Tag Archives: Ten Commandments

Why is simple complicated?

given on Sunday, July 16, 2017

Scripture connections:

Opening: Romans 5:10-11, NLT

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

 Sermon scriptures:

Romans 11:3-6, NLT

Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”[a]

And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”[b]

It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel[c] have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.

Romans 12:1-2, NLT

And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:9-18, NLT

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[a] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[b]12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Closing: Romans 16:17-20, NLT

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus[a] be with you.

 Reflection: Why is simple complicated?

One of my favorite cookies is a ‘no-bake’ cookie. Not only does it have all the chocolate one could possibly want, but also it does not include the extra work of baking them, especially on hot summer days. The no-bake cookie is simple, right? Well, the name of the cookie may be somewhat misleading.

In a similar manner being a Christian is really simple, too. How difficult is it to remember the new law versus the Ten Commandments of the old law? Surely being Christian is simple. Love God. Love one another.

When God decided to send Jesus with a much less complicated law, those who were faithful may have understood the Ten Commandments; but religious leaders had continued to add layers of rules to their lifestyle that complicated faithful living and could have lead one to breaking a law that they may not have even known existed.

Being faithful was not simple.

Jesus delivered a simple way to be faithful: Love God first, then love one another as you want to be loved. How simple can it get? Yet we tend to complicate even the new law. Paul knew the complicated law of the Jewish faith, so when he began his work sharing the new law delivered by Jesus, he wrote letters to keep encouraging the young churches.

Paul referred back to the ancient prophet Elijah about how God had not forgotten his people even though it may have felt like it. God does not forget the faithful Jewish people; he just tried to simplify their laws by sending Jesus to demonstrate how to live a faithful life. Paul’s letter goes into detail about the personal responsibility of all new disciples—whether Jew or Gentile:

  • 12:1 give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.
  • 12:2 let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
  • 12:3 Don’t think you are better than you really are.

 

Being a Christian should be simple, but we tend to complicate lives by what we do and do not do.

Paul continues to explain to the Roman church that God has given us each gifts to use: prophecy to speak out with faith; gift of serving; the gift of teaching, gifts of encouraging, giving, and showing kindness. The list is not complete, it simply lists a few of the skills God gives us to use in our lives, but we tend to complicate our lives with some very negative behaviors as Paul goes on to explain:

  • 12:9 Don’t just pretend to love others.. . . Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
  • 12:10 Love. . with genuine affection and . . .honor each other.
  • 12:11 Never be lazy. . .
  • 12:12 . . . be ready to help . . . eager to practice hospitality.

 

The list details the simple law of loving one another. Sadly, though we can be criticized for what we do, but living simply means ignoring those who “persecute you” and as Paul says in 12:16-17:

 

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

 

Just like no-bake cookies. The name makes the cookie sound easy, but the instructions do not always include the difficult tweaks that good cooks know make the cookie so scrumptious or how to make them extra special with secret ingredients.

Paul listed the special instructions so the Gentiles could live in community with the Jews who had generations of instruction in living faithfully. The Jewish faithful had to have the special instructions so they could adjust to a simpler lifestyle and not judge the Gentiles. We, too, need to read through Paul’s letters to remember how to live faithfully, also.

Ask the best cooks you know what the secret is to their no-bake cookies and you will get a list of suggestions just as Paul’s letters provide a range of suggestions to the various churches. In Romans, he begins wrapping up his letters with a few other points:

  • Chapter 13: “Respect for authority”
  • Chapter 14: “The Danger of Criticism”
  • Chapter 15: “Living to Please Others

 

And then he concludes the letter with personal notes and plans. These last chapters are like the special notes the experienced cooks write in the margins of their recipes—some even dating when they made the recipe and for whom it was made.

My no-bake cookies are seldom the same any two times. Why? I tweak the recipe based on what ingredients I have available, who the eaters are, and even the time I spend on making them. And what are the notes along my recipe card? The most critical one is to let it boil at least 3 minutes. My favorite tweak is peanut butter added to the recipe. I have even changed it to a non-chocolate no-bake cookie, but it is not greeted as favorably as a dark chocolate version is.

Being a faithful Christian should be easy with God’s new law delivered by Jesus Christ. Why, then, do we seem to make it so difficult? Paul knew personally the extent of the law’s change, and he did whatever he could to encourage the new church to live simply. In our personal lives, we must spend some time evaluating our own practices. Are we living faithfully? Are we respecting each other? Are we demonstrating our gifts in all the ways that we can to love one another?

The recipe may sound easy since it says “no-bake cookies,” but the more we develop our discipleship as Christians, we learn how to tweak the law to make the best Christians we can of ourselves. We need to work to be better. We also need to work together to be the church God asks us to be. When we fail, then we need to reread the recipe and try again. The result will be worth the reward.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

You have delivered us a message, a recipe for faithfulness.

Generations have preserved the simple instructions,

But we look for ways to make them even easier to follow.

 

Just like excellent cooks know, the simplest recipes

Need practice to reach perfection.

Guide us in following your words so we too may reach perfection.

 

Help us to toss out what has not worked

And to try again to find the best ways to love one another

And to carry your message to others in our community.

 

Open our hearts so we can love freely.

Open our minds so we can learn from our mistakes.

Open our doors to all your children who seek

life now and life eternal

with you, our father,

with Jesus Christ your son,

and with the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

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Breaking Sin’s Code Part 4: DONE.

 

Okay, done.  Sin’s code is broken.  Malachi never really mentioned the word ‘sin,’ but he certainly told the people of Israel that they failed to keep the commandments, especially the first one—have no other God before me.  True he outlined how the priests had failed and then how the people failed, but the major points boil down to two:

1.    Have no other God before me.

2.    Return to God and God will return to you.

The faithful simply must stay focused.

Staying focused on God is not difficult unless you are susceptible to other influences.  Yet there are methods to use that provide strength against those sinful influences—worship together with other faithfuls, serve God, study the Word, give your best to God, and listen to God.  (If those sound slightly familiar, remember the Bishop Schnase’s five fruitful practices:  radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, extravagant generosity, and risk-taking mission.)

The parallel cannot be ignored between Malachi and the Bishop’s advice.  We must practice following the commandments in a manner that demonstrates that we are God’s children.  This unlocks the mystery as to why Malachi was the last prophet before John the Baptist arrived.

The faithful were few in number, but they were still faithful.  Malachi’s prophecy was for everybody, but who followed his advice was heeded by such a few.  God told the people that they must return to God if they wanted God to return to them.

For 400 years, God did not speak to the people.  400 years!  That is almost five lifetimes, two American histories, four centennial celebrations, eight golden anniversaries, 16 silver anniversaries, or 40 decades.  Humans measure time; God’s time has no boundaries.  Still, he was quiet for 400 years.

Malachi’s closing words were meant to encourage the few faithful who were indeed listening.  The first two verses certainly show a division between the faithful and the unfaithful:

“You can be sure the day of the LORD is coming. My anger will burn like a furnace. All those who are proud will be like straw. So will all those who do what is evil. The day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD who rules over all. “Not even a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 “But here is what will happen for you who have respect for me. The sun that brings life will rise. Its rays will bring healing to my people. You will go out and leap like calves that have just been let out of the barn.

Two very different images are shown, but images the people who lived in a farming-based culture could clearly understand.  As faithful followers in today’s world, the farming-based images continue to work.  There is little doubt what Malachi was saying, even to us today, nearly 2,500 years later!

Reading Malachi’s prophecy today is just as relevant to us as it was in 430 BC.  We are still to follow God’s commandments.  True, Jesus brought the Greatest Commandment:  Love God, love one another.  Is that not what Malachi is saying?  Doesn’t the Greatest Commandment supersede or incorporate all the Ten Commandments?

For 400 years, the faithful hung on to God’s words.  The faithful did all they could to maintain the commandments.  For them, Malachi was sharing a prophecy filled with hope, with the promise of life eternal and to meet God face to face.  For those who did not follow the warnings, there was no hope for eternal life, for seeing God’s face.  All there was to look forward to, according to Malachi, was the furnace and they would burn like straw burns.

The prophecy ends with where chapter three began—with the promise of sending a messenger.  Everybody was familiar with Elijah and the relationship he had with God.  The promise from Malachi that the prophet Elijah would come before he himself would come.  The words are hopeful and fearful:

5 “I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will come before the day of the LORD arrives. It will be a great and terrifying day. 6 Elijah will teach parents how to love their children. He will also teach children how to honor their parents. If that does not happen, I will come. And I will put a curse on the land.”

The purpose of the messenger was to prepare even more faithful people to meet God.

Chronologically, we turn the page—we begin the New Testament story, another key to breaking sin’s code or hold. #

# # # #

Picture life now, 400 years after Malachi has spoken.  What has changed?  Not much, that is true.  The faithful are still faithful; they are still waiting for the next messenger or prophet.  Are they ready?

After studying Malachi and considering the chronological list of the books or stories of the New Testament, we see that both Matthew and Luke present the arrival of John, the Baptist, as the arrival of Elijah.  The timeline in Malachi is being revealed:  Return to God and God will return to you.

The faithful had broken sin’s code and had succeeded to stay focused on God to the extent that God was ready to return.   Halleluiah!

This is where we reach into the Greatest Story to be told.  We have the written report through two different sets of eyes as to what happened next.  Both Matthew and Luke begin with the birth and ministry of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus.  To follow the work of John the Baptist is to see the fulfillment of Malachi’s as well as Isaiah’s prophecy.

Listen to the story of John the Baptist in both Matthew and Luke: Matthew 3:1-12 In those days John the Baptist came and preached in the Desert of Judea.

2 He said, “Turn away from your sins! The kingdom of heaven is near.”  . . .

3 John is the one the prophet Isaiah had spoken about. He had said,  “A messenger is calling out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.    Make straight paths for him.’” (Isaiah 40:3)

4 John’s clothes were made out of camel’s hair. He had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all of Judea. They also came from the whole area around the Jordan River.

6 When they admitted they had sinned, John baptized them in the Jordan. . . .

7 John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing. He said to them, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger?

8 Produce fruit that shows you have turned away from your sins.

9 Don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones.

10 The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water, calling you to turn away from your sins. But after me, one will come who is more powerful than I am. And I’m not fit to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

12 His pitchfork is in his hand to clear the straw from his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can’t be put out.”

Luke 3:3-18

3 He went into all the countryside around the Jordan River. There he preached that people should be baptized and turn away from their sins.  . . . Then God would forgive them.

4 Here is what is written in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. It says, “A messenger is calling out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.     Make straight paths for him.

5 Every valley will be filled in.     Every mountain and hill will be made level. The crooked roads will become straight.     The rough ways will become smooth.

6 And everyone will see God’s salvation.’” (Isaiah 40:3–5)

7 John spoke to the crowds coming to be baptized by him. He said, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger?

8 Produce fruit that shows you have turned away from your sins. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones.

9 The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire.”

10 “Then what should we do?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “If you have extra clothes, you should share with those who have none. And if you have extra food, you should do the same.”

12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” John told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” John replied, “Don’t force people to give you money. Don’t bring false charges against people. Be happy with your pay.”

15 The people were waiting. They were expecting something. They were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ.

16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I am will come. I’m not good enough to untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

17 His pitchfork is in his hand to toss the straw away from his threshing floor. He will gather the wheat into his storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can’t be put out.”

18 John said many other things to warn the people. He also preached the good news to them. The choice of words in both is so nearly alike one cannot argue their authenticity.  The message continues that of Malachi.

1.    Have no other God before me.

2.    Return to God and God will return to you.

What does this offer the faithful today?  The same message, only this time it is even simpler because there are not eleven rules and examples, there is one: Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) This is the first and most important commandment. …

Remember this commandment; follow the words of the prophets, the disciples, and the church leaders even today.  As long as they are following the words of God, sin’s code will be and is and will always be broken.

Dear Holy God,

Thank you for the words of your prophets,

for the teachers, for the leaders, and for your Son.

Thank you for the wisdom of simple laws

to guide us in our lives.

Thank you for the promise of eternal life

and of meeting you face to face.  –Amen

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Breaking Sin’s Code (Part 3): The People

given on Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bible reference:  Malachi 2:17-3:19

Breaking Sin’s Code (Part 3):  The People

 

         What do you do when a boss or a leader tells you to do something and you know it is wrong?  As I read Malachi 3, I thought of all the leaders we watch and hear whether in business, in churches, or in government.  How many times do they announce some decision or ask somebody to do something and you know it is wrong?

On Friday, one of the world’s religious leaders retired—the Pope.  Can you imagine serving in that position and dealing with all the negatives within the church as a result of priests misusing or even abusing their position as church leaders?

Pope Benedict made a decision that might re-write policies for a pope’s term.  I feel he made a decision for the benefit of the church because he knew he could no longer fulfill the responsibilities of the position adequately.  He acknowledged his human weaknesses.

What do we, as the laity or as the worker or as the individual citizen, do when leaders mislead?  Maintaining our Christian principles challenges us in our daily lives without additional pressures from our leaders to do something against our beliefs.

Look at the verse, Malachi 2:17:  You have wearied the Lord with your words.—the NIV.   Malachi was prophesying to the people that they were not following God’s rules.  He was there to get their attention, to give them the strength to do what was right even if the priests were leading them astray—even if simply modeling inappropriate behaviors.

Now consider that verse in our current culture today:  You make God tired with all your talk. –the MSG   We all know that talk is not the only thing that makes God tired.  We are doing what is wrong.  We are thinking wrong thoughts.  We are even playing wrong.  With all the billions of people living around this globe making mistakes, God must be tired.

God must be tired.  Why we are tired!  We are tired of living in a world filled with greed, with violence, with abuse, with drought, floods, or other meteorological disasters.  We are tired of living according to society’s standards that clearly place us in a non-Christian position whether at work, in schools, in homes and even in personal relationships.

Just reviewing the negative possibilities wears me out.  How do we break sin’s code—or hold—when even the leaders are misleading?  Why should God protect and care for us when we fail to follow him despite the misleading of even the religious leaders?

Malachi knew the people needed to hear the prophecy just as much as the priests did.  He did not leave them out.  He warned the people that since God was worn out from their sins, he was sending messengers.  Not just one messenger, he was sending two!

Of course prophets sent messages for thousands of years as recorded in the Old Testament.  Still, Malachi added a different dimension to messenger than himself, a prophet, and the emphasis he places on the messenger indicates a closer relationship with God.

Look at Malachi 3:1:  The Lord who rules over all says, “I will send my messenger. He will prepare my way for me. Then suddenly the Lord you are looking for will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant will come. He is the one you long for.” –the NIRV

The book of Malachi clearly presents the prophet Malachi as reporting God’s words directly.  The written rules of language show the quotation marks, the attribution of God’s words through Malachi’s reporting.  The messenger “will prepare my way for me” is God’s words.

Granted, the words do not say John the Baptist will prepare the way for me in the form of Jesus Christ.  But remember the times, the culture.  Malachi was a prophet, and the people understood that function.  It truly was an avocation, a spiritual gift, which was completely within the norm of the times.

In our culture, today, do we have prophets?  Do we have individuals who speak as though God has assigned them the responsibility of speaking for him?  I cannot think of any who have been identified as prophets since Paul established the church after the crucifixion.  Maybe this is a problem for the people.

What if our global society accepted the career of prophet and listened closely for the next announcement from God?  Would the people be following the prophet or would they continue to follow the wide range of leaders who do not follow the word of God?

Political leaders certainly are not prophets from God.  Business leaders follow the prophecy of economic gurus rather than God.  Community leaders frequently have hidden agendas that determine their announcements.  How, then, are the people, living their daily lives, raising their families, working to meet their personal needs and dreams suppose to hear God words?

The people, each and every one of us yet today also, are told so many different things that messages become confused.  The images that bombard people from all the various medias today cloud the simple words needed to follow God.  The news reports no longer report the news as a responsibility.  Even the news reports are colored by the popularity of names, events, and money.

God set a timeline in the words Malachi sharedYou have turned away from my rules. You have not obeyed them. You have lived that way ever since the days of your people long ago. Return to me. Then I will return to you,” says the Lord who rules over all.  There it is, when you return to God, God will return to you.

Amazing.  Such a simple timeframe.  Is this the reason God said he was sending a messenger?  Was Malachi’s prophecy strong enough that the people did begin to return to God?  Is the 400 year gap between Malachi’s announcement to the people how long it took for the people to return to God?

The verses in Malachi 3 answers the people’s obvious question, “How are we to return?”  There is no simple answer to that question, especially since the people were not following God’s original ten commandments, they were following all the minute, picky, self-serving rules the leaders kept adding in to the original ten.

In the verses 9-12, the key problem identified is the tithing and offerings.  The manner in which they were being handled demonstrated how God was not the first priority.  In the next few verses, harsh words against God, like the use of profanity and vulgarities we hear today, was a problem.  And there is the sharp statement in verses 14-15:

14 “You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God. What did we gain by obeying his laws? And what did we get by pretending to be sad in front of the Lord? 15 But now we call proud people blessed. Things go well with those who do what is evil. And God doesn’t even punish those who argue with him.’”

Those are frightening words today.  In the King James version even the words of verse 15 are clear:  15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.  It reminds us of the seven deadliest sins:  pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth.  This list was created by Pope Gregory of the 6th century. [This was not the last pope to resign although he did.  When Pope Benedict decided to resign in February, the news stated that the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1412 ad, according to CNN on February 2, 2013.  (Accessed on March 2, 2013 at http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/11/world/europe/pope-resignation-q-and-a)]

Despite what has transpired within the Catholic Church during the last month, the words in verse 15 identify the problems that keep the people separated from God.  Whether the word is proud or successful or leaders or prosperous, the problem boils down to the first of the Ten Commandments:  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  –the KJV.

The exact words do not matter; the message of Malachi is the same.  Hope for those people who remained faithful is offered in the final verses of Malachi 3:16-18:

     16 Those who had respect for the Lord talked with one another. They cheered each other up. And the Lord heard them. A list of people and what they did was written on a scroll in front of him. It included the names of those who respected the Lord and honored him.

     17 “They will belong to me,” says the Lord who rules over all. “They will be my special treasure. I will spare them just as a loving father spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once again you will see the difference between godly people and sinful people. And you will see the difference between those who serve me and those who do not.

What does Malachi tell us today?  The very same thing.  We must keep no other gods before the Heavenly Father.  Despite all who are deemed leaders in our society, we are to follow God.  Hear those words again:   16 Those who had respect for the Lord talked with one another. They cheered each other up. And the Lord heard them.  . . . “They will be my special treasure. I will spare them just as a loving father spares his son who serves him.

Today, take Malachi’s prophecy and evaluate your life today.  Do you keep God your focus?  Do you follow the words of the Bible?  Are you one that God hears and treasures?  What started out weeks ago as an MRI of our own hearts continues today.  We must remember our covenant with God on a personal level.  We must live our lives following His commandment.  And as we renew that covenant with communion today, we must be strong enough to follow God even when the leaders in our society do not.

Dear God,

Thank you for the words of hope

     Malachi shares with us even today.

Thank you for the guidance

     of Your word.

Help us to be honest

      with our own evaluations.

Help us to be brothers and sisters

      in your Christian family.

Let us be the leaders who follow

      Your commandment.

Let us be the faithful

     that You declare as Yours

     now and forever.  –Amen

 

 

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It’s February: How is your heart?

given on February 3, 2013:

 

It’s February:  How’s your heart?

 

We have opened up a new month, the shortest in the year, yet it is so packed with special days and honorees and themes that it is easily overwhelms the daily routines we establish in our lives.

Consider this February list:

  • American Heart Healthy Month
  • Black History Month
  • Ground Hog’s Day was the 2nd
  • Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is the 12th
  • George Washington’s is the 22nd
  • Now President’s Day combines those so we have a holiday weekend—the 16th-18th this year.

Oh my!  I decided to do a little deeper exploration and turned to the web.  The list is much, much larger than I expected.  Why I think the list is longer than the days of the month:

  • February 1—National Freedom Day
  • February 2—Ground Hog’s Day. Pancake Day, National Woodchuck Day, and Candlemas—which I did not know and learned it is a Christian holiday recognizing the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Christ in the Temple
  • February 3—Halfway Point of Winter (interesting how it is the day after Groundhog Day where we learn whether it is 6 weeks of winter or a month and a half until spring)
  • February 5—Apache Wars Began (1917 in Arizona)
  • February 5—Dwight L. Moody’s birthday
  • February 6—Ronald Reagan’s Birthday
  • February 7—Charles Dickens’  and Laura Ingalls Wilders birthdays
  • February 8—Boy Scouts of America founded in 1910
  • February 9—Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley’s birthday and the day National Weather Service was established in 1870
  • Jell-O Week begins (second full week of the moth)
  • February 10—Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck in Malta, AD 60—not often recognized, but remember this is Paul, first known as Saul
  • February 11—Thomas Edison’s birthday and now National Inventors Day, plus it is also “Make a New Friend Day”
  • February 12—not only Lincoln’s birthday but Kindness Awareness Day
  • February 13—the first magazine, The American Magazine, was published in 1741
  • February 14—St. Valentine’s Day
  • February 15—now Susan B. Anthony Day but is also Galileo’s birthday clear back in 1564
  • February 15—National Engineers Week which included the side note that this is typically assigned as the week that includes George Washington traditional birthday, but sometimes has to be adjusted
  • February 17—analog TV switched to digital format in 2009 by Federal law.
  • February 18—Planet Pluto discovered in 1930
  • February 19–Japanese Internment Anniversary (1942)
  • February 20—Ansel Adam’s birthday (1902)
  • February 21—International Mother Language Day plus was the day that a stream train traveled 10 miles in 1804
  • February 23—Banana Bread Day as well as the beginning of the Alamo siege
  • February 24—Wilhelm Grimm’s birthday (1786), Steve Jobs’ birthday (1955) and my friend Cathy’s
  • February 25—Renoir’s birthday in 1841
  • February 26—Grand Canyon National Park Anniversary
  • February 27—No Brainer Day
  • February 28—John Tenniel’s Birthday (1820), First US Chartered Passenger Railroad Service in 1827, and the DNA Double Helix was discovered in 1953
  • February 29—Leap Year that is not part of the 2013 calendar.

[Accessed on February 2 at http://www.knowledgehouse.info/month_02.html%5D

 

This list came from an educator’s site in Arizona, so it adds in a few which not other state might add such as the Apache War, still the fullness of the calendar and its events can keep classrooms busy and focused on the worst of winter days.

February may be the shortest month, but it is a transitional month for many of us.  The themes attached to the month typically are connected to human relationships, to the heart of mankind.  Therefore the question is “How is your heart?”

As Christian’s the commandment to love one another is a year round, life long rule of thumb.  Unfortunately, the world has not completely embarrassed that premise and the lack of honest love for one another keeps leading people into painful, hurtful, damaging situations.  Certainly all the violence on the streets and political violence is not driven with the emphasis on random acts of kindness.  Instead, the random acts of violence occur and hearts are damaged.

Where in any of the Ten Commandments is there any mention of acts of revenge, violence, jealousy, or cruelty of any kind.

Exodus 20 1-2 God spoke all these words:

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.

4-6 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.

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.

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.

12 Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.

13 No murder.

14 No adultery.

15 No stealing.

16 No lies about your neighbor.

17 No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.

The Ten Commandments are such simple rules for all of God’s children to follow one would think the heart-throbbing month of February would be a full month of celebration.  But, so many people—historical and present—break these rules causing heart ache rather than heart-felt loving experiences.

As individuals who are committed to living a God-centered life loving one another, February can be a celebration of loving one another.  The Ten Commandments worked for years, but then they also did not work, as the Israelites seemed to clutter up the basic rules with more and more complex rules.  The constant demands and changes lead so many to make heartless decisions.

This brings us to God’s decision to try one more time.  He took the Ten Commandments and made it one, all-inclusive commandment that has the potential for transforming the world.  One super simple rule to live by—love one another.  And for 33 years, God worked through the form of Jesus Christ to make sure that this one law could be used successfully with all people regardless of race, gender, circumstances, nationality, or even personal experience.  Everybody is everybody’s neighbor and that one commandment should be enough.

Where does this bring us today?  Back to February.  One additional entry on the calendar is Lent.  Advent and Lent are the two most celebrated seasons in the Christian year, and Lent begins this month.  What better time to ask. “How is your heart?”

During the week, review the Ten Commandments.  Look closely at your personal history and analyze how well you have managed to keep the Ten Commandments.  How healthy is your heart?  Have you honestly kept no other gods before God?

Now be careful, that is more difficult than you might think because in today’s secular world it is easy to put some interest or object or goal ahead of God.  Isn’t greed one of the very deadliest sins—deadly in that it kills the relationship we have with God.  Greed puts money and possessions into our hearts as a god.  It runs lives into very unhealthy heart conditions.

Continue with your own heart exam.  Look over the other nine commandments and ask yourself:  Have I lived a life that God and others can tell that I follow the commandment?  Maybe there is a time in your life when you did envy a neighbor for one reason or another.  Maybe there has been a part of your life when parents were not honored.  Maybe there was a time when your words damaged another’s reputation that caused a relationship to die.

This is not a simple task.  There is not other way to determine whether your heart is healthy or not.  There is no other way to prepare for a month filled with love in all types of situations, in all types of manners, in all types of circumstances unless you begin with your own heart health.

This week you have time to carry out the analysis while preparing for the Random Acts of Kindness week, which begins February 10.  There is much work to be done if we are to make sure we have healthy hearts not only during February but also for the rest of our lives.  Just consider what a transformation a change of heart can bring to your life and to those around you.   And if a transformation is possible in your corner of the world, multiply that and consider how far healthy hearts really can reach.

God spent 33 years on earth to make sure we got the message.  Shouldn’t we spend one month focusing on our hearts so we can continue loving one another and transforming our world into one that is truly heart healthy.  It takes work, it takes prayer, and it takes a team effort to do all that we can in all the ways that we can for all that we can.

Dear Loving Father,

We face a world filled with such unhealthy hearts

     that we become unhealthy, too.

Guide us as we carefully, honestly examine our hearts

     to find the blockage that keeps our hearts working well.

Reveal to us the truths in our lives that block

     us from loving one another.

Help us to learn better methods, healthier diets

     of scripture, and better means of prayer.

Demonstrate the techniques to keep hearts healthy

      so we, too, can model those behaviors for others.

Thank you for Your infinite love and patience

      as we make changes to love one another more fully.

May we work to improve our hearts with your commandment,

     so others may be transformed by healthy hearts.  –Amen

 

 

 

 

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