Before Anyone Else

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BAE. Before anyone else. A term to describe the most important person in your life. Most use the term to describe their significant other; so, for example, I would say that my wife is BAE. And she definitely is…in human terms. But there is one who comes before her, and should be BAE for all of us, and that one is God. This is not just my opinion, it is one of God’s commandments, one that God gave us for a very specific reason. Let’s look at God’s Word:

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” (Exodus 20:2-6)

Now, some people can find the meaning of these verses from the ten commandments a bit troubling, but in reality they are not so difficult at all. God is communicating to us his intended design that places Him first in the order of all things, and especially as it relates to our relationship with Him. Any difficulty in understanding often comes when we bring our own, modern day understanding to the text (a poor practice called “eisegesis”, which space doesn’t allow us to discuss in detail here). When we use the technique of understanding the text in terms of the original writer’s perspective (a more acceptable practice called “exegesis”) then we begin to understand what God is saying to us.

When God is described here as a “jealous” god, the word in the original language is “qannā,” a word that refers directly to the attributes of God’s justice and holiness. He is to be the sole object of human worship and he does not tolerate man’s sin. Understood this way, we see that the term “jealous” in Exodus 20:5 is not the same kind of jealousy we might feel in our lives, rather, it reflects God’s ordained order of things, and His rightful place in that order is before anyone else, or BAE. Anything less will not be tolerated.

This is a good point for us to be reminded that when God says “don’t,” He means “don’t hurt yourself.” There is a clearly designed order in God’s creation, of which we are a central part, and when we stray outside that order we begin to experience consequences that may take many forms. To stray from God’s intended order in any way is to sin, and sin always comes with repercussion. And this is where we see God warning us in Exodus 20:6 – “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected…” So maybe the cliché “don’t means don’t hurt yourself” might better be stated: “don’t means don’t hurt yourself and others”.

As human beings, we often have a strong tendency to think only in terms of ourselves, but our lives are not our own, and our choices and the actions we take affect those around us as much as they affect us, and this is especially so within our families. Most of us have known family dysfunction at some level, and we see here that the ultimate root cause of that dysfunction stems from not recognizing God is BAE. So when we lose sight of God in His rightful place as Lord, and we pursue all those things that we desire, we really make ourselves BAE (even if we don’t realize it) and all those things, those pleasures, they become idols to us.

So what are we to do? How do we escape this tendency to put ourselves in the center of our lives? Simple, really: we accept God’s forgiveness and we start doing our very best to keep God at the center of our thinking and our lives by reading the Bible, praying, and trying to follow His commands. Psalm 119:1-9 offers us this encouragement:

Joyful are people of integrity,

who follow the instructions of the Lord.

Joyful are those who obey his laws

and search for him with all their hearts.

They do not compromise with evil,

and they walk only in his paths.

You have charged us

to keep your commandments carefully.

Oh, that my actions would consistently

reflect your decrees!

Then I will not be ashamed

when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations,

I will thank you by living as I should!

I will obey your decrees.

Please don’t give up on me!

How can a young person stay pure?

By obeying your word.

We can see that when we keep God as BAE, and follow His commandments, then we experience joyful living. That doesn’t mean we will be without trials or difficulty. Quite the contrary, it means we will be joyful despite our trials and difficulties, and that joyfulness will bear witness of God’s power to all those around us, and to our own families, and family dysfunction will start to fade away. And that seems an admirable goal, doesn’t it? So…is God BAE in your life?

Learn more at: KnowGod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Everyone Needs Jesus…Even You

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“Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” -Thomas Merton

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you believe (or don’t believe), you need Jesus. This is true whether you are wealthy, middle class, or poor. It is true regardless of the language you speak or the color of your skin. It is true whether you are male or female, young or old. It is true regardless of your religious background, whether you grew up Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, atheist, or any of the myriad other possibilities. It is true regardless of any lifestyle choices you have made and it is true whether you are willing to acknowledge it or not. You need Jesus.

You may be trying very hard to live a good life, donating money, helping others, serving your neighbor. Compared to others you might stand out as one who truly has compassion and genuine love for others. You may even be a social worker, medical professional, first responder, or a pastor or religious leader whose very vocation is to help and serve others. Even so, you still need Jesus. Because the truth is – we cannot be good enough. The Bible says: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The prophet Isaiah wrote, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Isaiah 64:6)

We tend to compare ourselves to others, whether consciously or subconsciously. It helps us stave off the feelings of guilt we might otherwise experience; because deep, deep down inside our souls, we know we are sinners. God designed us with a built in sense of right and wrong, but we frequently ignore it, deny its existence, or we rationalize our actions because we want our own way. We “feel” something is right rather than rely on God’s Word to inform us; and in an effort to further justify our feelings, we recruit others to our point of view. There’s safety in numbers because if everyone’s doing it, we tell ourselves, then it must not be wrong.

We would never claim to be perfect in front of others, so we are being disingenuous when we deny our sinful nature, even if we are only denying it to ourselves. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8) There must be a standard for right and wrong and there is, in God’s Word. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know it is not found in our self-comparison to others, or in how we “feel”, or by what we see others doing with seeming impunity. But then isn’t that why many of us do not read the Bible or go to church? Because when we do we may be confronted with the truth. Jesus said, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.” (John 3:20)

Yet the purpose of God’s laws is to protect us and to show us how sinful we are. When God says “don’t” he means “don’t hurt yourself.” As our loving Father, He sets boundaries and rules so that we may have life, abundance, and happiness. But like a small child testing his parents, we push the boundaries and do our own thing because it “feels” right. Convinced of our moral superiority and reliant on our self-knowledge, we rationalize our behavior until we are convinced God doesn’t exist or his Word is flawed. We start telling ourselves that all roads lead to heaven and we resent those who tell us there is only one way. In other words, our sinful desires drive us to buy into a lie rather than accept the truth.

“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25a)

Everyone needs Jesus because there is only one way. And that way is Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” And in 1 John 5:12, we read, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” The fact that Jesus is the only way is nothing anyone should be upset about, though, because it is an act of the purest love that God sacrificed his very own Son that we might be saved. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” (John 3:16-18a)

Read the words of John 3:16-18a again very carefully. God loved you so much that he made provision for your redemption by sacrificing his one and only Son. How is it that love like this would make someone mad? And it is very inclusive, too, because God doesn’t exclude anyone – He desires that everyone should be saved.

So you need Jesus. And you can avail yourself of him right now and it couldn’t be easier. Just admit you are a sinner (remember you are being disingenuous if you say you aren’t) and ask Jesus for forgiveness. For “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” And remember, you are dearly loved, more than you will ever know.

God bless you.

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Wages

Romans 6_23 God’s rules are like the boundaries a parent sets for his or her children, they are for our benefit and protection (though, like a child, we often seem to think we know better). And when a child breaks their parents’ rules, they can usually expect consequences, some naturally occurring and some in the form of disciplinary measures. Similarly, there are consequences of breaking God’s laws.

But I’m not going to discuss the obvious consequences such as emotional pain, financial loss, broken homes, lost jobs, drug addictions, STDs, or any of the overly numerous ways we manage to mess up our own lives. (Proverbs 19:3 comes to mind: People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.) No, for this entry I’m going to stick to the bigger picture – which is the eternal consequence of our sin.

Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death…” This is an understandably difficult verse for many people. “How can a loving God sentence someone to death?” one is tempted to ask. I have had the same question myself. And this could lead us into some very deep theological territory, but I am going to attempt to avoid this with a simple analogy that will show that a god who doesn’t punish sin is actually an unloving god. Yes, it is precisely because God is so loving that He punishes sin.

How so?

Glad you asked. (Well, I assume you asked.) Let’s posit that a criminal has been apprehended and tried for an especially heinous crime against an especially defenseless victim. Perhaps it was a small child or an elderly couple who were viciously attacked, beaten, or killed. The prosecution’s case was airtight and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this perpetrator was culpable. The jury has come to a unanimous verdict of guilty on all counts.

The day has come when the judge will hand down the sentence. The family of the victim stands in the courtroom, tightly holding hands, anticipating the justice they will finally receive. They nervously look at each other, sure of the outcome but wary none-the-less. The tragedy of this atrocious crime has taken its toll and the lives of the family members will never be the same. Finally, the judge enters the courtroom and announces his sentence: “No punishment. You’re free to go.”

Can you imagine the horror that would pass through the family and all those in the courtroom? No punishment? Wouldn’t that be the most nefarious, unloving act the judge could possibly take? Of course it would! A horrible crime demands an appropriate punishment. And it is no different with God. When we break laws, the only fair, just, and loving thing God can do is hand out punishment. And, eternally speaking, that punishment is far worse than the temporal consequences we inflict upon ourselves.

And lest we should begin to think that we are not guilty, let’s be reminded that “all have sinned, all fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And let’s also not try to minimize our crimes, either, by claiming that God’s standards are unreasonably high. A simple reading the Ten Commandments reveals rules that are reasonable in every regard, and are clearly for our own good and for the good of those around us.

Yet we steal. We commit adultery (Jesus said that if we look upon another with lust we have committed adultery in our heart – Matthew 5:28); we murder (Jesus said if we even are angry with our fellow man we are subject to judgment – Matthew 5:22); we lie; we covet; we fail to honor our parents; we fail to hold God in proper esteem. If you disagree with the concept that you are a sinner, then you are being disingenuous because we all inherently know we are guilty. No, as is explained to us in Romans 1, God has made the truth plain to us through His creation, we all intrinsically know that God exists and, therefore, we are without excuse.

But there is good news, Romans 3 says, in verses 24-26: “Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

And that’s how loving God is. He sacrificed His own Son to pay the price for our sins so that we can be made righteous. The question is: have you availed yourself of God’s forgiveness? If you want to know how to be sure you are forgiven, please write us at reigndropsblog@gmail.com.

Until next time, God bless.

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