Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CD - The First Article - Galatians 3:26

God is God our Father. God is the ultimate, “the buck stops here,” person. Certainly God describes Himself as our Father for no other reason than the sake of good order. At creation God set order in motion. Order is good. Order does not mean superiority and inferiority. Order simply means no chaos, which means peace and harmony. At creation God created Adam and then Eve. At creation Eve sinned first and then Adam. And there is no point in asking the question, “What would have happened if Adam had not eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?” because that did not happen, so why waste time speculating.

God created the man and then the woman. God made the man responsible for what happened. Even after the fall into sin, initiated by the devil and first taken by Eve, Adam was held responsible. Everyone was given their just punishment, according to the promise made before hand, but the order of creation, even in the now imperfect world, remained the same. It cannot be said too much, God gave order to His creation because of His love for His creation and for His creatures. Without order there would be disorder, disarray and even chaos. With order there is peace, harmony and happiness.

God is our Father. He is our Father because He created us. He is our Father because He created Adam and Eve and we are children of Adam and Eve. He is our Father just as He was the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the Father of the promise to send a Savior. He is the Father of the Savior of the world. By faith we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, thus we too are children of the Father. God is our Father meaning that we can come to Him, anytime, anyplace, under any conditions and speak to Him as children often come to speak to their parents.

God is our Father and He looks after us as a father cares for his family. God is our Father and He disciplines us when we need discipline, but He is always there to show us love when we need love. God is our perfect Father who gives us the perfect amount of discipline, love, Law and Gospel.

God is our Father and we are His children. What great comfort to know that He cares for us, providing for us all that we need, through the means that He gives to us as well. As we will see, His love is so great for us that it even meant giving up His Only Son for us. No greater love can we find than the love of a Father, God the Father for His children.

God is our Father and there is no way we could ever repay Him for all that He has done for us. So, we do not even try to repay Him, instead we strive, again though, only with His help, to respond to His great love for us, by living our lives to His glory.

Heavenly Father, forgive me when I forget how much You love me. Forgive me when I forget that You have given us good order on this earth because of Your great love for me, so that I might live in a world of peace and harmony. Give me strength each day to bear witness to those around me of the faith that is in me, to the praise and glory of Your most precious name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

CD - The First Article - Psalm 139:13

“I am me, I am good, ‘cuz God don’t make no junk.” I do not know who wrote those words, but I believe that the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed addresses the fact that this is true. And in a world where self worth seems to be on the decline, anything that will help us to feel better about ourselves, because we have value, because God gives us value, is worthwhile.

The theory of evolution or the religion of Darwinism, teaches that there is no reason for life, that we are here on this earth purely by accident, that there is no order, that there are no absolutes, there is not ultimate authority or designer, and therefore we are not responsible for ourselves. That may not be what is taught, as fact, in the classroom, but that certainly is the message that is being learned by the student who learns this very detrimental, and non-provable theory. Interestingly enough, the theory of evolution contradicts many of the “laws of nature.” The theory of evolution teaches that things evolved to a higher state. The “laws of nature” teach us that the world is running down and getting worse, not better.
The theory of evolution teaches that human beings evolved, purely by accident, from more “primitive” life forms. The problem with the theory is that scientist cannot find any of the so-called transitional species between which the different species evolved. That leaves a very big hole in proving the theory. Suffice it to say, the theory of evolution, by stating that we have evolved by accident, tells us that we are not special, that we are just products of accidents, and we may even go so far as to say, we are a mistake that happened.

If we are here because of an accident that would mean that there really is no higher power. With no higher power then we have no responsibility to anyone. And really, because we are a product of accidents, then we are not even responsible for ourselves. Thus, we can blame anything and everything on that from which we evolved.

On the other hand, to understand that there is a higher authority, that there is a God, that there are certain absolutes on which we can depend means that we were created for a purpose. We were thought out by our Creator God. We are a special part of His plan. Our life has meaning and purpose, because He gives it meaning and purpose.

Because we know that there is a higher power and higher authority we know that we are responsible to Him. We also know that He makes us responsible for ourselves. What I do does not just affect myself, it affects everyone around me.

How much more joy there is in life knowing that we are not mere accidents, but that we are special, thought out, created special and loved by our God. And that our God did not just create us and then leave us here on our own, but He still loves us and takes care of us. He continues to preserve this world in which we live. He continues to watch over us. Yes, “I am me, I am good, ‘cuz God don’t make no junk?”

Heavenly Father, forgive me when I think that I am all alone in this big world and that You do not care about me. Help me to remember that You thought about me and specially created me and that You still love and care for me. Give me strength each day to bear witness to those around me of the faith that is in me, to the praise and glory of Your most precious name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CD - The First Article - Psalm 24

In this first sentence, which is the whole of the first article, we confess that we believe in God the Father. We confess that we believe that the Father is the Creator of the world, heaven and earth and that He is almighty. The question we must then face up to is, Do we really believe what we say?

We call God the Father the Creator and say that He is the first person of the Trinity, not because He is greater, but simply for simplicity’s sake. Also, we read of God the Father and His work of creation in the Bible before we read of the work of either Jesus, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. (We do read of Jesus as the Word and of the Holy Spirit hoovering over the face of the earth in Genesis One reminding us of the unity of the Trinity, that is that the Trinity of God is never divided.) Today, God the Father is still at work as the Preserver of the world. If the Father should withdraw His preserving hand, the entire universe would fold and collapse.

The power of the Father is often called into question, especially in discussions of creation. We often hear questions and comments such as this: Was a day twenty-four hours long? Maybe a day was a million years. Why do we find rocks and fossils that date millions of years old? How can God be everywhere at once? I am just an insignificant cog in this massive world: God is not interested in me.

All of these are good questions, right? Wrong, they are just excuses for our doubt and lack of faith. Remember, we cannot put God in a box. There are more things we do not know about God than we do know. Jesus did more than just what is written, but what is in the Bible (salvation by grace through faith) is all we need to know for salvation (John 20:30-31).

If we really believe God is almighty, what is to keep Him from creating a world in action? Were Adam and Eve created as babies? God’s power is so great, as Genesis One tells us, that God said and it was. Simply by God’s utterance the world came into being. Now that is powerful language!

Our problem as humans is that we are conceived and born in sin, thus our reason and will have been tainted from conception so we have a tendency to worship God’s creation instead of Him as the Creator. It is at that point that we begin to doubt God and His powerful Word, which was Satan’s first temptation, to doubt God, “Did God really say . . . ?”

God is not flesh and blood, but a spirit, which answers how He can be always everywhere present. We humans think only in human, earthly terms. Our finite minds have a hard time grasping God’s world. We think of God’s greatness and are humbled by our wondering’s. We are often filled with a sense of doubt and lack of trust and faith, which is one more reason intellectuals have a hard time believing Jesus. Faith is an instrument, as well as a gift. Faith is the instrument God gives to grasp all His other gifts and blessings. Thus, we do not give up reason and intellect, but that we keep reason and intellect in their proper place along with faith. As humans, we do have doubt, we do become troubled, and at those times, we are reminded that God is truly our Father. We come to Him and He hears us and answers us. We come to Him in prayer and He comes to us through His Word, the Bible. It is by our reading His Word that we are strengthened. We also remember our baptism in which we are reminded of forgiveness, life and salvation. In these ways our doubt is squelched and our faith is renewed.

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You have created this amazing world in which I live. This world is so complex and at times so overwhelming. Forgive me when I have doubts. When I have doubts I pray that You would guide me in Your Word that my doubts may be squelched and that I may be strengthened in my faith. Give me strength each day to bear witness to those around me of the faith that is in me, to the praise and glory of Your most precious name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

CD - The Apostle’s Creed - (an Introduction) - Matthew 16:13-16

In today’s Bible reading, we hear Peter’s confession of who Jesus is, namely, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God” (Matthew). In a sense, this is Peter’s Creed. Contrary to popular belief, a creed is not a prayer, but is a confession, or a statement of what a person believes. Very often when we confess our common Christian faith in church, in the words of the Apostle’s Creed, we see people with folded hands and bowed heads, which is not wrong, or bad, but would it not be wonderful if we could open the back (or front) doors of the church and all shout our belief to the world? If you have ever wondered what you would tell someone who asked you what it is that you believe, you could simply recite the creed, or use it as an outline, putting it in your own words.

The Apostle’s Creed can be thought of as a compact Bible. Our Christian faith in a triune God is more than adequately expressed in the Creed. The work of each person in the Trinity is described in the articles, one article for each Person, and our faith in one God is seen in the whole creed.

The first article expresses our belief in God the Father, the Creator and preserver of the world. The second article goes on to describe Jesus, the Christ or Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. The third article describes the Holy Spirit, the Person of the Trinity whose work it is to bring us to faith and to keep us in faith.

The three articles of the creed together form one Creed, in the same way the three Persons of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, form one God. This statement of Trinity can also be seen in two more similar creeds, the Nicene Creed, which is most often associated with and said on Communion Sundays in our church, and the Athanasian Creed, which is recited (or more often, read, because not many people have this one memorized) on Trinity Sunday, once a year.

As you can see, the Creed is not only a statement of what we believe, confessed by each individual, but it is a great evangelism tool, a tool to be used to express what you believe, and if you also have the explanations to the articles memorized, why you believe. If you have not done so by now, I suggest you submit at least the Apostle’s Creed to memory and use it as often as possible, not only to express your faith to others, but also as a reminder to you of your faith.

O Lord, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I believe as I confess in the Apostle’s Creed, forgive my doubt and help my unbelief. Thank You for this creed, this statement of what I believe. Help me to use it, not only for my own strengthening, but also as a way to share my faith with others. I pray this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

CD - The Close of the Ten Commandments - 1 Timothy 4:8

The Ten Commandments remind us of God’s justice. God is a just God. He has promised to punish sin and sin He has punished. It is not a case of God loves the sinner but hates the sin. God hates both the sin and the sinner. We are reminded in Psalm 5 about God, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with You the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in Your presence; You hate all who do wrong” (emphasis added) (Psalm 5:4-5).

Fortunately for us, God is also a gracious and merciful God (and no, He is not schizophrenic). We know that His mercy always far out reaches His justice. The Close of the Commandments reminds us that God’s justice is but to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him, but His love and mercy is to a thousand generation of those who love Him. Thus we see that our God is truly a gracious and merciful God.

Getting back to the verse from the Psalm quoted above, how can it be that God hates the sinner? If God hates the sinner how can He love us enough to send Jesus to die for our sins? It can be because God is greater than our logic and because God does not confine Himself to time. We have a hard time putting it into our own understanding when we talk about whether God sent Jesus because He loves us or if God loves us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. It is almost like the discussion of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Which came first, God’s love for us or Jesus death which brought God’s love for us. The answer is, we do not need to debate the question, because for God there is no question, but a resounding both/and. God loves us because Jesus died for our sins and it is because Jesus died for our sins that God loves us so that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. Not logical, but Godly, because for God, who is outside time, they are both happening at the same time.

What all this means is that we are not to rest on our cheap grace. God loves us. He sent Jesus to die for us, and for that reason He loves us. He loves us first so that we might also love others. Because God loves us we have no right to sin, but we have the privilege to live our lives, with His help (of course) to the glory of His name. The focus is always on the Lord, that way we know that the glory will always go where it is supposed to go, to the Lord. It is like the story of the man who, when commenting on how he would like to be remembered said, “I hope that when people see me they will say, not ‘what a great guy he is,’ but ‘what a great God he has.’”

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me when I try to put logic before Your Word. Forgive me when I sit on my grace instead of living my life to Your glory. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Work in and through me so that others can see You in my life, come to know You and give praise and glory to Your Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remember - November 24, 2010 - Thanksgiving Eve - Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

In our text for this evening, from the Old Testament reading, we are encouraged by Moses to remember. How fitting this text is as we, on the eve of our National Day of Thanksgiving, take the time, not only to remember but, also to give thanks for all the good gifts and blessings our good Lord has seen fit to bestow upon us, His children. In the spirit and style, if you will, of Moses speaking to the children of Israel, this morning I would encourage you to remember.

Remember . . . remember that God gives us life at conception. This comes through no choice of our own (we do not choose to be conceived and born). This comes through the love of our parents for each other as they reflect God’s love to each other. We thank God for this gift of life at conception and we continue to celebrate His gift of life each and every evening that we awake knowing that each day is a gift from Him. Each day we give Him thanks that He gives us the opportunity to live another day.

God gives life at conception and He gives us new life through His Word and through Holy Baptism. Through His Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism and the putting of His name on us we become His children. He claims us as His own (in the same way that we do not choose to be born, nor do we choose to be given faith through the waters of Holy Baptism or God’s Word). He makes us His children and a part of His kingdom. He gives us forgiveness of sins and puts faith in our hearts. He gives us His Holy Spirit who continues, throughout our lives, to strengthen and keep us in faith until Christ returns.

We might summarize what God has given to us and done for us in Dr. Martin Luther’s words of explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”

God has graciously poured out on us more gifts and blessings than we can ever think or imagine or count. He has given us a place to live, a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, shoes on our feet and food on our tables.

God has given us parents and grandparents, pastors and teachers, and an education. He has given people to care for us as well as people for whom we are privileged to care. He has given us all wisdom and knowledge. He has given us the ability to discover and invent so many things which makes life easier.

God has given us gifts, talents and abilities. He gives us these gifts, talents and abilities to use, especially to use in service to Him, for the strengthening of ourselves as well as the extending of His Kingdom. As we use our gifts, talents and abilities to serve and help others, so we are serving and helping the Lord.

God has given us a vocation, a job, a career, a place to work. We are to use the gifts, talents, and abilities He has given us in order to be efficient and productive in our vocation, our job, our career, or wherever we work. And wherever it is that we do work, we are to remember that we are not working for the company or the boss, but we are working for the Lord, using the gifts, talents and abilities He has given us to His glory.

God has given us freedom of religion. We live in a country where we are relatively free to do as we please, to worship as we choose, even to choose to not worship. Certainly we might imagine that we are persecuted, to a degree, perhaps more subtly than anything, yet at this time still, we do not have to die for our faith.

God has given us a land flowing with milk and honey. We live in one of the most, if not the most blessed country and nation in the world. We suffer from the fact that we have to decide which of several articles of clothing and shoes we will wear, which of several brands of food we wish to eat, which brand of automobile to drive and so forth. Compared to many countries, we are rich indeed.

We might summarize what God has given to us and done for us in Dr. Martin Luther’s words of explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”

But there is more to remember. We are to remember that God has given His Son to be born as one of us. He who was true God, gave up the glory that was His in heaven. He took on human flesh and blood. He was born of a woman. The fulness of the Gospel is in this that He lived His life for us in our place so He could be our substitute, trading His life for ours. He suffered temptation as we suffer, even more and yet He did not sin.

We are to remember that God has given His Son to take our sins upon Himself. The purpose for which Jesus came into this world was to live, suffer and die. And He did. He lived a perfect life and then He took all our sins upon Himself and He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place. That which we should have suffered, He suffered. God has given His Son the punishment which we deserve. Jesus suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty, hell, for us, in our place. Jesus suffered and died.

Yet, we are also to remember that we do not worship a dead God, but a living God. For Jesus did not stay dead, but God raised Him from the dead. After His ascension, He returned to the right hand of His Father where He is ruling over us, watching over us, interceding for us.

We might summarize what God has given to us and done for us in Dr. Martin Luther’s words of explanation to the second article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

Today we remember . . .we remember that it is our duty or better, I like the word privilege, it is our privilege to give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy does endure forever. And as we have been saying, He is good, He is merciful, He has given us blessings, more than we can count, more than we can think or imagine.

We remember that it is our duty, our privilege to praise the Lord for His good gifts and blessings. We praise Him because He has and continues to give to us from His bounty, not because we are deserving in any way, but because of His great love for us.

We remember that it is our duty, our privilege to rejoice in the Lord for all His benefits to me. What a great God we have. A God who gives to us, expects nothing in return from us, and rejoices in our pouring out our response of praise and thanksgiving and rejoicing through our giving ourselves to Him, through our giving our worship to Him, through our giving of our time, talents and treasure to Him as a way of glorifying Him as He stirs in us to do so.

This evening and tomorrow we remember, we recall all that our Lord gives and we are moved to say, “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever. Amen.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CD - The Ninth & Tenth Commandments - Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6

The Ninth and Tenth Commandments remind us of our need to be content. What does it mean to be content? It means to rejoice with what you have, rejoice with other because of what they have, and not begrudge anyone of anything. To be content is to be happy knowing that God has given you everything that you need. Unfortunately, contentment is one of those things that alludes many people in our world today. One of the reasons we struggle with contentment is because we have a hard time distinguishing between needs and wants.

But, we want to focus on the positive so let us get to the point of what these two commandments say we get to do. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther, we are reminded in the Ninth Commandment that we get to “help and be of service to [our neighbor] in keeping [his inheritance or house].” This means that we get to rejoice with our neighbor when he gets a new house, when he adds on to his house, when he makes improvements on his house. We get to stop keeping up with the Jones’s and rejoice in their good fortunes.

In the Tenth Commandment we are reminded, again by the words of Dr. Martin Luther, that we get to, “urge [our neighbors wife, workers or animals] to stay and do their duty.” We may not relate to the understanding of urging our neighbor’s wife, workers or animals to stay and do their duty, but we do understand this idea in the business world. There are times when any one company may wish to have the services of an employee from another company. We are reminded that it is our privilege and duty to urge that person to stay with their company and do the best work that they can for them. A difficult task to say the least.

We might say that the Ninth and Tenth Commandments urge us to “take the high road” of life. Instead of looking for ways to entice others away from their own work and jobs where they are doing a good job for others, we are to urge them to continue to do good work for their company, even at the expense of our own. Again, a rather difficult task. Here would be good place to remind ourselves that this is not something we can do by ourselves. This, “taking the high road,” is something we can do only with the help of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and the Sacraments. Remember, we love because God first loved us and sent His only Son to die for us.

We might also keep in mind that these commandments are for others as well as for us. Meaning that if we are able to urge others to stay and do their duty, others are to urge our family members and workers to stay and do their duty. This is true contentment.

Heavenly Father, Giver of all good things, forgive me when I fail to see all the good gifts and blessing that You do give to me. Help me, seeing my blessings, to turn to others and encourage them to see their blessings as well as encourage other to stay and do their duty in whatever their station in life. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

CD - The Ninth & Tenth Commandments - 1 Kings 21:1-16, 2 Samuel 11:2-4, Luke 12:13-21, Acts 4:1-11

Let us take a look at both the ninth and tenth commandments and talk about them together. They both deal with covetousness; that is, the evil wishing to have something that belongs to someone else. Wishing to have something is not in itself wrong, as long as we also wish to work to obtain whatever it is we wish to have. It is when that wishing becomes an obsession of wanting to take from our neighbor, this wishing is definitely sin.

These commandments, like several before, have at the heart the intent of the person causing them to sin. In other words, the sin of covetousness begins in the heart and is carried out by the person’s actual actions. The sin begins by our not being satisfied with what we have, but instead in our want of more. This want of more nags at us so that we begin planning and plotting to get our desires, until the time comes that we actually obtain this want by legal or illegal means. The desire of the heart becomes reality.

I got carried away looking for Bible references, but if you scan the four listed (two from the Old, two from the New Testaments), you notice that no one is exempt from sinning. Ahab’s sin began in his heart as the desire to have Naboth’s vineyard. His sin eventually led to murder. David’s sin of lust led to adultery, which he had already committed in his heart. Also, his sin led to murder. The sick man’s sin of desiring more led to his damnation in hell. Anaania’s and Sapphira’s sin of deception led also to their own destruction.

The pattern in Scripture is the pattern for today. People desire power, riches, glory, etc. People covet these things in their hearts, and the process of sin is begun. In their drive for the top, the end seems to justify the means. In other words, that position at the top is so important that we are willing to do anything for it, gain it by any means. Just look at the business world, and you can see how this commandment is abused. Just watch any soap opera, and you can see how abusing this commandment makes such good “dirt” for these soaps.

So, how do we keep from coveting? We first get right with God. That is, set our priorities straight. We realistically see what we need for life and what we can afford. We are also happy for what our neighbor has and can afford, which is most difficult. In all things, whether rich or poor, with the Lord’s help, we are content.

Heavenly Father, Giver of all good things, I thank and praise You for all the many blessings which You have, in Your Grace, bestowed on me. Forgive me when I forget all the blessings that I do have and instead seek to get what belongs to others. Help me to be content in all things as well as to rejoice in the blessings of others. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Lord’s Righteous Treasure - November 21, 2010 - Last Sunday of the Church Year (Proper 29) - Text: Malachi 3:13-18

Today is the last Sunday of this present church year. In a way it is our New Year’s Eve service. As we talked about last week and really, as we do every year at the end of the church year, our Scripture readings remind us of the fact that just as God kept His first promise and sent Jesus to be the Savior, even though He waited some 4000 years to do so, He did fulfill His promise, so too, even though He has waited some 2000 years to fulfill His promise to return, we know that Jesus will return, soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine, thus, again, our readings remind us of the importance of being ready for the Lord’s return.

We live in a world today which very much mirrors what Jesus was talking about when He was talking about the end times, “36But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” Matthew 24:36-39. And so it is today, people are oblivious to the fact that we are living in the last days. Too many people, even too many of us right here in this church do not really believe that Jesus will return anytime soon, especially not in our own life time, thus we are living life, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” oblivious to what is about to happen.

The attitude of the world, believers and unbelievers reflects the words of Malachi,“13Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape’” (v. 13-15). For the people of Malachi’s day and for many today there is the appearance of the prospering of the evildoers, in other words we ask the question, “Why bother doing good when the evil prosper?”

How often do we read or hear about what seems to be that the evil doers test God and escape, and even prosper or so it seems? Those of us who are Christians, who have morals and ethics, who believe there is an absolute authority and that we are responsible to God, we live as good citizens, obeying the laws and for what purpose? Those who have no ethics, who do not believe in moral absolutes, it seems that they are prospering and no one is holding them accountable. Why bother? Why bother being good and doing what is right?

But what does God see? We pick up at verse sixteen, “16Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17‘They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him’” (v. 16-18). The righteous continue to pray to the Lord and He hears. Yes, God is God and as God He knows all and sees all. He knows who is doing good and why they are doing good. He can look in the hearts of people and He knows who has faith and who does not.

Those who have been given faith, we Christians, have our names written in the book of life. As Christians, we rejoice because our loving Lord gave us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. As we have said time and again, it all starts with the Lord. God gives us faith, through His means of Holy Baptism. God keeps us in faith and strengthens us in faith through His means of Confession and Absolution, His Word and His Holy Supper. The very reason we come to divine service whenever offered is to be given the gifts God has to give as He gives them though His means of grace in divine service.

As Christians, we rejoice because the Lord did not spare His own Son for our forgiveness. Again, God is the prime mover. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. Thus, God comes looking for us. God finds us. God gives us faith, forgiveness and life. God sent His only Son, Jesus, God Himself in flesh, to live perfectly for us because we cannot and to pay the price for our sins.

While on this earth, while in this world, we may not see things as God sees things, but we can know for certain that in the end we will see the Lord make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The Lord will judge all according to His righteousness. Those who deny the Lord will be given eternal spiritual death. Those who have faith will have life, eternal life in heaven with the Lord.

So, what does this mean? The way the world sees life is not the way the Lord sees life or the world. The world looks at things from the outside. The people of the world attempt to explain the world without God, thus excluding God so that there is no ultimate authority and no ultimate responsibility. Why are people killing people? Because they have been taught that there is no god, no ultimate authority, no ultimate responsibility, so do as you wish. It is a “dog eat dog” world, “survival of the fittest” so do what you want.

But the way the world sees itself is not the way God sees it. God is God. God is Creator. God is Preserver. God is Redeemer. God is Sanctifier. God is the beginning and the end. God created all things out of nothing and crowned His creation with the creation of humankind. God created us to love us. God gives us life, at conception. God gives us all things especially all that we need to support our body and life. And God gives us, strengthens and keeps us in faith.

For us, for our part, we are to live life as God’s children, as His creation. This does not mean that life will be easy. As a matter of fact, for us Christians, living in a sin tainted world, very often our lives in the world seem like this world is not fair. So, how do we survive? “Luther spoke of the making of a theologian [we can say of the making of a Christian] on the basis of Ps 119. A theologian [a Christian], he held, came from three actions: prayer (oratio), reading or study (meditatio), and affliction (tentatio).” As Christians we begin with pray (oratio). One of our greatest weapons in this world is prayer, that we can speak to God, directly to Him in prayer. And we know that as we pray, He hears our prayers. And we rejoice that when He answers our prayers He answer, not according to what we want or even think we need, but according to what He knows we need according to what He knows is best for us. We pray and we read and study (meditatio). We speak to God in pray and He speaks to us through His Word. As He speaks to us through His Word, He gives, strengthen, and keeps us in faith. Finally, we grow in our faith life through affliction (tentatio). Again, God never promised that life would be easy, at least not this life, but we do have His promise that never will He leave us and never will He forsake us.

So we are back to God as the prime mover. God gives us life, at conception. God gives us faith and new life through Holy Baptism. God strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Holy Supper. Jesus took care of our forgiveness, through paying the price for our sins on the cross and He distributes that forgiveness every Sunday morning and every day through confession and absolution. God gives and we are given to.

In this world, we may look at the outward appearance, but God looks into our hearts. God knows who has faith in Him and who does not. God knows whose names are written in the book of life and whose are not. While it may appear that the wicked are prospering in this world, we know that this world is temporary. This world is fast and fleeting. There is nothing permanent about this world. And we know that we have our inheritance firmly established in the world to come, in the permanent world of heaven.

Once again we note that God gives and we are given to. God gives faith, forgiveness and life. And as we are given to, our learned reaction is the desire to give thanks and we give thanks through our response of faith, yet even our response of faith is given to us by God. Thus, first and foremost our response is to be given to. And then our response of faith is to live lives of faith, even if that means looking different from the rest of the world, even if that means being set apart and persecuted. What else can we do?

The scoffers of this world fail to see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked because in their own eyes it appears as if the Lord treats them both the same, so way bother being good? Why be a Christian if the wicked also prosper? Yet, we know that the Lord looks, not at the outward appearance of a person, but in the heart and will judge accordingly. God looks in the heart and sees faith. True Christian faith can be seen in an outward expression of a response of faith in one’s heart. So, although the world may appear to be in favor of the wicked, God looks into the heart and judges accordingly, thus, those who have been given faith, by God’s grace, are His treasure. Yes, you and I are His treasure.

Again, today is the last Sunday in this present church year. Although I am not a doomsday proclaimer, please know that we are living in the end times. We will stand before the Lord in judgement, either when He returns and if that is not during our lifetime, it will be when we die, but it will happen. So, now, more than ever is the time to be ready for His return. My prayer continues to be that your are ready and if you are not that the Lord would continue to get you ready. So, that ultimately when we do all stand before the Lord we will stand before Him in the grace, mercy and faith He has given to us and we will say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

CD - The Eighth Commandment - Proverbs 31:8-9

The eighth commandment is God’s gift of a good reputation. A person’s reputation is not something that is formed over night. A good reputation is something that a person gains over the years as that person lives a good life, does good things, thinks good thoughts, says good things and the like. Unfortunately, what a person can build up over many years can be knocked down rather quickly, just by one bad judgement in action.

A person’s reputation is gained through what others see in that person. A person’s reputation does not come from others, but from within themselves. A good reputation comes from reflecting the good things that have become a part of a person’s life. Thus, if a person fills himself with good things, and reflects those good things by thinking, speaking, and acting good, then he earns a good reputation. Likewise, a person who fills himself with evil things and reflects those evil things with evil thinking, speaking and acting earns a bad reputation.

For the most part a person can “control” their own reputation, but others can have an influence on what others say and think about someone by what they say about them. The eighth commandments reminds us that it is our responsibility to help keep the good reputation of others. We are to help keep the good reputation of others by not speaking evil of others, betraying, slandering or hurting their reputation. We are also not to reveal their secrets nor do anything that will hurt them. We are not to say evil things about them, even if they are true, for so doing is breaking this commandment.

Instead, we get to help our neighbor to gain a better reputation. We get to defend our neighbor. We get to speak up for and protect our neighbor from false accusations. We get to speak well of our neighbor. We get to praise the good actions and qualities of our neighbor. We get to put the best construction on everything and explain everything in the best way possible. We get to help our neighbor to build an even better reputation.

Who knows (God does certainly)? It might be our words concerning our neighbor that will influence our neighbor to work on his own reputation. It might be our words concerning our neighbor that will encourage others to speak well of our neighbor. It might be our words speaking well of our neighbor that will help others to see what a great God we have, a God who helps us to help others. And as we help our neighbor to gain a good and better reputation our own reputation will certainly be bettered in the process.

Dear Lord, guide me and help me to improve my own reputation as I speak well of my neighbor, putting the best construction on everything and explaining everything in the kindest way, so that above all, Your name may be praised. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CD - The Eighth Commandment - Proverbs 25:21-22

“If you cannot say anything nice about someone, then do not say anything at all.” How many times have you heard that phrase from your mother, especially after you have had a “words” fight with your brother or sister? At school, the principal says, “It takes a big (or bigger) man to back down from a fight.”

We all know it is a “dog-eat-dog” world. You have to step on many people to get to the top. “Nice guys always finish last.” And if you do not take advantage of this world, what have you got to show for life? Many cliche’s have come to be an excuse for why we break this commandment. But if you look very closely at why this commandment is broken, you will find that it is broken by the ones who have their values and priorities mixed up. Is our concern for others shown when we defame their good name? Are our minds really set on things above when we try to make it big in this world because that is all we think we have?

In all actuality, our Bible reading from Proverbs has the best advice for “getting back” at others, and it is not being mean. Rather, it is by being sincere. I do say by being sincere, for, it we are not sincere, the other person will feel no remorse. Our sincere attempt to be nice to someone who has hurt or defamed us in any way will heap coals of guilt on their head. Remember, vengeance is the Lord’s.

It is not easy being nice to someone who has treated you cruelly. It is easier to join in and “bad mouth” someone whom everyone else is “bad mouthing.” It is not easy to say good things about someone whom everyone else is “bad mouthing.” Of course, it is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. Memorize Proverbs 25:21-22 (If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you). The next time someone intentionally hurts you or tries to start an argument or fight with you simply out of spite, try to recognize their intent, count to ten, and return the abuse with kindness. You will be amazed at the reaction you will get. You may even, in the process, lose all your enemies. How? By making them your friends.

It is one thing to listen to others “bad mouth” someone and it is another thing to join in. Martin Luther had some good advice when he said to close one ear when listening to someone. The closed ear is to listen to the person being talked about, thus getting both sides of the story.

Maybe if we try to do what Luther suggested in his explanation of this commandment, we would all make it to the top. He said that we should look for the best in others and build one another up. I believe that in doing so, we too will be built up. Today we might say, let us affirm one another. As the cliche’ goes, “You can catch more flies with honey.” You are great!

Dear Lord, forgive me when I try to make myself look better by tearing down others. Thank You for making me the person I am, a special person, so special that You sent Your only Son, Jesus, especially for me. Help me to turn from putting others down to building up others. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CD - The Seventh Commandment - Matthew 7:12

The seventh commandment is “God’s Gift of Possessions.” Interesting, we often hear about how God owns and man owes. We often hear about how everything belongs to God and we are just using it. All these things are true and it is equally true that God gives us these possessions. How do we understand this? We understand this ownership, possession “stuff” in the same way that we understand ownership and possession in a family. A child talks about how it is his bedroom, his bed, his desk, his toys, etc. Did the child purchase these items? Are they really his? Certainly, the parents purchased all the things, the possessions which belong to the son, so they are his, yet they are also the possessions of the parent. In the same way, our Lord is a gracious gift giving God. He has given us everything. Yet, when we pass on from this earth, all these things will remain here to become the possessions of someone else, someone to whom the Lord will give them for them to use while they are on this earth.

The seventh commandments outlines, what we are not to do. We are not to take anything from anyone in anyway which is not appropriate. We are not to steal in anyway, by robbery, theft, cunning, usury, overcharging, borrowing without returning, laziness and so on. We are to be honest in all our dealings.

The seventh commandment is also full of the things we get to do. We get to help our neighbor. We get to rejoice when our neighbor improves his lot in life. We get to help our neighbor improve and protect his property, possessions and income. We get to help our neighbor also understand that all things, all that he has is a gift from the Lord. We get to help our neighbor rejoice and be thankful for all that the Lord has given to him. We get to help our neighbor in every need. This commandment reminds us that we are not in competition with our neighbor. We are not to see if we can keep up with our neighbor and begrudge them if they get something we do not have or something better than we have. We are to rejoice with them. What a wonderful witness we can make to our neighbor when we rejoice with them in their improving their property and lot.

What we get to do does however go against our very grain. We live in a capitalistic, materialistic, competitive world. We live in a world in which we would do well to “one-up” our neighbor rather than rejoice with them. Again, what a wonderful witness we can make when we do not follow the ways of the world, but instead follow the ways of the Lord and rejoice with our neighbor. But we do not do this rejoicing on our own, as if we could. No, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us that we are able to rejoice with our neighbor. And in so doing we will also fulfill Jesus command to us, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Dear Lord, thank You for all that you give to me. Thank You for all that You see fit to give to my neighbor as well. Forgive me when I begrudge my neighbor of anything. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might be able to rejoice with my neighbor and that I might be able to help him improve and protect his property and lot in life, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CD - The Seventh Commandment - 1 Timothy 6:10

“I wish I had . . .” What would you do if you had a million dollars? “If only I could get my bills paid.” “I would love to have a new . . .” “Everybody else has one, why can’t I get one?” Have you ever heard any of these phrases or “keeping up with the Joneses?” Can these thoughts and words be classified as envy, greed, or stealing? Of course, the answer is “yes” and “no,” for I cannot judge what is in your heart, only God can. They can be judged “no” if the thought is simply a thought and kept in perspective of what you have and do not have. They are “yes” if, in your heart, you would be willing to steal for them.

The Bible says that, “where your treasure is, that is where your heart is” (Luke 12:34); in other words, what is important, or first to you is your god. This practice would tend toward idolatry, also.

As with the fifth commandment and killing, so it is with the seventh commandment and stealing. The Bible reading from First Timothy says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It does not say simply that money is the root of evil, but that the love of money is the root of all kings of evil, in other words, greed is the sin. The progression of sin is from being envious of what the Jones’s have, instead of actually being happy for them and sharing in their joy, to actually hating the Jones’s (murder), to such greed that you would do anything to get what they have. The last step, then, is actually stealing what is theirs, or stealing to buy one, but the actual stealing is the final sin.

The sin begins in the heart. Where is your heart set—on things of this world or on heavenly things? Where your heart is, can be and is shown by your actions. For example, laziness on the job is stealing. If you are paid by the hour, and you figure you should be getting more per hour so you slow down and do not give one hundred percent, you are indeed stealing. Vandalism is stealing. Every time you vandalize, break, mutilate, or mess up someone else’s property so that it must be fixed or replaced, you have stolen from that person. Borrowing without returning is stealing. Stealing just a little is still stealing.

This commandment is not a hard one to keep. The key is where is your heart?; your actions will follow your heart. Let us remember that we are here on this earth for only a short time compared with being in heaven for eternity. The things of this world will pass away, but our life in heaven will be forever. Our response of faith is to be truly joyful for what we have and for what our neighbor has. Our response of faith is to care for those possessions God has loaned to us as His stewards while here on this earth. And, finally, our response of faith, with the Lord’s help is to master our possessions and not let our possessions master us.

Dear Lord, thank You for all Your many gifts and blessings, gifts and blessings too numerous even to count. Thank You for the gift of this day, which as are all days, is a gift from Your gracious hand. Forgive me when I covet another’s possessions. Forgive me when I am not content with what I have. Help me to learn to be more content and especially to be happy when others receive special blessings from Your most gracious hand, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CD - The Sixth Commandment - Ephesians 5:21-33

The Sixth Commandment is God’s gift of marriage. It is interesting that in his explanation of this commandment Dr. Luther does not say, “we should fear and love God so that” we do not do anything. Instead, his “we should not” is put in the words of what we should do, “we lead a sexually pure and decent life...”

Marriage and sexual purity are not top priorities in our world today. As a matter of fact, freedom (from responsibility for self) to do whatever we want is the order of the day. As a society we tell children and give them permission to have sex. Sure we may say that they should not, but then we turn around, teach them how and give them uneffective methods of avoiding the consequences of their actions (birth control) and say, “well, they are going to do it anyway.” Are they “going to do it anyway?” Or are they doing just what is expected of them. If we tell them not to be promiscuous and say they will not be promiscuous and tell them we expect them to not be promiscuous, then they will not be promiscuous.

Enough of that, let us get to the good stuff. Remember we said that there are get too’s in the commandments. In the sixth commandment we get to lead decent, guilt free, true loving lives. We get to have healthy relationships. We get to truly care and love others. We get to not worry about what others are doing, what diseases we may contact and so on.

True love is the love of God that we reflect on to others. Luuuv is not an act, a feeling, a song or a dance. Well, maybe luuuv is, but love is not. Love is what God has for us and what He works in and through us to share with others. Love is Jesus giving His life for ours on the cross. And love is unconditional.

God gives us the sixth commandment in which He gives us the joy of sharing the intimacy of sexual relations within the bonds of marriage. He gives us a marriage in which fidelity, faithfulness, to ones mate is a top priority. With fidelity comes freedom from jealousy, envy, and the like. He gives us companionship. And the ultimate gift God gives to us through marriage is the ability to create. Through the coming together of the husband and wife in the bonds of marriage, the wife giving herself to her husband, the husband giving himself to his wife, the mutual giving and receiving of each other, from this comes new life.

With His gift of marriage God also gives the gift of family and of peace and order in our families. The reading from Ephesians helps us understand the good order God gives to us. He gives us the family according to the order of creation. He gives us the family in such a way that both spouses are to put the other first in their lives. He gives the wife the role of loving Him and her husband and keeping him first. He gives the husband the role of loving his wife in the way in which He loved us, so much that He died for us. Yes, husbands are to die for their wives. God gives us the order of creation in marriage, the husband is the head of the family and will be held accountable for his family. This is a great responsibility and one with which he is helped by his wife.

Together, husband and wife reflect the relationship of Christ to His Church. What a wonderful gift God gives in marriage. The tough part is to live in marriage the way God would have us live, despite the view of society about marriage.

Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of marriage. Forgive me when I fail to realize that what You give in marriage, the roles and responsibilities are given for my good and because of Your great love for me. Help me to us one of the most important gifts You give to me in marriage and in all my relationships, the gift of forgiveness. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

CD - The Sixth Commandment - Matthew 5:27-28 (1 John 4:18)

In my opinion, the sixth commandment is the most abused commandment today. The drive to procreate is the most powerful drive known to man. It is such a shame that our emotions are so much stronger than our minds, and most people do not realize it.

Adultery, just like murder, happens not just in bed, and not just by actually doing something; it happens in the heart. Adultery happens at the beach, “what a babe . . . ;” in the school, “did you see that new chick (guy) . . . ,” while watching television, listening to the radio, and reading books. It happens in daydreaming. I wonder how much corruption has been caused by the old phrase, “If it feels good, do it.”

The Greeks may have been great sinners, but they were not stupid people. Unlike the English language, the Greek language has different words for the different types of love, eros being the Greek word for sexual love, phila for brotherly love, and agape for a God-like lover, a selfless concern for another person.

Eros, or sexual love, might be akin to what we call “puppy” love, or romantic infatuation. It is unfortunate, however, that our emotional drive is so strong and our thinking is so clouded that we think we are in love. Maybe if we had a little (or a lot) more agape love, that concern more for the other person than for ourselves, we could keep our minds functioning over our emotions.

Contrary to the popular belief, love is not blind, nor is it jealous; those things refer to selfish desire and even adultery. “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). If you really love someone, you would not be motivated out of fear of losing that person as a friend, but would instead look for ways to help that person even if it meant giving up your own life.

The widespread corruption of this commandment can be seen in the fact that numerous books, even Christian books, have been written on the subject of dating, love, sex, etc. When talking about adultery it is hard not to discuss the other issues.

Adultery is a sin. It comes from your heart. The pressures to commit adultery are great from the outside, peer pressure, television, radio, advertising, and from the inside (sex drive). It happens outside as well as inside of marriage.

If you are not married, stay away from seductive people and places. Do not put yourself in the position to be tempted. If you are dating, keep your emotions in check. Know the difference between eros and agape. When you get married, marry your best friend, or make your spouse your best friend.

For a good understanding of love, read 1 Corinthians 13, known as the “love chapter.” As far as relationships, as a friend once told me, a “relationship” or friendship will grow and last as long as two people are willing to open themselves up to each other, to communicate. You have many relationships with many friends, each being on a different level, the level you both feel comfortable with and on which you have conscientiously or unconsciously decided. Such relationships are a good start to love and to understanding true agape love.

Dear Lord, I thank You that You have shown me what true love is by sending Your only Son to take all my sins upon Himself, to suffer and die for all my sins, and to rise in order that I might have forgiveness and the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven. Forgive me when I fail to love others. Forgive me when I tend to love things and use others. Help me to understand what true agape love is and love others as You have loved me. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CD - The Fifth Commandment - Ephesians 4:32

What is the value of human life? If we believe in the theory of evolution then we believe that human life is only an accident and is worth nothing, really. If we believe the theory of Creation, that God thought out, planned and created the world then we believe that human life is valuable because God gives us value.

The question our world has dealt with a lot in recent years has been the question of when does life begin. Holy Scripture appears to be silent on the issue, yet our Lord gives us clues as to when He begins life. In Jeremiah we are told, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). Evidently we are a person and have value, thus we have life, even before we are conceived. Our conception begins when we are thought of by God.

Luke the historian, theologian and doctor tells us concerning John the Baptist when Mary comes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). The word baby is used for babies both before and after birth, implying that an unborn child is a human person.

The Psalmist, David, tells us, “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:6). David was confident that he was someone, someone special because the Lord knew him even before he was born.

The fifth commandment reminds us that God gives to us the gift of life. He tells us that we are not to murder by hurting or harming our neighbor. We are not to hurt or harm our neighbor emotionally, spiritually or physically. No name calling, playing of tricks, hitting, or hating.

The fifth commandment also tells us what we get to do for our neighbor. We get to help him. We get to support him. We get to care for and love him. Paul reminds us in Romans, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). In the parable of the good Samaritan we are reminded that everyone, especially those who are in need, are our neighbor.

Being kind, merciful, forgiving, those are things that we as Christians are privileged to do. In our world today we would include such things as avoiding and helping our neighbor to avoid the abuse of drugs or any substance that would be hurtful to them. We would look for ways to help and be of service to our neighbor. We would, in fact and in essence, do those things which society would ask, why are you doing what you are doing. And we would respond that because our Lord loved our neighbor so much that He gave His life for him on the cross, who are we to love our neighbor any less, so we want to help and be of service to our neighbor however we can.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I forget that You love me and that You love others as well. Forgive me when I get jealous and envious of my neighbor because he has something I want. Stir in me a desire and the ability by the power of your Holy Spirit to be of help and service to my neighbor. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CD - The Fifth Commandment - Genesis 4:1-16

Cain killed (murdered) his brother Abel. This act is only the culmination of the many events which led up to this dramatic conclusion. In Genesis, this story takes place in sixteen verses. In real life, this story may have taken many days, weeks, or months. At first reading, we sense a great tragedy. We might even show sympathy, saying it was not so bad at first. Then it degenerates into a real life soap opera of jealousy, hate and murder.

A sin is a sin is a sin in God’s eyes. There is no degree of sin; one is just as bad as another. Which ruins a cake the most, a cup of sour milk or one rotten egg? The natural progression of thought in our society is that I am not so bad, I only . . . , but my neighbor does . . . We continually try to justify ourselves, even trying to do so by the law. Because of one sin, we are all the same in God’s eyes.

Cain’s sin began with selfishness. He did not give God his first fruits. Instead, he kept his best to himself and gave some of the leftover to God. His brother, Abel, on the other hand, unselfishly offered God his first fruits and his very best. When God had favor on Abel, Cain’s selfishness turned to jealousy.

We now begin to see the progression and evil growth of unchecked sin in our lives. Cain’s jealous envy of Abel’s favor from God began eating away at his insides and turned to anger. He was angry at God for not accepting him as He did Abel. He was angry at Abel for having found favor with God. Now anger is not sin, but, unchecked, it almost always leads to sin. In Cain’s case, the anger led to a plot of murder, and Cain killed his brother Abel.

The Hebrew people (Jews) had a custom of removing all yeast from their homes before Passover. Yeast is the stuff that makes bread rise. The Jews saw yeast during the Passover festival as being evil. So what is the comparison? Yeast is alive, just as sin, especially in the case of Cain’s sin, and it grows to corrupt the whole loaf of bread, or in this case, the whole heart and soul of Cain.

Sin, when undetected and unchecked, grows from something small to corruption of the entire human being— heart, mind and soul. In Cain’s case, that corruption began with jealousy, increased to selfish envy, and to the murder of his brother Abel.

Hate is one of those “small” sins which can lead to murder. When you hate someone, you have already murdered them in your heart. God can see what is in your heart, and He knows exactly what you are thinking and feeling. When you hurt someone, either mentally, by such things as name-calling or physically, you have murdered them in your heart. God knows the intentions of your heart. Have you ever hated someone or intentionally hurt someone? Then you are indeed a murderer. The good news, however, is that God does offer forgiveness. Do not let your anger go unchecked. Do not let your “small” sins go undetected, lest sin take you over and control your whole being.

Dear Lord, I thank You for all of Your many gifts and blessings. I thank You for the gift of life, and for this day which, as are all days, is a gift from You. Forgive me when I sin and murder my neighbor by thought, word, or deed. Help me to love others as You have first loved me. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

CD - The Fourth Commandment - Ephesians 6:2-3

Just as children are a gift from God, as a part of the joy of coming together as a husband and wife, so parents are a gift to children of all ages. Too often we forget, as we grow older, that our parents are still our parents and we are to obey and honor them as well.

And we are also reminded that this commandment does not speak just of parents, but speaks to us of how our Lord rules over us, not directly, but indirectly, through mediators, bosses, employers, teachers, mayors, governors, presidents, and so on. Our Lord gives us these people to rule over us in order to keep law and order, peace and harmony in the land. Even if our leaders are not Christian leaders, and that is a great possibility in the world in which we live, we are to obey and honor them, as long as, and only if, they do not try to tell us to do something which God forbids. Yes, God can and does even use non-Christian leaders to do His will, that is, keep law and order, peace and harmony.

According to this commandment we are not to “despise or anger our parents and other authorities.” Yet, there are the things we get to do. We get to “honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1). We get to be thankful that we have rulers, parents and other authorities, whom the Lord has given to us in order to keep us safe. There are many places, many countries in our world, where there is no stable government, where there is chaos and anarchy, where there is not freedom nor peace.

We live in a world in which the word “obey” has become a negative word. To obey, according to our world, implies weakness. We are told that we are to make our own way, to do our own thing, and really, that we are not responsible for ourselves. We are told that we are merely products of our society, that we are accidents of nature, and that this world and this life is all that we have. It really is a sad and frightening thing to be told that this is all that we have and once it is gone that is all there is. And it is even more frightening to think about the prospect that death brings an end to all. Fortunately for us Christians we know that none of this is true. We are not accidents of nature, we are people planned, created and loved by God. Because we are God’s people we also know that He has a plan for us, that He cares for us and that all that He does He does because of His love for us. Thus, to obey Him is not a burdensome task, nor is it is show of weakness, but it is an opportunity to rejoice in His love for us. Yes, we are responsible for ourselves because God has made us that way.

What do we get to do according to the fourth commandment? We get to live in peace and harmony. We get to have people care about us. We get to show honor, to serve and obey those whom the Lord has given to us to care for us. We get to love and cherish them.

What more wonderful way of praising and thanking our Lord for His gift of peace and good order, parents and care takers than to honor, serve, obey, love and cherish them. In so doing we will indeed be praising the name of the Lord.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I fail to be responsible for myself as well as when I fail to show my love for you by not being obedient, showing honor, serving, loving and cherishing them. Help me in being better at and doing a better job of honoring them, serving and obeying them, and loving and cherishing them. For His sake. Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CD - The Fourth Commandment - John 19:25-27

Parents are not perfect, but they are forgiven. God does not tell us to obey our parents unless they tell us to do something we do not want to do. Nor does He tell us to do everything our parents say even if it is wrong. Of course, this commandment does not speak just of parents. In our society and world today, other people take on that role at times, others such as teachers, baby sitters, grandparents, pastors, etc.

When you get to be twenty-five years old or so, you can look back on your life, and you will see a certain pattern emerge. This pattern is pretty much the same for all people. It goes something like this: From age zero to two, we depend completely on our parents. Sometimes around age two, we learn of our independence and ability to think. Thus, we learn the word “no” (affectionately known as the terrible two's, depending on the raisers). From age two to about twelve, we think our parents know everything, or at least pretty much so. At about age twelve, our parents start getting dumb and begin to know less and less. This trend continues until about the age of twenty-one or so, depending on when you leave home. After you have been away from home for about four years, your parents begin to come out of their educational slump and begin to know more and more. You even find yourself calling and asking for their opinion on different issues and problems. You may even discover that they know the same things that you know.

I know that you will not believe this now, but look back in a few years and see if this is not true. Or ask your parents if this happens. Of course, you probably will not believe them anyway.

Back to the commandment—God does not put any restrictions on this commandment. He simply says to do it. We can compare how we are as good or bad children by comparing ourselves with others our own age. In comparing ourselves to others we can always find some better or worse than we are. We miss the point if we compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus. When we compare ourselves to Jesus we see that we all miss the boat because He was a perfect child. Our Bible reading from John even shows us that during His suffering on the cross He took it upon Himself to care for His mother. Now that is obeying the fourth commandment!

I know we cannot obey this command perfectly, but we can better our record. I know it is easier to help out at someone else’s house, to help others than it is to work at your own home (you will be there eighteen years or so anyway), and act in such a manner.

We often find that it is not easy living in our own homes day after day. Seeing the same people week after week seems to become difficult. I am sure, that if you looked, you could easily find others who have it much worse than you. You can even find others who do not have a home at all.

Try being more thankful for what you have, food, shelter, clothes, etc. Try being thankful that you have parents who care enough to discipline you. Try being thankful and see what happens.

Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of my parents, because without my parents there would not be a me. Forgive me when I disobey, despise, or anger my parents in any way, by thought, word, or deed. Help me be better at honoring them, serving and obeying them, and loving and cherishing them, as Jesus did His parents. For His sake. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CD - The Third Commandment - Acts 17:10-15

The third commandment tells us what we get to do. Who do we get to worship? We get to worship our Lord. Actually, we get to do divine service which means we get to let God give us His gifts and blessings. Worship implies something that we do, and although we do get to do something, we get to come and respond to what the Lord first does for us and gives to us that is we get to praise the Lord. Yet, most of what happens at church is what God does for us. At divine service we are given gifts - faith, forgiveness, life, eternal life, salvation, etc.

Worship, divine service, is the way the Lord grows His church. In the book of Acts Luke tells us that the church grew through people being in the Word. It is the Holy Spirit working through the Word and the Sacraments, the means of grace, that God grows His church. How can that be? The illustration of the cup and pitcher explain it the best. God is like a pitcher, a bottomless, never emptying pitcher. When we come to worship, He fills our cups, our lives, with the spiritual milk from His pitcher. The more we come to the place where He gives His gifts, the Word and Sacraments, the more we are filled until we reach the point that we are overflowing, at which point we spill out His gifts onto others, we share His Word with others.

The Psalmist understood the idea of how important was divine service. He says, “I love the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8). Later he says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). The Psalmist loved going to the Lord’s house, to divine service, because there he knew that he would be given all the Lord’s good gifts and blessings. And he knew that he would be able to sing praises to the Lord for all the benefits he had been given.

Divine service is where we go to be given all God’s good gifts and blessings. Yet, we do not go blindly, deafly, or dumbly to divine service. We go with hearts and minds eager and ready to be given to. We go as the Paul tells us of the Bereans. “They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11b). We go, and we check out what the pastor preaches. Not because we do not trust the pastor, but to help him and to make sure that what he is preaching is the Word of God. We do this with everything we watch, read, and hear. Think about it; there are so many books, movies, radio and television evangelists in our world, and they are all promoting their own brand of God’s Word. We are to use His Word to check to make sure what we watch, hear, and speak is God’s Word, according to His Word. Imagine how much you would grow in your faith if you were like the Bereans.

A good attitude for divine service is one which moves a person to pray before, during and after service. Pray for the pastor that he might rightly divide Law and Gospel and boldly proclaim the true Word of God according to the Bible. Pray that the Lord would stir in the hearts of people so that they will be in worship. Pray that the Lord would send His Holy Spirit into your heart as well as into the hearts of the people who come to worship. Pray that the Lord would open your hearts and minds to hear His Word, so that the Word may take root in your heart and life and spring up and bear abundant fruit. Pray that the worship service might be for the strengthening of God’s people, for the extending of His Kingdom and to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.

Dear Lord, bless our pastor that he might rightly and boldly proclaim Your Word to us. Stir in the hearts of our congregation that we might be in worship, that we might hear the Word and that the Word might take root in our hearts and lives so that we will bear abundant fruit. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CD - The Third Commandment - Acts 2:42

The word “Sabbath” is a Hebrew word literally meaning rest. We of the New Covenant no longer worship (rest) on Saturday (although many churches now offer Saturday evening services for the convenience of their members who cannot worship on Sunday because of work or some other reason). That does not mean we do not obey the Third Commandment. Today, we worship on Sunday because that is the day Jesus rose from the dead. Each and every Sunday, then, is an Easter celebration for us.

Many people today question this practice however. They say that going to church and/or Sunday School (Bible class, or whatever you wish to call it) is not that important. Other excuses range from, I get my spirituality (whatever that may be) from just talking about God, or I can listen to the preaching on the radio or television or by being outside (in nature).

I can see several reasons, though, why we should attend divine service (church) regularly, every Sunday if possible. The simplest and most direct reason is because God commands us to attend worship and give Him praise, honor, and respect. After all, our faith is seen in our actions; therefore, if we truly believe, our natural response will be to attend worship regularly.

A second reason is for good Christian fellowship. The best way I can explain this concept is by an illustration. When you barbecue, or grill meat, you normally use some sort of charcoal. What happens when you take one of those pieces of burning charcoal away from the fire and set it by itself? It goes out. So, too, with our Christian faith; without the burning warmth of Christian fellowship, we, too, would soon burn out.

In order to stay in shape, in good physical condition, one must work out on a regular basis. In order to perform musically or use any other gift or talent, one must practice on a regular basis. So, too, with our Christian faith, we must regularly attend worship and Bible Study to maintain and strengthen our faith. A faith that is not growing is also not idling, but it is weakening.

Of course, God is everywhere, not just in church. You can, indeed, practice your faith at home, but the church is the place designed for corporate worship. It is like going to the gymnasium, or practice hall or field instead of practicing alone at home.

There is also the argument that, “I never get anything out of going to church. I do not like to sing, and do not do so very well. And I do not like the pastor’s preaching, that is, when I understand it.” As the saying goes, “any excuse is a good excuse.” However, more true in this case would be, “any excuse is a bad excuse.” At any rate, these people miss the whole point. If you do not put anything into your worship, why should you expect to get anything out of it. (Sort of like, “no pain, no gain?”) Worship is active. Liturgy means work, literally. The pastor delivers the Word of God and His body and blood in His Holy Supper. The choir sings the Word of God. We are there to be given to and to respond to the gifts God has to give. God is the One doing the doing, doing the giving.

This Sunday, try thinking about the words you are saying and singing. What do the words of the song you are singing mean? Try to pick out the Law (what we have done wrong) and the Gospel (salvation by grace through faith) in the pastor’s sermon. Take notes, and ask the pastor about ideas you do not understand. Jesus died and rose for us; are we given His forgiveness or do we refuse?

Dear Lord, thank You for Your many gifts and blessings, especially for the freedom to worship when and where I want. Forgive me when I have failed to worship You. Be with me, fill me with Your Holy Spirit, especially when I am in worship, so that Your Word may take root in my heart, spring up, and bear abundant fruit. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

CD - The Second Commandment - Psalm 50:1-15

The Second Commandment reminds us of what we are not to do. We are not to misuse the Lord’s name. Some people take that a little too far and will not even say God’s name. We have an example of that in the Bible. God’s name is Yahweh. Because the early followers of Yahweh did not want to break this commandment they would not say Yahweh. Instead they would say the word for Lord, adoni. You can see how this has made its way into our Bibles today. In our Bible we have the word “lord” in all capital letters, “Lord,” “lord” with the first letter as a capital, “Lord,” and “lord” in all small letters, “lord.” The general word for “lord” is a person as the lord of his house. “Lord” is a word of title such as Lord Gregory. Lord is the word used for God’s name, Yahweh. Thus, whenever you see the word Lord in all capital letters in the Bible, you can read it as God’s name, Yahweh.

The Second Commandment also reminds us of what are to do, what we get to do. We get to use the Lord’s name in good ways. In Psalm 50 David tells us that we get to “Call upon [the Lord] in the day of trouble, [He] will deliver you, and you shall glorify [Him]” (Psalm 50:15). Psalm 103 reminds us that we can praise the Lord, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name” (Psalm 103:1). Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “Give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

We talk a lot about the things that the commandments tell us we are not to do. We do not talk enough about the things the commandments tell us we get to do. The Second Commandment tells us we get to call on the name of the Lord. We get to call upon Him in times of trouble. We get to call to call upon Him when we need help, when we need someone to talk to, when we need anything. We get to call upon Him, and we will know He hears us and will answer us.

We get to call upon the Lord in times of trouble, but we also get to call upon Him and give Him praise and thanks for all His good gifts and blessings to us. The thing we need to remember about calling upon Him to give Him thanks and praise is that this is something which we cannot do on our own. We cannot on our own do anything that is even remotely good. We call upon Him and give Him thanks and praise only because the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to do so. Thus, we see that all praise and glory, all credit for anything good in life goes to the Lord.

Sometime, sometime soon, pray to the Lord and instead of asking Him for something, instead of going to Him for something you think you need, take the time to just give Him thanks and praise. Rejoice in all His good gifts and blessings. Thank Him for faith which He put into your heart. Thank Him for the forgiveness of sins made yours by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Thank Him that heaven is yours now, that it is a present reality.

Praise the Lord as we do in the Post-Communion Canticle, based on 1 Chronicles 16:8ff, “Thank the Lord and sing his praise; tell ev’ryone what He has done. Let all who seek the Lord rejoice and proudly bear His name. He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Dear Jesus, forgive me when I misuse Your name. Forgive me also for not using Your name, for not calling on You and for not giving You the praise and glory which are rightfully Yours. Stir in me a thankful heart, one which is ready to give thanks more than to continue to ask for things. For Jesus’ sake I pray. Amen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CD - The Second Commandment - James 3:8-10

Gosh, golly, gee whiz, jeez, OMG. These are phrases we hear all the time and oftentimes think nothing of them. We also hear worse profanity and cursing; sometimes we are offended, but other times we do not even notice. It is unfortunate that this misuse of God’s name is so prevalent. I can see Satan grin every time someone unthinkingly misuses our Lord’s name.

James talks about how powerful is the tongue. Although it is one of the smallest organs, it can either build or destroy. I cringe in pain each time I see someone hurt because of an unchecked tongue. How many lives I have seen virtually destroyed because these people were told how useless they were. When that is the message they hear over and over, they begin to believe it. I recall the very first class I taught. I was told over and over that I had the bad class, the worst class in the school. I still recall the first day of class; several of the students themselves told me they were the “bad” class. It took many hours of reeducating those youngsters that they were not bad, that they were loved no matter what they did, but that their behavior was not always what it should be. I can still recall one of the kids asking, “How can you love us when we are so bad?” It is simple: Jesus loves you, so how can I do any less?

The tongue can indeed destroy, but it can also be a very powerful, positive, motivating source. I have always been taught that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In other words, you can get more out of people by positive praise and encouragement than by telling them that they are bad. I do not mean that we lie, or over-do praise, but we do use praise, and we do help people see they are valuable and have worth.

Our value and worth come not from ourselves, but from the fact that God loved us so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to live, suffer, die, and rise for our salvation. If God loved us that much, who are we to love each other any differently, or any less.

There are indeed other misuses of God’s name as Luther mentions in the Small Catechism, namely in fortune-telling, witchcraft, satanic arts, lying and deceiving, etc. There are numerous right uses also, such as praying, praising, giving thanks and calling on Jesus when we are in trouble.

As the saying goes, next time we open our mouth, we should first engage our minds. Try, with the help of the Holy Spirit, using your tongue to praise someone, to thank someone, or simply to acknowledge someone’s input or presence. Proverbs 15:1 says it best, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” You will be amazed at what your tongue can do. To God alone be the glory.

Dear Jesus, forgive me when I have called someone a name, or hurt them by what I have said. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Help me to learn to stop and think before I speak. Help me to learn to speak positive, encouraging things to others. Help me to build others up rather than tearing them down. For Jesus’ sake I pray. Amen.

CD - The First Commandment - Proverbs 3:5

The first commandment tells us, in no uncertain terms, that we are to worship one God. We are not to have or worship anyone or anything else above the one true God. One question and one observation come about: The first is the question, how do we know we are worshiping the one true God? The answer to that question I believe we covered under the topic “A Straw House.”

When someone else speaks about God, how then do we know if they are speaking about the same God as we? In other words, when the Buddhist speaks about god, is he speaking about the same God about whom we are speaking? How do we know? I believe there are clues that others give as well as clues we give others. When we speak about God, do we speak about Him in generic terms, God, Lord, Holy One, and so on, or do we use specific terms? The clues we give as well as the clues others give are such things as speaking about God as a triune God, as Jesus, true God and true man and so on. When a person denies that Christ is God, they are speaking of a different god than we. When a person speaks about god as being only just or only loving, they are speaking of a different god than we. As Christians, we would do well to make our conversations and our language reflect what we believe about God. In other words, we would do well to speak about Jesus, as God’s Son, as a human being, as our Savior, as the one who delivers forgiveness, as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and so on. In our speaking we give evidence of our faith in the one true God.

The second observation that I would like to make is that we often talk about what we do not get to do according to the commandments, but we do not spend a lot of time talking about what we get to do. So I would like to take some time to remind you of what we get to do.

We have a God who loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us, that He want us to come to Him and pray to Him. We have a God who is the Creator of all and has given us His Holy Word in which He tells us all that we need for salvation. He has created us, giving us life. He has given us His Son through whom He has given us forgiveness and eternal life. He has given us His Holy Spirit through whom He has given us faith and strengthening of faith. He has given us Himself, and He gives us the joy of praying and worshiping Him.

Maybe you never thought of it that way, but our Lord does give to us the joy to respond to all that He gives to us. God does not need anything from us, as if we would have something of value to give to Him; yet, He does allow us to come to Him to give Him thanks and praise, to worship Him for all that He has done for us. And we do it, not because we are able to on our own, but because He moves in us through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we do say, to God be the glory.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I think that I am doing You a favor by coming and worshiping You and giving You some of what You have first given to me. Thank You that You have graciously given me the ability to respond to all Your good gifts and blessings. Thank You that You have given me faith, forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus. Forgive my doubt and strengthen my faith. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

CD - The First Commandment - Matthew 19:16-24

The world (nature), our conscience, and the Bible tell us there is a God. It is my belief that everyone on earth knows there is a God. I believe that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in a God. However, although everyone knows (head knowledge) there is a god, not everyone knows Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior.

The world, or nature, shows us there is a God. The argument I always use is this: Is it easier to believe that, say your washing machine evolved, and all the parts came together by chance over millions of years, or that someone designed it and someone built it? In the same way is it easier that this even more complex world evolved by mere chance or that there was a master designer, namely God, behind it all? Adding to that, according to evolution the process of things getting better; whereas, in reality, our world is running down, getting worse. We get older and die, the earth is wearing out, the sun is burning out, etc.

Our conscience tells us when we do wrong. We have a built-in guilt sensor. Of course, this sensor can be abused and killed off, but, for the most part, it works to guide us to do right and avoid wrong.

The Bible definitely tells us of God and Christ Jesus, but not everyone has a Bible you say, or access to one in their language. That is correct, but most cultures do have stories of such Biblical events as the great flood and creation.

We may not openly worship idols in our society today, but too often people get so wrapped up and comfortable in our world that they lose eternal sight. The story of the rich man in Luke (12:13-21) is a good example of how we get so caught up in the here and now that we forget about the hereafter. To put it another way, we become like the Egyptians of whom the ten plagues attacked ten of their gods. That is, we worship not the Creator as we should; instead we worship the creation. Money, pleasure, comfort, social status, power, lust, greed—all these things have become our god, our idol. Yes, we become idolaters, worshiping God’s creation instead of God the Father, the Creator Himself.

The next step in this parade is self- or work-righteousness. To appease our conscience, we give to charity and act like good people. We try to be our own god. We become such a part of this world, seeing that everything has a price with strings attached, that we cannot believe or accept the free gift of eternal life in heaven given us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

What are your priorities? Where is the main focus of your life? Whatever you put first in your life is truly your God. I pray that Jesus Christ does indeed have first place in your life. You have first place in His.

Dear Lord, forgive me when I worship Your creation and forget to worship You. Forgive me when I get too wrapped up in things and forget people. Thank You that You have graciously chosen me to be Your child. Thank You that You have given me faith, forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus. Forgive my doubt and strengthen my faith. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

CD - The Ten Commandment (an Introduction) - Matthew 22:37-40; 7:12

“Thou shalt not do this,” “thou shalt not do that,” etc. These “do’s” and “don’ts” are usually what we think of when we think of the Ten Commandments. With that in mind, I know you will be shocked when I tell you that love is the summary of the commandments. Let us go back a little to understand.

The Old Testament, the first half of the Bible, can be better understood if we talk about it in terms of a covenant, or agreement, hence; God gave the Ten Commandments as we know them today, as part of a covenant with His people. God also gave many ceremonial or ritual laws for the children of Israel at that time, all meant to help them in their worship and to help them get along better with one another—all of which are part of a covenant. At any rate, when Jesus came, He fulfilled, or lived according to all the old laws. He did what generations of the Israelites were not able to do, which is why He did it, and He did it perfectly. He did it in our stead, so that we do not have to (Matt. 4:48). After His death and resurrection, He established the New Testament, or new covenant (agreement) which we usually associate with the second half of the Bible.

In the new agreement, Jesus summed up the first three commandments, which talk about how we are to be in relationship to God, as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Mark 12:30). He then summed up commandments four through ten, which talk about how we are to treat each other, as “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). In both instances, we see the key word love. If you think about it, it is logical. If you love God more than anyone or anything, He will be first in your heart, soul, and mind. If you love your neighbor as you love yourself, you will not steal, covet, hurt, harm, commit adultery, etc. In fact, you will want to help and befriend your neighbor.

We all know the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). When Jesus said these words He was speaking in a very positive sense. He did not say as we do today, “if others do not bother me, I will not bother them,” or “I will do to them as they do to me.” He said for us to do it first, as you would like someone to do to you, but He did say not to expect anything in return. This practice is a display of love.

Back to love as the summary of the commandments. God had so much love for us that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to live, suffer, die and rise for our salvation. That is true love, and that is the kind of love we ought to have for one another; that is, a selfless concern. If we can practice that kind of love (the Greeks call it agape), then love is the summary of the commandments, and we will be able to keep them.

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me when I put someone or something in first place in my life, ahead of You. Forgive me when I forget to love my neighbor as myself. Thank You that You loved me so much that You lived, suffered, died and rose for me. Help me to do to others as You have done for me. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.