A Gift That Focuses Our Faith
1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. 

Exodus 20:1-11 KJV
Sunday, March 7, 2021
This is the third Sunday in Lent. Lent is the third season of the Christian Calendar Year following Advent (birth, a beginning) and Epiphany (A Spontaneous Experience of Awakening into Awareness). Lent is one of the oldest observances in Christendom. People attending worship services get crosses on their foreheads, formed from ashes.
 
Lent as we know it today didn’t exist in the early years of the church, and it only came to be, thanks to growing acceptance of Christianity, toward the end of the Roman Empire. Early Christians practiced different forms of preparation leading up to Easter; a holiday that commemorates Jesus’s death and resurrection and which has been observed since at least the second century. This period of preparation served to remind Christians of what God has done for humanity in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

In its beginning, the Roman Empire viewed Christianity as a threat and treated Christians with hostility. Followers of Jesus observed their faith in secret, which led to the formation of a wide range of practices for Lent and other traditions of the church. That changed in 312 when the Roman Emperor Constantine I signed the Edict of Milan, which officially ensured religious tolerance for Christians. Constantine himself would later convert to Christianity; “Now Christians could come out from underground.” The Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council of the church, took place in 325 and further catapulted Christianity into mainstream life. For the first time, Christians could openly discuss their practices and implement new, lasting traditions.
 
Lent, the 40-day Christian season is reminiscent of the 40 days of Noah and the flood, the 40 days Moses was on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the 40 years of the Israelites wilderness journey, and Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. The Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days reminds us of the temptation we all experience. As Jesus was tempted in his appetite, ambition, and his allegiance, we are tempted in our appetite, ambition, and allegiance. 
 
Consider how you can spend the Lenten season to strengthen your faith. 
Monday, March 8, 2021
1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exodus 10:1-2
 
Exodus chapter 20:1-11 is that portion of the scripture when Moses was on Mount Sinai. It has been recorded that Moses received the commandments on Mount Sinai near where he experienced the presence of the Lord in the burning bush some six years earlier (Exodus 3:1). When God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, Moses
received some words; which are guidelines by which the Israelites could live their lives in a way that is pleasing to God.  
 
Bear in mind the children of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for 430 years. Exodus chapter 3 verse 7 says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land.” Moses was chosen to speak to Pharaoh. It is interesting to note a recurring theme Moses spoke to Pharaoh about letting God’s people go.  In Exodus 4:23, “Moses said the Lord says let my son go, that he may serve me.” In Exodus 5:1, “Moses said God says let my people go that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” The next six times in Exodus 7:16, 8:1, 20, 9:1, 13, and 10:3, “Let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness.” The recurring theme is that the Lord freed the people to serve the Lord, not Pharaoh. 
 
You see, the Lord wanted those who belong to him free to focus their adoration, devotion, faith, gratitude, praise, reverence, and worship in the right direction and to the proper source. The Lord has freed you to belong to the Lord and you depict that belonging by having no other gods, by making no graven images and bowing down to them, by not using the name of the Lord in a profane manner, and by keeping the Sabbath day holy. These are signs that you are God’s people. Your commitment, faith, and loyalty are to a higher authority, above all other authority. Your actions, activities, and attitude all determine to whom you belong.   
 
Consider what it means for you to demonstrate that you belong to the Lord. 
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Exodus 20:3-4
 
How easy it is for us to create our own gods. It has been said that people create God in their image, as opposed to realizing they are made in God’s image with what that entails and means. Some take what they consider the best in themselves and others utilize what seems to be the worst in themselves to make their gods. This conflicting contrast has been manifested throughout the history of their variety of expressions. The variety of the expressions of faith has led to historic violence and conflict, bitter contention, not to mention privileged exceptionalism. There are conflicting images of God presented in believers that add to the confusion; diminishing the clarity about the higher authority to whom we belong. 
 
Remember that it is was in the wilderness that the children of Israel lamented a number of times that they were freed and wished they were back in Egypt. Despite experiencing a series of miracles, culminating with their deliverance at the Red Sea and leaving a life of slavery behind. However, the excitement and gratitude does not last long. With the wilderness sojourn, they began to feel differently about their circumstances. Immediately following this celebration, in Exodus 15:1-21 we read, “So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter…And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” 15: 22-24

The account continues, just over a month after the first Passover: “On the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt…the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Ex. 16:1-3

Even many months after the exodus, having seen God’s providence, the Israelites were still falling into the same mindset.

And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” Num. 11:4-6
 
Consider what it means for you to cling to the past, despite its cruelty, as you face the unknown with all of its challenging uncertainty. 
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6
 
The Israelites quickly forgot the weight of their burden in Egypt. They succumbed to a common quirk of human nature—feeling that “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Think of your own life for a moment. When you are in the midst of a trial, does your mind drift back to an earlier time in your life—and somehow you find yourself thinking that those were the “good old days”? Imagine the willingness of those who were freed reimagining what life was before their freedom, seeing the benefits of being enslaved and lamenting the privileges of freedom. How often does that happen in the lives of so many? How often people grow accustomed to denigration, discrimination and domination; as acceptable patterns of life and society with a level of comfort with the lyrics of their existence being “that’s just the way it is?” 
 
How quickly people forget the cost of freedom. Remembering that the parting of the Red sea was release for one group and ruin for another group. There is no deliverance from domination with death of the oppression. Now get this. You are freed to worship the one true source of your life and liberty as you remember in perpetuity your liberation. If you forget, you will lapse into permitting another god to replace the true God which will bring with it consequences that change your circumstances for the worse. Not only for you, but for your posterity through the third and fourth generations. They will succumb to the gods of their own creation who will bring iniquity with detrimental consequences, destructive developments, and damaging relationships. 
 
In Walter Brueggemann’s book, The Prophetic Imagination, he shares how God had done something completely new during the Exodus through the prophet Moses. Obviously, Moses had certainly intended the end of captivity and the freedom of his people. In that sense, he was working against the empire ruled by Pharaoh. Brueggemann asserts that Moses also intended the formation of a new community which would be centered on: 1. God’s freedom, justice and compassion. 2. Moses directed his efforts toward a whole new social reality which rejected the practices of oppression and exploitation characterized by Pharaoh. 3. Moses led a movement not simply aimed at the release of the captive but of a whole new social order
 
Moses’ tactics included both criticism and energizing. Criticism should not be seen as akin to whining and complaining, but the critique he advocates is a robust public expression of the grief of a people who suffer oppression. The cries of the people constitute the complaint which is aimed more toward God than toward the imperial ruler and has a dismantling effect on the empire. (i.e. “how long will you let this go on…). The energizing message envisions a new reality that does not yet exist. It is called into being through the freedom of God. Energizing names the new reality and provides a narrative which allows the community to imagine this new possible future.
 
Facing the challenging opportunities that freedom brings requires remembering from what you have been delivered, the source of that liberation, so that you can continually focus your adoration, devotion, faith, gratitude, praise, reverence and worship in the right direction and to the proper source.
 
Consider the consequences of forgetting which leads to the visitation of iniquity, destructive, harmful and injurious results.  
Thursday, March 11, 2021
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Exodus 20:7
 
Remember the commandments are for those who claim to belong to the Lord because the Lord has freed you from oppression. I repeat that the children of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for 430 years.  They cried out to the Lord continually about their circumstances. Exodus 3:7 says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land.” The Lord frees you from your oppression to worship the Lord and not the gods of Egypt.
  
What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? Simply put, it means using the Lord’s name in an irreverent manner; indicating a lack of respect by using the name of the Lord disrespectfully.  A person who misuses God’s name will not be held “guiltless” by the Lord, Exodus 20:7. In the Old Testament, bringing dishonor on God’s name was done by failing to perform an oath or vow taken in the Lord’s name, Leviticus 19:12. The person who used God’s name to legitimize his oath and then broke his promise would indicate a lack of reverence for God, as well as a lack of fear of holy retribution.  You can dishonor God’s name by dishonoring an oath that you take with your hand on the bible.  
 
There is no need to use God’s name to legitimize an oath as we are not to take oaths in the first place, according to Jesus “let your ‘yes be yes’ and our ‘no be no’.” Matthew 5:37
 
All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God and all profane cursing is a horrid breach of this command. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
 
Consider what it means for you not to take the Lord’s name in vain.
Friday, March 12, 2021
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: Exodus 20:8-9
 
The form of the fourth commandment, remember, shows that it was not first given at this time, but was previously known by the people. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted for worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God and the care of our souls. On those days, we must do all our work and leave none to be done on the Sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; “for the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
 
Rest is a necessary part of maintaining your sanity and sensibility. You need time to reflect, remember and refresh your life by connecting with the source of your life; the One to whom you owe your allegiance, commitment, and loyalty. The Sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from the exhausting demands of our daily routines that drain our energy so that we can be replenished by focusing on the source of our lives. The advantages of keeping a day holy as a way of expressing that you belong to the Lord, provide an opportunity to maintain your health and strength, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. 
 
Consider what it means that one way you express that you belong to the Lord is that you set aside a time to focus more intently and intentionally on the source of your life; as a way of remaining connected, as well as showing appreciation.  
Saturday, March 13, 2021
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:9-11
 
First, the Sabbath was intended to help people, not burden them. In contrast with the grueling daily work as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites were commanded to take a full day of rest each week under the Mosaic Law. Pharisaical law had morphed the Sabbath into a burden, adding restrictions beyond what God’s law said. The act of picking a head of grain and munching on it as one walked along a field should not be considered “harvesting,” as the Pharisees tried to categorize it. The disciples had not broken God’s law; they had only violated the Pharisees’ strict interpretation of the law. Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the original intent of the Sabbath rest. Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets and his culmination of the law so that there may be no mistake about applying what was received from the prophets, Matthew 5:17. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).

As believers, set free in Christ, we are not judged by whether or not we keep the Sabbath day, Colossians 2:16. Instead, we follow the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ. We find our rest in him, and seven days a week are filled with worship of him. However, follow the admonition of Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the custom of some. 
 
Consider what it means to you to assemble together with others to focus your adoration, devotion, faith, gratitude, praise, reverence, and worship in the right direction and to the proper source.
Conclusion

Lord, I want to be a Christian / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be a Christian In my heart. / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be a Christian / In my heart.

Lord, I want to be more loving / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be more loving In my heart. / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be more loving / In my heart.

Lord, I want to be more holy / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be more holy
In my heart. / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be more holy / In my heart.

Lord, I want to be like Jesus / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be like Jesus In my heart. / In my heart, in my heart; / Lord, I want to be like Jesus In my heart.
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