He loves you. I hope you will accept that love, if you haven’t already. It will change every aspect of your life. If you don’t yet know God, you have no idea what He can and will do for you. Today would be a good to day to come into a personal relationship with Him. 


Praying for Others – Part Two

Last time we saw that Paul’s prayer for his people in Ephesus (Ephesians 3:14-19) is an important example for us as we pray for each other and for those who are going through tough times such as war and persecution.

We examined the start of Paul’s prayer:

1> I pray that you will know God

2> I pray that you will experience God’s love

Let’s continue to look at that second point and break it down a bit…. The Scripture states:

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

2A> Experience the Breadth of God’s Love

When the Scriptures says that God’s love has breadth, it means that God’s love includes everyone. God loves everyone — of every faith, of every race, of every nationality, and of any age or stage of life. Scripture says, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16 MSG).

This means that God loves you. He loves all those you know. He loves those whom you don’t know. He love those whom you like. He loves those that you don’t like. He loves your friends. He also loves your enemies. God’s love is broad; it includes people we have a hard time liking and prefer not to think about. 

You may be thinking of some of the difficult people in your life and wondering, How can God love them? Here’s how. As C. S. Lewis stated, “God loves us, not because we are lovable but because He is love.” Stop for a minute and say to yourself, “God loves me.” It’s true. He love you unconditionally and forever. And you can experience the breadth of His love today and every day.

2B> Experience the Length of God’s Love

God asks us to test the length to His love. What is its length? Forever! God’s love is never-ending. And the best part of that is that His love doesn’t depend on me or on you. God loves you as you are, not as you would like to be, or as you appear to be, but just as you are. And nothing you can do can make Him love you more!

The people who choose to connect with God know Him and are known by Him. Jesus said, 

“My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him” (John 10:27-29 MSG). 

That should make you feel secure. It does me. Some have said (Country Music style) ‘God’s Grip Don’t Slip.’

2C> Experience the Depth of God’s Love

What does it mean to plumb God’s depths? The implication is that no matter how low you go, God’s love is deeper. God is forgiving. For many of us, the bad news is that our capacity to sin has taken us lower than we ever felt we would go. The good news is that God’s capacity to forgive us is greater. In fact, God not only forgives our sins, but He also forgets our sins. He said, “I will be merciful to them in their wrongdoings, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12 The Living Bible). Wow!

In our relationship with God, we are somewhat like the young son who played hide-and-seek with his father. The lad would hide behind a tree while his dad shouted, “Where’s Christopher? I can’t find Christopher!” Then the child would burst out, “Here, Daddy. Look for me here behind the tree.” Most of us are torn like that., aren’t we? We alternately hide from God, yet long desperately you connect with Him. 

2D> Experience the Height of God’s Love

Rising to the height of God’s love means being lifted up by Him. There is no one more uplifting than God. The night I was saved I met Jesus in person – in the flesh. He hugged me and as He did He poured in His love – like liquid gold – into me. It started to fill me up from my feet upwards. As it did it pushed all the anger, bitterness, rejection, unforgiveness, resentment, and pain out of the top of my head. That night Jesus lifted me into His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13). That night His love lifted me out of my old nature and I became a new creature in Christ

2 Corinthians 5:17 MSG “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!”

There is a lifting of our life that is the result of experiencing the extravagant dimensions of God’s love

Jesus said, Anything is possible if a person believes (Mark 9:23 NLT)

Jesus said, “Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27 NLT)

Jesus said, “If you have a mere kernel of faith … there is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle” (Matthew 17:20 MSG).

God wants you to reach your full capacity. He created you with a plan and gave you gifts to help you accomplish that plan.

He will be the greatest lifter in your life if you let Him.For all the negative things we think about ourselves, God has a positive answer for us.

You say, “I’m too tired.”

God says, “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30)

You say, “It’s impossible.”

God says, “All things are possible (Luke 18:27)

You say, “Nobody really loves me.”

God says, “I love you” (John 3:16 and John 13:34)

You say, “I can’t go on.”

God says, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9; Psalm 91:15)

You say, “I’m not able.”

God says, “I am able” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

You say, “I can’t forgive myself.”

God says, “I forgive you” (1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1)

You say, “I can’t manage.”

God says, “I will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19)

You say, “I’m afraid.”

God says, “I have not given you a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7)

You say, “I’m not smart enough.”

God says, “I give you wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

You say, “I feel alone”

God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

You say, “I can’t figure things out.”

God says, “I will direct your steps” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You say, “I’m always worried and frustrated.”

God says, “Cast all your cares on Me” (I Peter 5:7)

God has an answer for every question, and an assurance for every doubt we possess.That is why it is life-changing when we encounter and experience God’s love.

Praying for Others – Part One

I receive a lot of prayer requests from people on an almost daily basis. There is great need out there in the world and one of the things we can do for those we love and even those we don’t know well is to pray. Paul, the apostle who recorded a good chunk of the New Testament, sets an example for us in this realm.

Ephesians 3:14-19 NET “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

It often helps to read the same verses in a different version and thus see the same truth from a different angle…

The Message Version: “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

At times I base my prayers for others on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. 

1> I Pray That You Will Know God

Let’s read the first several verses of our passage again:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.”

It is amazing and humbling to me that Jesus wants to live in me. I know me, and sometimes I don’t even want to live with myself. But God does. What an amazing and beautiful picture of God that paints for us. If you are 1,000 steps from God, He will take 999 steps in your direction. And then He will wait for you to open your heart and ask Him into your life (or back into your life if you have drifted away). God wants you to have a deep personal relationship with Him.

I took that step 46 years ago and have known God in this personal way ever since. He is the foundation of my entire life and the reason I do what I do. I opened the door and invited Him in to my heart, my life.

One of the most amazing scriptures is found in Jeremiah 9:23-24 MSG “”Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits. Don’t let the rich brag of their riches. If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I’m GOD, and I act in loyal love. I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things. These are my trademarks.”

This is more than believing in your head – knowing the facts of the Gospel or even having a great understanding of the Bible. This is more than a “head” thing. This is a “heart” thing where you trust the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and then allow this truth to transform you from the inside out. It is an encounter with the Living God which is personal and powerful.

John 17:3 NET “Now this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.”

2> I Pray That You Will Experience God’s Love Daily

The passage we are looking at continues…

“And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

God wants us to live a full life with full capacity. He truly wants the best for us. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly!” (Tree of Life Version – John 10:10) As you read that statement, did you notice the comma? Which side of the comma do you live on? Are you living the life of abundance you desire? That’s what Jesus offers. He offers extravagant love and life at its fullest.

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” I’d like to add that the most wonderful joy is to have a relationship with God and experience His amazing love each and every day. How amazing is it? 

Let’s save the details of experiencing God’s love and how amazing it is for next time…

A FRESH LOOK  – Part One

Ted Turner – the founder of CNN and other cable networks – commented that the Ten Commandments were given with the sole purpose of taking the fun out of life

He told the “Dallas Morning News” that Christianity was “a religion for losers”

He commented that he had lived a bit on the wild life, and if that sentenced him to hell, then so be it

Later he stood before the American Humanist Association and proclaimed that it was time to update the Ten Commandments

They were grossly out of date, he said.

It was time for his “Ten Voluntary Initiatives,” which took a much more politically correct direction

These included:

            • A vow of nonviolence
            • An effort to be friendlier
            • The promise to have no more than two children (he already had five)

Some people scoffed at “the Mouth of the South” as he was known

But in some humanistic circles, Turner’s Top Ten list is still admired and studied

It certainly tells many people what they already want to hear without making any demands of personal morality or, for that matter, any mention of God at all

Something in us really doesn’t like rules

When you are late for an appointment, and you’re slamming down the accelerator to get across town quickly, that stop sign seems like a real annoyance

And if no other cars are coming, it feels like another “silly rule”

On the other hand, if you move into that intersection and spot another speeding car coming at you and ignoring the sign

Well, then the rules look a lot better

At that moment, you appreciate stop signs and you understand how they were placed for your protection

The Ten Commandments are stop signs at the prime intersections of life

They were given by a God who loves us and wants only the best for us

A personal note:

Many years ago I read a book by a pastor (now in heaven) – Ron Mehl – called “The Ten(der) Commandments

It had a major impact on my life – I remember the book among the many hundreds that I have read since … 

So it was and is very special and had an impact on my personal journey with Jesus

He wrote that these Ten Commandments are an expression of love from a Father to His children

I quote: 

“a tender, heartfelt message from the very hand of God .. It’s all there. He doesn’t leave anything out. The ten statements are all-encompassing, touching virtually every part of our lives. They are the parameters to live by — the truths He knows are going to provide blessing and strength, a future and a hope.”

One of my favourite teachers – British preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) – said:

“That law of the Ten Commandments is a gift of great kindness to the sons of men, for it tells us the wisest and happiest way of living. It forbids us nothing but what would be to our injury and it withholds from us nothing which would be a real pleasure to us … God does not make laws denying us anything that would really be for our good … We ought to see the love of God in the gift of law (the Ten Commandments)”

Makes sense then why the Psalmist could say:

Psalm 1:2 NASV “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”

Psalm 19:9b-10 NRSV “the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey,

and drippings of the honeycomb.”

We don’t understand this because we tend to think of the Law as a dead and limiting set of rules and regulations

But the Psalmist thinks of the Law as a living and a loving thing

The Psalmist recognizes it as the expression of the will of the living God and His way of expressing His love to us, His children

Some believers and leaders today teach and believe that Jesus somehow make the commandments obsolete

That since we now live under grace we need not bother with the baggage of commandments and law

A common misconception and false teaching in the Church today

Jesus made it clear that He honoured the Ten Commandments and considered them to have eternal authority

Jesus said:

Matthew 19:17b NRSV “ If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments”

Jesus did not cancel the Ten Commandments – He extended them past the physical realm into the heart realm

      • Hate is now equal to murder
      • Lust is adultery in God’s eyes
      • Matthew 5:21-30

Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17 NRSV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

Jesus does not break with the Old Testament Law — He is the Law’s perfect expression

Solomon – the wisest man to ever live other than Jesus summarized his accumulated wisdom when he wrote:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 NKJV “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

So, today and next time, I want to take a fresh walk through the Ten Commandments – the immortal directives

I think that it is good that we rediscover what they mean then and what they mean now

Let’s start by reviewing them …

Exodus 20:1-17 MSG “GOD spoke all these words:

1> I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery.

No other gods, only me.

2> No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.

3> No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.

4> 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.

5> Honour your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that GOD, your God, is giving you.

6> No murder.

7> No adultery.

8> No stealing.

9> No lies about your neighbour.

10> No lusting after your neighbour’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbour’s.”

The first four commandments – the relationship between you and God

The last six commandments – the relationship between you and others

The First Commandment: The Fundamental Rule

Exodus 20:1-3 NET “God spoke all these words: ‘I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”

The first commandment is like the hub of a wheel from which all the others are spokes

This isn’t simply another commandment — it’s the one that brings all of them together. 

In context – the story leading up to the giving of the commandments, God’s love is on display

When Moses arrives at the top of Mount Sinai to receive the commandments — God tells him to remind the people of His great love for them in the past and His careful watch over their lives throughout their redemption from Egypt

Exodus 19:3-4 NET “Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, ‘Thus you will tell the house of Jacob, and declare to the people of Israel: ʻYou yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eaglesʼ wings and brought you to myself.’”

Later, as Moses returns to the mountain, bearing the second set of two stone tablets, God passes before His servant again and refers to Himself as…

Exodus 34:6-7a NET “The LORD passed by before him and proclaimed: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

Israel stands are a crossroads in its history

Behind, the pagan gods of the Egyptians

Ahead, the pagan gods of the Canaanites

The Israelites have been and will continue to be caught up in cultures of false gods

So the one true God now wants His people to know that He insists on an exclusive relationship with them

There are no others like Him

They must not allow their spirits (hearts) to wander after the false hopes of pagan gods

God is saying in very strong terms:

“If you will have no other gods, it is only then that you can have Me.”

There is no middle ground here

The Lord God will not be one option among many

It still holds true today

Idolatry (worshipping other gods) is no outdated sin but the same threat it has always been and will always be

The gods have changed their names, of course

They are no longer called Baal and Ashtoreth

Now they call themselves wealth or power or comfort or appetite or pornography, or pleasure or success …

Or whatever it is that is controlling your heart today

Counterfeit gods never die

They simply come up with new disguises and continue trying to lead us away from the only true God who offers a relationship of love and personal care

Martin Luther wrote:

“That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is … really your God.”

I recently read about a series of religious services that were advertised in Scottish newspapers

The first part of the ad was printed on page 1, and simply directed readers to the last page of the paper

There, in large print, was the question, “Is this where you are putting God?”

Many Christians today have regretfully pushed God to the back page

They have allowed other ‘gods’ to clutter up their lives

God does not ask for a prominent place among all the other gods

He insists that there be no other gods, period

A half-forgotten God is no God at all

He demands page 1 of our lives

God wants an exclusive love relationship with you

He wants to be the hub of the wheel called life as this is how life was meant to be lived and enjoyed

A wheel can only have one hub

Try to set it spinning around any other point, and you crash

In the same way, God is the hub of the universe and is asking to be the hub of your personal life

T.S. Eliot said it this way: “…the still point in the turning world”

No one else can be at the center of your life

Exodus 20:1-3 NET “God spoke all these words: ‘I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”

It was the love of God for us – His people – that caused Him to limit the worship of His people to Himself alone

To tolerate worship of other gods would have turned the Israelites loose to explore a multitude (pantheon) of lifeless idols utterly incapable of meeting their needs or bringing them fulfillment and contentment

“Worship any god you choose” would have been the most unloving thing God could have said to His people — then and now

It is God’s love for us, not selfish love, that is behind His jealous desire to be worshipped

The Second Commandment: The Focus Rule

Exodus 20:4-6 NET “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

If the first commandment is about WHOM we worship

The second commandment is about HOW we worship

We must worship the right God, and we must worship Him the right way

That proper worship comes from hearing Him rather than seeing Him

Worship from the heart is elusive and demanding as we hear and feel but don’t see

Causing us to listen in our spirit (heart) and not simply see with our eyes and touch with our hands as you can do with an idol

People demand gods they can see and touch

The Israelites never stopped struggling with this concept

Even as Moses received this commandment at Sinai, the people were down in the valley, melting their gold rings to create a calf idol

They threw a great party afterward, pointed to the calf, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4)

The people obviously couldn’t wait for Moses to return, so they decided to take a shortcut

But God is telling us that nothing must be used to attract the eyes and thus distract the soul – the mind, the will, and the emotions) as well as our spirit from Him

An image of God is limited

God is unlimited

An image of God is local

God is universal

An image of God is temporal

God is eternal

An image of God is material

God is spiritual

When you make an image — an idol — it distorts God

This explains why God provides no likeness of Himself and no one really can show us what Jesus looked like

Many have tried and failed … but should have never tried as then the image comes an idol of the eyes

I have personally seen Jesus in the flesh and many ask me what He looked like ….

Today – God continues to be heard and yet unseen

Idols, on the other hand, are seen but never heard

The prophet Isaiah mocked those who revered impotent idols — Isaiah 44:13-20 NLT

Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood

and draws a pattern on it.

He works with chisel and plane

and carves it into a human figure.

He gives it human beauty

and puts it in a little shrine.

He cuts down cedars;

he selects the cypress and the oak;

he plants the pine in the forest

to be nourished by the rain.

Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.

With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.

Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it

and makes himself a god to worship!

He makes an idol

and bows down in front of it!

He burns part of the tree to roast his meat

and to keep himself warm.

He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.”

Then he takes what’s left

and makes his god: a carved idol!

He falls down in front of it,

worshiping and praying to it.

“Rescue me!” he says.

“You are my god!”

Such stupidity and ignorance!

Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.

Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.

The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,

“Why, it’s just a block of wood!

I burned half of it for heat

and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.

How can the rest of it be a god?

Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?”

The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.

He trusts something that can’t help him at all.

Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,

“Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?”

The second commandment comes with a warning

Disobedience will visit “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5)

Is that unfair — punishing children for what their parents did?

The meaning is actually that the children (generations) are punished BY their parents’ sin

Our failures — our idols — leave a legacy

Alcoholic children often come from alcoholic parents

And even if the children do not become alcoholics they suffer the inner distress and wounds of being raised in the home of an alcoholic

Adult children of alcoholic parents

Materialistic parents nurture the same values in their children – intentional or not

Sin is contagious within families 

Idols (alcoholism, materialism) are passed down from one generation to another

God says to us:

“The reason I’m asking you not to place any object or enterprise or image or desire ahead of Me is because I don’t want you to wake up one day with a broken heart, as you watch your loved ones making the same mistakes you made, tripping over the same rocks you tripped over, and struggling with the same cynical attitudes that afflicted you.”

The good news, however, is that we can leave positive legacies as well!

So, this second commandment…

Exodus 20:4-6 NET “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

This commandment springs from God’s perfect love

“For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God,” (Exodus 20:5)

Jealousy is a word used by lovers — and God is a perfect Lover

He created us to be in relationship with Him

He knows that any other way will destroy our lives

And the lives around us – the lives of our children and our grandchildren

I, for one, am grateful that He is a jealous God and shows His love and loving care for us in giving to us the Ten Commandments…

Commandment number one – The Fundamental Rule

Commandment number two – The Focus Rule

Adversity In Life

In the letter Paul wrote to the church in Philippi he states, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel…” 

When writing earlier to the Corinthians, he said, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12;10 NET).

Here are the seven areas where Paul is content in adversity:

1> Adversity promotes the progress of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12 quoted above)

Paul does not discuss his discomfort but talks about how his imprisonment advances the Gospel message. The Greek word translated ‘advance’ is a military term that describes engineers preparing a road for an advancing army and removing obstructions such as rocks and trees. Paul’s circumstances had removed barriers to the advancement of the Gospel.

2> Adversity provides opportunities for witness

Philippians 1:13 NET “The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ…”

The guards assigned to prisoners awaiting a hearing before Caesar were chained to their prisoners. So Paul would have been chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, four shifts per day, for two years — meaning that Paul had nearly 3,000 opportunities for witnessing to Rome’s soldiers during his imprisonment (4:22; Acts 28:30-31; Ephesians 6:19-20).

3> Adversity produces courage in fellow believers

Philippians 1:14 NET “and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word fearlessly.”

Many believers became bold because they saw Paul’s courage.

4> Adversity proves the character of our friendships

Philippians 1:15-18 NET “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defence of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…”

Even in contentious circumstances, Paul’s goal was to deliver his message in a manner that would cause people to follow Christ.

5> Adversity brings growth in our lives

Philippians 1:19-20 NET “for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die…”

God works through both the prayers of friends (Acts 12:5) and through our personal determination. Despite his imprisonment, Paul has an attitude of eager expectation.

6> Adversity purifies our motives

Philippians 1:21 NET “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”

Paul evaluates all experiences through his life’s purpose: “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

7> Adversity prepares us to see life and death in perspective.

Philippians 1:22-26 NET “Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I donʼt know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.”

Life offers the opportunity to serve the Lord more fully, while death offers the blessings of finally and completely knowing our Saviour. 

Certainly something to think about as we now live in a new normal – Covid still killing people as we enter a third year of the worldwide pandemic and wars breaking out in many locations around the world with the emphasis right now on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Believers are facing adversity.