John T. Willis

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Ten Commandments--Commandments 9 and 10

This blog concludes our little trip through the Ten Commandments. Here are the ninth and tenth commandments with a few comments.

Commandment 9: Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Major thoughts on this commandment include the following.
1. First and foremost, this commandment focuses on giving witness or testimony in legal cases. A community, a church, a city, a country, a nation will soon crumble if truth-telling does not prevail. This is not a private issue or a secluded family issue. It has to do with society. Just one example of this issue appears in Deuteronomy 19:16-21:
"If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days, and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testfied falsely against another, then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crimes such as this shall never again be committed among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." On this, see further Proverbs 6:19; 14:5; 21:18.
2. ANY type of lying is sinful. We human being distinguish between "black lies" and "white lies," or "big lies" and "little lies." In God's eyes, all lies are equally sinful. Proverbs 6:16-19 enumerates seven things that the Lord "hates." One of those is "a lying tongue" (verse 17). Human beings have the "uncanny" ability to "twist," "channel," "pervert," "misdirect," "hide," "undermine" the "real truth." God wants us to be honest, to be truthful.
3. The New Testament contains several "lists" of "worldly unrighteousness," and these include "lying," "deceit," "slander," and the like. Romans 1:28-32; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:5-8; 1 Timothy 1:8-11.

Commandment 10: Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21. "You shall not coveet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Here are some thoughts:
1. In essence, ALL of God's commandments have to do with "heart" issues. Covetousness is CLEARLY a "heart" issue. The US government will never arrest an individual for "covetousness." I can "covet" something all day long and never worry about being arrested or going to jail. The most important issues in life are "heart" issues. Paul drives this point home in Romans 7:7-12.
2. A strong desire in the human "heart" is to "desire" or "want" something that we do not have but yearn to want. This could be riches. According to Joshua 7:20-21, THIS is Achan's sin. This could be land or property. According to Genesis 13:2-13, THIS is the cause of the strife between the herdsmen of Abraham's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. This could be another person's husband or wife. According to 2 Samuel 11:2-5, THIS is David's sin.
3. Covetousness is unbridled consumerism. This is a great obsession in America. This is "greed." Many are not satisfied with thankfully accepting God's gifts and blessings. We want to seize things and people of others. This commandment is VERY CLOSE to our central issues in the present world.

How do YOU feel about these Ten Commandments? How do they affect and change your heart and your life? We need to talk about these issues. These are major. Share your thoughts with others. Please send me your thoughts.

John Willis

South China Discovery of Oldest Animal Fossils

On 27 July 2009, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their findings online about the oldest animals fossils yet discovered. Here are some of the highlights.

Scientists have believed that the first animals evolved in the ocean. But recently, researchers studying ancient rock samples in South China have found that the first animal fossils are preserved in ancient lake deposits, not in marine sediments as scholarly commonly assume.

For approximately 3 billion years, single-celled life form like bacteria dominated planet earth. Then, approximately 600 million years ago, the first multi-cellular animals appeared on the scene, diversifying quickly. The oldest known animal fossils in the world are preserved in South China's Doushantou Formation. These fossil beds have no adult specimens. Many of the fossils appear to be microscopic embryos.

Lakes are typically short-lived features on earth, and are not nearly as consistent environments as oceans, so it is surprising that the first evidence of animals now found is associated with lakes, which are far more variable environments than the ocean.

I call this to our attention to ponder some obvious thoughts.
1. We do not know as much as we thought we knew. It is so easy for us to get into a rut, and believe THIS is the way things are, and cannot be different. This is true in science, in medicine, in society, [ouch] in religion. We constantly need to keep our minds and hearts open to new truth which we did not know or realize before.
2. Human experiences, exposures, discoveries, and the like are VERY LIMITED. All the time, we are discovering things and ideas we thought were not so. In addition to this brief news flash, here are a couple of additional recent "discoveries."
a. On 23 July 2009, Bangladeshi conservatists discovered a rare leopard captured by villagers in the southeast of the country, suggesting that there may be hope of the survival of this animal which formerly we thought it might be extinct.
b. On 30 July 2009, in Asia, a "bald" bird was seen that had not seen for 100 years. Again, there is hope that this creature may still survive.

God is the creator and sustainer of all life on planet earth and beyond. As hard as we try, as "brilliant" as some human beings are, as "advanced" are our educational efforts, there is so much more to learn and to understand.

As we continue to learn these new discoveries which we had not known before, we should first be humble every day before God, and second stand in awe before his marvelous creation and continual manifestation.

How do these new discoveries strike YOU? Share these "revelations" with others. Let me know what you think.

John Willis

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Ten Commandments--Commandments 7 and 8

The Ten Commandments INDEED strike at the very heart and core of human life. In our journey, we turn now to the seventh and eighth commandments.

Commandment 7: Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18. "You shall not commit adultery." Here are a few important thoughts.
1. Adultery is a "heart" issue. It is NOT an issue having to do with an external bodily act. VERY STRANGELY, some people have thought or assumed that in Old Testament times, "adultery" was a sin committed externally, and ONLY with Jesus and the New Testament, God became concerned about "lust" in the heart. Such people appeal to texts like Matthew 5:27-30. But READ THE HEBREW BIBLE. 2 Samuel 12:2-4; Job 31:1, 9-12; and many other Old Testament texts clearly teach that "lust" of the heart is the real issue, which naturally leads to the external act of adultery.
2. Adultery is a very deep personal issue, BECAUSE it affects the whole attitude of the person. Paul spells out this issue in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. When a person, male or female, commits adultery, this "changes" that person. It "scars" that person's life.
3. The Bible compares human infidelity with God with a husband being unfaithful to his wife or a wife being unfaithful to her husband. Study carefully Hosea 2:2-15; Jeremiah 2:1-4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3. THIS MARITAL RELATIONSHIP is so close that the Bible declares is like God's relationship to his people.

Eighth Commandment: Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19. "You shall not steal." Here are some serious thoughts.
1. Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7 suggest that the "nub" of the eighth commandment forbids what we call "kidnapping." The most expensive heinous crime on earth today is "trafficking" of girls and women all over the world. Self-centered individuals "rob" other people and use those people to gain profit. The eighth commandment lies right before our very eyes every day.
2. Exodus 22:1-4; 1 Kings 21; and many other biblical texts also emphasize that it is sinful for an individual to rob property or goods that rightfully belong to others. God teaches us that human beings are not to whittle down, eat away at, the selfhood of individuals or of families or of communities. Unfortunately, many people "legally" create means of seizing goods or property from other people. One can "get by with this" according to "the law," but God is against this. The Bible makes this clear.

What are YOUR responses to these two commandments? How do they touch YOUR life? Your home? Your church? Your community? Share your thoughts with others. Let me know your thoughts.

John Willis


For many years, I have been a faithful member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America. The Roman Catholic Church hosts this organization, and many of us are participating, contributing members. This is a tremendous blessing. We are blessed to travel all over the world for these conventions. A few years ago, Evelyn and I spent a week in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like everywhere, we learned so much from such experiences. Here are a few highlights.

Halifax was founded in 1749 by Governor Edward Cornwallis under the British government. The City of Halifax was incorporated in 1841. Today, the population is approximately the same size as Abilene, Texas, our city, 120,000 people. On 1 April 1996, the government of Nova Scotia dissolved the City of Halifax, and amalgamated the four municipalities with Halifax Copunty and formed Halifax Regional Municipality.

The Acadia people were the natives at Halifax. Over many decades, quite a few of these people migrated south along the Mississippi River and settled in Louisiana. From this people came Evangeline, a great epic. While we were in Halifax, we visited Acadia University. This is a beautiful campus. One of the colleges in this university excels in horticulture. Hosts showed us through the buildings. Inside and out, there were all kinds of beautiful flowers and trees and shrubs of all kind. What a marvelous display!!!

We spent one day at the ocean, where the tides near Halifax are the highest and lowest tides in the world--approximately 30 feet in expanse over a 24 hour period. Early in the morning, we watched as the sand was visible and many people walked out for hundreds of feet. Four hours later, and the water was rising rapidly. Boat had been on the ground, now they are floating as the water continues to rise. What a manifestation of God's created world!!!

Halifax and nearby regions are noted for maritime tragedies over the centuries. One memorable example occurred in 1917, near the end of World War I. A French munitions ship, the Mont Blanc, collided with a Belgian relief ship, the Imo. The collision sparked a fire on the munitions ship which was filled with 2,300 tons of wed and dry picric acid, 200 tongs of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton, with drums of Benzol stacked on her deck. On 6 December 1917, at 9:04:35 a. m., the munitions ship exploded in what was the largest man-made explosion before the first testing of an atomic bomb, and is still one of the largest non-nuclear man-made explosions. Items from the exploding ship landed 5 kilometers away. The Halifax Explosion decimated the city's north end, killing approximately 2,000 people, injuring 9,000, and leaving tens of thousands homeless and without shelter. The following day, a blizzard hit the city, hindering recovery efforts. People rushed to Halifax to rebuild the city. The most celebrated effort came from the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee. As an enduring thank-you, since 1971 the province of Nova Scotia has donated the annual Christmas tree lit at the Common in Boston.

Some day, spend some time in Halifax and the surrounding region. There is so much more to tell. Maybe I will share more experiences we had. Three parting thoughts.
1. People around the world are wonderful. The people of Halifax and Nova Scotia treated us marvelously while we were visiting there. It is so important to remember that God created every person in God's image. And God blesses all of us through others created in the image of God.
2. People will immediately flow to help people in need. God's people should always be the first to help people. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes this does not happen. There is something about all people that indicates that God has "planted" a seed in every person to help people in need. The world rushed to help Halifax in the great Halifax Explosion in 1917.
3. Change is inevitable. I am so different from who I was, where I was, what I thought and believed, where I lived, etc., etc. This happens to all people, all cities, all countries. The Acadia people no longer exist as they were centuries and decades ago. The same is true of all of us. God is the same. But we change. Sometimes, this is good. Sometimes, this is bad. But we change. This is life.

Have you been to Halifax? If not, you need to go there. Let me have your thoughts. Shares your impressions with your friends, your church, your community. Learn more about Halifax in Wikipedia, encyclopedias and books. Travel. Travel. Travel.

John Willis

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Ten Commandments--Commandments 5 and 6

Continuing our trip through the Ten Commandments, here are a few comments on Commandments 5 and 6.

Commandment 5: Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16. I will include Deuteronomy 5:16 because it is a little longer than Exodus 20:12. "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Here are some thoughts:
1. While the first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God, the last six commandments have to do with our relationship with other people.
2. Children have parents for a reason. Biblically, the intention of parents is NOT to dominate or control children, but to raise them in the nurture of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21. When parents raise their children in the Lord, it is only naturally for those children to "honor" their parents, NOT obey or be in subjection to them, but to honor them.
3. The purpose of the fifth commandment is to transmit God's blessings and teachings from one generation to the next. The Bible strongly emphasizes this idea. Read carefully Exodus 10:1-2; 12:26-27; 13:8-9; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:18-21; Psalm 78:1-8. Children "honor" their parents by leaving father and mother, establishing their own family under God, and serving God and others, so that in turn they will transmit these blessings and teachings from God to their children. Genesis 2:18-24 firmly teaches this concept. Genesis 18:16-21 provides an excellent example.
4. Children "honor" their parents by supporting their parents when they cannot support themselves. Matthew 15:1-9 teaches this.

Commandment 6: Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17. "You shall not murder." Here are some thoughts.
1. This commandment forbids a human being to take another person's life. God gives life. Human beings are not to take that prerogative to take away life. This commandment has to do with INTENTIONAL, PREMEDITATED MURDER. There are three specific exceptions explicitly taught in the Bible.
2. Accidental or unintentional killing is NOT a violation of the sixth commandment. As one example, Deuteronomy 19:5 explains: "Suppose someone goes into the forest with another to cut wood, and when one of them swings the ax to ut down a tree, the head slips from the handle and strikes the other person who then dies; the killer may flee to one of these cities [the cities of refuge] and live." Every human being deeply regrets if that person is involved in an accident and another person is killed, or if that person is a pilot and a crash ensues and some of the victims perish, or if that person is swimming with some friends and one of them dies. But, unfortunately, REAL LIFE is full of accidents, and often we are involved or caught. We feel VERY BAD about the situation. BUT, accidental killing is NOT MURDER.
2. Capital punishment is NOT MURDER. The Bible COMMANDS that the punishment of SOME crimes are so heinous that the correct punishment is capital punishment. Exodus 21:12 is a clear example: "Whoever strikes a person mortally SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH." A human being who intentionally MURDERS another person shall be put to death. The old translation: "Thou shalt not kill" is simply NOT a violation of capital punishment. This may seem harsh to some. But HUMAN LIFE is precious, and when a human being takes the life of another person, God COMMANDS the intentional murder to practice capital punishment. NOW, for various reasons, some societies OPT to allow an intentional murderer to stay alive physically in prison. Human societies must make their choices in this matter. OFTEN, the murder escapes and MURDERS yet another person. ALSO, sometimes, God touches the heart of a MURDERER and changes that person's life. Saul of Tarsus regrets for the rest of his life that he participated in the MURDER of Stephen--Acts 7:54-8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16.
3. War is NOT MURDER. NOW, of course, war MAY INDEED be a type of murder. But killing in war is NOT NECESSARILY murder. God COMMANDED the Israelites to "utterly destroy" the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Deuteronomy 7:1-5. God COMMANDED Saul and the Israelites to "utterly destroy" the Amalekites. 1 Samuel 15:1-3. And God rejected Saul and terminated Saul's dynasty when Saul and the Israelites disobeyed this commandment. Some are "Pacifists." They insist that all "wars" of all kinds are a violation of the sixth commandment. The Bible and history oppose such an idea. All of us, certainly myself included, desire and work for peace, not war. But some military leaders and nations INSIST on war. SOMETIMES, the ONLY response is defensive war to save the greater population. This is a horrible truth, but a reality.

These two commandments are tough. Many of you will disagree with one or more of these thoughts. We need to honestly ponder, study, discuss these ideas. They are fundamental to human life. I personally pray day for universal peace. There are wars everywhere. Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-5, passages on which I have studied diligently for years and punished articles, call for universal peace. God will ultimately bring peace. In the meantime, life goes on.

Share your thoughts with these "tough issues." We need to discuss them.

John Willis


I am constantly blessed by many wonderful students. This has been true through almost fifty five years. One of my students last semester [Spring 2009] is Linda Brivule. She is from Riga, Latvia. Here major is Management [Business]. She excels in athletics. She is a major competitor in the javelin. She is rated 3 in the NCAA and 25 in the world. She is awesome.

Let me share a few things I have learned about Latvia.

The Republic of Latvia borders to the north on Estonia, to the south on Lithuania, to the east on Russia, and to the southeast on Belarius. Across the Baltic Sea to the west is Sweden. Latvia covers almost 25,000 square miles. The Latvians are Baltic people culturally related to the Estonians and Lituanians. The Latvian and Lithuanian languages are similar, but not Estonian. Latvia is divided into 26 districts. The capital is Riga, and the largest university is the University of Latvia in Riga. The population of this country is approximately 2,375,ooo people.

I am personally amazed that Linda would come all the way to the United States, learn English well, do well in her classes, and excel in athletics.

Let us pray for all peoples on earth. Let us pray for the people of Latvia. God created all peoples in his image. Every person is an individual of dignity. Each person has his or her God-given gifts. God uses people in many ways. Let us encourage and empower all around us to bring us all closer to God.

How do YOU respond to Latvia? Have you ever been to Latvia? Maybe you need to spend some time in Latvia. This is God's country. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Latvia has been populated since 9000 B. C. After a long history, by 900 A. D., four distinct Baltic tribes inhabited Latvia: Couronians, Latgallians, Selonians, and Semigallians. Several wars impacted Latvia over the centuries. In 1721, Russia took over Latvia. After a long period of conflict and discontent, finally, on 18 November, 1918, Latvia declared independence, and this was officially recognized on 26 January 1921.

But Nazi Germany occupied Latvia in 1941 and Russia re-occupied Latvia in 1944. Coming into our times, on 4 May 1990, Latvia again became independent, and was restored on 6 September 1991. Now, the President is Valdis Zatlers, and the Prime Minister is Valdis Dombrovskis.

The climate of Latvia is humid because of the maritime influence of the Baltic Sea. The summers and autumns are reasonably mild, but the winters are often severe with heavy snowfalls. The major wildlife is deer, wild boar, moose, lynx, fox, beavers and wolves.

The major religions in Latvia are Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Roman Catholic, and Latvian Orthodox. Approximately 39% of the population declares they believe in "a god." Almost 60% of the people declare that they believe in a "spiritual force" of some sort. Approximately 10% of the people do not believe any god at all exists, and many oppose Christianity.

Unfortunately in late 2008 and now in 2009, Latvia is suffering from a severe economic reversal. The whole country is in great turmoil over this.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Ten Commandments--Commandments 3 and 4

This blog deals briefly with the third and fourth commandments of the Ten Commandments.

Commandment 3: Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11. "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name." Here are some fundamental thoughts about this commandment.
1. It is certainly sinful to use the name of "God" or "Jesus" or "Christ" as a "curse" or "obscene" or "vulgar" language. Ephesians 5:4 and Colossians 4:6 make this quite clear. But this is NOT THE REAL POINT of this commandment.
2. THIS commandment teaches that a person MUST NOT use God's name as a means to achieve or accomplish a selfish purpose of the person speaking. Jesus "nails" this thought in ways in which he applies this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37. A "godly person" looks you seriously in the face and promises that that person will do this or that, but has no intention or very little intention of actually doing what that person promises or assures you will do. The "nub" of THIS commandment has to do with BASIC HONESTY. I assure you that I will meet you for dinner at the Golden Corral in 6:00 p. m. on Thursday evening. I get there, and this person does not appear. Later, I contact this person, and that person had no intention of following through on this promise. This is simple, but this happens ALL the time. THIS is the sin reproved in the third commandment.

Fourth Commandment: Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Exodus 20:8-11 reads:
"Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work--you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it." Deuteronomy has the same commandment with the exception of the final explanation in verse 15, which reads: "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day." Here are some thoughts about this commandment.
1. All of us human beings BADLY NEED this commandment. Especially in the United States, we are WORKAHOLICS. To maintain our HUMANITY, our SANITY, our BALANCE, we need to "intentionally" take breaks--to do something different from what we normally do. God created us to work. Genesis 2:15 says: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden TO TILL IT AND KEEP IT." God INDEED expects all of us to WORK. BUT, God has ALSO "wired us" to REST. So we ALL need a SABBATH--a day of rest--EVERY WEEK. Do I do this well? No. But I should. What about YOU?
2. Each of us DEMAND that our family members, our friends, our employees, our church, our community take the time to rest. This will REVIVE us. This will REINVIGORATE us. This will GIVE US NEW LIFE. This is the way God has made us. Let us realize this. This is a POSITIVE commandment. What a joy to spend time to REST.

Do you rest? Are you a workaholic? Tell me your stories. Share your thoughts.

John Willis

Eternal Threads

God's Highland Church Family has a wonderful "problem." Ministries of all kinds are "bursting" everywhere in our family. Our 38 shepherds spend much of our time in our "shepherd meetings" praising, encouraging, and praying for our ministries. We are not statisticians, so I have no idea HOW MANY there are. We do not have time for THAT. We spend our time trying to SERVE OTHERS. Oh, our Lord taught us:
"Whoever wishes to become great amongyou must be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.
For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for all." (Mark 10:43-45).

ALL of our "minister" [our deacons--how many? who knows--100--150--200? who knows? who cares?] are "God starters" or "Holy Spirit starters" or "Jesus Christ starters." God gives us an opportunity to serve, and we "jump" at the opportunity.

One of our "God starters" is Linda Egle. For many years, Linda was a "flight attendant," often in charge of a flight, and often overseas. Linda learned of a great need in the world. Many girls and women throughout planet earth were "castaways." They had no money, they could not support their family, they could not get a job. And millions of these girls and women become "traffickers" of sex. THIS IS THE BIGGEST CRIMINAL BUSINESS IN THE WORLD. There are more people in slavery now than they EVER HAVE IN HISTORY of humanity!!!

Linda began praying and trying to figure out HOW to try to begin to "turn the tide." A few years ago, she "launched" into a project now called ETERNAL THREADS. This is a very SIMPLE and a very POWERFUL movement. Here is how it works.
1. Linda amasses cloth of all kinds and carries this or sends these to trustworthy people to sew and weave and manufacture cloth. She also supplies other types of materials. She makes purses and dresses and other kinds of garments. When the tsunami hit, she arranged for helpers to support fishermen to rebuild their humble businesses.
2. Linda supplies sewing machines and other types of instruments to get these types of works done.
3. Linda encourages churches and individuals to invest in this modest endeavor to enable girls and women throughout the world to "get on their feet," establish a small business, and sustain their families.

NOW, through Linda's efforts, this "ministry" is functioning in India [where Linda did her first work], Afghanistan, Thailand, and Nepal, and the work is "burgeoning" all over the place. One of our Christian sisters, Sue Garcia, now is full time on this staff. The problem is: we cannot keep up with all that is going on.

On 6 August, Ramesh Sapkota, a native in his country, will speak at he Hunter Welcome Center at ACU to explaining his work in anti-trafficking. This is a VERY DANGEROUS undertaking. "Traffickers" threaten Ramesh continually and severely, but he presses on by trust in God.

Some of our Christian family have been to at least some of these cites in these countries. We hope and pray that this effort will expand powerfully. We need prayers from God, funds, materials, trained people to enter into this kind of work, and continual encourage and support for Linda and Sue and their ministry.

Encourage Linda. Support this worldwide ministry, which is so important for the kingdom of God. Share your ideas and vision. Give me your thoughts.

John Willis

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Ten Commandments--Commandments 1 and 2

For convenience, we will discuss briefly the Ten Commandments in pairs. The Ten Commandments appear in Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21.

Commandment 1: Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7: "You shall have no other gods before [beside, in addition to] me." Here are some important thoughts about this commandment.
1. Great scholars Walther Zimmerli and Werner H. Schmidt propose that the First Commandment is the "center," the "core," the "main theme" of the entire Old Testament. This suggests that this commandment is "fundamental" to the entire Old Testament--even perhaps the whole Bible--Old and New Testaments.
2. This commandment "naturally" flows out of God's "prior" assertions: (a) "I am he Lord YOUR God" (Exodus 20:2a); (b) "I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Exodus 20:2bc). Israel ALREADY "belongs to" Yahweh [I am YOUR God], and, of course, Yahweh ALREADY "belongs to" Israel [You are MY people]. This is MARRIAGE relationship. Just as a husband expects his wife to "have no other husbands or men before [beside, in addition to] him, SO Yahweh expects his wife, Israel, to have no other gods beside him.
3. God's people must be totally and completely LOYAL to Yahweh. Yahweh declares he is totally FAITHFUL to his people, and NOW he summons his people to be totally FAITHFUL to him.
4. Human commitment to God is "uncompromising." There can be no "middle ground." Jesus puts the pulse on this issue in Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted ot the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Many "gods" call us human beings to serve. ANY GOD other than Yahweh is unacceptable. Hence, for examples, Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 proclaim that "greed is idolatry."

Commandment 2: Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything thatis in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or thatis in the watr under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lrod your God am a JEALOUS GOD, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments." Here are some important thoughts about this commandment.
1. Human beings are consistently tempted to "localize" God, "domesticate" God, "make" God "tangible" so we can "get our heads around" God. BUT, no human being can comprehend God. We cannot bring God down to our level. God is transcendent. If we made God into an "idol" or an "image," we could somehow "control" God and "manipulate" God to carry out "our goals and purposes." Hence, God instructs us NOT to make man made idols. See Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:1-16.
2. According to Deuteronomy 4:15-20, Yahweh through Moses teaches God's people that "since the people of God SAW NO FORM when Yahweh spoke to them on Mount Horeb=Sinai," take care and watch yourselves closely so that YOU NOT ACT CORRUPTLY BY MAKING AN IDOL," whether male or female, animal, winged bird, something that creeps on the ground, fish, the heavens--sun, moon, stars. SINCE NO HUMAN BEING has EVER SEEN GOD, how could anyone replicate an idol or image of God? What does God look like? No one knows.
3. Yahweh is JEALOUS. See further Exodus 34:14. BY NATURE, Yahweh expects human beings whom he created in his own image and sustains daily in their lives to be totally committed to him. Some people seem to think this is "narrow" of "bigoted." Oh my--Our own self-centeredness turn this powerful truth, which is so obvious, inside out!!!

ALL of God's commandments are deeply concerned with PEOPLE. God created human beings to live well--in the best sense.

How do these first two commandments strike YOU? Share your thoughts with others. Let me know what YOU think.

John Willis

I Can Only Imagine

Throughout the centuries, Christians have yearned to leave this world and enter into heaven with our Heavenly Father. Among many New Testament texts about this theme is
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe tha Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

In 1990, the musical group Mercy Me produced a song which is one of the most inspiring songs I know. Most of you may already know this song, but if not, here is is, and I hope and pray its words will bless you today and in the days to come.

First Stanza: I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Second Stanza: I can only imagine when that day comes,
When I find myself standing in the son,
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Chorus: Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus?
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence?
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah?
Will be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

Conclusion: [Repetition of the Chorus]

I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You.
I can only imagine.

From our perspective in a tiny spot on planet earth, there is no way to imagine what God will be like, what Jesus will be like, what the angels will be like, what heaven will be like. I am anxious to be there. What about YOU?

Let me share your thoughts about this song. Share this with your friends, your church, your community, your nation, the world. Let me hear from you.

John Willis