God’s Wedding Vows: A New Look at the Law

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The law of God, and namely the Ten Commandments, often takes a beating for being legalistic, old covenant, etc.  But Biblically, God’s commandments are simply a summing up of His character.  God is love (1 John 4:8).  The commandments are meant show what it means to love (Matthew 22:36-40).   I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Exodus 20 begins with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”  As Vara Prasad Deepati writes, “A recovery from bondage, a symbol of redemption, lies at the foundation of the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the Decalogue is not a legalistic code given to Israel, but a redemp­tive tie that defines the relationship of love that should exist between Israel and their mighty God”*

Yes, what if, instead of a list of commands, these ten statements are more meant to show a “redemptive tie,” a promise, a covenant…  Not of what we are going to do, but what HE is promising to do for us?  The church is described as Christ’s bride in scripture (Eph. 5:22-23, Rev. 19:7-10, etc.). And while attending a wedding, I listened as the couple made beautiful, personally written, vows to each other.  I think that’s when it dawned on me: God has made vows to us too!  And while we’re probably all familiar with them, we may have missed them altogether.  (Disclaimer, this is not meant to be Biblical exegesis, but maybe some food for thought 😉

And God said, I’m the God who brought you out of your bondage, out of those dark places that only you and I know.  I, that same God, vow to you this covenant:*

 

  1. You shall have no other gods before me. I promise to be faithful to you, and to help you to be faithful to me alone. When other things or people threaten to get between you and I, I will help you.  I want to be the one who occupies the first spot in your thoughts, your affections, and your dreams.  While I created you to love others, you do not need to furiously seek them to fill the void in your life.  I long to show you that I am enough for you, that when I am your first love, everything (and everyone) else will fall in place. You will be satisfied.

 

  1. You shall not make for yourself any idols. I promise to jealously protect your freedom. You can get rid of those things that remind you of the life you left. The things of this earth are here to serve you, not to trap you into service to them.  The sins of your past, and even your family’s past may weigh heavily on you.  But don’t make memorials to them in your mind and heart. I have freed you in my mercy.  What ties you to the old life? Money? Entertainment? Culture? Unhealthy relationships? Anger?  I want to free you from those idols.

 

  1. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. I promise to give you my name. And when I talk about my name, I don’t just mean the letters in my titles.  My name is who I am – it is my character.  When you become mine – my spouse – you take my name too.  You are a representative of my character.  It’s not a light thing.  Many have rejected me because of those who claimed to be my followers.   But not so with you.  I want to make it so that you actually become like me!  When people see you, they will see me through you.  You have entered into a royal position.  I want to show you what it means to be royalty.

 

  1. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holyI, the God and Creator of the universe, promise to set aside holy time just for you and I. In order for you to be faithful, filled, and united to me, we need our time together.  Yes, we can spend time together everyday, but on the seventh day I have set aside the whole day just for you.  Please choose to spend it with me too – it’s irreplaceable. This is the day when I remind you that just as I created you, I am recreating you. I have purchased you, and married you. I long to renew you – mind, body, and spirit.  Every Sabbath, I will be there waiting.

 

  1. Honor your father and your mother.  I promise to provide honor and care for your earthly parents. Because I love you, I love your family too.  You are my gift to them.  Just as you love and respect me, they also deserve your love and respect.  Show your parents that you care.  Help them with their needs.  Help to preserve their lives, just as they were commissioned to preserve yours when you were a child.  Even if your parents have fallen short in fulfilling their commission, I will bless you for blessing them anyways.  Your longevity and inheritance are in my hands.  As you bless, you will be blessed.

 

  1. You shall not murder. I promise to make you a fountain of life.  Don’t just avoid causing death, but do everything you can to preserve life. Protect the innocent.  Fight for the oppressed.  Stand up for what’s right.  As the Creator, I value life – I value your life – and I value the lives of those around you.  You can give or take life by not only what you do, but also by what you don’t do.  And life is not just physical.  I’m empowering you to give life to people’s hearts and souls.  That’s why I said that hate is like murder in your heart.  Instead of death and hate, I want to make you an agent of life and love.

 

  1. You shall not commit adultery. I promise to be faithful to you. And just as you have promised to be faithful to me, so you also are to be faithful in your human relationships.  When you commit to your earthly spouse, you are committing to them alone.  This doesn’t just mean physically, but in your heart and mind as well.  Show your spouse the beauty of the faithfulness that I show you – in your relationships with others, what you look at, and even what you think about. Even before marriage, be faithful to that future spouse.  Save yourself for me and them alone.  I want to give you a sexuality of the utmost purity.  In a world that sells sex, I use marriage as an analogy for my relationship with you.  What the world has attacked, I long to redeem in you.

 

  1. You shall not steal.  I promise that as you give yourself away, I will give you all you need.  While people may take from you what is not theirs, you can give because I give to you.  Really, all that you have is mine.  So even trying to cling to what’s “yours” instead of using it as I ask you is really stealing.  Let me have your stuff – your possessions, your money, your time, your whole life.  I promise that if you don’t withhold it, I will make better use of it than you ever thought possible.  So give – to the poor and needy, the hungry, the spiritually destitute, and even your enemies, as I lead you.  It’s all mine anyways, and I always provide for you. Don’t steal from the world the world the blessing I designed you to be to it. Give your life away  – as I gave mine for you.

 

  1. You shall not bear false witness.  In a dark world, I promise to make you a beam of pure, truthful light. In what you say, and what you don’t say, let it shine the true light of my glory.  Remember again that you are a witness of my character.  And a ‘witness’ has seen or experienced something first hand – like you do in relationship with me.  It’s not just what you say, but who you are that gives a true or false witness.  Your neighbors are watching you.  Your lack of truthful testimony hurts them – when you fail to share me with them, you lie and steal from them. Don’t be afraid to stand.  Don’t be afraid to be a witness of our relationship. I am with you. I will help your life to shine.

 

  1. You shall not covet. I promise to fill you so much that you do not need to be envious of others’ things, relationships, spirituality, or anything else that someone else has and you do not. Don’t set your mind on these things.  In doing so you take your eyes off of me and start walking by sight instead of faith.  You are bound to get tripped up.  Instead, thank me for what I’ve given you.  Claim my promises!  You don’t have because you don’t ask.  Seek me, and I’ll add everything else.  I am the God who gives all that you need – and more. Remember that these are my promises to you – my covenant. Will you commit to me? Even beyond death, I will be faithful.

*Deepati, Vara Prasad. “The Ten Commandments: A law to be obeyed or promises to be celebrated?” Ministry Magazine, June 2012.
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Making Sure God Won’t Disappoint You

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“To be honest, I really like being your friend and I think you’re great, but I don’t really expect much from you. I’m sorry….”

The statement could have offended me, but actually it didn’t.  Because to tell the truth, I didn’t expect much either.  I too have been disappointed a lot of times.  Call it the results of having to say goodbye too many times, difficult past experiences, or whatever, but as a result, I also find myself expecting little out of my friendships.

“Expectation is the root of all heartache,” said William Shakespeare.  And it makes so much sense.  Don’t expect much = don’t get disappointed much.  Right?  But it’s not really true. Whether we try to manage our expectations or not, something inside us still hopes, and something inside us is still disappointed.  Even if we say, “I knew this would happen,” it still hurts.  No, just managing expectations can’t solve things.  But it seems protective.  So we do it easily.

And then there’s God.  What do I expect from God? Even though I may intellectually know that God is supposed to be the only one who will never let me down, that may not be how I’ve always felt.  And I think it comes through in how I pray even: “God, if it’s not too much to ask…  I mean, if it’s in Your will…  Because I know sometimes we have to go through trials, but…  Maybe, if it’s okay, would you do _________?”  It’s almost like we’re trying to loosen God’s obligation.  Because, well, what if it doesn’t happen?  It can seem to lead to two options:

  1. a) I feel bad because I must have messed up on what/how I was asking in some way, or
  2. b) God just didn’t come through for me. He failed me.

And if option “b” is the case, then what would that do to my faith system?  Who CAN I trust?  So in order to avoid the possibility that God won’t be trustworthy, we kind of “give Him the easy way out.”  We don’t expect too much.  We’re really doing both of us a favor.

But we’re not.  We’re not actually doing anyone a favor.  In James 4:3 we are told that, “you do not have because you do not ask.”  In fact, when people were afraid to ask, it seemed to make Jesus sad and possibly even angry!  Take Mark 1:40 for instance.  A man with leprosy comes to Jesus stating, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  In response, verse 41 in the NKJV says Jesus was “moved with compassion.”  Or to put it more strongly, the NIV says He was “indignant.”  I’m sure He was indignant at the results of our sinful world that this poor man was experiencing, but it also seems to imply that Jesus may have been indignant at the fact that a suffering person would think that He might not be WILLING to help him!  Is this what their picture of God had come to?  The Son of God came into the world and they expected so little?

Similarly, in Mark 9, we find that this lack of expectation is again the cause of Jesus’ frustration.  A family with a demon possessed son brought him to Jesus saying, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (vs. 22).  “’If you can?’” said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’” (vs. 23, NIV).  I can just hear the sad questioning in His voice – “If I can?? You don’t think I can do this?”  This is the same crowd that made Jesus exclaim, “You unbelieving generation…. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (vs. 19).

Either we believe that God might be unwilling or fear that He is unable.  So we expect little.

And I wonder if it’s any different today.  Either we believe that God might be unwilling or fear that He is unable.  So we expect little.  We’ve been let down by so many people in life that we expect to be let down by God as well.  And maybe we’ve even felt let down by God.  I definitely can’t say that there aren’t things I can’t understand, prayers that seem unanswered, or things that happen in this battle between good and evil that aren’t as God would have them. Yet we’re told that we have a God that loves to give good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11), we’re told that He will supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19), we’re told that we will not lack any good thing (Ps. 34:10).  And this from the God who promises to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

So have we even given God a chance to exceed our expectations?  Have we been willing to step out and risk it?  To hold Him to His word?  To put Him on the line to see whether He’ll disappoint or not?  Because if we test Him and find that God does indeed meet our expectations, it might just free us to expect more out of others too – knowing that even IF they let us down, we will still be okay.  We are secure.

“I’ve been disappointed enough times so I have lower expectations.  You don’t owe it to me to be a good friend or even a good person.”

No my friend, I don’t owe it to you.  But neither does God owe it to me.  And I’m starting to learn that I can count on that.  I’m starting to learn how to give what I’ve been given.  And in the process I’m starting to learn to expect more.

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How To Avoid a Relationship Train Wreck

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No one gets into a relationship thinking: “This is going to ruin my life, alienate my family, friends, and leave me wounded (possibly for life)”. Yet it happens all the time. Not all train wrecks can be avoided, but most can. It’s interesting that after the train wreck happens, people look back and say “I should have seen it coming”. Fact is, you did. At least parts of it, but you lied to yourself by thinking your situation was different.

I am not a counselor or psychologist nor do I play one on TV, yet in 22 years of praying and listening to people I have seen some familiar patterns emerge. I share this “straight from my gut” blog not because I’m an expert, but because I care. Before the wreck happens, consider eliminating the following three phrases from your life:

  1. What’s wrong with _________________________________________. (fill in the blank)

Most victims of relationship train wrecks said that phrase at some point.

I know I’m married, but, what’s wrong with a little flirting?

I know he has issues but what’s wrong with being forgiving? Aren’t we all imperfect?

I know she seems controlling, but what’s wrong with caring?

The problem with the “what’s wrong with” phrase is that it makes excuses for character flaws. If you have to spend time arguing with yourself or with mature people who love you, trying to justify the unjustifiable, you are probably treading in dangerous grounds.

Train wreck!

  1. I can save him/her.

People that like to play savior usually end up crucified by the exact same people they are trying to save. It’s interesting to watch this dynamic unfold. Many times, the satisfaction of getting attention overrides the potential for a broken heart and results in compromised values. There is something inside of all of us that craves attention. Starting and remaining in a relationship with an unhealthy person makes forget two important principles:

People are worse than you think they are.

The process of change is going to be harder than you think.

When you add to the mix an intimate physical relationship (very common in unhealthy individuals and relationships) you get a perfect storm. If you are wondering whether an intimate relationship with a person you are not married to is a good idea, think about this: Complete intimacy without complete commitment usually results in a complete mess.

Train wreck!

  1. This is perfect.

This is the balance to #2. You’ve probably heard it said, that if it’s too good to be true it probably is. There is no such thing as a perfect person or situation. If it seems too perfect, question it. Healthy relationships have disagreements and imperfections. There is a difference between imperfections and dysfunctions. These are three markers I use to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships:

Control- are they trying to help you become a better you or a different you?

Abuse- once it happens it’s time to get out.

Vomit- when someone you just started dating or just met shares too much information with you (they vomit on you) it should be a warning sign something is not right.

Some of you are seeing the signs right now that a train wreck might be at hand. Stop coming up with excuses. Train-wrecks seldom end well. Pray for courage and surround yourself with a couple of friends to support you as you jump off. Better a scraped knee than a busted head.

Sorry for the bluntness.

No more train-wrecks!

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