Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 “I have been the LORD your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. 5 I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. 6 But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me. Hosea 13:4-6 (NLT)
Being wise with someone else’s head … is, to be sure, inferior to being wise oneself, but it is infinitely superior to the sterile pride of one who does not achieve the independence of being wise himself, yet at the same time despises the dependence of one who believes on the word of another.” The same line of thought can be detected in Newman’s own comment on man’s basic relationship to truth. Men are all too inclined—the great philosopher of religion opines—to wait placidly for proofs of the reality of revelation, to seek them out as if they were in the position of judge, not suppliant. “They have decided to put the Almighty to the proof—with controlled passion, a total freedom from bias, and a clear head.” But the individual who thus makes himself lord of the truth deceives himself, for truth shuns the arrogant and reveals itself only to those who approach it in an attitude of reverence, of respectful humility. (1)
When we read something brilliant, and quickly begin to use ti to judge and condemn others, I pray we begin to first use the same standard to judge ourselves.
As I read Pope Benedict’s words this morning, (those are the ones in green) I immediately thought of those who dismiss scripture. Some of those are outside the church, who look at stories of miracles and cannot believe them. Others are those inside the church who examine scripture with a scientific mindset, looking to judge whether this passage is valid, or that passage is not really accurate historically. `Both place themselves as the final judge and jury over the word of God.
But that is a temptation for every person, conservative or liberal, confessional or missional. We see it when we apply the text to others, and not to ourselves. We see it when we treat the scriptures from a perspective that is academic, as if it is the greatest theological treatise. When we want to create a system out of the scriptures and use it to put God in a box.
I see this in myself all too often, as I approach the incredible wealth of the scriptures, mining it, being in awe of the words, and forgetting their purpose, that they are the means, not the end. For it is easy to focus on the study and not the prayer and times of intimacy with God that reflecting on them should create. We can, in the name of God, studying His word, become proud, and forget Him, even as we study His revelation to us.
It is when we forget that He is revealed, His love, His mercy, His desire for us to be His people that we end up being proud, that we see ourselves as the authority, not the supplicant.
Luther catches us when we get to this point and reminds us of what it means for God to be God. He tells us we can creep and cling to God, that we can approach Him in the sure knowledge of the hope He has given us, that He will respond, that He will love and cleanse, that He will heal us.
That’s the ends, for us to realize that He is our God, that we are His people. In Him we find rest, and that is what the scriptures are there to teach us, to reveal to us, to assure us of. That is what the covenants describe, it is what Law and Gospel drive us to, it is the reason for the cross. There is no other end of the discussion that is valid. For here is our hope:
We are His people. HE is our God. And as scripture tells us,
“But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. “ John 20:31 (NLT)
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 166–167). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Part First: The Ten Commandments”.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)
9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)
This desire of Jesus has permeated his whole life up to this very hour when the desire of the bridegroom at last approaches the hour of its fulfillment, the hour in which the words and the waiting will be succeeded by the full reality of love. And in the background of this human waiting of Jesus that looks forward to this very hour in which he will make the supreme sacrifice and can become ultimately ours, there is present, too, the eternal desire of God, which also awaits this hour, because God longs to give himself. But what response does this longing on the part of God encounter? How much indifference! How much inner emptiness and disregard! And what about ourselves? Do we really approach this center of the universe with eagerness? Or do we not sometimes flatter ourselves that we are doing God and the Church a favor by spending an hour there with him. (1)
These two words, jealousy and passion, make most men uncomfortable. There is something about them that make us think the person who is jealous, who is passionate about something lacks control, lacks wisdom, lacks logic.
So to hear these words used about God?
It seems unreasonable. It almost seems blasphemous to describe God as a jealous God, one who in His rage would destroy those who would get between those whom he desires. When you read the first passage above from Exodus, it seems strongly worded, but then look at others, Deut. 4:24, Deut 6:15, Nahum 1:2, and you get a picture of God that seems too intense, to desperate, to out of control.
Does God really desire a relationship with someone else so much that he would become angry and full of wrath when that relationship doesn’t come to be? Would God have a “melt down” to that extreme?
It doesn’t seem like the God we hear about today, the one that is represented in logical presentations, and case studies which detail the perfection of God. In churches that focus on holiness, the concept of being holy as God is holy is more about precision behaviors meeting a standard, a standard usually set by someone other than God.
But holiness is about being separated out, being chosen, being drawn into a relationship where God desires, even jealously desires the one He loves. This holiness is seen in a relationship where God longs for the company of the beloved. It is seen in the picture of the beloved in the Song of Solomon, or the prodigal’s father running to see his son returned. It’s the God who was waiting for the cross, and the grave, for the joy set before Him.
This is Holiness. God setting Himself up to dance and rejoice with the one He loves, as Isaiah pictures it so beautifully
That is why it seems so lame to trust in something other than God, to entrust ourselves and depend upon something we did or made. The more we understand God’s desire, His jealousy, His passion for us, the more we desire to spend time with others sharing in that love, adoring the one who loves us.
My prayer for you today is the same that Paul prayed for the church when he said,
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
May you indeed know that love so far beyond our comprehension. AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 115–116). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Treasuring God’s Gifts:
You’ve Been Raised to New Life! So Set Your Eyes on God Alone
Exodus 6:1-6, Col. 3:1-4
In Jesus Name
As we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, because we know of the Grace of God our Father, may we realize it is our resurrection as well, and knowing that, may we live life focused on Him.
Jesus is the Way….
One of the things I am in awe of, is the way in which Jesus deals with those who doubt, especially those who are bluntly, like the Apostle Thomas. With one exception, Thomas is always pictured as the one who doubts, the one who struggles with his faith in God.
Each time we see Thomas struggling, Jesus turns it into a moment to minister to Thomas, to strengthen Thomas, to build his confidence that God is at work. Because the gospels record the words of some of these circumstances, Jesus ministers to us as well. One of those stories is seen in John’s gospel, chapter 14.
Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:5-6 (NLT)
We talk about those words a lot, or at least we quote them, usually in regards to conversations about providing that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Or that it is “His way or the Highway”. Today though, we are going, in view of His death and resurrection, we are going to see that this is literally true, and not just figuratively….
That Paul’s words to the church in Colossians, and the words recorded by Moses in Exodus, are talking about this very thing.
That because Jesus is the way, because we’ve been raised to new life in Him
The Decalog –
The LAW I’ve Rescued you, I am God – No other God’s
We’ve been travelling through the decalog, through what we commonly call the Ten Commandments since Ash Wednesday. As we’ve gone through each, we’ve realize that God didn’t give the commandments to restrict our lives, but to show us how we live life in Him, a life God considers and makes a masterpiece.
We finally get to the beginning, to the core of the message, to the one that resonates with the fact that jesus is “the Way.” The first word that we usually hear as, “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
We always hear it with a deep rumbly voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones, or maybe Darth Vader, going onto describe all the ways in which we create false gods, all the ways we create idols, and worship the things which we create.
Luther was correct in talking about the close connection between worshipping these idols, these false gods, and our putting our trust in them. For surely he points out – that is what an idol is, what we primarily trust with our lives. We put our trust in all sorts of things to bless us, to bring us peace, to protect us, to prosper us.
An idol is what we run to first in times of trial, it is where we find the support we need to keep on going, that which is bigger than us, even if we have to lie to self and say we can do it on our own.
We may not make our idols out of wood or clay or stone any longer, but that doesn’t make them any more reliable. The are the things that run our lives, that we give power over us, that convince us that we will make it, that we shall survive this and that we might even prosper
Money can be our God, or some possession. Perhaps a relationship, or even a vision of what our life should be like and what it takes to serve that vision. Paul touches on it, when he tells the church folk in Colossae to set their sight on Heaven, on God’s reality. For idols grab out attention, they put a lockdown, a stranglehold on our hearts and minds. These things cause envy, they division, they cause pain and unfaithfulness, they wreck out relationships, they cause us to distrust and dishonor authorities, they rob us of rest, and distract us on calling God for help.
Idolatry, having these other gods, including the god of self, lies at the heart of every other sin we have to deal with in our lives. Idols can obscure and attempt to destroy the masterpiece God has planned for our lives.
You don’t need any other God: I AM HE
No wonder he says, “Have no other gods,”
He doesn’t want us damaged by them, when they prove to be not our creator, but our creations. God wants more than just well-behaved people who hide their brokenness. He wants His kids, even if that means cleaning up their mess at the cost of Jesus.
Remember when I said the commandment was far more than just the “Have no other gods?”
The first word, the first “commandment” starts with the bold text in verse 2 of Exodus 20.
2 I am GOD, your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery. 3 No other gods, only me.
Eqypt, the land of 1000 gods, the land where even the King, the Pharoah was considered a god. We’d never do that, would we? Egypt, the land of idols, and idolatry.
The land of sin.
What is your Egypt? What is the earthly place where sin rules, where temptation gets you, where life isn’t truly living, because you live in captivity. What is it that in dieing and rising Jesus you’ve been rescued from?
He has rescued us, it has happened, He has sent Jesus to die, not just to pay for the sins which divide us from Him, but because as we are united to Him, in His death and resurrection, we are united to God and brought into the presence of God.
That is why Paul tells us we are hidden with Jesus Christ and therefore in God. I love the Greek there – the word hidden is the word we get encrypted, We are guarded protected, and even all of the hackers in the world can’t corrupt what God’s given us.
That is why we set our eyes on heavenly things – because that is where we are in Christ – that is where life is, where reality is. We are the children of God, raised with Christ Jesus, just as our sin was put to death with Him at the cross. We trust Him at His promise, we know that what we deal with here is simply temporary, but reality is lived united to Christ. Saved from the idols, sure, but raised to live in the presence of God Almighty
We have no other go because we don’t need one… we have the God who came to us, made himself known to us.
You, revealed with Hm in Glory!
Because of the cross and resurrection
Jesus is not just a way, He didn’t set us on the way, but He is the way we get to the Father. We get to the Father because we are united to Him, and travel with Him through His death and resurrection. in Him we encounter the holiness of God, the glory of God.
That is why this day, as we celebrate the fact that God has raised Jesus is so critical. In Him we died to sin, in Him we have been raised to life. The resurrection is more than just history, because we find life in Christ. United to Him we are brought to the Father… where we are revealed to be the very children of God…where we find ourselves being healed of our brokenness.
That’s the promise of our lives, it has been since our baptism.
He is our way, our truth and our life…. And because of that, Paul can tell us
4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.Colossians 3:4 (NLT)
All His glory, revealed as the place where we shall be, for this is what we’ve been promised, it is why we are hidden and protected, encrypted in Christ.
So look to Him, keep focused on God, know Him, trust these promise of God. For there is His indescribable glory, we find His indescribable peace, a peace that keeps us there… for we are encrypted, hidden in Christ.
For Alleluia, He is risen
And therefore….we are risen indeed!
Treasuring God’s Gifts
Means We Help Others See God’s Blessings
Exodus 20:15, Eph. 2:10, Luke 10:25-28
† IHS †
As we experience the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, may we grow in appreciating how He has gifted us all, and grow in stewardship of all of His blessings!
The Expert’s question
I would have loved, in preparing for this sermon, to walk around a bunch of churches on a Sunday, with a television camera and ask people the question the lawyer poses to Jesus.
Sort of like the street interviews, Jay Leno does. He goes onto the street and he asks people what seems to be the simplest of questions, and their answers are… well there is a reason that they end up on late night television. Thinking about last week’s message about not damaging people’s reputations, and about putting the best construction on everything, let’s just say they weren’t ready to be on camera with a legend. They were so overwhelmed, that they did not think clearly.
The young expert in religious law asks Jesus a simple question, “what must I do to inherit enteral life.” Curious to know what so many would say these days, simply because people aren’t all that sure.
Jesus puts the question back to him, and the young man answers very wisely.
Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.
Not rocket science, this young man gets the answer right. He sums up the entire decalog, the 10 commandments, very simply.
Love God completely, love my neighbor the same way I love myself.
Give the man credit, he knows what it takes, but the very next phrase he will ask what this love looks like, when he asks,
Who is neighbor? And what does this love look like?
In these days of lent, as we go backwards through the ten commandments, we see the same commands, the same structure. We are looking at it differently, in view of the very first words, I am your God, who rescued you…. Therefore… from your neighbor, tonight’s phrase,
You shall not steal!
Do this, Jesus says, and you shall live!
We might think it’s easy, but is it?
What it means to “not steal” in Luther’s view
Luther didn’t think so, for stealing can be done both actively, and passively. Here how he explained it:
We must fear and love God, so that we will neither take our neighbor’s money or property, nor acquire it by fraud or by selling him poorly made products, but will help him improve and protect his property and career.
Wait this makes it sound like we are supposed to be our brother’s, (or sister’s) keeper. The truth of the matter is, we aren’t and yet we are.
If we define being our brother or sister’s keeper as we have the authority to boss them around, to condemn their works, to rule over them with an iron fist, we do not. If we think that being their keeper means we get some material benefit from them, no, we do not.
Being our brother’s keeper means we have responsibility, responsibility to help them, even as we would need help. Helping them to know God’s love, helping them to see what God has blessed them with, and helping them to enjoy it, even at our own cost. Helping them to see that God is the source of every blessing they have, material, physical, spiritual.
Helping them not waste what God has blessed them with, when we are able.
How it reveals our trust in God
We continue to see that this life that God has designed, that He has called us to live, that He has described in the Ten Commandments, is one that is impossible on our own. Without God, we revert back into self-preservation, and eventually into self-centeredness.
It takes faith, confidence in the very wisdom of God, and in His love for all of us, to find the love we need to share with others. To realize that God’s plan, that how he provides for each and every one of us.
To trust in His love, in His wisdom.
That kind of trust is a challenge! We have realize it was the same wisdom that drove Christ to the cross, That He loved us, more than He loved His own life. That is why we trust!
Jesus, the Lord who saw us tossing away our greatest blessing, and did what it took to help us value it, to help us keep it.
The blessing of being the Father’s great masterpiece. He not only kept us from letting something go to waste, He rescued God’s great work…saving what the Father cherishes.
Us. The people of God, His very children.
Nothing can steal us from God, because of Jesus. Nothing can separate us from Him, because of Jesus. Because of His love for the Father, because of His love for us. Jesus showed that love to the Father, while showing it to us. Both summaries of the law, fulfilled.
The more we see this, the more we understanding the depth of His love, the more we can’t stand to see others waste the blessings God has given to them. Whether or not they realize that God has given them this blessing, whether they even realize that God exists.
That’s the nature of God’s love, the deeper we explore it, the more we are immersed in it, that we appreciate and are in awe of all He does.
The more we want others to see all the blessings He pours out on them, and thereby see the depth of His love even more clearly.
In seeing it, they know the peace we’ve come to know, the peace that living in God’s peace brings. AMEN?
Devotional/Discussion of the Day
6 I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. 9 Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. 10 But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. 11 No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. 12 No working on the Sabbath; keep it holy just as GOD, your God, commanded you. 13 Work six days, doing everything you have to do, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath, a Rest Day—no work: not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, your ox, your donkey (or any of your animals), and not even the foreigner visiting your town. That way your servants and maids will get the same rest as you. 15 Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and GOD, your God, got you out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why GOD, your God, commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest. 16 Respect your father and mother—GOD, your God, commands it! You’ll have a long life; the land that God is giving you will treat you well. 17 No murder. 18 No adultery. 19 No stealing. 20 No lies about your neighbor. 21 No coveting your neighbor’s wife. And no lusting for his house, field, servant, maid, ox, or donkey either—nothing that belongs to your neighbor! Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (MSG)
We often talk of the above list as the Ten Commandments, (although I prefer to refer to them as how God has commissioned our lives – but that’s another blog entry) Violating these guidelines, whether intentionally or without conscious desire or knowledge is what we theologically call sin. Sin simply is living outside the way God would desire us to live, based on His wisdom, based on His love, His wisdom, His desire for our best.
I wrote as the title of this blog, that I love to deal with sin. I have had to deal with people who struggled with every one of the sins in the last two months, maybe even in the last few days… no definitely in the last 48 hours. And I love to deal with sin.
And I don’t like to not deal with it.
Let me unpack that. People like to deal with sin in the same ways they cope with trauma – or death. We go through the same kinds of phases.
We deny it is sin – it doesn’t matter whether it is missing church or Bible study, or engaging in sin that is outside the bonds of marriage.
We bargain – I won’t commit that other sin, if you God overlook that other sin…
We get depressed – as we realize that on our own, we are weak and helpless to overcome temptation
We get angry – often very angry as we crucify ourselves- or worse- those who try to help us through it – even though that means they have to make the mistake of pointing out the sin.
Or we accept that we are sinners – and just keep on… well sinning.
And in everyone of those phases – we don’t deal with sin at all. We smother it, we cover it, we celebrate it, but the very last thing we could possibly do – is deal with it. And if we fail to deal with it, we find ourselves in the place St. John talked about.
10 If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.
There is a way to deal with it – a very simple, powerful, wonderful, mindblowing way to deal with the sin…. it comes from the very same place as the quote a moment ago.
8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-10 (MSG)
That’s how we deal with it – a simple confession, a simple proclamation of forgiveness – and it’s done.
It could look something like this,
Pastor, please hear my confession and pronounce God’s forgiveness in order to fulfill God’s will.
I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. My Lord’s name I have not honored as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed. There are those whom I have hurt, and those whom I have failed to help. My thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.
What troubles me particularly is that . . .
The penitent confesses whatever he has done against the commandments of God, according to his place in life. The he concludes by saying:
I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.
God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith.
Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?
Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive You all your sins in the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dealt with.. Done.
Sin is simple to deal with, so let’s deal with it... knowing the Lord has had mercy on us.
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!
It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.
Some focus on the going..
Some focus on the making of disciples…
Some focus on what it means to baptize,
Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”
Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…
Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….
In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” . Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us. So it bears a look into it.
First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”. It is far more than simply obedience. And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical. Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed. So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure. You can obey someone – without treasuring them…
That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do. We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have! This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.
So what is the treasure? What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?
Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.
I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture. It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”
Look to Creation…
He spoke the word, and there came into existence..
Look to our Re-creation…
The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..
the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…
Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life with Him. Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….
Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.
That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….