Friday, July 31, 2015

Believe And Be Baptized

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.
It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

I have run a across a very sad thing; there are those within the church on earth who have not been baptized! How does this happen? How is it that a believer has not received the Sacrament of Baptism?
I've heard a few reasons. Mostly, it has come down to embarrassment over not having been baptized earlier, as a younger person. Those who have not been baptized; yet, are within the church, receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion, will rarely just tell you that they are not. You will have to ask them. 
I first ran across this years ago when I was working on membership rosters and the official congregation records. We were missing information that should have been in the books: things like birth and baptismal dates that would have been registered decades earlier. I thought that this might be a good reason to do some extra home visits and get to know some of the congregation a little better. A very elderly woman whom I regularly visited in a nursing home was on the list for missing baptismal dates. When I asked her where and when she'd been baptized, she was relieved that I had asked her about it. No one else ever had. She confessed that she had never been baptized. When she was a child, they had a circuit pastor, who normally did baptisms during hay making season. As a child, she had been in the fields working with her family when the pastor came around. After she got older and got more active in the congregation no one asked her about her baptism and she was a bit embarrassed to admit that she hadn't previously been baptized. That's the short version of a very long story. Ultimately, she received the Sacrament of Baptism in the nursing home with her children and grandchildren around her about a week before she died.
This was not a lone incident. Most I've encountered, were then baptized. A few have declined to receive this gift from God.
We are to go and teach and baptize so that others might come to faith and be assured that they have received forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. The mission field is huge. It begins within our own congregations. Do not assume that someone is saved just because they attend worship once or twice a year or even every Sunday. Do not assume that they know Jesus. Do not assume that they have received the Sacrament of Baptism. Proclaim the Good News to all people and encourage them to receive this life saving gift from God. And... don't forget to tell them about the benefit of Baptism, a gift from God for them.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Teach and Baptize

IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
What is Baptism?--Answer.
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.
Which is that word of God?--Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Again, we are reminded that it is the head of the family who is to teach their children what baptism is. At Zion, our Sunday School Staff are well aware that this does not actually happen in most of our homes. We are also well aware of Christ's command to go and baptize all nations; all people. Therefore, we find it prudent to ensure that our children know what baptism is and begin formal instruction; albeit, in a simple way, to our children at the age of three. We are; after all, all members of the family of God and as spiritual parents we desire that all of our children know what an awesome gift they have or will receive and what it means for their lives and ours.

Baptism is a precious gift from God. So when He offers us this gift, should we refuse it and should we refuse to allow anyone else who desires it to receive this gift? It is a gift for all nations; all people.

Do not hinder anyone; but, teach and encourage everyone to receive this awesome gift.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Deliver Us From Evil

The Seventh Petition.
But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.
What does this mean?--Answer.
That I should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and heard; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray, and has promised that He will hear us. Amen, Amen; that is, Yea, yea, it shall be so.
In this petition we pray that we be kept from all evils that plague this world. Martin Luther in the Large Catechism wrote: "But this petition he has put last, for if we are to be protected and delivered from all evil, his name must be hallowed in us, his kingdom come among us, and his will be done. Then he will preserve us from sin and shame and from everything else that harms or injures us."
Therefore; all of the petitions in the Lord's Prayer must be prayed with a sincere faith that God hears our prayers and answers. We cannot expect to be kept from evil if we do not revere God's name which is who and what He is; if we do not desire to live in his kingdom; or if we do not desire that his will be done among us here on earth. His will is for our good. If we do not desire his will to be done, how are we to expect that we are to kept safe from the evil one? It would be tantamount to jumping into a bonfire and expect not to get burned. Of course, all things are possible with God. But, it's probably not the best idea to be testing him. Jesus wouldn't, why would we think we can or should?
So we pray the Lord's prayer with faith and all God's people say Amen - that's the way it is. We give thanks for in His mercy He has heard our prayers and answered.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Keep Us From Temptations

The Sixth Petition.
And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean?--Answer.
God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.
Every day we face temptations. To some of these we succumb. To others we do not. Often we fail to even recognize that we are being tempted to do or say or think something that we ought not. The world around us tells us that what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong. It can be very confusing.

It can be especially confusing for young people who grow up with just a little knowledge of God; but, with way more knowledge of the progressive and materialistic world we live in. They have been taught to follow in the ways that they think will provide them with happiness in the moment and not to consider too much the long term consequences of their choices. 
It can be very difficult to discern what is right and what is wrong in many circumstances and so we pray that God would guard and keep us from temptation and when we are tempted that He would help us to be able to stand and say no to them.
God's Peace - Pr. J 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Forgive Us!

The Fifth Petition.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.
Forgive us our trespasses. We begin this petition by asking that our sins be forgiven. We begin by acknowledging that we have sinned against God and others. We begin with repentance. We know that we are sinful beings and that without the grace and mercy of God we would be lost for all eternity. There is nothing we can do to redeem our sinful natures. Jesus the Christ did that for us on the cross.
He did that not just for me; but, for all people. It then behooves me to have empathy for others who have fallen and have been caught in the same trap of sin and to forgive them their trespasses against me even as our Father forgives me and all people by faith in His Son, Jesus the Christ, given for us.
However, we should strive to not use the grace and mercy of God to convince ourselves or others that because we are forgiven that it is ok to go ahead and continue to live in the old way. In Christ we have new life. Having received forgiveness let us live in Christ who would do no harm to our neighbors; who would never sin against our neighbors, us, or God our Father.
According to the Gospel of Luke (17:3-4), Jesus tells us: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
May God help us to repent and forgive one another even as He forgives us.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Our Daily Bread

The Fourth Petition.
Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean?--Answer.
God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?--Answer.
Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
The Lord provides. Lately, my granddaughter has been asking me if I am praying again. Yes, I do a lot of praying and no it doesn't matter to me if it's a public place. When she sees my head bowed it is an indicator not to interrupt my moment with God, unless it's an emergency. Mostly, during the day light hours, my prayers are prayers of thanksgiving. I could find a lot of things to grumble about if I let myself and sometimes I do. But, mostly I see the good things that He provides us with. I also see the opportunities He has given us who have been so blessed to feed His sheep their daily bread as well. Throughout the day, I find multitudes of opportunities to give thanks to God.
The Lord provides. Most often He provides our needs through others in whom He abides and through whom He continues to serve. 
The Lord provides. Give thanks to the Lord for providing you with your daily bread. Give thanks to the Lord that He has provided you with opportunities to provide food to those who are hungry.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thy Will Be Done

The Third Petition.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What does this mean?--Answer.
The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is this done?--Answer.
When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.
Do we really want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? I know we pray this often; but, do we really mean it? Are we really willing to let our own selfish wills die in order that His will be done for the greater good; for the good of others? If it were not so, why would He be willing to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die for us? Jesus died for others. He was willing to suffer all hardship and die for us. Our will is usually only for our own personal good. God's will is for the good of all.
The devil, and we, can throw all kinds of obstacles in the way of God's will being done; nevertheless, ultimately, His will is done (He is; after all, God) so I am not sure why we are always fighting His will. 
May God keep us all steadfast in His Word and in faith, according to His good and gracious will.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thy Kingdom Come!

The Second Petition.
Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean?--Answer.
The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.
How is this done?--Answer.
When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

By faith alone! The kingdom of God has come and we, by faith, in our Lord, Jesus the Christ, are residents of that kingdom.

Yes, we live in this world; but, all who believe also live in the kingdom and under the gracious rule of God our Father, the Lord Jesus the Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The heavenly kingdom is not just for a time after physical death. When that temple curtain was ripped in half at the time of Jesus' death; the doors to the kingdom were flung wide open. The kingdom comes by the work of our Lord. May God help us to receive live in His kingdom; life in His presence; beginning today and for all time.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Holy Is His Name

The First Petition.
Hallowed be Thy name.
What does this mean?--Answer.
God's name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may become holy among us also.
How is this done?--Answer.
When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead holy lives in accordance with it. To this end help us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God's Word teaches profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.

His name is holy. It was so revered by the Israelites that they would not even speak it.

His name is holy and those who worship Him and profess His Holy Name pray and strive to ensure that nothing unholy is done among us that would cheapen and profane His Name.

"Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name."  Psalm 27:12

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who's Father? Our Father.

Our Father who art in heaven.
What does this mean?--Answer.
God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.
Who's father? Our Father.
While I hear that some may object to God the Father being male; I rejoice that I have a Father in heaven that I can trust; who is always there for me. I "get it" that there are some who were neglected or abused by their fathers on earth and may cringe at even the title father. But, as for me, since early childhood, knowing that I have a Father in heaven that truly loves and care for me has given me great comfort. He has been with me no matter what trials I have faced in life. It is good to be able to trust someone to be there to listen to you when you need someone. Our Father is always there for us.
I give thanks that my true Father who is in heaven truly loves me and He truly loves you.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Lord's Prayer; Teach It To Your Children

III. The Lord's Prayer
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
As we delve into the Lord's Prayer, we are once again reminded that it is the head of the family's responsibility to teach the Lord's Prayer to their family.

I was once asked why Lutherans pray this prayer every time we gathered together to worship. The person asking was a indeed a devout Christian (of no denomination). She felt that because we use this prayer rather than speak out of our own hearts and minds, we are not sincere. My answer to that is; of course we pray, at times, with prayers that are not distinctly the Lord's Prayer. But, I teach the Lord's Prayer and pray it often because it is the way Jesus taught us to pray. When Jesus gave it to us, he said this:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Matt 6:5-13 NIV)
This is a simple prayer to learn. It takes very little time or energy to teach our children to pray it. May God set it in our hearts to teach it to our whole households.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 20, 2015

Holy Spirit Sanctifies; Makes Us Holy

The Third Article.
Of Sanctification.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?--Answer.
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
It is by God the Father that we are created. It is by the life giving sacrifice of God the Son that we have been saved. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified. In the past I have been warned that it might be best not to use the word sanctify as many would not understand what the word means. Sanctify mean to be made holy. The Holy Spirit makes us holy. Jesus died for our salvation. He died that we might be reconciled to God our Father. This is good news. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this truth is revealed and preached. It is not by our own reason or strength; but, by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to receive this good news as our own truth.
May God grant that the eyes, ears, and hearts of the world be open to hear and receive the truth, who is Jesus the Christ, that we might be made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Believe In Jesus Christ

The Second Article.
Of Redemption.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
What does this mean?--Answer.
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
As, together, we affirm the second article during worship, we affirm not just that we believe that Jesus was a living breathing man who lived on earth some 2000 years ago; but, that with his precious and innocent blood we have been redeemed. We, who were lost and condemned, have been purchased by His blood; that we might live life in His presence, in His kingdom, for all eternity. Not with silver or gold, not with the works of our hands; but, by His death, we have been saved from eternal death. That is what we believe.
That is how much our God loves and cares for us. He was willing to come to earth and live as we live. He was willing to suffer and die that we might also live as He lives: eternally in the Kingdom of God.
It would behoove us to not just affirm this every Sunday at worship; but, every morning when we rise lest we forget what our Lord has done for us and turn to other gods. To Him be all honor and glory.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Our Father Is Active In Life

The First Article.
Of Creation.
Sunset Silver Mountain, MI
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?--Answer.
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

God, our Father and Creator, cares for His whole creation. He loves and cares for us. He has provided us with all that we have.
Do you believe this? If we truly believed this then we would, at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to our Father in heaven. If we believed that all that we have, even our ourselves and our family and friends, are gifts from God, then we would take care of them as though they were precious treasures; for indeed they are.
God is not just a God of beginnings. He did not just create and then us alone to our devices. He is an active Father providing not just the material things of life; but, spiritual gifts as well.
May our Father's love for us, inspire us to love and cherish Him for all that He has done for us. May God help us to love and care for His whole creation.
God's Peace - Pr. J 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Faith Formation Begins at Home

II. The Creed
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
I almost went to the first article of the Apostle's Creed for today's blog. But, then I remembered that I have a week-long confirmation class coming up next month. I will be teaching the Apostle's Creed again this year; but, not to youth who have no prior knowledge as to what it means. No, I am not under the impression that they have already learned what it means at home. Those youth who have faithfully attended worship at Zion already know the Apostle's Creed. Those children who have attended Sunday School faithfully have already been taught the Apostle's Creed and what it means by their fifth/sixth grade Sunday School teacher.
Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism so that parents, particularly the heads of the household, would have a simple resource to use to teach their children. Today, most congregations expect their Pastors to teach the older youth these things. 
I am most grateful that at Zion, since our youth have such full schedules, that we have a Sunday School Superintendent and teachers who begin this education process at age 3, when during Lent, the Small Catechism is taught. During the rest of the year, they simply use the Holy Bible as their main resource. We believe that what we believe should be taught at an early age. One should not wait until they are in Jr. High to try to cram their memories full in a couple of years. Learning is a process. It does not magically happen overnight. Since we began this curriculum a few years ago, it has been an amazing experience working with confirmands who already have a knowledge base for the faith that they are preparing to profess and that we can build upon.
It is most helpful to our young people's faith formation if the learning begins at home. I am more than happy to provide our members with copies of the Small Catechism or you can go to the link above for an online version. When a positive faith formation process is not in place at home; then, it would be a very good idea to bring your children to the place where it can happen - to your local congregation.
Faith formation should not be started when a child turns 11 or 12. It begins at birth. It begins at home.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Punished For The Sins of Your Father?

What Does God Say of All These Commandments?

He says thus (Exod. 20:5f): I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
What does this mean?--Answer.
God threatens to punish all that transgress these commandments. Therefore we should dread His wrath and not act contrary to these commandments. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and gladly do [zealously and diligently order our whole life] according to His commandments.

What God says about these commandments usually brings a few questions from youth during confirmation class. They are sometimes just a bit concerned about whether God will punish them for their parents sins.

I try to reassure them that if a parents rejects God; but, the children love God, God will not punish them for their parents unbelief. Read what Ezekiel 18:14-20 has to say regarding this matter of children being punished for their parents' sins:
“But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:
 “He does not eat at the mountain shrines
    or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.
 He does not oppress anyone
    or require a pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
    but gives his food to the hungry
    and provides clothing for the naked.
He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor
    and takes no interest or profit from them.
He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.
He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.
“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

And, in Deuteronomy 24:16 we find:  "Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin."

So what does it mean for iniquity of the fathers to be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation? Children will often follow in the ways that they have learned from their parents; but, not always. Although, we are born with sinful natures; we also learn sinful behaviors. Sometimes, sinful behaviors are learned from and even encouraged by our parents. However, there are those who will find their parents' ways so detestable that they will go in the way in which the Lord leads them.

As parents, we are to teach, with both the words of our lips and our lifestyles, the way in which our children ought to go; the way that is most pleasing to the Lord. We must use caution that our lifestyles do not lead our children in a way that they will experience most unpleasant consequences in this world and the next. As children, we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and not necessarily in the way that our parents and the world would teach us.

May God help us to love and trust in Him, and gladly live according to His will.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

No Coveting

The Tenth Commandment.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.

I have sometimes wondered about the differences between the ninth and tenth commandments. It was terribly difficult for me, as a young person, to be able to memorize theses last two properly separated as I could not understand why we taught them as two instead of one commandment. I also could never comprehend (and still don't) how one would go about urging cattle to stay and do their duty. Maybe, not show and entice them with greener grass in another pasture? The only real difference that I see, for the purposes of memory work, is that the ninth commandment has to do with inanimate property; the tenth deals mainly with living, breathing creatures. 

I was online last night researching glasses to help correct color-blindness. I and other members of my family are a bit color blind. It doesn't affect life too adversely; unless, you happen to be working with electrical wires that are color coded. That can be a problem. Mostly, I recognize every color. They just look a little different to me than to those with good color vision.

Sometimes we can all be a bit color blind. We see greener grass when in fact what we may be looking at are dried out weeds. Just because someone tells us the grass is greener; doesn't always make it so. Beware of covetous people who would draw you away for their own selfish purposes.

Sometimes we see someone that we might think we want; but, again, the grass is not always greener... Ensure that you are not falsely enticing others to leave the one who loves them. If they would leave them for you; they well could leave you for another.

Learn to love what is yours and leave your neighbors' alone.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Leave Your Neighbors House To Your Neighbor

The Ninth Commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
The ninth commandment goes hand in hand with the seventh: "You shall not steal." Leave your neighbor's property alone. Don't even think about it; unless you are thinking about ways to help him keep his property. Desiring what belongs to someone else can lead to all kinds of evil against him as our desires becomes obsessive thoughts and our obsessive thoughts turn to evils action to get what does not belong to us.
We should all have our own hopes and dreams. Pursue your own dreams, not your neighbors. What belongs to your neighbor is your neighbors. What is yours is yours.
The second table of the law is summed up like this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31) :May God grant that our neighbors would love us enough not to craftily seek to obtain our inheritance or home even as we would not pursue obtaining theirs. 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 13, 2015

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

The Eighth Commandment.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
"Sticks and stones can break your bones; but, words can never hurt you." Wrong, words can kill! They can destroy life. They can kill a spirit and; yes, they can even lead to death of the body in a whole variety of ways. Think about the one who is on trial and someone would bear false witness against him or her sending them to prison for life or aid in that person receiving a death sentence. Think about the young woman or man who is trying to overcome obstacles and bullies continue to beat them down with words. Not only can this lead to a loss of an abundant and joyful life; it can lead to serious depression and in some cases suicide. Consider the married person falsely accused of adultery, what will their partner who in their pain and anger, do to the ones he or she feels has betrayed him?
Do not deceive yourselves. There are no little white lies when it comes to bearing false witness against your neighbor. Lies will destroy your neighbor. Lies will destroy you.
God does not desire that anyone be harmed in any way. May He help us all to speak with integrity and to help our neighbors when they are down.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Do not Steal: Stealing and Semantics

The Seventh Commandment.

Thou shalt not steal.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor's money or property, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business [that his means are preserved and his condition is improved].

Recently, I spoke with a woman who swore that she had never stolen any money. She was quite adamant, in spite of the fact, that she had been convicted of credit card fraud. She could not relate stealing to using someone else's identity to obtain credit cards. Frankly, this conversation was pretty frustrating. It is beyond me how someone can steal something, get caught, go to prison and still deny that they have ever stolen anything. Of course, this person did not claim to be a Christian. But, she does claim to be a "good" person because according to her she has never stolen (paper) money. Semantics! It sort of reminds me of my grandchildren. I use to make the mistake of asking them who they were talking to when they were busy on their cell phones. Their response was usually "no one." Of course, they weren't talking to anyone. They were texting or messaging. Now, I ask, "With whom are you communicating?" That seems to cover most everything they might be doing on their phones. Semantics!

Semantics won't make one less a thief. Either you have stolen from someone or not. It's best to be "Not!" It is also best not to be compounding the sin by lying about it. Confess and live in a way that brings peace and harmony to life with your neighbors. As Christians, we are not only commanded to not take our neighbor's property or money; we are to do all that we can to help our neighbor keep his or her property and even improve it. Whenever we do anything unjustly that would cause our neighbor to lose use or possession of his property we are stealing whether we end up with physical possession of the property or not. All the semantics in the world will not justify our sins. Only the blood of Jesus will justify.

May God help us to help and support our neighbors.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No Adultery

The Sixth Commandment.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

What has been done cannot be undone. How hard I try to impress upon our young people (and older) that one can certainly be forgiven their sins; but, we cannot erase our past relationships! They will always be with us emotionally and spiritually. No one except your previous partner and you may ever even know about these liaisons; but, that does not negate the fact that you were joined to one another, if only for a few minutes. And... once joined; you will never be completely unjoined. No matter how hard you try to erase the memories, they will be permanently imbedded in your mind, coming to the forefront when you least expect it.

God did not create this commandment because he doesn't want you to enjoy life. In fact, he wants you to have an abundant and, yes, even a joyful life. Marriage and family can truly be a blessing from God. The children will come and go to raise their own families. But, how wonderful it is to have one person to share your entire life with. The less our lives are encumbered with old lovers making entrance into this new relationship; the less encumbered our lives are with carrying old baggage; the more pleasant and peaceful our lives will be.

There are those who have the mistaken idea that adultery only applies to those who are in a committed relationship: that it does not apply to those who are not married or living together. This is false. Adultery includes having sexual relations (doesn't necessarily even have to include sexual relations) with anyone that you are not bound to, in marriage, for life. Any and all sins can be forgiven by God. However, in this world there are most often consequences for our sins. Adultery has many adverse effects on self and on family. The harmful effects of parents' multiple relationships on children has been well documented. Adultery and the inability to be faithful to those whom we claim to love harms the whole family as well as society around us.

This commandment was not given to benefit God; but, to benefit humankind. If you desire a peaceful life, remain faithful; first to God, and then to one another.

May God help us to be faithful to those whom He loves.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, July 10, 2015

You Shall Not Kill

The Fifth Commandment.
Thou shalt not kill.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body].
Many years ago, while we were living in Rota, Spain, a young Marine was released from Spanish prison. His crime had been that he had witnessed a taxi cab driver being beaten and he had not gone to his aid.
So many times witnesses to crimes will not only not aid the victim; they do not even have the courage or integrity to come forward as witnesses so that the suspect can be duly prosecuted. We don't like to make enemies. We may fear for our own safety or we might think that the crime was justified or maybe we just don't care; so we do nothing.
We learn that the fifth commandment goes beyond commanding us to not personally kill anyone; but, that we are to befriend and even defend those who are in any danger.
May God help us to love enough to be willing to step forward and help and befriend our neighbors in every need.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Honor Your Father and Mother

The Fourth Commandment.
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother [that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long upon the earth].
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not despise nor anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve, obey, and hold them in love and esteem.
In this fourth commandment we are told that we are to honor those who have authority over us so that it may be well with us and that we might live long upon the earth.  Think about the chaos in so many homes and our school systems because many young people; rather than honor their parents or teachers, are allowed (and sometimes encouraged by other people in authority) to be outright disrespectful; defiantly rejecting all authority. How much learning can be done in this kind of environment? How many children are being taught to disrespect and connive against our police officers who have sworn to protect us? It makes it very difficult to serve and protect or teach anyone when one is being cursed at or emotionally or even physically attacked.
God has given each of us people in our lives who are meant to teach and guide us; to care for us. Parents, police officers, teachers, doctors, employers are just a few examples of such people today. Sadly, not all of them have our best interests at heart. There are those who think that everything should be done for their glory to the detriment even of their children and those who might work for them.  Martin Luther reminds us, in the Large Catechism, that even though the Commandments do not speak directly to the duties of those in authority; scripture reminds us all that we are to love and care for one another. This applies to parents as well as others who might have the duties to teach or care for or protect us. If we teach our children that it is all right to disrespect others; they may also learn to disrespect us.
We should honor all in positions of authority and those in authority would be wise to guide those who they have authority over; to teach them the ways of the Lord. If honor, respect, and even integrity could make a come-back; then we would all live long and peacefully upon the earth.
Pr. J
P.S. I confess that while writing this blog this morning, I have been biased by knowing too many   parents who encourage their children to be blatantly disrespectful toward others and who also encourage their children to use alcohol and other drugs as well as to promiscuity.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Love: The Two Tables of the Law

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Luke 10:27 NIV)

Jesus taught that the law can be summed up with this one word: love. We all fall short of keeping the law. Sometimes, it seems that the harder we try to keep the law, the harder it is to come near the goal. Instead of focusing on what we have to do or what we cannot do, might I suggest that we focus on loving, even as God loves us.

For the past three days we have dealt with what we teach as the first table of the law; that is, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds. For the young person who is attempting to learn and even memorize the ten commandments, it is helpful to understand that these three commandments come first because God always comes first.

When the love of God is first in our lives, the rest of the commandments, the second table of the law, which is the love of neighbor, follows naturally behind even as a caboose will follow the train. The caboose can go nowhere without the engine. It follows wherever the engine will take it. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus who loves us so much he was willing to die for us.

When we put God before ourselves; when we follow Him, even the second table of the law will more naturally fall into place. That is not because it is natural for us to love; but, because it is the nature of God to love and we are connected to Him. As He abides in us and we in Him, His love abides in us and through us reaching out to a world in need.

According to St. Paul: "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10)

If your aim is to live according to the law, focus not so much on the shall not's. Rather, keep your heart and mind focused on what you have been given permission to do. That is to love: love the Lord your God and your neighbor. Focus on living more fully in the love of God for it is through love that the law is fulfilled.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Remember the Sabbath Day

The Third Commandment.
Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
My husband and sons were logging. Logging can be a pretty expensive business. We sometimes joked that it was just a hobby as it often felt like they were paying to work rather than earn livings since equipment breakdowns can get pretty expensive. On occasion, they would decide that they needed to work on Sunday morning rather than worship in order to make up for time lost due to the weather or equipment breakdowns. Every time they decided to do this they would have another piece of equipment break down on that Sunday morning. Do I think that God was punishing them for working on Sunday? No. I think that because they did not heed His word to rest on the seventh day that they were exhausted and when we work tired and troubled; accidents; problems occur. God does not give us the commandments so that He can punish us. The commandments are for our own good.
It has been many decades since I realized what this holy-day of rest meant for me. I can get pretty cranky at times. During a particularly trying period of my life I came to realize that if I did not attend worship on Sunday (or maybe Saturday evening) I was pretty difficult to live with the rest of the week. By Friday, nobody, including myself, wanted to be around me. I need to receive the means of grace, the Word and Sacrament of Holy Communion, in order for me to be a bit more graceful towards others. I need to be able to find rest in Christ in order to be refreshed for the upcoming days.
Thanks be to God, He has given us the gift of the holy-day to gather with the saints and hear His sacred Word.
God desires good for you. Receive the good gifts of His Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. These gifts are available freely for you every Sunday at your local place of worship. Do yourself and your family and friends a favor; go and listen to Him; receive His Word; receive the Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion! Join others in worship every seventh day, no matter which day that happens to fall on.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thou shalt not take name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

The Second Commandment.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.
I confess that every now and then my lips will release a word or maybe two or three or even that should not be spoken. I am very aware that I have sinned as soon as something slips out of my mouth that ought not to have.
It is troubling; though, that it seems many do not even recognize when they have taken God's name in vain. I know many love Him; but, for some reason they don't always recognize when they are speaking against Him. Sometimes, it needs to be brought to their attention.  
Yes, sometimes I find myself asking others not to be swearing. No, I do not always ignore it when people take God's name in vain; when they blaspheme His Holy Name. I will ask them to please not take my God's name in vain; to not blaspheme against my God. I usually stress "my God" in attempts to make it clear that they because of their language they have made it evident to me and others who might be around us that He is not their God; that they do not worship Him. If He were their God, they would not be using His name in such a manner.
There have been times I've been in discussions (usually with younger family members) and I've gotten responses like OMG or Oh My God! (Father, forgive me for even writing it as an example.) My response to that is usually "I am not your God" and I walk away. 
I find the language today atrocious. There is very little respect for one another and definitely not for God in many conversations. His name is thrown around like it was something cheap and disposable. It is even used in conversations to bully others; to persecute them.
I have also been known to use the phrase "speak with integrity" on rare occasions. Admittedly, the lies have to be pretty bad before I do that. I have let people know that if they want me to understand what exactly is going on they will have to get their stories straight. Sometimes stories get so twisted, in order to justify one's own actions, that it can be difficult to glean the truth from the tale. This lack of truth-telling also blasphemes the Name of God when it is one who claims to bear the name of Christ that is speaking.
His Name is above all names and it is eternal. It ought not be used in rampages meant to hurt others or to justify our own sinful ways. It can and should be called upon for the healing of the nations. Use it wisely. May the Lord our God bless the words of our lips that we might glorify His Holy Name in all that we say and thing and do.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, July 5, 2015

You Shall Have No Other Gods

The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  (

I spent many, many, years as a wife of a U.S. Marine. They have a saying: "God, Country, Corps." That is in proper order. God always comes first. There can be no other gods. There can be no other priorities. When faithfulness to God comes first, faithfulness to our other obligations just falls into place, with the help of God. But, if we cannot be faithful to God, then we will not be faithful to anything or anyone else, either.

As a Marine Corps wife, I spent a lot of time alone raising two sons, as my husband was deployed for far more than half of his career. I had no family near. It was a good thing. Through this time, I learned that there is one I can trust all of the time; that is God. Through this time, I learned that there was one who loved me like no other. God was there when no one else was. I wasn't always thrilled with the way He worked things out; but, I came to know and trust that no matter how He was working them out; they were being worked out for the good.

The best thing we can do for our loved ones, for our country, for our world, is to fear, love and trust God above all things and to Him first and to follow in the way He would have us go. His plan is perfect for us; ours is not.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Christian Liberty - Preface to Luther's Small Catechism

Preface to Luther's Small Catechism

This billboard is no longer there.
Liberty; Freedom to serve the living Lord calls us to
something more than serving ourselves. It does not
mean be baptized and then follow the world.
Today is the 4th of July. Here in the United States we celebrate certain freedoms that were earned for us by the many men and women who gave their lives for us. As Christians, we celebrate the freedom that was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus in order that we might follow in his footsteps into the Kingdom of God.

Martin Luther wrote the small catechism as a teaching tool so that children could be taught the basics of Christianity. In part, that we might know how to follow in those footsteps. In the preface to the small catechism, Martin Luther speaks of the liberty of the Christians being torn to shreds because they did not know these basic doctrines of Christianity although they claimed to be Christians. Sadly, that appears to be the case, as well, in our world today. As much as he and others fought for our Christian liberty; not much has changed. He not only recognized that the Christian masses knew very little about what they were professing to believe; but the pastors knew very little themselves. Sadly, this too, is true today.

A few years ago, I sat through a sermon in which a Lutheran pastor not only made light of the teaching of the Small Catechism to the children, she admitted that she and her husband had tried the night before to remember them all and in order; but, neither of them could. I couldn't help but wonder what she was teaching her confirmands. How can one teach what one has not taken the time to learn themselves?

As the to Sacrament of Holy Communion, Martin Luther was not at all happy that because they had been freed from the tyranny of the pope at the time, the people were using their religious liberty to stay away from the Sacrament; to "despise" it. He did not encourage us to force anyone to the Sacrament, but he did tell us that we should warn them in this way: "The way to go about this is to tell them that if anyone does not seek or desire the Lord’s Supper at the very least four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is not Christian, just as no one is a Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel. For Christ did not say, "Omit this" or "despise this," but "This do, as often as you drink it," etc. He most certainly wants it done and does not want it left undone and despised. "This do," He says."

Freedom in this country came at a great price. So did our freedom to serve God. It cost Jesus much pain, suffering and even death. May God help us to not despise this great gift; but treasure it and follow in the foosteps of Jesus willing to lose even our lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” (John 8:31-32 NIV) Christians will know, at least the basics of these truths, and then they will hunger to know even more about their Lord.

I have heard more than one parent tell me that they don't want to force Christianity upon their children so they do nothing to teach them about our Lord and what he has done for them. They do; however, teach them the ways of the world. I wonder, if they are going to let them choose when they become adults, how can they be free to make this so-called choice if they know nothing about the choice that you are telling them they are free to make. Freedom to say yes or no; freedom to do right or wrong; freedom to follow the Lord or not, requires a bit of knowledge about the options. Teach your children. The Small Catechism is a great place to start.

Do not despise the Word or his Sacraments. But, gladly seek them for yourselves and for your children.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. As we begin taking a look at the Small Catechism, which we teach our children and which we should all know, please remember to click on the link at the top of the blog so that you might have a better understanding of what I am writing about.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Rev 22:6-21 A Final Warning and Promise

Rev 22:6-21 NIV
Well, today brings us to the end of the book of Revelation and to the end of the Holy Scriptures.
Some of you may wonder why I have been such a light-weight as we went through Revelation; why I have not a more in-depth interpretation as many others have; why I have not done more finger pointing as to who or what the anti-Christ is. The answer to that is found in this last reading: "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." (vss 18-19)

I take this warning seriously. As we read or hear the Holy Scriptures, we need to understand that our sinful natures may well inspire an interpretation according to our own wills; our own egos, our own agendas. Revelation, in particular, because it is a vision, should not be taken literally. That does not lessen the fact that it is prophecy and includes, very much, a warning to those who have fallen from "the way." It is a warning to those who would follow in a way that they should not go and a blessing to those who worship the one true God.

The revelation to John is not just a horrific warning to the world. It is indeed a blessing of promise and hope to all who believe. "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come!' Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life." (vs 17)

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (vs 21)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rev 22:1-5 Tree of Life

Rev 22:1-5 NIV
In the beginning humankind had access to the tree of life. The book of Genesis tells us that rather than eat from this tree of life, they ate of the tree which would guarantee their deaths; the tree that God told them not to eat from. As a consequence they were kicked out of the garden in which it grew so that they would no longer have the opportunity to eat the fruit from the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)

Those first people made an awful decision when they chose to listen to the serpent rather than God. The world has not changed much. We long for eternal life; yet, our sinful natures continue to steer us toward the very things that will bring us death. We often listen to the world rather than God.

In this last chapter and book of the Holy Scriptures we once again see the tree of life. All who believe; all whose names are written in the book of life are granted access to this fruit which will heal the nations. Thanks be to God for life in His eternal presence; for His eternal peace.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rev 21:9-27 City of God

Rev 21:9-27 NIV
The vision of the Holy City, the City of God, is awesome. However, the beauty of the city is not the most amazing thing about this vision.  The city is built as a perfect square, just as the first earthly temple was built. God's Name dwelt in that earthly temple. But, in this heavenly temple God not only dwells there; the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. We will abide in that temple of God, who is God, Himself.

It makes me just a little "crazy" when I hear people speak of the riches that Christians will inherit in the city of God. I remember a Sunday School teacher telling her students that for every good deed they do they would receive a jewel in their crown when they get to heaven. Really!? That's why we want to receive eternal life? To receive jewels and a crown?

The Holy City of God is much more than the gold and precious jewels seen in John's vision. In this Holy City we will be totally reconciled, abiding with and in Him for all eternity. What can be more precious than that? What can be more precious than dwelling with and in Him; walking in His most intimate presence for all time?

May God help us to understand that He is to be treasured more than any silver or gold.

God's Peace - Pr. J