When you think of the Ten Commandments, do you picture a stern schoolteacher or an unsmiling drill sargeant explaining rules to you? All those "thou shalt nots" can be intimidating at first. But behind each one is God's love and wisdom. God presented the Ten Commandments to guide us and protect us from choices He knows will harm us.

Here are some principles to keep in mind about the Ten Commandments:

  • God needs to be your top priority. If you give more time, energy, or attention to anyone or anything else in your life, you cannot live the abundant life that God wants to give you. It's only when you commit yourself completely to God that you invite Him to transform you completely so you can grow to your fullest potential.

  • Remember that you will become like the image you pursue. Who do you want to look like? If you pursue Christ, you'll be transformed more and more into His likeness. If you chase empty images created by society's whims, you'll end up feeling empty and looking impoverished.

  • When you take God's name in vain, you're debasing it, because you're treating it much too casually when it should be spoken with great reverence. God's name has great spiritual power - speaking it actually causes things to happen in the spiritual realms. Using it in a careless way - such as to "damn" a particular person or situation - can set unintended consequences into motion.

  • God has designed you to need rest on a regular basis as part of His established rhythm of life. If you don't take a Sabbath break each week, your physical, mental, and spiritual health will suffer. If you do observe the Sabbath by worshipping and reflecting, you'll discover an eternal perspective on all aspects of your life that will help you tremendously the rest of the week.

  • Honoring your parents is important; God used them to give you life. If God sees you visit them at inconvenient times when they need help, call them to express your love, and forgive them for any past mistakes, He will be pleased and decide to bless you as well.

  • Most people can't imagine that they would ever murder someone. But when anger goes too far, that tragedy actually can result. And there are more ways to "murder" someone than physically killing that person. Anytime you injure anyone with your words or wish bad things to happen to them, you're committing murder against them in your heart. Take your anger to God and let Him heal your heart.

  • Just as with murder, the seeds of adultery are sown in a person's mind. Don't your mind with images and experiences of which you know God doesn't approve, and ask God to help you focus your sexual desires on your spouse. Adultery can seem very enticing at times, but it never delivers any true satisfaction. Instead, it will destroy your relationships with God and other people. Remember that love is not feeling - it's an action. Whenever you choose to act in love toward your spouse, feelings of love will eventually result.

  • You don't need to steal because God has promised to provide everything you need. And He is a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He genuinely cares, and He has your best interests at heart. Decide to trust Him.

  • When you speak untrue or unkind words against your neighbors, you're committing injustices that will inflict great harm on people God loves. But when you encourage others with your words, you become a channel through which God's love flows, and the overflow will bless you. Be accountable to God and another person (such as a prayer partner). Spend time regularly worshipping and praising God so there won't be any room in your mind for false or negative words.

  • Envy will destroy you. God wants you to have the peace that contentment offers. The strain of constantly wanting something you don't have and the burden of dealing with something you weren't meant to have can rob your life of the joy God intends for you.

Adapted from The Tender Commandments, copyright 1998 by Ron Mehl. Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc., Sisters, Or., www.multnomahbooks.com, 1-800-929-0910.

Dr. Ron Mehl is the pastor of a large congregation in Beaverton, Or. He has authored the Gold Medallion winners God Works in the Night Shift and Just in Case I Can't Be There. Ron hosts a daily radio program heard throughout the Northwest. He and his wife, Joyce, have two married sons and one grandchild.

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