Monday, May 30, 2011

Back to Storytelling and the Dark Ages

     "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and come to know, that you are the Holy One of God," John 6:68-69.

      Everyone likes a good story.  That is why the entertainment industry racks up the billions they do.  As Christians, we have a great story and that is the Gospel.  The Gospel starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation and is the most amazing thing we can share with anyone.  Yet storytelling is not the entirety or even predominantly how we should share the Gospel.  For the Gospel is our power and our power is the word of God working with the Holy Spirit to convict and regenerate those who are lost.
     Peter understood well the power of the word of God as illustrated by the verses quoted at the top of this post.  He must have been incredibly confused and lonely at this moment in time because Jesus had just scattered a monstrous crowd by telling His story.  Not long before, the crowd, and probably Peter and the disciples, had desired to make Jesus an earthly King and carry Him off.  When everyone scattered, because of Jesus' hard teachings and difficult story, Jesus looked at Peter and said, paraphrasing, "ET Tu Brute".  "Do you want to go away as well."  Peter's answer, though born of desperation and confusion, was his greatest pre-Spirit filled moment.  The word of God and Jesus had drawn him in and their was no turning back.  We need to have this same hunger for the word of God that Peter had and the Psalmist and all of the great heroes of the Bible.  Are you washed in the word?  Do you let the word search your heart, dividing between soul and spirit, down to the marrow?  Does the word convict you and bring you to tears and repentance and exhort you to ideas and actions that amaze you when you look back?  These are just some of the things that the word of God will do when empowered with the Holy Spirit.  The word of God brought humanity out of Papal tyranny and brought enlightenment to Europe.  The word of God was the foundation of the greatest educational/literacy revolution in world history as God accomplished this amazing feat through Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers.  Wherever the Bible is held high, civilization prospers and progresses.
     Now for something completely different.  A well known(in Lincoln, NE) liberal pastor was preaching the other day and he had a different slant.  Now, I do not have his words directly in front of me but I can paraphrase and capture the tenor of his sermon.  He was bemoaning the advent of the printing press!  This is no joke.  This man, who I've heard previously state that he reads for a couple hours every day, was upset at the printing press.  He was concerned that the printing press lead to the idolatry of the written word, which we could readily infer was the Bible.  He waxed on about how the great tradition of storytelling had been lost and that previously people learned their Bible through the telling and retelling of stories.  Oh, how we lost so much richness in our lives, he complained, because of the advent of movable type!  Well, there is a good reason for why people told stories back then: they were illiterate!  He wants us, this pastor of a mainline protestant church, to go back to a pre-Reformation understanding of faith!  How sad, hypocritical and preposterous.  This doctor of theology wants to close books to the great unwashed. There was a name for those pre-protestant days in Europe: the Dark Ages.  Me, I'll try and think like Peter and hunger and thirst for Jesus and His word so that His light shines in the darkness.

     God Bless you and learn, live and love the Gospel.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Repent and Believe in the Gospel: Jesus and Confrontational Evangelism

     "...the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel," Mark 1:15.

     You may think, "why is he quoting John the Baptist yet his blog post is about Jesus and confrontational evangelism.  Really, John preached repent and Jesus talked delicately with people, gently showing them their sin."  Well, essentially, Jesus preached the same message as John the Baptist.  In fact, Mark 1:15 are the words of Jesus.  In fact, these are essentially the words of Jonah, who was essentially saying what David said who was reflecting upon what he had learned from Samuel who had learned this truth from  Moses and the first books of the Bible.
     Now, what is repentance?  "The call to repentance is a call to absolute surrender to the purposes of God and to live in this awareness.  This radical turning to God is required of all people," explains the Holman Bible Dictionary.  When John and his cousin Jesus tell people to repent, they are telling them that they are wicked(original sin, depraved) and they need to turn from the road they are walking on and turn onto a completely different road and go a completely opposite direction: the direction of God.  Jesus and John are talking about a total, radical change.
     Jesus even told a huge crowd that "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven," Matt. 7:21.  People will have a knowledge of the Lord and even do religious, pious things yet they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven but be banished to Hell.  What is required then?  What can we do?  Jesus banished these folks because, "...I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness," Matt. 7:23. We must know Jesus!  It doesn't matter if we know about Him or have friends who know Him or a family member who knows Him.  We must know Him.  God does not have any grandchildren as someone once told me.  He only has children and to be a child of God you must know Him!  The Christian faith can be summed up by the popular saying, "It is not what you know but who you know."  Now, that statement has its limitations, but it does express a biblical truth and lines up nicely with what Jesus taught in Matthew 7.  Interestingly, once we know Jesus, we will hunger and thirst to know more about Him.  The what we know will be encouraged by the who we know.
     But, how do we know Him?  Repent and believe in the Gospel!  The gospel is our only power and it is all we need.  Confess your sins to Jesus and tell Him that you trust in His death on the cross for your sins and that you want to live your life completely surrendered to Him!  Ask Him to empower you with His resurrection power and tell Him that you love Him.  Then, go out and tell people, "Repent and believe in the gospel."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Is Harold Camping Jr. Smarter Than Our Lord, Jesus Christ

     "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only," Matt. 24:36.
     Everyone is talking about our Lord's 2nd coming, lets use this opportunity to spread the Gospel!  There is little doubt that Mr. Camping is an evil false teacher.  His condemnation has been considered for ages.  I doubt that he is smarter than a fifth grader, let alone the Creator of the universe, Jesus Christ.  Yet even in his apostasy we have opportunity.   It has been conjectured that predictions like Campings have been the undoing of the Gospel in regions of the world throughout history.  Particularly, the predictions by William Miller in the 1840's are said to have deadened the hearts of people in the northeast portion of the U.S. and awakening and revival have been next to impossible there since.  So, what do we do?
     1) Rebuke Harold Camping: we need to tell folks that Mr. Camping clearly violates the simple understanding of the Bible.  Matthew 24:36 could not be any clearer and Mr. Camping does not enjoy a closer relationship to the Father then His one and only Son.  Mr. Camping is a repeated false prophet, the world has not ended according to any of his predictions.  He is an evil man and Christ will deal with his apostasy in a most just and beneficient way.  We will not be mislead by this man for all eternity. 
     2)  Assure people that Jesus Christ is returning, but we have no inside information as to when.  Yes, justice is coming, evil will be dealt with and perfect, unprejudiced justice will reign for all eternity.  Do not spend a lot of time discussing world events, it should not be necessary.  Just share the word of God and that Jesus taught us, most significantly, that we must be ready.
     3)  Tell them how to be ready.  What must we do to get ready?  Well, nothing.  We cannot do a thing.  All of our deeds are like filthy rags.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God according to Romans and our sin deserves death.  Yet, Christ died for our sins, even while we were still sinners and we can be reconciled to the Father if we trust that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and if we repent of our sins and ask Him to be the Lord and Savior of our lives.  We have the glorious Gospel to share and now we have the perfect opportunity to do it. 
     4)  Once we have become a child of God's, now we have to watch and be ready.  Now we can understand the Bible because the Holy Spirit is enlightening our minds and our hearts are made of flesh so we can love our neighbors as Jesus told us to.  We can see the wickedness around us and not be engulfed in it and shine like a light in the darkness.  People should be attracted to His light and we can then share the Gospel with them and tell them of Christ's death for our sins and His imminent return to restore all things back to how they should be.
     God bless, learn, live and love the Gospel of our returning King!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bible Myths and Other Silliness

     "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night," Psalm 1:1-2.
     If we would just take the Psalmist seriously and allow the word of God to marinate in our hearts, minds and souls every mourning, afternoon and evening, we would not fall prey to so many misconceptions in the Bible or about the faith.  I'll just list a few here today, but there are multitudes.
     1) "The devil made me do it."  This is a quote popularized by a late 60's comedian but you often here Christians offer this lame excuse for committing a sin.  The truth is this: only Christians cannot use this excuse!  Ironically, atheists would be right at home making this statement.  Why?  Well, Satan can only whisper in a Christians ear, he has no power to make us do anything at all.  Satan cannot overpower the Holy Spirit dwelling in us so we can easily turn him away.  "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world."  The atheist on the other hand, has no defense against Satan and can be indwelt by the unholy one and therefore forced to do something he does not want to do.  This is true of any unbeliever.  They are powerless against Satan's attacks.
     2)  "You can't judge me!  Jesus said, "Judge not lest ye be judged'."  Well, this has a sliver of truth to it.  Jesus admonished the crowd not to judge hypocritically.  Then He told them, "Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from you own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye," Matthew 7:5.  Jesus wants us to make our own confession first and realize our own sinfulness, then, we can truly help our brothers/sisters with their sin.  In fact, this must be what He means because He follows these commands with, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces," Matt. 7:6.  Well, we are not to give holy stuff to dogs nor our pearls before swine.  These are the two harshest things Jesus could have called someone.  He does not want us defiling what is holy.  Now, I ask, how do we know who the dogs and pigs are unless we...judge!
     3)  The belief that Satan rules Hell.  This one really bugs me because the Bible makes it plain that of every one or thing ever created, Satan wants to be in Hell less than anyone!  Satan is always trying to devour believers, tempt us to sin, indwell unbelievers, deceive rulers and to rule this world, his temporary kingdom.  Earth is Satan's temporary kingdom, Hell was created for him especially, "...'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," Matt. 25:41b.  Satan has a permanent home, Hell, and he is not happy about it and he will not be its superintendent.  "The devil , who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," Rev. 20:10.  God will be his superintendent.
     God bless you and learn, live and love the glorious Gospel!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Government Education: A Return to the Land of Bondage

    "You shall 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," Deut. 5:15.
     The book of Deuteronomy uses the word "remember" at least on fifteen different occasions.  Most of these are instructions from God to His people(that includes us today) to remember what He has done for them.  Their are multitudes of wonderful reasons to "remember" what God has done.  For me, it calms me and reminds me that I am puny, but so what!  He is great and I am His.  The psychological and emotional relief that God gives those who dwell on Him are enormous and important, yet, it seems, there is another important implication of this word "remember" and its impact on our children and nation.
     When Gresham Machen appeared before a Senate committee in the 1920's, he warned them that they should carefully consider the impact of federalizing education(which wasn't done until 1980).  Machen admonished the Senate to consider the disaster of uniform, government run education.  He mentioned the two prominent examples of this type of education: Germany and Russia.  Think of that, Germany was preHitler, yet, because of uniform, government run education, they were ready for a man like that.  It is an important principle that like things reproduce like things.  Dogs give birth to dogs, rats to rats and government education to government drones.
    One thing in particular, that government education despises in this present day, is history.  We are told that it is not important to remember by rote certain dates and names and places.  We do not need to study the great people of history and the important wars and ideas that have shaped our civilization.  Our children are not taught about the Great Awakening.  The Great Awakening is foundational to our country and was lead by the great pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards and the great evangelist George Whitfield.  This was a spiritual awakening/revival that spread throughout the 13 colonies with lightening speed.  Men and women repented of their sin and bowed the knee when they remembered what Jesus Christ had done for them.  This revival paved the way for the American Revolution.  Our children are not taught systematically through the constitution or the Declaration of Independence.  They are not taught about our founding fathers and the founding principles.  They are not taught that our system is based upon the concept of the depravity of man and his innate sinfulness.  This is the reason we have a separation of powers.  Our founders remembered.  Not only did they quote the Bible far more than any other book, but they quoted the book of Deuteronomy far more than any book of the Bible.
     God's instruction for the Hebrews was to remember what He had done for them by liberating them out of the house of bondage: Egypt.  God instituted the Passover as an 8 day festival to remember what He had done for them.  Jesus taught us to remember Him by observing the Lord's Supper in the same way.  He taught that in light of the Passover.  He was its fullfilment but it does not mean we forget what came before!  When we remember the Passover it adds  depth to the Lord's Supper that really makes it come alive.  When we remember the Sabbath it helps us to understand even more what the writer of Hebrews is talking about when he instructs us about Jesus being our Sabbath rest.
    Our day in age is past that though, aren't we.  We are doing just fine without remembering what God has done, what our history is and where we came from.  We are free and unhindered by the rules and regulations of the past, we have progressed past the need to remember from rote the wisdom of our elders.  Oh, the chains of our bondage are rattling fast.  Egypt is our future if we do not remember.
     Remember, learn, live and love the Gospel.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Your Pastor May Be a Pope If: He Peddles Self Esteem

     "Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God..." 1Cor. 3:18-19a.
     This will commence a new series, not a continuous one but one that appears as the Spirit moves.  One of the great dangers of our present day is that we think of ourselves as anti-institutional and we gravitate more and more often towards churches that have no denominational structure or to something like the Southern Baptist Convention which is not set up as a denomination and every church is its own island.  We seem to hate hierarchy's so we gravitate towards churches which have no up and down structure and are often run by those who act more as a Pope, who can speak ex cathedra on matters of faith.  In place of structure, oftentimes churches have devolved into an extreme authoritarian structure.  Interesting how our thirst for freedom in ecclesiology(church government) ends up looking like the structure of a third world tin pot dictatorship.
     One of the ways that we can determine if your pastor or church government is biblical is if they actually promote what Jesus taught, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me," Mark 8:34b.  Too often, way too often, we succumb to the unbiblical, anti-biblical ideas of this world.  Paul describes this in Colossians as, "vain philosophy".  The most prominent of these "vain philosophies" of our day is the ridiculous notion of self-esteem. 
     At its base, self-esteem denies the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me."  Webster's defines esteem as, "to value highly, respect."  If you value yourself highly, you are deceived.  Notice Job's response to continuous calamity and the loss of his great wealth, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return there.  The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD," Job 1:21.  He was considered the greatest of all the people of the East.  He, if anyone ever has, deserved self-esteem.  He was blameless, wealthy and prominent.  Yet, he understood his proper place.  He understood God's sovereignity.  Job understood that he owned nothing at birth and that when he died, if he died with the most toys, he still was dead.  His joy, his esteem, was not in himself, his wealth nor even his family or prestige.  After almost everything was taken from him, his reply was still, "Blessed be the name of the LORD." 
     Now, if you have a pastor that tells you that your worth is intrinsic, that it is within yourself, you have a pastor who is placing man made traditions or philosophies above the plain teaching of scripture.  You have a pastor who is seeking to make people comfortable in their own selfishness and he is driving the flock away from the Shepherd of their souls.  This type of pastor causes the sheep to focus inwardly and only in a shallow, humanistic way.  God has shown us that we are only to examine ourselves for two reasons: to confess our sins to Him and to seek reconciliation to others.  When we focus primarily on ourselves or our immediate circumstances, horrible things will happen.  We will become materialistic and get our worth from the things of this world.  When these things disappear or are ruined we become angry, despondent or depressed.  We are to "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:4.  Only, your heart will be transformed from a hard heart to a heart of flesh that desires God's righteousness, mercy and grace and you will be like Job and not consider calamity as a cause to curse God.  Job's wife saw it differently and told him to, "Curse God and die."  "She did not delight herself in the Lord."  When we focus on our self-esteem we are slaves to our emotions, tyrannized by every whim.  Is it any wonder that there is so much spiritual depression in the church?  We need to consider God and others before ourselves and when we consider ourselves God still needs centrality in everything we do.  I am convinced that other than physiological causes, depression is a spiritual disease, a sin based on our all consuming attention to ourselves and our current circumstances.  When this is true, the last thing we need is some worldly preacher telling us to think positive about ourselves he convinces us that our selfishness and pride are needs not being met.  What we need to do is dwell on God and His goodness.  We need to sing, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty.  If we can, we need to minister to others and serve them.  These are the cures to all depression that is not a physiological manifestation of our fallen nature.
     There are many other pestilent ideologies paraded by pedantic pastors and you need to watch out for them also.  Anything that someone parades apart from or above the clear teaching of scripture is false teaching.  Regardless of how long it has been taught or from what tradition it came.  When a pastor puts his pet postulation above the word of God, he may be a Pope who sets the traditions of men above the Bible.
     Remember, learn, live and love the Gospel.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Is Carbon Dioxide Evil?

     "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day,"  Genesis 1:31.
     To the modern environmentalist, yes, CO2 is evil.  Not only is it evil, it is the original sin.  It is the sin we must all atone for and repent of.  It is the cause of hotter air, colder air, horrific storms, a lack of horrific storms, earthquakes, landslides, etc., etc.  It is put out by aerosol cans, automobiles, jets and, even, our very bodies as we exhale all day long!  It is our evil secretion and for that, man is evil and needs to offset his sin with many different sacrifices.
     God on the other hand, is quite amused by this.  His word tells us that he was pleased with all His creation when He was finished.  A creation that included the stars, planets and everything else in the heavens.  It included the seas, plains mountains and everything else on earth.  It included plants, animals and God's crowing creation, man.  It also included CO2 and God was well pleased with it also.  Even though our sin threw us and all creation into a cycle of sin and imperfection, we are still made in God's image and His design for us is still good.
     God provides for our sin through His son Jesus Christ.  We are to confess our sins to Him who knew no sin but became sin for us.  If we confess our sins and repent of our sins, Christ will forgive us and we are reconciled to God for time and for all eternity.  Environmentalists have a different system.  Your evil, your carbon emissions, must be atoned for, or at least offset.  You can buy favor, or make indulgences, to cover the wickedness of your carbon emissions.  If you do this, as the priest(EPA bureaucrat's) prescribes you are temporarily absolved of your sin.  This is temporary, it must be repeated over and over and there is no assurance of salvation.  You are required to constantly consider your carbon emissions and confess to the priest as often as allowed.  Only death spares you from one more carbon credit!
     Christ on the other hand, loves our carbon emissions.  He came that we may have life and live it to the full for Him!  His word is replete with promises of long, joyful life if we love Him and His word.  He has the words of life and His Spirit even intercedes for us when we do not know what to say to God.  His sacrifice is once for all.  We need to never make another sacrifice ever!  In fact, His last carbon emission on the Cross says it all, "It is finished!"
     Brethren, learn, live and love the Gospel!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stop Arguing! Share the Glorious Gospel.

     "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," Gen. 1:1.
     "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified," 1Corinthians 2:2.

     Foundations, we all have them.  We have them under and connected to our house and any durable structure we see.  Presuppositions, we have them.  Every thought and word we have is girded by the foundation of our underlying worldview or presupposition.  For the Christian, we must have several of these and the first one we come across in scripture is, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  The very first verse of scripture makes a critical, declarative statement about our reality: it is Gods.  He was in the beginning(eternal), He is creative(the only One truly capable of creating) and the Creator and He is sovereign over the heavens and the earth.  If we miss these or fudge these truths even a smidgen, we start to become agnostic about God and His word.
     The reason this struck me this week is because at the republican debate this week, the candidates were asked whether they believed in evolution or creation.  It is a question that is meant to humiliate those who do not believe in a Darwinistic understanding of our environment.  The government/media complex uses this not unlike how H. L. Mencken did back during the era of the scopes monkey trial.  Mencken hounded and attempted to humiliate the creationist William Jennings Bryan to the point that, after Bryan died shortly after the trial, Mencken celebrated his demise.  Mencken mocked anyone who did not live in the ivory towers of evolutionary dogma.  It is interesting to note that Bryan was a democrat.  He was a Bible believing, evangelical Christian in fact.  This was the last stand for Bible believing Christians in the democrat party.  They are almost extinct in this day and age.  Almost extinct.  As a lifelong democrat and an evangelical, Bible believing Christian, I can attest to at least one!  The journalists who cajole conservatives about God's creation are just following in the line of their acid tongued hero, Mencken.  They taint their questions in cynicism like the heretic Rob Bell taints his questions about God's love, Hell and so many other great propositions Christ has delivered to man.
     This is where we must not fail.  Their presupposition, foundation, is that only apes believe in God's direct creation revealed to us in Gen. 1:1.  We must be bold and not shrink back.  We must hold fast to our anchor and quote the truth back to them.  The Gospel must be preeminent in all that we do!  Knowing that God's word is a light unto our path, we need to shower them under the cleansing rain of the word of God.  Stand boldly on the ground our God created and quote back to them His marvelous account of creation.  Tell them about our sin and darkened heart and about Hell.  They will heckle and scream and maybe even dance in circles but their may be one, their only need be one, that is shook to his core with his own sin and God's holiness.
     I say this because when we begin to argue along any line other than scripture, we get off track...way off track.  We begin to consider all matter of arguments and our pride puffs up and before you know it, we have forgotten the glorious Gospel.  I know this from experience.  I spent too much time studying useless information to argue with people who have no hunger for the truth.  What they needed was for me to spend time studying useful information, live giving information, God's word.  What they needed was for me to go before the throne of grace and seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him to soften their hardened hearts.  What they needed was for me to share and show them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is of some value to know some information pertaining to our world.  It is of infinite value to know the word of God and share His glorious Gospel.
     Brothers and sisters, is this not more edifying than arguing.  Planting the seeds of the Gospel is far better than planting the seeds of discord.  Are we not being obedient, in this way, of having these words in our hearts and sharing them along the way?  Is this not what Paul did in Athens?
     Remember always, learn, live and love the glorious Gospel!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can You Count to One? Only One True God!

     "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before Me," Deut. 5:6-7.
     Worship has never been lacking in human history.  People have never had a problem bowing down in adoration to something beyond themselves.  In fact, we know that the Hindu's have created a system of thousands(conservative estimate) of gods and idols which they worship.  In the days of Moses, every culture on the earth worshiped, in sincerity, gods of all sorts.  They bowed their head to cat gods, dog gods, death gods, life gods, frog gods and even...snake gods.  You can hear the serpent  whispering.  Yet true worship, the worship of Yahweh, the one true God, has been rare through out human history.  I believe all false religions, and all of them are false who do not bow their knee to Jesus Christ, started with the first siblings ever, more specifically, Cain.  Cain was a devoutly religious man.  Genesis 4:3 reveals much, "And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord."  We learn here at least 4 things.  First, Cain worshiped.  Second, he knew the right time of worship.  Third, he knew the proper location of worship.  Fourth, he knew what to worship.  We are not told exactly why God did not respect Cain's offering but that is another topic for another day.  But we do know that Cain was extremely religious.  He was excited with his offering and did not understand why God was not impressed with him.  Cain then created the first martyr in history and things went quickly downhill from there.
     Fast forward to the Exodus.  The Hebrews left a pagan land.  A satanic land that worshiped snakes and death.  They journeyed through more pagan lands and they were preparing to enter into the most pagan land.  The land of Canaan was horrific.  Their practice of child sacrifice would make even Planned Parenthood blush.  Even modern secular historians have said that the people of Canaan were the most depraved in all human history.  This, my friends, is the land flowing with milk and honey that the Lord promised His people.  They were surrounded on all sides by people who sincerely worshiped gods but who hated the true God.  This is the dire, exciting and hopeful situation that Joshua would face with the Hebrews and it was of utmost importance that the Hebrews remember one thing: "You shall have no other gods before Me."  Friends, this is all we really need to know.  In effect, God is telling us, "Don't worry about anything else, love Me!"  When God says "before Me", He is saying, "opposed to Me".  The Hebrews were to remember all that God had done for them.  He had proved His power and authority by delivering them from their bondage in Egypt.  This should have been their antidote against the pagan gods that surrounded them.  In fact, they should have remembered all the plagues that God Almighty inflicted on the Egyptians.  The plagues were God's demonstration of authority against all the pagan god's the Egyptians held high.  They would have the awesome memory of the Red Sea parting and so many others.  Truly they could fix their minds and hearts on such an awesome God! 
     Yet, do we?  I know I allow my emotions to rule me too often.  I often succumb to the tyranny of my emotions.  I do not practice time alone enough with God.  I should "be still and know that He is God" as a far more regular practice than I do.  I allow my emotions to drag me into all sorts of sin: anger, lust, frivolity, etc.  I could easily cure this.  God does not tempt us beyond what we can bear.  I worship happiness, frivolity and esteem to the detriment of my faith in Christ.  Like a cat drawn to a spinning top or flickering laser, I chase my emotional highs with little regard for anyone else let alone my God and Savior.  I am not like Moses who, "choosing rather to suffer the affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he looked to the reward," Hebrews 11:25-26.  My riches are so often passing and joyless.  Oh, I'm happy for a time, yet not without pain.  Moses had much less to work with than I do, or you do.  He did not have any book written for Him.  He did not have the Holy Spirit.  He did not have the church, books on theology, Bible studies or anything.  He was the meekest man on earth.  He did not physically see Christ, yet he esteemed the reproach of Christ.  He only saw types and shadows of Christ.  He saw even dimmer than we do.  Yet he had no other God before him.
     The Hebrews were hemmed in on every side by pagans who wished to snuff them out.  We know that they ultimately did not obey the first commandment.  They lived in a far more evil day than we do and were without the word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  They fell into the worship of false gods because of this and their sin.  We must all ask ourselves this: What is our excuse?  Learn, live and the love the Gospel beloved.