We all would like to think that we are special in some way before God. We want to be sure of His love for us and His guiding hand in our lives. For most of us, being special translates into a feeling – an emotional response that produces a sense of security. But is that all there is to being special? For the Christian at least there is much more to it. We know that everyone is not called to follow Jesus and we also know that according to the Bible, God does specifically call some to follow. How does this work? How does God get your attention and touch your heart and mind? What makes us want to respond to God and what might make us shy away from responding to Him? Is it easy to recognize when God is seeking us out and trying to touch our hearts?
What would you think of a powerful leader who sanctions rape, pillaging, the destruction of thousands of lives for the wrong doings of one, racism and genocide? No matter who we are, if we have a conscience in any way tuned to the sanctity of human life, we would have to label them a monster – a maniacal psychopathic egotist. Sadly, there are many who read certain parts of the Bible and handily conclude that the God of the Bible – the Creator of all things - is such a being. They call Him out for the horrible and harsh things written in the Old Testament and boldly claim that a God who presides over those things is no god at all – He is instead a monster. Now look – there are terrible things written in the Old Testament, but do they point to a heartless dictator or is there another explanation?
Defining God is a monumental task. The measure of its difficulty is such that very few will ever follow through with it, for the world is overrun with contradictory myths, stories and legends about the nature and purposes of God. So many stories, so little truth! Defining God requires us to look into things beyond our natural sight. It requires us to grab hold of things beyond our physical reach, and it requires us to believe in things that are beyond our earthly capacity. To know who God is means we would know His character, His mind and what drives Him. Can we know these things? Can we know God’s heart and mind? Can we know God’s plans and purposes? Will knowing God help us to better know ourselves?
Promises, promises! Did you ever stop to think about how much of our lives revolve around promises? There are promises at every level of life – those made by a child to secure a privilege, those made when you agree to the conditions of your job, those made between a man and a woman at marriage, those made in political campaigns. Then there are the private promises we make to ourselves and to God. We judge character by the keeping of promises. A promise keeper is a trustworthy person. Then there are the promises God makes to us. It seems like there are a lot of them, but to many people it seems God has not kept them. So, is God a trustworthy promise keeper?
A few weeks ago we began a discussion on the keys to understanding the Bible as the word of God and therefore to being able to understand the mind of God. Is it really possible to know what God is thinking and what He is planning for the entire race of mankind? Well, we believe it is not only possible but attainable as well! Come on! Let’s continue the discovery process of Bible study…
God is Almighty. He is all knowing and all seeing. We believe He is the very embodiment of wisdom, justice, love and power. As our Creator, we believe He has a plan - a detailed plan - that He will see accomplished for the good of all mankind. How do we think we know these things? The Bible. We believe that His Plan and its details are revealed in the Bible. Now, depending upon our brand of Christianity, we will come up with several contradictory interpretations of that plan unless we are willing to subject our understanding to a rigorous series of tests that will point us to Truth and not tradition. There are five rigorous tests, five ways of finding the mind of God in Scripture! Are you ready?
"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." It is one of the Ten Commandments, so it must be important. But, what does it really mean? Is it just about the words we use or is there more to it than that? Can our thoughts and actions also be a manifestation of taking God’s name in vain? What is the end result of carelessly handling God’s name? How do we become more aware of ourselves so we hold the name of God with reverence, honor and respect?
In general conversation, we often hear people use the name of Jesus and the name of God in very inappropriate ways. The sad thing is that it is so common we may sometimes not even notice it, or we may dismiss it without a second thought. Are these phrases disrespectful? Yes. Are they unfortunate? Yes. The question is - is this what is meant by taking the Lord’s name in vain or is there more to it? Is taking the Lord’s name in vain an obvious thing, or is it something that can happen in much more subtle ways? Is it possible for those of us who claim to take the name of God seriously to actually take His name in vain? Stay with us as we seek clarity in understanding just what is meant by this commandment to not take His name in vain.