Do you ever think about the ten commandments as just an old-fashioned list of things you can’t do? A bunch of “thou shalt nots”? I'm giving the 10 commandments a closer look by blogging about one of them each Friday. Scroll down for the last three blogs on the topic.
The third commandment is: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
There's more to this one than just not using God as a curse word when you drop something heavy on your foot, or get angry at another driver.
We can start by asking the question: What does “the name of God” even mean? Whenever I see “name” I think “nature.” To me, this commandment is about praying with an understanding that God’s nature is good, and that His will for His beloved creation then, is only goodness—health, perfection, peace, and so on. Prayer which acknowledges God’s good nature as ever-present and active in the lives of yourself and everyone sets you up to expect a tangible good effect from your prayer; then you’re well on your way to keeping the third commandment!
One of the definitions for “vain” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “marked by futility or ineffectualness.” To keep the third commandment is to see that every time we pray we will see a result—we will not see our prayer acknowledging God’s nature as vain, or without effect. The Bible reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person has much power as it is working” (James 5:16). Keeping the third commandment includes knowing, without a doubt, that there is only one power, God, working in the world.
You may be thinking...but, I don’t always get what I ask for when I pray! How can you say each prayer has an effect? In the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy comments on this when she says, “That which we desire and for which we ask, it is not always best for us to receive. In this case infinite Love will not grant the request” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 10). So, the last part of keeping the third commandment is to trust that your prayer has the effect of bringing the biggest blessing. An all-knowing God, who is Love itself, can and does see all. Divine Love has no reason to hold anything good back from you. The second verse of a favorite hymn says:
Every prayer to Him is answered,
Prayer confiding in His will.
Blessedness and joy are near thee,
Hear His gentle Peace, be still.
(Christian Science Hymnal, #76, words by Edmund Beale Sargant)
Answered prayer is the understanding that, no matter what, blessedness, joy, and peace are near. In fact, as ever-present as God Himself.
So, when you drop that heavy object on your foot and yell out, be sure not to curse using God's name. And also, each day as you pray, keep the spirit of that third commandment by acknowledging that every prayer offered to the supreme, all-knowing, good God has a tangible effect in your life. We never pray in vain.
Do you ever think about the ten commandments as just an old-fashioned list of things you can’t do? A bunch of “thou shalt nots”? I'm giving the 10 commandments a closer look by blogging about one of them each Friday. Scroll down for the last two blogs on the topic.
Today's blog is on good ol' number two. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image."
OK, so most of us don't have statues of gods in our houses--Mercury with his winged helmet and shoes displayed proudly on our mantle.
But, what's engraved on your thought that would keep you from focusing more on the one God and the good He's sending your way? (Take a look at last week's blog, One, to get a more extensive concept of the one God.)
The distractions of our everyday lives—too much Facebook time, too much road rage, too much of whatever keeps your thoughts in swirling chaos—are the idols of today. Whatever you keep engraved in the center of your thought might as well be an idol.
The modern day idols are things like: encounters at the office that keep replaying in your mind and making you angry all over again; feeling incomplete if there isn't time to check your social media accounts; extreme worry about the plight of everyone in the world.
How can you tell if what you're thinking about has become an idol, or graven image?
Since God is good itself, it makes sense that anything that is less than joyful, less than peaceful, less than calm in your life, isn't coming from this one and only source of good. Dwelling on those helpless and vulnerable feelings is like setting up an altar with false gods.
How do we get rid of those vulnerable, emotional, and helpless feelings that want to take over our moments and days?
Be willing today to open up your thought to the fact that God, divine Love itself, only has good in store for you, and everyone else in the world. I know, it may sound crazy when looking at the news. But, take even the slightest glimmer of good--kindness, efficiency, loyalty, honesty, purity, and so on--and magnify it. The fact that something good has stood out to you at all, means there's more where that came from! God, good fills all space. No one is left out.
Asking God in your heart of hearts to let Him be at the center of your life is effective prayer. Being willing to accept, on any level, that there may be something going on besides chaos, is like taking down the statues of other little gods from your mantle.
Be so thankful today that God is the only power operating in your life. Because there is only one God, in reality, there are no graven images, or false gods, that can take attention away from God, divine good.
You can read more about the nature of God, good, in Mrs. Eddy's primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Come back next week! We'll be thinking about number three: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Or, as I’d like to say, there’s only one God, one power operating in your life!
In the study of Christian Science, there are seven Bible-based synonyms we attribute to God: Love, Life, Truth, Mind, Soul, Spirit, and Principle.
When I think Love, I think divine Love, not human love. Focusing on divine Love doesn’t mean you can’t love all of the great people in your life. To have God front and center opens the door to seeing the purity of God in the love you express in your life. Instead of jealousy, domination, and obsession, you’ll see more patience, compassion, and helpfulness. Hatred? It just can’t exist in the all-presence of God, Love.
When I think Life, I think Being. God as the only Life, means we are expressions of that one Life. We don’t have our own little lives to maintain, or to try not to lose. Life’s attributes like vibrancy, activity, freedom, vitality, and energy are natural expressions of Life. Since they’re spiritual qualities, they aren’t hooked to mortality. We get to keep those qualities for eternity. Notice them in yourself and others!
When I think Truth and Mind, I think rock solid stability, reality, right thinking. To have only one Mind, or Truth means you’re not swayed by human opinions and the world’s view of things. It means there’s only one intelligence running the universe: It’s God. I know, it doesn’t seem that way at times, but to acknowledge the permanent presence and power of God as the only Mind, or Truth is to be less impressed by mere opinion or fake news. Seeing that the world is founded on the rock-solid nature of God, or infinite Truth, brings stability instead of chaos clearly into view.
When I think Spirit, I think substance. Your substance, right there at the core of your being, is spiritual. Not a mixture of materiality and spirituality—but completely spiritual. The material senses may not agree, but consider this: The biblical book of Genesis says that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. It follows, that we are made of the same substance as God is—Spirit. We are spiritual. Not later, but now. It makes perfect sense. The image of something has to be like its original. When you’re walking your daily life, spiritualize your concept of everything around you. Then you’ll start to glimpse that things are less about materiality and more permanent than they seem at first glance. That tree? It represents beauty, stability, shelter. That squirrel? I see ingenuity and activity. That field of sunflowers? Definitely obedient to following the light!
When I think Soul, I think identity itself. Since there’s only one God, or Soul, there can be only one divine identity. Mrs. Eddy includes a glossary definition of I, or Ego, in the textbook of Christian Science. She writes, “There is but one I, or Us, but one divine Principle, or Mind, governing all existence; man and woman unchanged forever in their individual characters, even as numbers which never blend with each other, though they are governed by one Principle” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 588). Your identity as a member of God’s loved creation is good and everlasting. You and God are one—the creator and the creation. Acknowledge and enjoy your coexistence with Soul as the expression of His nature. You and God are the divine Us.
And what about Principle? It’s not commonly associated with God. When I think Principle, I think law—God’s law. It’s the law of good underlining all existence. This divine law of perfection and goodness governs existence harmoniously. To recognize Good itself as the only cause, we can begin to see more of the effect of good in our lives.
That was the first commandment! Check in next Friday for thoughts on the second commandment.
I realize these are big ideas. It’s inspiring to think about them because it helps us to get a glimpse of the spiritual reality which the material senses can't even register.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into these ideas in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, click here.
Do you ever think about the ten commandments as just an old-fashioned list of things you can’t do? A bunch of “thou shalt nots”?
I read an article recently—it’s for kids, but don't worry, if you’re an adult you’ll get something out of it, too—about turning those commandments around and making them “thou shalts.” I thought it was a great suggestion, so I gave it a try. You’ll see what I mean as you read my blog each week!
If you’re not familiar with the ten commandments, or have forgotten one or two of them, here’s a list to remind you. If you want to read them in their entirety, or in several Bible translations, go to biblegateway.com and search for Exodus chapter 20.
As some of you may know, Christian Scientists study a weekly Bible lesson every day. These lessons studied by many around the globe make up the Sunday sermon read in every Christian Science church worldwide. They contain passages from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. In fact, these books are our Pastor.
The Bible lessons are made up of 26 topics that rotate twice a year. The topics range from things like, “God the only cause and creator,” to some of the synonyms for God used in the study of Christian Science like: Love, Truth, Life, Spirit, Mind, and Soul. The citations compiled for these lessons are never the same as the topics rotate around again throughout the year.
The inspiring activity of reading the same verses and passages each day, at the same time as many others, brings strength and unity to the ideas being studied. I like to think this unity is powerful and sends a mental ripple of good out into the world. And we all know the world could use it!
As I’m reading this multi-sectioned Bible lesson each week, inevitably some of the Bible verses or passages from Science and Health will stand out to me a little more than the others. I know this happens to other readers of the Bible lesson, too. To me, this individual inspiration is “daily bread” that feeds each one of us spiritually, that day and through the week. So, here’s a bit of the “bread” I received this past week.
The topic of the lesson we all studied the week of July 17-23 was Truth. Truth is one of the synonyms for God. And since there is only one God, there is only one Truth. God is Truth itself. That inspiration has been helpful to me this week in thinking of current events. It’s definitely a radical idea—that there is only one Truth. After all, doesn’t it seem like everyone has their own version of what is true?
Human opinions, perceptions of different issues, even fake news points to the possibility of many truths. But, this particular Bible lesson made it clear that God is Truth itself. And since we’re all created by Him, we all have the same Truth, or Mind. Because of this, we’re actually all on the same page! Just imagine how much peace we'd see if we all lived the fact of this oneness.
Seeing God as the only Truth doesn’t take away our individuality, but actually enhances it. Your identity isn’t made up of your opinions. It’s actually made up of spiritual qualities like, honesty, kindness, intelligence, steadfastness, patience, beauty, wit, and so on. In fact, every individual has this same spiritual identity. God is expressing these qualities in a unique way in everyone.
No, you can’t see spiritual identity with your eyes, hear it with your ears, smell it with your nose. But, your spiritual identity, and everyone else’s, is tangibly present. Mrs. Eddy writes about this fact in the Christian Science textbook. She says, “Material sense does not unfold the facts of existence; but spiritual sense lifts human consciousness into eternal Truth” (Science and Health, p. 95).
Your spiritual sense is always working. It’s what intercepts and understands the “aha moment” and brings inspiration, relief, or even a solution to a difficult situation.
So, that’s a little insight on the lesson on Truth. If you’d like to study the Sunday Bible lesson, drop into a Christian Science Reading Room near you, or subscribe to the Bible lesson here.
Our fence was gone! While we were away for the day, our neighbor removed the fence that separated his yard from ours, leaving our back yard exposed to a busy street. It left me with hard feelings, even after the fence was eventually replaced.
It has been helpful to think about this occurrence in light of the two great commandments Christ Jesus taught.
The first is, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and the second is, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30, 31 New King James).
To me, the first commandment requires keeping God right at the center of thought. The Bible says that God is Love itself. (See 1 John, chapter 4.) Anything then, that isn’t like divine Love, like chaotic emotions or hurt feelings, but finds itself at the heart and soul of what we’re thinking about, has to give way to God’s nature as infinite, ever-present Love.
Because God is infinite, divine Love’s nature--found in tender and strong spiritual qualities like kindness, calm, and thoughtful consideration--must be as present as the divine creator of these qualities. And they also must be present in every individual, right here and now.
Which brings us to the second commandment, which holds hands with the first. A great way to love our neighbor, next-door or around the world, is to confidently affirm that peace, intelligence, and inexhaustible lovingkindness—God’s nature—is able to be expressed and witnessed by everyone. No one is left out, not you or your neighbor. We all have access to all the goodness of His nature.
Mary Baker Eddy supported that view. She wrote, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13).
Confidently affirming that divine Love is at the center of His son’s and daughter’s spiritual and present identity, helps us to see God’s nature being expressed, even in the face of what seems to be selfishness, arrogance, and thoughtlessness. This type of affirmation is effective prayer and brings tangible results. It led me to see my next-door neighbor in a different light.
Recently, I came home to find him feeding a skinny stray cat in our driveway. It may seem like a small act, but I knew I was getting a glimpse of God’s ever-present qualities of thoughtfulness, purity, and innocence. It’s impossible to hold on to hard feelings and see Love’s nature at the same time, since they are opposites.
Since then, I have felt a genuine willingness to appreciate the good my neighbor includes. Instead of avoiding each other, we’ve been exchanging friendly waves and smiles.
Keeping the two great commandments, by loving God’s infinite and good nature, and seeing it at the core of my identity and everyone else’s, has enriched my life and brought healing. It can do the same for you!
No two grains of sand are alike. Mind-boggling? I recently ran into some photos of grains of sand magnified 100-250 times. Click here to see those pictures. Each grain of sand is unique in color, shape, and texture. It’s awe-inspiring to see, especially in light of how many grains of sand must be on the earth at this given moment.
All of those individual and unique grains of sand make me think of identity in a much more expansive and infinite way.
In the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible, which describes spiritual creation, it says that man—each man, woman, and child—was made in God’s image. God, Spirit, being infinite, the identity of each idea in His creation has to be spiritual, and infinitely distinctive. Speaking of this creation, using Mind and Love as synonyms of God, Mary Baker Eddy, the author of the Christian Science textbook, says, “Unfathomable Mind is expressed. The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 520).
So, those billions and billions of tiny grains of sand, making up the vast beaches of the world and those billions and billions of stars making up the vast galaxies of the universe, each represent the spiritual nature of divine Love. From the infinitesimal to the infinite, God is expressing Himself.
You are included in the unlimited expression of divine Mind. Those qualities that make you uniquely you have their source in God. Qualities like humor, vibrancy, beauty, and creativity are examples of your unique, and forever present, spiritual imprint in God’s creation. You are the apple of His eye and are engraved upon the palm of His hand. (See Deuteronomy 32:10 and Isaiah 49:16.) You are eternally one-of-a-kind!
“The universe reflects God. There is but one creator and one creation. This creation consists of the unfolding of spiritual ideas and their identities, which are embraced in the infinite Mind and forever reflected. These ideas range from the infinitesimal to infinity, and the highest ideas are the sons and daughters of God” (Science and Health, pp. 502-503).
So, the next time you’re standing in a pile of snow with more falling all around you, and realize that no two snowflakes are alike; or, the next time you’re walking along the beach and think about how many billions of unique grains of sand there are; or, even the next time you’re looking up into a dark and star-filled sky and trying to fathom what infinity is even all about, you can think of your unique place in God’s spiritual creation. You'll have to appreciate the fact that you are just as grand as every individual and magnificent idea in God’s universe. From the infinitesimal to the infinite, you are among the highest ideas because you are counted among the sons and daughters of God.
Grains of sand magnified 100-250 times.
One of my favorite television shows is The Amazing Race. It airs on CBS and features teams of two racing around the world for a million dollars.
Each leg of the race is fraught with elaborate roadblocks, detours, and U-turns. But, don’t worry! There are also express passes and fast forward opportunities that can zoom some of the more efficient teams out ahead of the rest.
The first team to arrive at the final pitstop wins the money—and bragging rights!
If it sounds exhausting…it is! I like to watch The Amazing Race. I don’t want to be in it.
The hurry, hurry, hurry, the detours, the roadblocks, and the U-turns are all part of the fun of getting to the finish line. But, when our everyday lives start to resemble The Amazing Race it isn’t fun and can feel like we’re just part of the rat race.
“Rushing around smartly is no proof of accomplishing much” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 230). This fact is something to remember when you find yourself running around in all directions. It’s a quote from an article written by Mary Baker Eddy titled, “Improve Your Time.” In fact, the pointers she gives to improve your time can be like one of those valuable passes that moves you ahead to painless project completion.
Added bonus: The article is very succinct; it takes no time at all to read!
Here are some to-dos from that article:
This one seems obvious, but here’s another way to see the importance of hard work. The first chapter of Genesis describes God creating all of spiritual creation. It says that He made all that was made and called it very good. Included in that very good spiritual creation is man, all of us, made in God’s likeness. Since we are like Him, it is natural for us to work with purpose, love, and a final declaration that what we’ve done is also very good.
Hard work doesn’t mean arduous work. Hard work is acting on the understanding that we come from a divine source, fully equipped with wisdom, efficiency, and endless energy. This quote from Mrs. Eddy describes hard work well. “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 199).
Hard work is being devoted to an honest achievement, working persistently, and seeing it through to completion.
Instead of having a moment of angst about how to accomplish all that needs to be done, we can take that moment to still our thoughts and be calm. One of the synonyms used in the study of Christian Science is Principle. Divine Principle represents order, law. Everything about you and your day is governed by the law of God, good. The same Principle that ordered the spiritual universe, is ordering every detail of your life. Acknowledging that your life is being ordered by God is calming. It quiets thought and leads to the most efficient next steps.
We can make the most of today by yielding to the fact that Life is eternal. We don’t have our own life, but God is causing us to express Him, eternal Life itself. This day is His. There’s no need to focus on the past or the future. Living with a focus on God, the Life that is eternal, helps us to better understand eternity, which is completely without time. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “now is the accepted time” (2 Corinthians 6:2). In the eternal now, you are free from the regrets of yesterday, or the uneasiness of tomorrow.
Here are a couple of do-nots from her article:
Talking, but not saying anything.
It’s easy to see how these do-nots “drop human life into the ditch of nonsense, and worse than waste its years” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 230).
Next time you find yourself running into roadblocks, detours, and other disasters, get back on track. Improve your time and you’ll find yourself calmer, more efficient, and completing each task easily. You'll be crossing that finish line in no time!
Today this YouTube video, popular a couple of years ago, crossed my mind. I mentally cheer with the onlookers as one turtle goes to another turtle’s aid. I don’t know if turtles understand lending a helping hand like we do. I suppose a person could say that the turtle’s instinct impelled it to help a fellow turtle. But, for me, it symbolizes the universal and natural response to help others.
Why do I think helping others is natural?
Well, the Bible says that God is Love. Not only loving, but divine Love itself. (See 1 John 4:8.) Since we are God’s creation, we are the outcome of divine Love. The first chapter of Genesis says that we are made in God’s image—we are like Him. It follows, that not only is it natural to be loving, but it really is the only option for anyone or anything in Love’s creation.
In the new testament of the Bible, there is an account of Jesus explaining two great commandments. The first is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. A lawyer in the crowd asks Jesus, but who is our neighbor? It was almost as if the man wouldn’t mind being loving, but maybe not to everyone. Jesus responds by telling the parable, well-known by many today, of the good Samaritan.
The parable tells of a traveler who was robbed, beat up, and left for dead. A couple of people passed by the man, unwilling to help him. They even crossed over on the other side of the road to avoid him. But, then a good man from Samaria came along. He bandaged up the hurt man the best he could and loaded him onto his donkey. The Samaritan took the man to an inn, paid for the man’s lodging, and told the innkeeper to take care of the traveler. He even went the extra mile telling the innkeeper that the next time he came through town, he would pay for any extra expenses the hurt man might incur.
When Jesus finished telling the story, he asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The man said, “He who showed mercy on him” (Luke, chapter 10, New King James version). Then Jesus told the whole crowd to go and do the same.
For me, Jesus is telling the crowd to be the likeness of their Maker, divine Love, and to express love to everyone without partiality. In the textbook of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy describes the love of Love this way, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13). So, not only is it natural to express love, it is natural to love universally and impartially, just as divine Love does.
How will we feel when we strive to exercise this kind of love?
One of my favorite hymns says, “Give of your heart’s rich overflow, and peace shall crown your joy-filled day. Come walk with Love along the way” (Christian Science Hymnal, hymn 139).
To express love toward our fellowman is to live the fact that we, and everyone we know, are loved members of divine Love’s precious family. Loving others as the expression of God, makes us feel like we’re walking with divine Love, which makes our hearts overflow with gratitude and joy. Feeling this unity with Love, we can’t help but to express love in everything we do and toward everyone we meet. It brings contentment and peace to our days.
As Love’s creation, like the turtle in the video, it’s natural for us to know when and how to lend a hand!
We probably all know someone who expresses willingness perfectly. The willing are always quick to take action, accept responsibility without hesitation, and exercise initiative. It seems they understand beforehand the good that can be achieved if they are willing to go forward with the needed work. To them, the impossible is merely a great opportunity to find a solution. Isn’t it a relief to work alongside them?
As great as it is to work with willing people, I’m learning that willingness is more than just a great personality trait that some have and some don’t. It’s a spiritual quality that comes directly from divine Spirit, God. As such, God is causing each one of us to express willingness along with an infinite number of other spiritual qualities like honesty, kindness, ingenuity, understanding, health, and purity, just to name a few.
Willingness, since it is God-impelled, comes with the ability to see oneself as fully equipped by God, good itself, to work for Him in whatever way is the most beneficial for all concerned. A spiritual quality like willingness, can’t fall short or go missing because it has the all-power and ever-presence of God behind it. Because it is a product of God, we can’t underestimate the importance of willingness and what it has achieved and is achieving for humanity.
I recently ran across a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. that links willingness with human progress. He said, “Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.”
The phrase, “willing to be co-workers with God” caught my eye. I realize that we aren’t equal with God, like ordinary co-workers. But, listening to God’s guidance and being willing to act on it lines us up with His harmonious plan for us. What God is causing us to think, know, and carry out will bring the biggest blessing to us and to those around us.
When I think of those willing to listen to God and be obedient to His prompting, my thought goes back to Bible times on the shore of the Galilean sea. Jesus once told Simon Peter, his future disciple, to cast his net out for a big catch. Simon commented that he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything, but since Jesus asked him to, he would try again. His willingness to be obedient to Jesus’ request was rewarded by a catch so large that it filled his ship and the ship of his companions, James and John Zebedee. (See Luke, chapter 5.)
It was a good lesson for those disciples, and his followers today: Willingness to see past everyday limited circumstances and get a new and unlimited view of things, brings the infinite nature of good into our experience. Mary Baker Eddy put it this way. “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 323).
This passage has taken on new meaning for me in recent months. An organization I was involved in for many years closed its doors. Like the disciples, it required us to take a new direction. It has enabled me to let go of long-held and routine views of lack and limitation. God truly has filled my net with fresh inspiration and new and unlimited ways of seeing things.
The permanence and power of the spiritual quality of willingness brings with it the consecration to listen and be better workers for God. In the words of Mrs. Eddy, “Consecration to good does not lessen man’s dependence on God, but heightens it” (Science and Health, p. 262). Willingness to see things differently has made me able to see God working in my life, community, and the world.
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!