Saturday, December 31, 2011

The LORD Is With You

Deuteronomy 33

The final blessings of Moses before he dies...

Can you imagine... Just imagine the vast army of heavenly host marching at the heels of the Israelites from Sinai through the desert to the promised land those 40 years. Imagine it! Believe it! The Lord of Hosts was with them as were all His heavenly hosts.

Were they aware that they were not alone? Are you?

The LORD is with you... Even to the end of the ag!e

Friday, December 30, 2011

Listen To Him and Live

Deuteronomy 32

The words of Moses` song given that the people might remember what God had done for them; that it may be well with them and that they would live long in the land that they are entering.

Moses will not enter the promised land. The rest of children of Israel will, but not Moses, nor will Aaron enter the promised land as they had broken faith with the Lord in the wilderness of Zin. Aaron has already gone to be with his kin. And... Now it's time for Moses to join Aaron in death. But, as to the rest... They live... We live... What kind of life will we live?

It's about 24 degrees F outside this morning. The ground here is blanketed in crisp white. I went for a short walk when I woke up, hoping to do something to change my morning rituals to something that might be a bit healthier that I might live a bit longer in the land the Lord has given me. There wasn't anything moving out there. I saw some deer and snowshoe rabbit tracks. But, nothing moving - not even birds nor coyotes or wolves either, which I thought was a positive thing for an early morning stroll alone in the wilderness.

The LORD has given us His Word - a Word to live life abundantly by in the land that He has given us.

Listen to Him and live!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Trouble will befall

Deuteronomy 31

"For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly... In time trouble will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD,..." (vs 29 NRSV)

Moses is 120 years old. His days are about over. He knows that it won't be long after he`s gone that the Israelites will begin worshipping other gods. He reminds them of God's commands. He reminds them to read them to their children every 7 years so that all will be well with them in the land that the LORD has given them.

Like any good parent (or Pastor) we worry about what will happen when we are not around to remind those we care about what is required to choose and live life abundantly. How soon after we are gone will they forget the blessings that they have received and go chasing after things (gods) that will bring them nothing but pain and sorrow, nothing but curses. And so... While we are still with you we are reminders to you to follow in the way that you should go - the way that will be for you life.

May God bless you with long and fruitful lives.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Choose Life


Choose life... Love the Lord, walk in His ways, (vs 15) You ask, how can we know the way?

Jesus said to Thomas: "I aam the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NRSV)

Choose life!

Working on ee Pad this morning :-( with no wifi- will get it figured out sometime today
Will be short though.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do the words of this law...

Deuteronomy 29

Those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law....  (vs 29)

Most of us really do know what is good for us.  We know what we should be doing, where we should be, and even might have a good idea of where we are going.  These things are written on our hearts.

The Lord, according to today's reading, has revealed to us the words of the law so that we might do them.  But, who can do them?  We all fall short.  The letter of the law will condemn us everytime.  We have a much better chance of changing things in our lives if we go with the spirit of the law. 

Jauary 1, 2012 is just a few days away.  As they reflect on their past and look to the future many people will resolve to make changes to their lives for a better, healthier, happier future.  But, as soon as we commit to something, as soon as we attempt to follow the law as we have decided it to be for ourselves, we will begin to backslide.  As soon as the line is drawn in the sand we will want to cross it.  The letter of the law always condemns.  But, the Spirit of the risen Christ will save us - even from ourselves.

Hopefully, this is not one of those blogs that is really confusing...  as it is a confusing morning for me.  I am on vacation and taking the time to work on a resolution or two.  Figured waiting till New Year's Day was just an excuse not to start today...  But, old habits die hard... they are fighting to survive :)       

Monday, December 26, 2011

Trembling Hearts & Languishing Spirits

Deuteronomy 28

Deuteronomy 28 gives us more blessings and curses.  Blessings to those who follow the will of the LORD, curses for those who do not.  The curses seem to go on forever.  God's children who do not follow, will be removed from the promised land and scattered among people who do not believe, scattered among people who serve other gods and they will be led to serve them as well.  There will be no resting place for those who fall away.  They will have trembling hearts and a languishing spirit. 

I remember a young woman who came to me years ago and wanted to know more about this Jesus.  She and I had met at various funerals.  She remarked on the peace and even joy that Christians around her had as we commended our loved ones into the hands of God.  She wanted to know that peace that she saw in so many Christians even in the time of great trouble, great sorrow or mourning.  It is not that we do not grieve; for we surely do.  But, in the midst of the most troubling times, those who trust in the LORD are confident of His love for us.  We know that His promises not only will be fulfilled, but already have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  As one who follows Christ encounters sorrow and suffering, the trembling all but disappears.  We do not have to fear anything, not even death, for Christ is our LORD and King and is with us on every step of our journeys through life and death. 

As I look back on my own life, I am grateful that Jesus Christ blesses us with peace of heart and mind - with His peace.  There were so many times as a young adult when my life was so full of anxiousness, wondering how to handle situations, wondering how best to face the future.  Sadly some of those decisions regarding my future included having to make decisions to stay on the path that the LORD had set before me and that meant as others followed paths of other gods, I would not be seeing much of them, any longer.  We, as Christians, are sometimes accused of not being very inclusive.   But, what I have experienced was the exact opposite.  I found that there are many who are not Christian, who say they welcome all people, only welcome you if you will join them in following their personal false gods.  I am happy to walk with anyone and everyone, but do not insist that I worship your false gods.  For the sake of peace between us, do not keep throwing them in my face.  I will not worship them.  That I could not and cannot do.  So many anxious times in my youth... many of them had to do with the struggle to stay on the path that was laid before me.  But, today I remember what God has brought me through and I thank Him for I know that He will be with me all the days of my life and I will dwell in His presence, in the house of the LORD forever.   

At the risk of sounding like a decision theologian I remind you...  "Choose ye this day, whom you will serve..."  Joshua 24:15  Jesus calls you.  He has already chosen you.  Will you follow in his footsteps?  Will you accept his invitation to dwell in the house of the LORD forever?  To live in His peace?

As for me and my household we will serve the LORD.  My spirit rejoices in the Lord!  For He is with me always!  He is my Rock and my Salvation!  And I will dwell in His house forever!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Remember the Words

Deuteronomy 27

Write the words down so that you remember them.  When my children were young, one of the consequences I gave them when they got out of control was to have them write sentences.  Sometimes, it was one of the commandments and it's meaning according to Luther's Small Catechism, particularly if it was the spirit of one of the 10 that they had been rebelling against.  My strategy was to help them remember what is an appropriate way to be and what is not appropriate.  Sometimes, it was a successful strategy.  Sometimes it was not. 

Moses tells the Israelites to write every word of the law that has been given them in stone.  If they forget them, they will be written there for them all to see.  Now we know (if we look forward in history) that the Israelites either forgot some of them or just rejected them as they lived blessed by God in the promised land.  God gave to them abundantly and they turned their backs on Him over and over again.  It appears that they just didn't care if they were cursed as long as they got to do what they wanted, when they wanted.  After all, what does it mean to be cursed, anyway?  Being cursed generally comes to us and is perceived by us just as bad things happening to us.  We generally neglect to take a look at our actions that may have caused our "bad luck."  It is easier to blame others, to blame "bad luck" than to take responsibility for the direction our lives go.  Curses in a sense are consequences for our inability to follow God's will.  I think though, that it is more than our inability, but that sometimes we simply desire to do those things that we ought not to do.  To push our luck...  Hope for the best... Hope that we will not get caught... Hope that we will not suffer consequences...  This hoping is usually futile...

It is Christmas morning.  There will be an abundance of gifts under many trees this morning.  Children will be blessed with things.  Will they remember what this gift giving is all about?  Will they remember and will they even be reminded that Santa Claus, formerly St. Nicholas, gave gifts to children because of his love and service to God, to Christ our Savior, and to God's children?   Will children and their parents be remembering that the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus to honor him?  Probably not, connecting gift giving to Jesus just might put a damper on the mystery of the whole Santa Claus thing.  And... today Santa Claus is more mysterious than God incarnate, more mysterious than Jesus resurrected from the dead. The words of God to His children are no longer written on stones for us to read.  They are written in scripture, on the pages of a paper book.  Will those words be read to them?  The Word of God is also written on our hearts.  It is a living Word.  Will we listen to Him?  Will our children? 

If we are to celebrate the holy day, then let us make sure it is indeed a holy day to the Lord.  May God help us to teach our children, so that they remember, that today and every day is the Lord's day.  May your Christmas celebration be blessed in Jesus name...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tithes to Feed the Hungry Soul

Deuteronomy 26

It is Christmas Eve!  We have been busy preparing to celebrate the nativity of our Lord!  As the three wise men before us, we have been preparing gifts for the children.  We have been giving to the hungry through various social organizations.  Generosity tends to abound during the month of December.  We read this morning (vs 12) that the tithe is given so that the Levites (those who attend the Lord's altar), the aliens, the orphans, and the widows may eat.  We give generously, we tithe, to provide to those in who are in need and cannot provide for themselves.  That is what the tithe is for.  It is not just to provide for a building where we gather together to worship the Lord, but to provide for those in need around us - those who are less fortunate and cannot provide for themselves. 

The church is a place where we gather together to pay homage to the God who created, who saved us, led us out of bondage.  It is a place where we can go to be refreshed with the Word and Sacraments.  We gather together as a family to be nurtured by the Spirit of Christ in one another.  But, the church is not a social club for elite members only.  When Jesus died on that cross he died so that all who would believe in him, might inherit eternal life.  And how will they believe unless they hear the Word - unless they hear the promises - unless they hear what our Lord has done for us?  How will they believe unless you (every member of every congregation) tells them? 

Those gifts and tithes to the church of God is not just about maintaining a building, but building up the whole temple of God.  It is about feeding his sheep - in word and in deed - both spiritually and phsyically.

Tonight you will hear how the angel told the shepherds in the field the good news that a saviour was born.  Today, and every day, act like the angels!  Go and tell - tell it on the mountain - tell it in every place that you might find yourself today - go and tell that Jesus Christ is born!  Go and feed a hungry soul!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Marry Your Brother-in-law!

Deuteronomy 25

I am sure glad I was born in the 20th century!  I care for my brothers-in-law.  In fact the brother next to my husband has spent countless hours out here with Howard remodeling this house, cutting down trees, landscaping.  He is always here when we need help.  But, marry him if something happened to Howard, I think not...  I understand the times were much different and women needed to belong to someone just to be able to have food to eat.  I am pretty sure though, that I am not the only woman alive who is quite grateful that we live today rather than at the time of the early Israelites. 

This is short today and I am late writing this as we just got home.  We had a great anniversary visiting relatives including the brother-in-law, whom I am most grateful for.  Thank you for all your greetings and wishes.  God's Peace be with you all.  Judy

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Deuteronomy 24

More miscellaneous laws...  This chapter begins with laws concerning marriage and divorce.  My husband and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary today.  It has been quite a journey - to both mountain tops and through some very low valleys. For some reason when I woke up this morning, I was remembering our shopping trip to Algeria (believe the town was Tlemcem) while we were living in Rota, Spain.  That was so very long ago...  We have not traveled too far in recent years.  It seems that the older we get the more responsibilities we have near home and just don't seem to get away.  After 40 years we still have not even figured out how to regularly take the same days off of work.  Today though, we will spend the day together, visiting a few friends and relatives and going out to dinner.

Deut 24:5 (NRSV) says:  "When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty."  Howard and I were married a couple of months after he completed Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego.  If we had stayed home and I had not been following him around the country and the world for 20 plus years, I wonder what our life would be like now. Definitely different and I think maybe there would have been more low valleys and less mountain tops as there were those who were pretty sure we needed a divorce and worked hard at letting us know that.  I was not good enough for him and he was not good enough for me.  Being away from family and raising children (often without a husband present - he spent a lot of time floating around on ships) taught me to trust God in ways that I would never have had to otherwise.  It also taught me that there is a blood that is thicker than blood and that is the blood of Christ shed for you.  My extended family became the church - the members of the Body of Christ.

So today, I am remembering a 40 year journey.  Hopefully, we've reached the promised land...     

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Law Turns Us To The Good News

Deuteronomy 23
Wow!  Tough one for me today for some reason...  I guess the law is tough, after all.  It divides (categorizes?) people  and this chapter definitely reminds me that the LORD had called Israel to be a separate people, to be His people. 

Verses 21-23 bring to mind various vows that I have made, that I am still working on fulfilling.  It makes me very nervous knowing that I have not yet succceed in fulfilling them.  Dreadful thought:  "What if I never can fulfill them?"  It causes me to thank God for Jesus!  For in Him, all things are possible.  And if by chance these rash vows that I have made are never fulfilled through me, I have the promise that through His death, through the sacrfice of His blood, I have been forgiven my sins and receive the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. 

The law certainly has a way of driving us to the Gospel for relief!  Without the Good News of Jesus Christ, I would be lost and condemned, but with it I have been reconciled in the Kingdom God as His child. 

Thanks be to God for sending a Savior to take away the sins of the world!  I confess that I am guilty of the shedding of His blood.  I thank Him and am eternally grateful that He loves me enough to sacrifice Himself for me and for you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Deuteronomy 22

"You shall not watch your neighbor's ox or sheep straying away and ignore them..." (vs 1 NRSV) First thing that came to mind as I began reading the lesson this morning was Luther's definitions of the 7th & 9th commandments from the Small Catechism.  I have summarized the both together here:  We should fear and love God, as so we should not rob our neighbot or seek by craftiness to gain possession of that which is our neighbor's, but be of service to him, help him to improve and protect his property.

Some more laws - not just what we should not do, but what we get to do.  We get to show our love of our neighbors by helping them. 

The other thing that really stood our for me this morning was Mary.  Yes, Mary, the mother of Jesus, the favored one.  When the angel Gabriel went to her and told her that she would give birth to the Son of God she agreed to do whatever God's will was for her to do.  Most often we think of her as favored by God, indeed.  But, how often does it cross our mind that in submitting herself to God's will she could be facing the death penalty - death by stoning?  This lesson this morning makes it very clear that the betrothed woman who was found pregnant, not by her husband, would be condemned to death. 

Christmas is just a few days away.  We will celebrate the greatest gift given to mankind, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate.  Births are a time for celebration.  We will celebrate the birth of Mary's bundle of joy.  She is favored.  She was chosen for hardship.  Can you imagine the turmoil in her life - the gossip and mean spirited attitudes - as she carried a child that was not her fiancee's?  As she gives birth in a stable?  Running to keep this child alive as the edict to kill all male children comes down?  And at the foot of the cross, as she watches her son be crucified...?  Mary is favored?  It appears that being favored by God does not mean living the good life in this world, but living a life in service to God.

May God favor rest upon each of us as He gives us the strength and the courage and the love to do all things according to His will.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Strange Laws

Deuteronomy 21

Wow... God has some pretty tough consequences for being a stubborn and rebellious child.  Parents are to bring their drunken and gluttonous children to the gate to be stoned to death.  Assuredly, God is not talking about little children, but full grown men.  God is pretty intent on keeping evil from among his people.  He also doesn't want the land defiled so they were not to leave anyone that had executed left hanging on the tree overnight.  Not exactly sure what that was about.  It doesn't appear to be to preserve any dignity of the accused, rather for the sake of the land.  Was there a fear that the evil be passed on to the scavenging birds that would later consume him? 

Some interesting laws to abide by in the Pentateuch.  Many of these laws are illegal today in most countries.  If they were not the population on earth would be pretty sparse!  Who can live according to all these laws?  No one, but one.  That is the one whose birth we celebrate this week.  It is the same one who was hung upon a tree for you and me. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fully Engage the Battle

Dueteronomy 20

Rules of warfare...

It appears that anyone who might have a reason not to go into battle fully engaged, fully focused on the battle is to stay home.  If their minds are going to be wandering back to the wife that they have not yet married or the brand new vineyard that they've planted they should stay home.  If their hearts are full of fear they should not go to battle.  Fear begets fear.  Men of faint hearts should not go to battle, because their their fears might be passed on to the men who they will stand next to in battle and they both would die. 

I had one of those wake up calls the other day as I was reminded that we too are engaged in battle.  It is not a physical battle against flesh and blood.  We are engaged in a spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  (Eph 6:12)  We are engaged in battle whether we like it or not, but I fear that we have not been full participating in that battle and so the enemy has the advantage.  Our minds and hearts have been focused elsewhere.  They have been focused on more worldly battles with our neighbors rather than the spiritual forces that have caused dissensions and divisions among us. 

I should probaby be using the word I rather than we - maybe you have been much more fully engaged in this battle than I have of late.  It is is not that I have given up on being engaged in this spiritual battle.  It is more like other things have caused me to to focus my time and energy elsewhere and sadly, I have to admit, that I have not been as fully engaged as I should be. 

Just about every time the lesson regarding the parable that Jesus tells of the great banquet that people refused to attend, our choir sings an song about being invited and making excuses that goes something like this:  "I cannot come to the banquet.  Don't bother me now.  I have married a wife.  I have bought me a cow..."  When we cannot (do not) go to the banquet table that Jesus has prepared for us, when we do not hear his word regularly to be refreshed; renewed; empowered; how can we be prepared for spiritual battle? 
Paul gave to the Ephesians (6:13-18) and us guidelines as to how we can be prepared for and enter into for spiritual battle: 
Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 

The next time you fell like you are in a war with your neighbor or maybe a family member, remember that there is more going on than meets the eye.  There is a spiritual battle being waged and if we allow ourselves to be engaged in the war that is before our eyes, we will be distracted from doing doing battle in the heavenly realms where the real battle is actually taking place.  What you see with your eyes may be only a symptom of the spiritual war taking place.

Put on the armor that God has given to you, keep alert and persevere in supplication for all the saints (whether you recognize them as saints or not!).   

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eye for an Eye

Deuteronomy 19

The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you.  Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deut 19:20-21 NRSV) 

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also..."  (Matt 5:38-39 - read all of Matt 5 for more clues as to what this might mean)

Does Jesus nullify the law here?  Does he give us a new law?  I'm inclined to think not.  Deuteronomy is talking about a case that has gone to court and false witnesses have come forward in attempts to do harm to an innocent party.   This innocent party may be facing the death penalty simply because of someone's anger at them or jealously of them.  Deuteronomy is addressing the accuser in the kingdom of the world.  And... Jesus appears to be addressing those who would be falsely accused.  He reminds us to try to reconcile with one another so that you don't end up in court.  He reminds us that we are children of a heavenly Father (Matt 5:45).  Jesus addresses our spiritual lives in the kingdom of God or heaven as well as our lives in this world.  Whereas, Moses is addressing the civil realm.

For those of you who may have never known anyone who has been brought to court and had false witnesses testify, I can tell you from witnessing their pain, that this is about as bad as taking their lives from them.  It is an agonizing reality.  Facing the unjustified loss of their intergrity, loss of family and friends, loss of jobs, and facing possible long term imprisonment because of someone's false statements is devastating to people emotionally, spiritually, and in the end physically as it also affects their health.

Both Moses and Jesus are talking about caring for and loving the one who is falsely accused.  For the judge in Deuteronomy, he has authority to punish greatly the one who falsely accuses.  Jesus, on the other hand, recommends to the one being accused, the Christian, to do everything possible to avoid being drug to court:  turn the other cheek, give generously, help your neighbor even if he may want to do you harm.  Do not retaliate, but do everything possible to make peace with him/her.

I hope that this is not too big a mess this morning and you can make some sense of my wanderings.  Blogs are meant to be brief - but - some things need more space and time than a blog provides...  Food for thought...  God's Peace - Judy

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sorcerers and False Prophets

Deuteronomy 18

I can't say it enough.  I don't say it enough.  Stay far away from fortune tellers and magic whether someone tells you it is white (good) or black (bad) magic.  They are not for those who follow Jesus.  You cannot follow both Jesus and other spirits. And... I'm not talking about magic tricks (illusions) where the nickel is pulled out of a child's ear.  I am talking about magic that is meant to help you get whatever it is that you want.  Stay away from it.  Trusting in anything other than God for your future is abhorrent to the LORD.   These practices will get you nowhere except in trouble. 

Miracles of God and magic are not the same thing...  One gives God the glory, the other, as I said before, gets you in trouble as it steers you away from trusting the LORD.  If you pray to the LORD for a healing in the name of Jesus Christ and the one you prayed for is healed that is a miracle, not magic, give thanks and glory to God. 

A word from a prophet and a word from a fortune-teller are not the same thing.  Be wise, discern between the two.  If the word that is given is in contradiction to scripture then it is not a word from God for you. 

I had a marvelous visit with a wonderful Christian woman yesterday.  Every visit with her brings me refreshment as I behold her faithfulness.  She is quite elderly in worldly terms as she will be soon 100 years old.  She is as faithful to the LORD as I have ever known anyone to be.  She trusts the LORD in all things and is at peace with God no matter what might befall her.  She trusts Him with her whole life, her whole future.  Now, some might wonder how many years can she have left.  I will tell you, her time is limitless, for she has inherited eternal life in the kingdom of God, the kingdom that Jesus has prepared for her.  She has lived long on this earth in the presence of her LORD and she will remain in His presence for all eternity.  That is the difference between someone who worships and served the Lord and one who follows after sorcerers and false prophets:  eternal life in the presence of God; our Father, the Son, the Spirit.  Who will you follow?  Whom shall you serve?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Humble Leaders

Deuteronomy 17

We had a wonderful Worship Service ) last night.  Our youth led the service (not a children's program - but - Worship).  The sermon was a skit or a short play (written by one of our members, Leslie) based on Tolstoy's "Where Love Is, God Is."  The children led the litany, the reading, received the offerings, sang special music...  We had 2 EXCELLENT soloists who are of elementary school age.  One of them sings publically, otherwise.  She is very comfortable singing in public; however, she was nervous about doing a solo in church.  Why?  Because it was her offering to God and she wanted it to be perfect, without blemish.  I explained to her that of all places she would sing the one place she did not have to worry about making mistakes was in church.  This was her family and we love her.  We love all of the children here. We are our neighbor's childrens keepers.  And... after all, if people who make mistakes could not serve the Lord then there would be no one serving Him - no one to lead worship. 

Now, on the other hand, her attitude of humble service is quite refreshing.   Because of an illness, two of our youth ended up doing parts that they had not had time to practice, but no one could tell.  Everyone memorized their lines and worked together to improvise where needed.  I noticed that more youth than the soloist were anxious about making mistakes - concerned that they should do things perfectly. These are the same children who often acolyte or read lessons and get through those things quite well. But, last night was different for them for some reason.  They were a little more nervous than normal.  Maybe it was because last night, they led the whole service. Our children often serve during worship.  I remind them (and the adults) that they are in training to lead the church when we no longer can. 

The last section in our reading today talks about humble leadership. God tells the people that if they set a king (a leader) over themselves that the Lord will choose, that king cannot have a lot of stuff or send the people back to bondage for self-gain.  His heart must be with his call to serve God and the people, not himself.  He cannot exalt himself above other members of the community.  In other words, he shall serve in humility.

Jesus the Christ is just such a king.  He did not put himself before others.  In fact, he was willing to die so that we might serve and live life abundantly as children of God.  Everyone else came before him.  He who is first, made himself last.  Last night was a good reminder of what a servant leader really is.  Thanks be to God for the faithfulness and humility of our children..

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holy Days for Reviewing and Remembering

Deuteronomy 16

Moses reviews the various celebrations and festivals that are to be kept in chapter 16.  Everyone was required to attend these festivals and some of them lasted for many days. 

Yesterday, I reviewed with some of our members the ritual that we have been keeping of "chalking the door" at the beginning of the New Year.  It will not be taking place on Epiphany simply because that festival is largely ignored in the church.  Epiphany lands on a Friday this year.  Now how many Lutherans do you think are going to show up for worship on a Friday?  So, we "chalk the door" and ask God to bless the sanctuary on the Sunday prior to Ephiphany, which just happens to be New Years Day this year.  I've also never quite understood how it has happened that in so many places we give gifts on Christmas day rather than on Epiphany in remembrance of the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus.  Now, of course, none of these things have been required of us, by God, to be observed.   However; that being said, all these festival and holy days in the church year are reminders, opportunities to review, and to celebrate and give thanks for all that God has done for us. 

The church (at least in the U.S.) over the years has largely forgotten the church year and what each holy day is all about.  During Advent, we sing Christmas carols, forgetting that Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for the Lord's coming.  Our attendance at Worship on Christmas Eve, sky rockets as people make what they consider one of the 2 annual obligations to worship.  But, for the last couple of years, the council voted to not have a Worship Service on Christmas Day because other than me, only those who are serving during worship were attending.  This year we will have one service (rather than 2) on Christmas day because it lands on a Sunday. Christmas, I am told, is for families.   In speaking with our Sunday School children a couple of weeks ago, it was decided that we should celebrate Jesus' birthday with a birthday cake after Worship on Christmas Day this year to celebrate our brother, Jesus', birthday.  Children know how to have parties and so we will celebrate "family style" with a birthday cake. 

Easter is the other big holy day, which people tend not to neglect.  But, again, the season preceding Easter is often neglected.  During Lent, as well as Advent, we have Worship also on Wednesdays.  Attendance on Wednesdays is usually the same faithful people who gather to remember and thank God for all that He has done for us on Sundays.  I thank God for these faithful children of God.  But, during Holy Week, very few come to hear the story of Christ's passion.  It always causes me to wonder how small the remnant might actually be.  I wonder what people are really celebrating on Easter morning if they haven't been with us to review the events of at least Good Friday. 

So, I find myself often reminding people what these various holy days are all about.  I particularly love Trinity Sunday when I pull out the Athanasian Creed.  I think it is important for people to remember what it is that we, as Lutheran Christians, believe.  We need to remember who God is.  As it seems, it is not only I who has the short memory. 

May God bring to your remembrance where you have been.  May He help you to always remember that He is the one that has brought you out of bondage and given you new life through Jesus Christ, our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Deuteronomy 15

"Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land."  (15:11 NRSV)

On my way home from town yesterday, I stopped to see my husband (and his friends), who were busy packing up toys for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program in the county.  It is run by the local Marine Corps League.  As soon as I walked through the door, I was given a bagful of toys to deliver on my way home. He's learning to be a really good steward of time and talents that God drops on his doorstep!  The warehouse (donated space by the village) was almost empty.  A few days ago, it was full.  It was full, because people throughout the county have contributed both dollars and toys so that every child in the county would have presents under their tree on Christmas morning.  It is a good feeling to know that there is so much generosity in this community toward our children.  This county has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.  In October it was reported at 15.1%, much improved as it had been at 22.1 % in January.  On one hand, there is much need.  On the other hand, those who have, give generously.  It is a good community, a good place to live. 

May God bless this community, with a spirit of generosity, not only in the Christmas season, but throughout the whole year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

You are a Child of God

Deuteronomy 14

You are children of the LORD your God.  The LORD has blessed you!  Remember that always!

There are a couple of really good themes in chapter 14.  I bring to your attention verse 23 (NRSV):  In the presence of the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always

Here it is again, the mention of the dwelling for his name.  And secondly, the regulation for the Israelites to bring their tithe to the temple so that they might eat of it and every third yeard they must store up enough to share with the Levites, the resident aliens, orphans and widows.  They must help feed those who don't have the resources to feed themselves properly.

The reading today reminds me of food... and eating... and fellowship we enjoy together at Zion.  Again, this Advent, we have been having soup suppers prior to Wednesday evening Worship.  It is an opportunity for us to be able to visit with our neighbor (fellowship) at the dinner table and in doing so, hopefully, we glorify God's name.  Each Wednesday, the supper is hosted usually by 2 or 3 persons from the congregation.  There is no charge for this dinner - it is freely given and all are welcome: members, visitors, strangers.  

Tomorrow, we have a council meeting at Zion.  I noticed the president has on the agenda: fellowship/coffee hour.  In  recent months the council decided to suspend monthly coffee/fellowships because of other dinners/suppers at the church.  I believe the president has in mind to reinstate them or at least some form of them so that we have a greater opportunity to welcome visitors following worship and to be able to spend more time with our neighbors, sharing our love of God, as children of God. 

And... also on Wednesday, our ladies will meet to pack up cookies for shut-ins, and widows, as well as bachelors and others in the community. Then some of us will go out delivering the cookies as we spend some time visiting with our neighbors.

Gathering together in fellowship; "breaking bread" together; bringing gifts of food to our neighbors are ways in which that we can glorify God, glorify His name, by living like a children of God.

Yesterday, we had a baptism at Zion.  The godmother received a lit candle for Xavier as I spoke to and prayed for the child, "Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  (Matt 5:16) As children of the heavenly Father, we probably shouldn't worry so much about what we can't do, but what we can do to glorify His name.  When we, as children of God, reach out in various ways, that light of Christ, reaches those who live in darkness, enlightening their lives and God's name is glorified.    

Evangelism - sharing the good news and ultimately glorifying God's name - is not always about what we say - but - sometimes (often) it is about what we do.  Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will feed His sheep.  (John 21)

Questions for the morning:  Does the way in which you live and serve others glorify God?  Does your life style reveal a child of God?  Does your light so shine before others, that others may see your good works and also glorify our Father in heaven?  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sneaky False Gods

Deuteronomy 13

Do not allow anyone to lead you astray; to tempt you to worship other gods.  Sound like an easy one?  It is not.  Sure, we all like to say we worship only the one true God, but in all reality do we?  It seems that I have been exposing false gods most of my life, with very little impact.  They just keep showing up and knocking at our doors - sometimes they even get in. 

It is difficult to live in this world without those false gods sneaking into our lives, often without us even knowing it.  These gods may be our desire for material wealth some earned honestly, some not so honestly.  But, even of that which is earned honestly, how much of it glorifies God?  How much time away from serving God and neighbor has been wasted away earning money while you no longer have time to enjoy being with and serving God and family or neighbor?  How much time is wasted on that false god - the television - or all those characters on it?  How much time and money in the casino?  Or on drinking or other means to getting high?  Our addictions and compulsive behaviors and attractions are false gods.  They sneak into our lives as possibly harmless diversions, ways to enjoy the company of others (maybe), to live the life that God has given us.  But, the reality is that these false gods also want our full devotion and they often get it as they lead us away from living in a fuller relationship with the one true God and with our neighbors.  One of the sneakiest false gods that I am aware of is ourselves.  Our own egos can become our gods as we strive to please ourselves rather than God.  In this age of self-help gurus, many have actually been convinced that the way to have a relationship with God is to love and be good to yourself first.  When your focus in inward upon yourself, then what is the name of the god that you end up serving?  Always... always... the one true God must come first.  Once you know the love of God, then you will learn to love yourself.   When you live in relationship with God, serving God first, then you will truly know what the blessed life is as you live in peace, reconciled to God; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Then you will be able to live in peace in and with this world.

The new year approaches.  I encourage you to take an inventory of your false gods and resolve to see what you can do to get them out of your life.  There is only one God and it is He whom we should be serving. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

God and God's Name

Deuteronomy 12

"But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go..."  (12:5 NIV)  Here we find something that I have found totally fascinating for years.  Every now and then I go back through scriptures and start searching and thinking about the sanctuary being God's habitation, by His putting His name there.  Some of the questions I ponder are:  Are God and His Name synonymous?  Does God dwell in the temple or just His Name or are they one and the same?  What was the temple or sanctuary then?  What is it now?  Lots of things to think about...  I can get lost in the scriptures for days on this one...

Here are just a few of the scriptures that might relate - there are a lot more...: 

The LORD said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.  1 Kings 9:3

But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’  2 Chronicles 6:6

I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.  2 Chronicles 7:16

And what about this angel of the LORD - how does His name abide in the angel?
Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.  Exodus 23:21

And what about God's name being on the Israelites?
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  Numbers 6:27

And how is it then, that the Body of Christ is the temple of God; how is it that God abides in us (members of the Body) through Jesus Christ?  Is it His Word; His Name; or the Spirit of God?  Are they all one and the same?  It is all a very great mystery...  The LORD, your God is one God...

Note for yesterday's chapter:  After I post in the mornings - I end up thinking about the lesson all day.  Yesterday, Chapter 11:20 "write them upon the door posts.." made me think to remind all of you in Skanee and Aura not to forget to be at Worship a bit early on New Year's Day.  At about 8:45 we will have a short service asking God to bless the sanctuary for another year by praying and writing 20 C M B 12 year - CMB standing for "Christus Manionem Benedicat" which means "May Christ bless this house," on the frame above the sanctuary door.  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Long-winded Moses

Deuteronomy 11

One of the most invaluable lessons for ministry that I learned at Wartburg Seminary was taught by  Prof. Sam Giere in homilitics - to keep the sermons to a reasonable length :) I cut mine almost in half and still am able to say what the Spirit leads me to say.  Moses is beginning to tire me out.  It appears he's saying the same thing over and over again.  Not that what he says isn't worth hearing, it's just that I'm having a hard time finding anything new in the chapters.

Moses is again reminding the Israelites of what God has done for them.  He reminds them of God's promises to those who love Him, keep his charge, his statutes and his commandments.  He reminds them and us again to teach all these things to our children.  Well, then I guess, Moses was right in continually repeating himself.  Seems to me we haven't listened too well! 

Or maybe we have chosen to forget where we come from, how lost we would be if it were not for God; maybe we've chosen to forget that God has saved us from ourselves!  When I worked at the youth correctional facility, it always amazed me that people "on the outside" would make comments that inferred the youth in the facility were really "bad" kids and that they, themselves, were not.  I knew where they came from.  I knew a bit about their lifestyle.  Simply put, I knew them.  The only difference between those in the correctional facility and those on the outside (in most cases) is that those on the inside had been caught and those on the outside had not.  The youth "on the inside" had opportunity to change as they remembered where they came from, why they were there.  Instead of facing our sinful natures and repenting so that we might receive forgiveness, often I think Christians, prefer to pretend that we are without sin and we get stuck wondering why God has not blessed us, wondering why we "good people" aren't enjoying the fruits of the good land that we live in.  When we "good people" turn our backs on the LORD our God who saved us and follow after other gods, then we will receive the blessing of the other gods - gods who are worthless and have no blessings to give.  Do we really expect a blessing from a rock or a piece of wood or paper with a president's face on it or coins?

So, even if Moses is beginning to wear me out by repeating himself, we probably need to read it and hear it over and over again so that his words may be laid up in our hearts and in our souls so that our days and the days of our children may be blessed. 

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and mind and soul that it may be well with you and your children and that you might live long upon the land that He has given you.

P.S.  I apologize for being so long-winded myself in some of these blogs...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love the Lord

Deuteronomy 10

Fear the LORD, walk in his ways, to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul... (vs 12)  Ring a bell?  The first and greatest commandment according to Jesus.  And if you are reading chapter 10 of Deuteronomy you will also see the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus.  "You shall also love the stranger; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  (vs 19 NRSV)

Moses is recounting the time that he received the ten commandments for the second time.  We are reminded that the law is (among other things) about love:  loving God and loving others.  I wish that Les, one of God's servants here at Zion, were writing this.  He so eloquently tells how it is that we can love our neighbor or the stranger.  In a nutshell:  When we realize God's great love for us, we love Him in return.  We place the LORD first in our lives and then we are more fully empowered to more fully love our neighbor, the stranger, even our enemy.  The ten "words" of the law are placed in a very specific order.  The first table (3 or 4 commandments depending on how you divide them) are about fearing, loving, honoring God.  The second table is about how we are to show love for our neighbors.  When we place God in our lives first, then loving the rest is much easier, because God is with us, loving them through us.  Sure, our sinful natures will still try to override the power of God, causing us a bit of shakiness in the area of love.  But, we will know a love for our neighbors that cannot exist without the love of God.

Love the LORD, your God, there is nothing more pleasant than being in relationship with Him and as you walk with Him in His way, you will love your neighbor as yourself.  That's about it. 

May the love of God overwhelm and empower you to love your neighbor, the stranger, your enemy, as yourself this day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God Still Gets The Glory

Deuteronomy 9

You stiffnecked people... You turned away from God...  You did not follow Him... You really got under His skin...  He was about to destroy you all... Many times, I saved you by interceding with God for you.  The jist I'm getting from this chapter is that Moses is ranting or bragging about how much he had to put up with and do for the people.  He had to keep going back to God to beg for mercy for them and ya'll know how dangerous that can be. 

Yesterday, I wrote about how God, not any man, gets the glory and I'm afraid it sounds a little like Moses is grabbing at a bit of glory today.  I stand by yesterday's statements.  Moses may have prayed for the people, but God didn't have to give the Israelites the promised land.  He could have destroyed them at any point.  God gets the glory for leading the people out of Egypt and into the promised land.  God is about to lead them into the land of the great and mighty Anakims so that they might take possession of it.  But, He's not doing it because they are so good.  He's doing it because He chooses to.  And, yes, it is probably a good thing that Moses was there to intercede for them when God was about to destroy the people.

When we pray for someone and the prayer is answered, do we get the credit?  Do we get the glory?  I hope not!  I have had names of some people on my prayer list for decades.  Some of those prayers have been answered in big ways.  And I will tell you, everytime I see them, I am thanking God in a big way!  Others, I still pray for and I know that when I see, with my own eyes, the answer to those prayers, I will be celebrating with all the hosts of heaven for the ones who were lost, but now found.  I will most definitely be giving thanks and glory to God! 

St. Paul wrote in various letters asking the people to pray for him.  He asked them to intercede for him and for all the Lord's people. In Ephesians 6:18-20, we read: 

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  
 We are called and directed to pray for one another.  Yet, Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit.  And in Romans 8:26-30 (read all of Romans 8 - it is awesome!):
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
So from all this I glean, that it is not we who interecede (it is not our good work), but, God, the Holy Spirit, who intercedes through us and it is God, Himself, who answers the prayers.  God gets the glory (even for glorifying those whom He calls)! 

Lot's going through my head with this lesson this morning - but - it is a blog - not suppose to be a sermon :)  And... for those of you who noticed (and I know at least a couple of you have) both Deuteronomy 9 and Romans 8 would be good places to start a conversation regarding predestination.  But, I think maybe we should wait 'till we get to Romans for that... 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Glory Belongs to God

Deuteronomy 8

Do not say...  I worked hard for this.  By mine own hand I have earned it.  Rather, "remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today."  (vs 18 NRSV)

And... some may wonder why I talk so much about giving honor and glory to God.  Some may wonder why I talk so much about caring for and using the good gifts that God has given us so that we might honor and glorify Him.  It is because it is written in the scriptures, over and over again.

There is never a day that I don't thank God for all that He has given me.  I know that I would not have my family, my home, my past experiences, my congregration; I would have none of them except for the hand of God.  I can look back, I remember where I have been and I can see clearly how His hand was at work in all areas of my life. 

As I read the warnings to Israel, I am reminded that these warning could well be for those of us who live in the U.S. as well.  We have been tremendously blessed in this country.  Unfortunately, with all the blessings, also comes the tendency to give ourselves, rather then God, the credit, the honor, glory.  So often the will of God is no longer heard, but only the desires of our own sinful hearts.  And...  I wonder how long it will be before God says "this is enough" and takes it all from us. 

There is always a lot of lip service given to how this land was founded on Christian principles and how important that is to us.  However, there seems to me to be more lip service than actual service to God.  I am not even sure if the majority of Christians even knows what being a Christian actually is, according to scriptures (this probably applies to a whole lot more countries than the U.S.)  Very few read their Bibles.  If you do not, how would you even know what it means to be a Christian? Because someone else who never reads or hears the Word of God told you?  Christianity has become enmashed with new age teachings in order to empower us, in order to make us feel better about ourselves.  For some reason it is easier and more appealing to read New Age or self-help material rather than the Holy Scriptures.  When we apply "New Age" teachings to what little we have gleaned from the Scriptures, it is no longer Christianity.  You are worshipping a false god.  If this land being founded on Christian principles were really as important to us as we claim, would we not immerse ourselves in studying Christian principles by reading our Bibles, would we not be more faithful in attending Worship to hear the Word of God, to receive Christ into our very beings through the Sacrament of Holy Communion?

God has given us these things (Word and Sacrament), not for His sake, but for ours; so that it may be well with us.  Do not say that I am a self-made man or woman.  All that I have is mine, I have worked hard for it.  It is God who has made you.  It is God who allows you to live well upon the earth.  It is God who gives you the opportunity to worship and serve Him.  All honor and glory belongs to God, not humankind.

When my sons were in their rebellious teen years, I remember on a few occasions when I would be about totally exasperated with their shenanigans and remind them:  "God gave you life, God can take it away."  I've mellowed since then.  Well, maybe not too much...  Remembering our scriptures (2 Peter 3:9-13 NRSV) from last Sunday: 

     "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
     Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?  But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home."

May God help you to remember to give God the glory for all that He accomplishes through you this day.  May you be blessed with the knowledge that there is only one God and empowered to worship and serve only Him.     

Monday, December 5, 2011

God is God

Deuteronomy 7

God is God and only He shall you worship.  Have nothing to do with false gods.  Rid the land of them and their altars and all the items that are used for worshipping false gods.  Do not covet the gold or the silver of the false altars so that you do not become ensnared by it.  Do not allow anythng to do with false gods into your home because they are abhorrent to the LORD your God. 

In this season just prior to Christmas, how to impress upon people just how sneaky those false gods are.  We claim that the reason for the season is Jesus.  Yet, the glitz and glitter of the commercialized season attempt (very strongly) to draw us in.  Yesterday morning at and after Worship, I was watching our children from the Sunday School and Confirmation class, closely as usual.  They have been busy practicing various parts and music to put on a skit as they lead Worship at our mid-week service on December 14th.  They have given up many hours to work on this.  Other things have not drawn them away from this opportunity to glorify God - to honor Jesus. 

We talked about Jesus' birthday and they decided on Christmas morning that we should have a birthday party with a cake for Jesus after Worship.  It is always comforting to me to see the faith of the children.  They know who their God is.  Let us take a lesson from our children.  There is only one God who loves us so much that He was willing to send His only begotten Son to be born among us, to live among us, and to die for us that we might live in His presence eternally. 

Worship God, and no others - nothing else - not silver or gold.  For... He alone is the God who loves you.  Gold and silver cannot love - God loves.  Only Jesus can bring you out of the wilderness and save you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Impress Them on Your Children

Deuteronomy 6

All three uses of the law (mirror, curb, guide) ring out in the reading this morning. The verse that really stood out for me was seven (NIV):  "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

We had a pizza party in the church basement.  It was not just for children.  Although, some of the things we do with our children are geared for children, we try not to segregate them from the adult membership of the congregation.  If we are a church family, then we should do things as a family.  The Youth/Family Committee feels it important that our children understand that us older people know how to laugh and have fun, as well.  We are trying to dispel the myth that being involved with "church activities" is something we do because of the "curb" in the law.  We can have fun and enjoy being with the children. 

Anyway... We at pizza and salad, decorated crismons, sang songs, and played Bible Bingo.  What struck me was the level of knowledge some of the children had regarding Bible stories.  It was truly surprising and this morning I am thanking God for those parents and grandparents who have taught their children.  I am especially thanking God for Sherrie, our Sunday School Superintendent and for the teachers who work with her to teach our children.  They teach not just the law, but all of scripture.  And, it is shows in that the children use what they learn as a guide.  We don't teach behaviors, we teach the Word of God, and that Word grabs hold and guides them in the way that they should go. 

I am praying that all of you will hear the Word that the Lord gives to you this day.  Hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him.

God's Peace be with you always.  Pr. J.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

3rd Use of the Law

Deuteronomy 5

Moses reminds the people that out of the midst of the fire, of the fire, and thick darkness, God had spoken these "ten words" to the assembly at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20).  These "words" were not just for the generation that died in the wilderness, but for their children and their children's children, that they might live well and long in the land. 

I'm remembering the many hours that go into teaching confirmands these "10 words" and what they mean.  I will try to refrain from being so lengthy this morning...  We will see where I end up.

These 10 words or laws were broken down into two or summed up by Jesus as:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:36-40)  I use these words of Jesus to help teach the confirmands how to memorize and learn the commandments.  The first 3 (or 4 depending on your denomination) all pertain to how to live in relationship with God; how to honor Him.  He is first, so we place Him first.  The remaining commandments tell us how to live in relationship with others so that it may be well with us and that we might live long upon the earth.

Briefly here is what I tell my confirmands:
When an adult decides he's going to work day after day without ever taking a Sabbath - a day of rest - what happens?  Answer:  They get tired and cranky and pretty hard for the people around them to live with.  Sometimes people even get hurt because they are so fried they aren't paying attention to what they're doing and accidents happen.  If someone doesn't take the day to rest - some time to hear God's Word and to Worship Him - how will they ever come into closer relationship so that they might know His peace? 

If you kill someone, what happens?  Their friends and family become angry and they want your life in return.  Life doesn't go so well for you and you may end up not so long upon the earth.

How about bearing false witness?  Can gossip kill?  Certainly.  It kills the spirit.  It kills relationships.  And... it some cases it destroys lives.  Gossip can hurt so bad that it might even push someone to taking their own lives.  Bearing false witness kills.  It would be the same as if you murdered someone with your own hands.  That is why it can be said that one sin is not worse than another.  (we'll maybe go there another day.)

How about coveting?  Can coveting kill?  Of course it can.  It kills relationships, it kills our peace, it interferes with our love for God and for our fellow human beings.  In some cases people are really killed because of envy and jealousy over material things.  Life does not go so well and not so long for those who covet the possessions of others.  I will not go through each of the commandments, you get the picture...

I remind my confirmands that God loved them so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them and ask them if this sounds like a God who would make up a bunch of laws just to keep them out of His kingdom in the first place.

Yes, I hold to the third use of the law - that is as a guide to the way in which we can live in relationship with God and with one another that it may be well with us and we might live long upon the earth.

But, they ask how about that horrible verse 9, why should they be punished for their parents sins?  Think about family relationships for a minute...  Do we not learn by what we've seen our parents do?  Often (but not always) we follow in their footsteps.  Let's say a parent is a thief or a liar or a murderer or otherwise breaking civil law and their children witness this lifestyle, will they not grow to think that this is a normal way to live?  They will struggle because these sins will keep them from a loving relationship with God the Father and with their neighbors.  This doesn't happen because God wants them out of His life - it's not about punishment.  Their lives become chaotic because they have chosen (and sometimes they don't know any better) to put other "things" before God and neighbor and they themselves have hurt the relationships by not following the guides they've been given to live peaceful lives.  We inherit the sin of our fathers and mothers and consequently we inherit the consequences of the broken relationships caused by those sins as well.

Too often, I think, we consider the law as something that only condemns.  We all indeed fall short and deserve condemnation, but God is not all about condemning...  That wasn't His purpose, after all wasn't He saving Israel from bondage when He gave this laws?  And...  why did He send Jesus?  There must be more to the giving of the law than just setting up some rules to follow and if you don't, well... then... you know what happens!  Children are taught that if they don't follow the law - they will end up in hell.  Truth is... by not following these laws or guides to living in community, it can be like a living hell here on earth for those who do not know how to love or live in relationship with God or one another. 

I am not writing off the other two uses of the law as a curb or mirror, but I think that we might benefit in our relationships if we took another look at the commandments as a guide to how to live life reconciled to God and one another.

I remember a friend from a Bible Study years ago.  She said she never worried about the should not's of the law, only the shoulds...  She said she tried to live her life not worrying about what she couldn't do, but what she could do and focused on that.  That being:  loving the Lord her God with all her heart and soul and mind; and loving her neighbor.  After all, didn't Jesus say that all the law and prophets hang on these two commandments (or words)? 

Time to get ready to go and shop for Toys 4 Tots so I guess I am finished with this morning's blog whether it's finished or not...  May it be well with you and may you live long in the land.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Deuteronomy 4

Remember where you have come from, where you have been, and remember who delivered you, who led you to the promised land.

This message is not just one for the Israelites. It is just as good for each of us today.  I doubt that there is one among us this morning that cannot look back and remember the trials that we have endured in your journey.  I doubt that there is one among us that can look back and not remember at least one false god that we have worshipped.  Remember the Lord, for He is God and He has delivered you.  Worship Him and only Him that all may be well with you and your children and your children's children.

Remember too, that God is not a god that is far off.  Our God is near and He does indeed call us to gather together to hear what He would have us hear.  He gathers together often.  I can't imagine one of the Israelites not paying attention when they heard God speaking on the mountain.  As often as He desires to speak to you, will you listen?  Prayer is not just about asking for things, but for hearing as well.  Worship is not just about making your weekly commitment, a weekly pilgrimage to the sanctuary in a building, but for hearing the will of God, for hearing the Word and receiving the Word through the Holy Sacraments.  God does desire good things for you.  Listen - listen to His Word - listen to the promises.  And... know that no matter how upside down life may seem - God is with you in your journey - leading you to the promised land.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Who Does What - Doesn't Matter

Deuteronomy 3

Moses is once again reminded by God that he will not get to cross the river Jordan to enter the promised land.  He can go up Mount Pisgah and look at it.  But, He will not enter it.  He is to encourage Joshua as it will be Joshua who crosses over and takes possession of the land that Moses sees.

Moses has done a lot - he has put up with a lot leading the Israelites through the wilderness.  But, his job is over.  It is now time for Joshua to take over where Moses has ended.  It doesn't really matter who God uses to do His will, His will - will be done.  His will, in this case, is that the children of Israel shall settle in the land that He has promised them. 

St. Paul knew this, as well.  It did not matter who did what - everyone does what God appoints them to do.  And... ultimately, all whom God has called will enter the Kingdom of God as a member of the Body of Christ.  Paul writes in the 1st letter to the Corinthians (3:5-9):
     What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Like Moses, in this life, we may never get to enjoy the fruits of our labor, that is the labor for the Kingdom.  We may never get to see that neighbor whom we witnessed to and prayed for accept Jesus as their Saviour.  And, it does not matter if it doesn't become a reality in our life-times.  We trust that when we are gone another will come and continue the work that we began.  We work for a common purpose and we can be assured that no matter what we do, it is God who makes things grow.  It is God who gives growth to the Body of Christ - to the Church - to His Kingdom.  That is the ultimate goal isn't it - for all God's people to enter into the promised land?  

It is not we, but God who gets the glory as He leads us through the wilderness to the promised land.  May God guide the work of your hands, the thoughts of your heart and mind, every word that you speak, and every step that you take that all that you say and think and do this day will be acceptable in His sight and glorify Him, our Rock and our Redeemer.