david herndon

The Eleventh Commandment(s)
September 19, 2006, 10:13 am
Filed under: Relevant

*This is part of a series.  For all other entries, please visit the Relevant category.

I’m about to move into a different house.  I won’t call it a new house because it is far from new (its 116 years old).  So for the past couple of weeks all we’ve been doing is packing up boxes.  Emptying the attic, dumping out drawers, and raking the back of closet floors.  Its amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in a few years time.  Even more amazing are the things you find that you thought you lost.

Moving is a lot like taking inventory.  At some point in the process you will put your hands on every single thing you own, no matter how large or small, no matter how valuable or worthless.  Its a good time to throw some things out that don’t need to be there and to clean some other things up that we haven’t taken care of like we should.  Some things get put on a shelf.  We only meant to leave it there for a moment, then it stayed for a day, then it got covered up, and finally forgotten.

I studied Psychology in college.  One of the most amazing things I learned is that the human memory is infinite.  You never really “forget” anything.  Every piece of information, every mental and physical stimulus you’ve ever had, its all stored away somewhere in your brain.  You don’t “forget,” you have “recall failure.”  Its like standing  outside of a door and you can’t find the right key on this huge key chain.  Memory is all about links.  You just have to find the right key to recall the information.  That’s why you can hear a certain song or smell a fragrance or see t-shirt and years worth of memories flood your mind.  Its just hard to get to the info we want because of all of the other information stored in our brain.  Precious memories and vital information gets put on a shelf, only for a moment, then for a day, then it gets covered up, and finally “forgotten.”

Some guys asked Jesus once, “Which of the commandments (or laws) is the most important?”  In other words they were saying that they knew there was no way they could uphold all of the laws with perfection.  So which one should they definitely try to nail?  Jesus replied, “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hinge all of the laws of the prophets.”

God becomes irrelevant when we lost focus of Him.  We put Him on a shelf, only for a moment, then a moment becomes a day, then He gets covered up, and finally forgotten.  Jesus challenges us to never put God on the shelf.  Always keep Him in the forefront, the number one priority, the motive to all thoughts, deeds, and words.  And then make your heart as His heart: love people.  When you do these two things, all of that other stuff falls right into place.  Bottom line: link everything you know about God and everything you know about life to these two simple commands, and you’ll never “forget” the other stuff.

So put this command to action.  It may require you to get rid of some things and make some room and clean some stuff up.  But in the end, your heart will feel like a brand new home.

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green with envy
September 13, 2006, 8:11 am
Filed under: Relevant

*This is part of a series.  For all other entries, please visit the Relevant category.

Jealousy.  This word takes me back to middle school, when a committed relationship was measured by days, not years or even months.  We changed boyfriends and girlfriends more than we changed our underwear.  And all relationships began and ended with at least one third party person doing the negotiating.  Of course, when your girlfriend dumps you because she’s not ready to date, but then goes out with your best friend the next day, then you find out what jealousy is.  Then you get hard at work to find another girlfriend… just so no one thinks your jealous or anything.

It still works the same way.  Jealousy is the number one enemy to self-esteem and self-worth.  Nothing can take the rug out from under you more than someone who has more of what you have, can do what you can do better, and looks better in that dress than you do, or whose car is bigger, faster, and shinier than yours… and it gets better gas mileage too.  What is it about our society that has raised us to believe that our value is determined by another person?

In Exodus 20:17 God says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Apparently this comparison bug was a problem for the Israelites too.  They were prone to jealousy and God warned them about it, He went so far as to ban jealousy, for a very good reason.

Remember that the Ten Commandments are indicators of the areas in life that, if we fail to heed God’s word, will lead us to becoming calloused and hard-hearted towards God, ultimately leading to us finding God and His ways irrelevant.  This command of no coveting, or no jealousy, is key to our relationship with God.  Jealousy does not affect our relationship with others or our relationship with self near as much as it could destroy our relationship with God. 

Each time we compare ourselves to another person or their ______________(fill in the blank) and then complain about our own lives or our ________________, we are really saying more about what we believe about God than what we believe about ourselves.  What we’re really saying is, God likes that person better than me.  Or we’re saying that God did not do a good enough job in planning my life.  Or we’re saying, my life isn’t good enough for God to love me.  However you want to phrase it, the problem is the same.  When we compare ourselves to others and derive our self-worth from them, we ultimately become dissatisfied with God.

God wants us to derive our value and self-esteem and identity from Him.  This is the last commandment.  Remember the first and second command?  The three are very similar, therefore this must be important (see entries 3 & 4 under Relevant).  When we derive our worth from God, not only will we find great satisfaction in Him and in our own lives, but we will be able to celebrate with others in their lives.

Where are you currently struggling with Jealousy?  How is it affecting your relationship with God?

liar, liar
August 23, 2006, 9:56 am
Filed under: Relevant

*This is part of a series.  For all other entries, please visit the Relevant category.

The worst lie I have every told was really a small little white lie.  But given enough time, even the smallest acorn becomes a mighty oak.  And so it was with my little white lie.  The extremely short version is this: I was 17 and wanted a weekend off from my job so I could go to the beach with some friends.  I said a family member was sick and I needed to go visit.  It was nothing serious and I would be back in a few days.  By the time I returned my sick family member had become my father.  And he was no longer sick, but rather he had been in a traumatic car accident and was only alive because of the ventilator, but my brothers and I were having to decide whether to pull the plug or not.  I’ve never felt as stupid as when I stood in my mom’s room and had to tell her about my little lie and how it had become so exaggerated.  It was literally out of control and there was nothing I could do about it.

I used to tell this other little lie about how I had met Dave Matthews after a concert in Florida.  I hung out behind the arena where his bus was parked in the garage.  When the bus came out of the garage it stopped, Dave Matthews stuck his head out of the door and said, “Thanks for coming out tonight, I really appreciate it,” door closed, bus left.  Cool story right?  Well, its partly true.  The parts I leave out are the facts that there were about 100 other people hanging out there too.  And we were actually on a balcony above the parking lot.  And we were also about 100 yards away from the bus.  Dave Matthews did come out and say that, but it was not to me personally – it was to a whole crowd.  But those details made the story less impressive, and so I left the details out.  I had actually forgotten those details myself because I had told the story for so long it became true to me.

Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not bear false witness.”  In other words, “Don’t lie.”  The virtue is clear here, and I think everyone would agree that deceit is a terrible thing of abuse.  But I think it goes deeper.  I think the danger is not simply in telling a lie, but in living a lie.  Its almost as if God is warning us not to lose touch with reality.  In these days of implants, injections, makeovers, bankruptcies, embezzlements, and affairs it is clear that most of us desire to be more than we truly are, or at least appear to be more.  So we fudge a little here, we cover a little there, we hide a little of this, and we exaggerate a little of that.  We’re just trying to get our way and we’re just trying to impress the people around us.  And before too long we are living a lie that is out of control and there is nothing we can do about it.  The danger and the wound is that we lose touch with reality, and because God is the creator of reality, we lose touch with God.  He becomes irrelevant in our little fake universe.  Or worse, in order to keep Him relevant, we lie about Him too.

Jesus says that everything in the dark will eventually be brought into the light, so walk in the light.  In other words, be honest about who you are, who the people around you are, and who God is.  Don’t try to make it better or worse than it really is.  Just accept and live in true reality.

“you down with o.p.p.?”
July 5, 2006, 10:50 am
Filed under: people, Relevant

*This is part of a series.  For all other entries, please visit the Relevant category.

Somewhere in history, God became irrelevant.  And more than that, God’s ways became irrelevant.  The Ten Commandments are the guidelines God set to protect us from becoming calloused to Him and to His ways.  And one easy way to become calloused to God is to become calloused to others.  So many of the commands deal with our relationships with other people.

Its a shame the way we treat each other these days.  Even in the South, where we known for our manners and hospitality, we seem to be losing respect for each other.  And a key piece of evidence revealing the loss of respect is other people’s property, or as that great ’90’s rap group so eloquently calls it, “O.P.P.”

I have never felt so violated as the first time something was stolen from me.  I don’t mean the kind of situation where you lose something.  I’m talking about walking out of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and finding your car with its window smashed, glove compartment emptied out and thrown about, and anything valuable (cd’s, cd player, camera) gone.  It just plain hurts.  Or to walk out to your garage or shed to retrieve something like a lawn mower or a bike or whatever, and find that it is not there.  The very idea of theft defies any kind of idea of respect between people.  And nothing makes you feel less like a human being robbed, when something that was precious to you has literally been ripped out of your hands.

Exodus 20:15, “You shall not steal.”  Four simple words, but it is so much more than that.  It might as well say, “You should respect other people as yourself.  You should love other people as yourself.  You should value other people and their personal property as you would your own.”  We may not all be thieves, but we all are daily tempted to disrespect others, to treat them not as human beings, but as objects of our own wrath and selfishness.  When we start seeing other people as hindrances, rather than human beings, something is fundamentally wrong.  We were designed and created to live with one another, not against one another.  And if our hearts become calloused to one another, they are sure to become calloused to God.

How can you redeem any “theft” you have committed in your life today?

“the scarlet letter”
June 28, 2006, 11:42 am
Filed under: people, Relevant

This is part of a series.  Please visit the Relevant category for all other entries.

In Exodus 20:14, we hear these words: “You shall not commit adultry.”  This commandment seems to make the most sense to us, I think.  It seems almost common sense that it would be a major no-no to sleep with someone else’s spouse.  Jesus takes this command to another level in his sermon on the mount, stating that if you even lust after another person in your heart, it is the same as comitting adultery.  I think there is another level to this command.  I think it goes deeper than simple sensual satisfaction to a painful level of selfishness and abuse.

This act defies every characteristic of love, the main characteristic being that of selflessness.  The bottom line of an act like adultery is self-satisfaction at the cost of another’s well being.  It is listed with all of the most cruel acts, like murder, theft, and deceit.  Woe to us if we convince ourselves that life is all about satisfying ourselves, that other people are simply tools to give us what we want.  This is the root of adultery.  And God’s is stern in letting us know that if we dare walk down that path, not only will our hearts become calloused, but also our souls. 

No where in Christianity do we find God directing us to serve ourselves, but always to serve others, even serving others to the point that we deny ourselves and our pleasures, as He so willingly did.  Adultery is quite the opposite, and reflects nothing of God.

Today, will you deny yourself for the benefit of another?

“bull’s eye”
June 8, 2006, 9:51 am
Filed under: Relevant

So after my last blog, "i could kill you," i've received a lot of personal comments – more through email than public comment posts.  I had no idea this topic would bring up so many personal things, but I'm glad.  It means God is stirring people's hearts.

All in all, the theme of people's responses have been, "When is my anger justified?"  or "Where is the line between turning the other cheek and standing up for my rights?"  First of all I want to say that I believe anger (or any emotion for that matter) to be acceptable.  We are created in God's image, and anger is part of the God we see in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.  So its not the emotion that is sinful, but what we do with the emotion that is sinful.  Its okay to become angry.  Its not okay to hang onto that anger and make others miserable. 

Often when we are wronged we put all of the blame on the other person and we put all of our attention on their response, forgetting that we have a part in the situation even though we did not instigate it.  The question is not "What has happened to you?"  The question is "How will you respond to what has happened to you?" 

This is the story of Jesus – always oppossed, always persecuted.  But he never simply rolled over and let others have their way.  He let them know where He stood, but he never took part in petty vengeance.  His eyes were focused on a much larger task – that of revealing God to others, both in boldness and humility.  He met conflict head on and used it as an opportunity to show both God's character and His mercy.

So how will you respond to what has happened to you?

“i could kill you!”
June 6, 2006, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Relevant

*This is part 8 of a series. For all other entries, please visit the Relevant category.

Have you ever been angry with someone?  I mean really angry.  Like, so angry that you wanted to physically harm them.  It may not take much to frustrate me, but it takes a lot to bring me to that kind of anger.  One time a guy looked my wife up and down in the grocery store right in front of me!  I've never felt rage like that.  I didn't do anything crazy (I'm not a lunatic), but I did give him a pretty good stare down myself.  And for the rest of the shopping trip I couldn't get over it.  I was so angry.  Later that night I was thinking about it some more and I thought about how it would have actually been okay if I hit the guy or something.  I believe he deserved something like that.  You don't just look at someone's wife that way, especially with the husband right next to them. 

Then I started thinking about some of the ways I've treated God that way.  When I've done things He was clear about not doing, when I've "lusted" after some things He never intended for a person to have.  There have been times when I rejected him as a King and as a God and as a Savior.  And you know what I deserve?  The bible says I deserve death.  But God did not give it to me.  Rather, He offers forgiveness, grace, and restoration.  I didn't forgive the grocery store pervert right away, but I did realize that violence would not solve anything or make that guy any different.  Only love and forgiveness could.

Exodus 20:13 says very simply, "You shall not kill."  You should not take another person's life by force or any other means.  You should not make another person stop living.  In Deuteronomy and in Numbers it says, "Choose life."  And Jesus says it best: "The law says do not kill, but I tell you the truth: If you hold anger against another in your heart you have committed murder." 

Our problem as a people is that when we are wronged, the only logical relief to us is getting even.  So we curse others, we vandalize, we hit, we kill.  We may not physically or publically do these things, but we think awful thoughts, we talk about others behind their backs (or to their face).  All in all, we take life away from them and from ourselves.  I'm not sure if when God made that command he wasn't more worried about the loss of our own lives than the life we take.  Each time we choose death and hate, we harden our hearts a little more and it makes it harder to love other people and harder to love God.  And the bottom line is: hate never changed anyone!  If anything hate will only solidify the evil in another person's heart.  Love, however, and forgiveness will change everything.

So who is making you angry?  Choose life.  Choose an adult conversation over middle school back-stabbing.  Choose love over hate.  You may just seem change… most likely in yourself.

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