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Thursday, June 30, 2011

7/1- Jesus Sets us Free

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow,  but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 146)

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

(Open doors of prison cell)

Thoughts: The Lord is portrayed over and over again as setting prisoners free.  We all are imprisoned to our own selfishness and self-interest.  God is able to free us from the shackles of sin so we may be able to have freedom.  If you are feeling addicted, enslaved, then remember the One who can set you free.  Jesus came to set the prisoner free.

Prayer; Set me free, Lord, to be the person you have called me to be.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

6/30/11 Law and freedom

“Therefore this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the LORD—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. (Jer. 34:17)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free; (Lk. 4:18)
(Statue of Liberty and fireworks)

Thoughts: People want freedom- and we celebrate it this week.  But there is a link between law and freedom. Jeremiah speaks of an obedience that sets them free.  Jeremiah asked the king to set the Israelite slaves free according to the Law of Moses.  This is a physical illustration of a spiritual truth: the Law limits our captivity to sin.  But grace frees us from our captivity.  The Law limited the captivity of the slaves.  But Christ came to set them free.  The Law limits our sin, but Christ came to forgive us erasing our sin altogether. When we refuse freedom to others, then God sets us free from His protection.  When we refuse to obey God's freeing law, God sets us free from His blessing.  On this week in which most Americans celebrate freedom, let us celebrate our ultimate freedom- in Christ. 

Prayer: Help me to see and appreciate the freedom you offer me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

6/29/11 Freedom and the Law

44 I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. 45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.  (Psalm 119:44,45)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)

(Asian Traffic Jam)

Thoughts: Law and freedom go together.  Anarchy appears to add freedom, but it takes away freedom.  If you have ever driven a car where there are no traffic lights or lane markers, then you have a visual illustration of how no rules can lead to not only chaos, but jams.  Those who want freedom from God, thinking that will somehow help them, find themselves enslaved to something else- another god, or sin.  The law shows us where our chains are.  The gospel of grace is the key to loosen the chains.  The Law tells us how to avoid going to jail.  The gospel is the key to get out of jail. 

Prayer: Thank you for your freedom and for your Law.

Monday, June 27, 2011

6/27/11- The Possibilities of God

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.

(Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofman)

Thoughts: This week our church is working with others in the community on 15 housing projects.  We call it "GOoDWorks."  The study of the Ten Commandments raises the possibility of good and goodness.  The Rich Young Ruler had kept so many commandments, but he still failed in the ability to let go of his things.  In our culture, we have refused to see both white and black- instead we cling to the grey.  We also have availed ourselves of the hope of personal purity and holiness.  Yet, Jesus showed us the possibility of holiness and goodness.  While we fall short of Him, it is not wrong to try to emulate Him.  While none of us may be called "good" as this passage says- except God- yet we can be better.  Improvement in life is not to be looked down on.  The Ten Commands are a call to be better and to be holy for God is holy. 

Prayer: Help me to strive after your goodness, Lord.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

6/27/11- The Jealousy of God

 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)

 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)


Thoughts: The idea of God as a jealous God is spread throughout the scripture.  It is found five times in Deuteronomy alone (4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 21:16; 32:21); But it is found in other palces as well (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Ezek. 8:3; Nahum 1:2); God is jealous in that He wants us to worship what is right and true.  We are not made to worship false idols, but we are designed to worship the infinite, eternal, mysterious, majestic God.
     The word "jealous" is a strong word.  Some have asked, "Isn't if a sin to be jealous?"  But what is sin to humans isn't always sin to God.  For example, it is good that God wants us to worship Him- He is worthy.  It is not good for us to worship a human being.  The One who gives life has the right to end it, but we do not have that moral right.  It says more than "God is concerned" or "God is interested" that we not worship idols.  The word "jealous" conjures up another common theme: that idolatry is similar to spiritual adultery.  Hosea married a prostitute and he loved her, provided for her, cared for her but she did not return his love in the longterm.  She wandered away after others.  So idolatry is wandering away from God- creating other gods that we can stray away from. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

6/26/11 Jesus on God's oneness

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:28-30)

(Michelangelo creation of Adam- Sistene Chapel)

Thoughts: Jesus spoke of the greatest command of loving God with all that we are.  But he prefaced the command to love with the command to recognize the oneness and truth of God.  Idolatry allows and encourages the polygamy of God.  These are Jesus words against false gods and idols.  God is not an idol stuck in place with a forward stare like a scarecrow.  Instead, the infinite majesty of God is also enveloped in a oneness of truth. 

Prayer: Help me to put you first in my life- as the One true God. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

6/25/11 Idolatry and Spiritual Adultery Isaiah 57

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or bow down and worship it (2nd commandmnet- Dt. 5:8)

5 You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. 6 The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion; indeed, they are your lot. Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings and offered grain offerings. In view of all this, should I relent? 7 You have made your bed on a high and lofty hill;    there you went up to offer your sacrifices. 8 Behind your doors and your doorposts you have put your pagan symbols. Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked with lust on their naked bodies. (Isaiah 57:5-8).

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3 NIV)

(Canaanite Fertility godess- mixed idolatry with adultery)

Thoughts: Idolatry was often compared to spiritual adultery in the scriptures.  It is exchanging our first love for another lover- exchanging our God who is true to us and we have a covenant with for an idol who is a harsh task master.  The question this command raises is not whether there is a god contained in the idol, or how much the idol symbolizes a god.  The key to this sin is whether our heart is going after another god or not.  That is detestable as Peter says.  To exchange the living God for a scarecrow symbol of a non-god is truly the utmost ingratitude and detestable.

Prayer: Keep my heart true to you, O Lord. 

John Calvin Abridged: The Lord compares idolatry to those who are driven by love of a harlot by which we are blinded by eagerness (Jer. 3:1; Hos. 2:2; 4:5); Idolaters have no moderation and will not be reclaimed from their madness by listening to arguments- for it is a base fornication. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

6/24/11 The good turned to the ugly turned to the best

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:8-9)

2 Ki 18:3-4 (Amp) Hezekiah did right in the sight of the Lord... He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until then the Israelites had burned incense to it; but he called it Nehushtan [a brazen trifle].

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:14-16)

(Brazen serpent, Michelangelo 1511 Cistene Chapel)

Thoughts: The three passages above illustrate the history of a gift from God turned into an idol and then redeemed by Christ.  The people were redeemed from the evil of snakes by the gift of a bronze serpent from God.  Whenever they came to this gift of God they were healed.  But later the people saw this serpent superstitiously as something to be worshiped.  They burned incense to it (a symbol of prayers).  Jesus redeemed the true meaning of the serpent as a symbol of God's healing grace.  The lifting up of the serpent is even a symbol of Christ's being lifted up on the cross- our Savior from sin. 
     Every idol is made of good things- for all creation is good- the wood, the clay.  Then creation is corrupted by our sin and superstition.  But Christ is able to redeem the world by His power and grace. 

Prayer: Give me grace to see creation as a gift and to be a good and grateful steward of all that you give.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

6/23/11 2nd Commandment- The foolishness of idolatry

Eph 5:5 (NIV) For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

(Painting an Idol in India)

But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says,  “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?  Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” (Isaiah 44:15-20)
Thoughts: Isaiah points out several weaknesses in idolatry.  We fashion the God (instead of God fashioning us); From the same wood we burn we make a god; to bow down, giving our lives to a lifeless thing is ignorant.  Ephesians 5 points out that greed is a form of idolatry- that elevates our desire for lifeless things over the life-giving God.  While not all idolatry is greed, certainly greed is a form of idolatry.  But perhaps the major disadvantage to idolatry is it steers us away from the true God and therefore from His dwelling place. 

Prayer: Free me from the desire for happiness found in the things of this world.  Help my heart to long for you. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

6/22/11 Deuteronomy 5:8-9 Power of Punishment and Power of Goodness

8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

1 John 5:21- "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." 

(Left Canaanite fertility godess Asherah)

Thoughts: Hauerwas and Willimon say that the punishment associated with this command is found in the sin of idolatry itself.  It is much harder to be complicated than simplistic- to have false gods than have the true one.  "Monogamy tends to take less work and far less rationalization than adultery. There are those who argue about the punishment of the children for the sins of the parents.  Yet, it is clear that sin is often handed down from one generation in learned tendencies or even genetic tendencies.  The child who has been abused is (wrongly) taught that this is how you treat children. There are many proofs that alcoholic tendencies are passed on.  Perhaps if we knew our sin would affect our children and grandchildren we would shape up more.  (cf. Ex. 34:7; Ps. 103:3).  This command also gives more weight to keeping the commands than breaking them.  Godliness in this sense, is more powerful than wickedness- for it affects the world longer. The light is clearly more strong than the darkness.

Prayer: May my love for you grow strong.  May my faithfulness to you flow to those who come behind me.

John Calvin Abridged: (on Dt. 5:10)- He does not promise faithfulness and justice to those who keep the commands, but mercy.  The most perfect among us should seek the liberal mercies of God.

Monday, June 20, 2011

6/21/11 Exodus 20:4-6

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Exodus 20:4-6)

14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;  over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!” (Isaiah 44:14-17)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  (I John 5:1)

(Wilson The Volleyball- from "Castaway")

Thoughts: In the movie "Castaway" Tom Hanks had no one to talk to as he was stranded for years on an island.  But he found a volleyball, painted a face on it, and began talking to it, giving it powers it did not really possess.  When we feel alone in the universe, and we cannot see God, it is perhaps too easy to try to make God more visible.  Yet Isaiah rightly shows us the foolishness of it- of the same piece of wood- some warms him, some if fuel to cook his bread, and other parts he forms into a god.  In a world consumed with the scientific method- too many say they will not believe in God because they cannot control the variables and make tangible the intangible.  But not all truth is controlable by the scientific method.  History, for example, is not controllable or reproducible.  Yet history is true.  To say "I have to see it to believe it."  Is saying "we must have idols!" 

Prayer: Help me Lord to trust and believe in you - even when I cannot see you. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

6/20/11 Second Commandment Deuteronomy 5:8

 8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

(Golden Calf Niccolas Poussin 1633-4- source Wikipedia)

Thoughts: There are images of the true God and there are images of false gods (or secondary gods), both of which are in adequate, unhelpful, and harmful.  Some scholars say the golden calf worshiped when Moses was gone was an attempt to make an image of Israel's true God.  Canaanite depictions had god riding on the back of a bull.  Here was a bull with the invisible God on the back.  But God abruptly rebukes their efforts; He has Moses grind up the gold and make the Israelites eat it.  An image is a limited finite slice of the infinite.  But most images are also interpretations by an artist.  Often the image is developed as a tool for worship but then becomes the object of worship itself (as was Moses' serpent in the wilderness).  To not have an image is to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  Living without an image forces us to trust God's words.

Prayer: May I find my trust not in a depiction of you, but in you alone, O Lord. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

6/19/11- Love for God the first and greatest command

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mathew 22:36-40)

You shall have no other gods before me.  Deut. 5:7

(James J. Tissot- Pharisees ask Christ about Greatest Command)

Thoughts:  When the Old Testament says to not have any other God before God, it primarily means that no one should be before God in place.  God deserves first place in our lives and first place in our hearts and love.  Luther used to say, "Love God and do what you will."  There is a sense that if we love God- putting no one else ahead of Him in our hearts- then we will seek and do His will in other things.  But without love for God false motives and false loves consume us.  The first commandment is a command to elevate God not just in our practice, or in our heads, but primarily in our hearts. 
    In our day, many have lost their true Father.  But when we have love for our true heavenly Father first in our hearts then love for all earthly relationships are in the right perspective.  On this Father's Day- let us return to love for our true Father. 

Prayer:  Help me Lord, to grow in love for you.  Let me not let other loves crowd out my love for you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

6/18/11 Matthew 4:8-11 Serve Him Only

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

(3rd temptation- William Blake 1803-5)

Thoughts: Here Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13 which has its roots in the first of the Ten Commands (you shall have no other gods before me).  Even Jesus was tempted with worldl power.  How much more are we tempted with worldly power and goods?  But Jesus would not worship Satan even for a short, quick time-- not even to gain the whole world.  Perhaps Jesus thought even then, "What good will it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?"  This would show us the how weighty and important is the first command.  The whole world is not worth one little act of worship of a false God.  Jesus' desire is that we worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:4).  Part of that is worshiping the true God by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Help me to value my worship of you more than all the world, O Lord.

John Calvin Abridged: (From the Institutes): The Lord wills to be preeminent among his people and to exercise complete authority over them.  We owe God four things: 1) Adoration (worship by submitting to his greatness); 2) Trust (assurance coming from repose and communion with Him); 3) Invocation (calling upon Him as our only help); 4) Thanksgiving- (gratitude to praise Him for all good things). 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

6/17/11 The First Commandment Deuteronomy 5:6-7 Seek God first

6 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
7 “You shall have no other gods before me.

But seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.   (Mt. 6:33)

(Golden Calf Nicolas Poussin 1633-4)

Thoughts: For many, God is on the back burner.  We call on God when things go wrong, when we worry, or want something.  We worry about many things, and in our worry we become more concerned about things than God.  Some see God as the One whose sole purpose is to give them things.  God is the Deliverer who delivered Israel from Egypt.  But we listen to God not just because He delivers us, but also- and mainly because He is the Lord our God.  He is God who cares about our pain (in Egypt's slavery or elsewhere), and is able to deliver us.  Jesus said a similar thing to the first commandment when He said to seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and then God will deliver us- providing the things we need.  God should not be sought as window dressing.  God is not just the icing on the cake of our lives. He gives us the ingredients for the cake, the ability to make the cake, and the ability to enjoy it.  God is not to be put on the back burner.  God is the all-consuming fire.  No thing, no worry should replace God. 

Prayer:  You are God alone.  Help me to realize that in the way I give myself to you.

John Calvin Abridged:  God requires here that He alone should be worshipped and worshipped without superstition.  We should deduce an affirmation from the negative: namely that they should look to Him alone/  This commandment focuses on the inward worship, whereas the next focuses on the outward worship. 

(Heidelberg Catechism Q. 94) What does the Lord require in the first commandment?  A. That I must avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation
of saints or other creatures because of the risk of losing my salvation.
Indeed, I ought properly to acknowledge the only true God, trust
in him alone, in humility and patience expect all good from him only, and
love, fear and honor him with my whole heart. In short, I should rather
turn my back on all creatures than do the least thing against his will.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6/16/11 The Ten Commandments Preface 3 Deut. 5:4-5

4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

(Mt. Sinai today)

Thoughts: The Lord spoke and "He said."  The scriptures say that these laws are from God.  The test of time says these laws have been beneficial to humankind and are unique in both their impact, wording, brevity, abiltiy to enable people to get along, and content.  Christians and Jews have believed these words are not just human words, but God's words- convicting us of our shortfalls, restraining our sins, and guiding us into His will.  Moses shows here what a prophet/priest does- they stand between God and humans; God speaks to the prophet who speaks to the people.  But the prophet's words are not their own- they are God's words that are merely conveyed by that prophet.  In saying this, it takes a measure of faith to recognize that the prophet speaks for God; and a measure of faith that what is written in the Bible are really the words of the prophet.  In the end, the Holy Spirit enables us to have faith that the words are really God's word, and apply to our lives.  Without this, the Ten Commands indeed become only ten suggestions, and may be criticized for not being what we want. 

Prayer: May I have faith, Lord, to hear you speak.  Speak to my heart and draw me to yourself.

John Calvin Abridged: When God manifests Himself, there is no doubt about the author of the Law.  God also confirms that it is His voice by speaking from the fire.  God speaks in a person who is a mediator, because the people were afraid to hear God's [thundering] voice. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

6/15/11 Deuteronomy 5:2-3

2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.

(Moses on Mt. Sinai- Jean Leon Gerome 1895-1900)

Thoughts: The nature of the Ten Commandments was that it is a part of a covenant.  God is establishing a relationship with us.  He cares for us, so He is giving us these rules that will help us to live good lives-- the way we are designed to live.  The covenant is an ongoing covenant for all who believe.  It was not just with those who were at Sinai/Horeb, but for all of us.  God is not just a God of the past.  He is the beginning and the end-- God from generation to generation.  Moses knew that the natural desire of human beings is to think that God is for the past and not for the present; that laws were for one generation, but not for all time.  So today, some secular people think the Ten Commandments are passe, and are man-made, uncaring laws that are meant only to control us.  For those who have faith, the Ten Commandments are part of God's gracious loving revelation to us- given out of a loving covenant relationship. As long as God loves us- and relates to us, (that is as long as humans are alive) they are still valid.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that you care not just about my ancestors but also care for me.  Let me have a listening and grateful heart.

John Calvin Abridged: He was arousing them to zeal noting the special privilege they have of the Law.

Monday, June 13, 2011

6/13/11 Deuteronomy 5:1-2 Preface to the Commandments

1 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.  2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.

(Moses Michelangelo San Pietro Vincoli, Rome 1515)

Thoughts: Deuteronomy 5 is the second rendering of the Ten Commandments (also found in Exodus 20).  The Ten Commands were not only written in stone to show their importance, but they were repeated for emphasis.  The very word "Deuteronomy" means "second law."  It was not a different law, but Moses was reiterating the same law before his own death and before they entered the promised land to form their own country and people and faith.  The Law was not (as many secularists- like George Carlin tell us) just something given to control us.  Moses was about to die and would gain nothing by controlling the people.  Moses believes and is interested in the people keeping the faith and reaffirming their covenant with God and with each other as God's people. 
One of the great purposes of the Law is to give legs to what we believe, but also to differentiate those who believe from those who do not.  The word "holiness' means "other" and the word "church" means "called out."  Believers are called out of the world to be a holy people for God.  The keeping of the Law, while kept imperfectly is at least our goal.  Others who do not have the Law do not care and are not as highly motivated to keep these laws.  So the people of God here- and us now- are called to "learn them and be sure to follow them." 
Prayer: Lord, you made a covenant with our ancestors and with us.  You are a holy God and we seek to be your holy people.  Give us grace to hear, learn, and follow your way.
John Calvin Abridged: Moses tells the people here to pay attention to the judgments and statutes.  But his goal is not just that they just learn and talk about them, but that they would keep them and do them.  This is not just empty speculation to be studied, but a rule for the ordering of their lives.  So these deserve our serious attention. In verse 2 he commends the law as a peculiar blessing of the covenant.  The more bountifully God deals with us, the more heinous is our ingratitude-- unless we willingly come when He calls to us and submit ourselves to His instruction.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

6/13/11 Reason to Obey Ex 20:1-2; Luke 1:74

And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Ex. 20:1-2)

54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful  (Luke 1:54)
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear (Luke 1:74).
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

(Angel appearing to Mary)

Thoughts: The reason to listen to God is found in His redemption.  He is the One who rescues us.  He remembers us in our slavery to sin.  Luke picks up on the redemption offered through Jesus.  It is found in Mary's song (Lk. 1:54) where she sees God's help and mercy through Jesus. It is found in Zecharaiah's song which focuses on God's rescuing us from those who would bring us harm (Lk. 1:74).  It is found in Simeon's song which points to Jesus as our "salvation."  God is to be heard.  Jesus is to be heard.  If a coastguard swimmer rescues us and tells us to sit in that seat and stay buckled up- we ought to listen to him- and respect his authority for having saved us.  So we should have open ears to God- who not only made us but rescues us from evil, hurt, and harm. 

Prayer: You are my deliverer.  May you be praised and heard in my life today.

John Calvin Abridged: Some say that this preface is the first of the commandments.  But God neither forbids nor commands anything here.  He only comes to them in His dignity to devote them to Himself and to claim his rightful authority- preparing their minds for obedience. 

He does not merely declare Himself to be Jehovah, the only God to whom men are bound by the right of creation, who has given them their existence, and who preserves their life, who is Himself the life of all; but He adds, that He is the peculiar God of the Israelites.  He later goes on to say that their redemption is a sign of their certain election and adoption.  So we do not serve God out of servile fear, but God gently calls us to listen to Him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

6/12/11 Pentecost- Spirit of Holiness

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Pentecost- Jean Restout 1735

Thoughts: On Pentecost (which we are celebrating today), Peter was telling the people what Jesus had taught him- time to repent and be baptized.  When the Spirit comes, we want to get right with God- repenting of our sins.  We do not need to separate Spirit from the Law.  When we want to get close to God- through the Spirit, repentance is a key ingredient.  If you want to experience God in your life, it is not all about trying to experience God mystically- if we do not at the same time experience God as the Holy one who requires holiness.  The Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. His people are called to be a holy people.  Holy means separate; different; called out (ecclesia).  We are called to leave the world and to follow Him and his holiness. 

Prayer: Help me to leave my sin, inspired by your Holy Spirit.  Keep me from dry, dead law without your Spirit.  Keep me also from deceptive, misguided mysticism without your holiness. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

6/11/11 Spirit and Truth John 16:13-15

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Thoughts: The Spirit that we celebrate tomorrow on Pentecost- is the Spirit of Truth.  The view that scriptures presents of God is that God does not lie or deceive.  Scriptures speak of God as the ultimate true reality.  There have always been those (Manicheas, Anabaptists) who speak of the Spirit speaking apart or even against the scriptures (and the Law).  But the Law is given by the Spirit.  It is no accident that the Spirit comes on Pentecost the anniversary of the celebration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.  The Law and the Spirit go together.  The Spirit gives the Law, enables us to keep the Law, and guides us through the Law into the future.  Spirit and Truth go together.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Spirit of holiness and truth, help me to see you by being holy, by seeking truth. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

6/10/11- Spirit and Truth John 4:23-24

This is part of a series on the Ten Commandments in the New Testament
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

(Karl Henry Bloch- Woman at the Well)

Thoughts: Spirit and Truth are not antithetical.  Freedom and holiness are not opposites.  Many say that rules and laws are limiting, but when the laws are just and people freely desire to do what is right, rules are not perceived as harsh or hard or constraining.  As America slinks away from its desire to listen to the scriputres, the scriptures then seem more and more antiquated and alienated.  But when the Spirit moves within us, we desire truth.  At Pentecost "what shall we do?" and "repent" were not harsh words, but welcomed words.  The call to repentance, when combined with the Spirit- means there is a way back.  But the call to repentance where there is no spirit seems as alien as someone bearing a placard saying, "Repent the End is Near."  What the Church in America needs is not just repentance, but a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.  Christ longs for us to worship in both spirit and truth. 

Prayer: Help me, Holy Spirit, to worship you.  Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  Fall afresh on me, and not just on me, but on all of us. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

6/9/11 Mark 7:9-14 Finding a way around the heart of the law

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

(Jerome Nadal- Evangelical Historie)

Thoughts:   Jesus was not for abolishing the gist of the commandment.  He rebuked the Pharisees for not honoring their father and mother, but finding a way to excuse their disobedience.  Jesus was in favor of elevating scripture as authoritative over human traditions- the experts (of the law- or of science- or of experience).  The experts in the law were great at finding a way around the law.  Jesus encouraged the people to reform according to the Word of God, not according to their expertise. 

Prayer:  Help me, like Christ, to always hold onto your word more than human traditions. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

6/8/11 Matthew 12:31-35 The Spirit and the Commandments

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

(Jesus Heals deaf-mute Jerome Nadal 1593)

Thoughts: Jesus here speaks interchangeably between the Spirit and the Law.  Jesus had an uncanny ability to concentrate not on the letter of the law but on the spirit beneath it.  He calls us to do the same.  Sins can be forgiven- any kind.  But what cannot be forgiven is turning away from God- thinking God is evil when He is good.  Jesus had healed a deaf-mute-demon-possessed man.  It was a great thing- an amazing good.  Yet the Pharisees, because they did not want to believe in Him, said Jesus was from the devil.  Out of our spirit within us comes the fruit without.  Sinning is one thing, but purposefully calling God evil is a horrible evil.  To call the Maker of all things evil (as so many do so lightly today) shows lack of respect or awe of the Almighty.  It shows not just rebellion against God, but a hatred of Him and His ways.

Prayer:  May my heart be one with your heart.  Give me grace and discernment to be able to tell right from wrong, good from evil. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

6/7/11 Matthew 19:16-19 Jesus on the Ten

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,  honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

(Presbyterian Disaster Assistance team helps with tornado relief)

Thoughts: There are basically two ways to get to heaven.  One way is by keeping the commandments perfectly.  No one but Jesus will enter that way.  Even this young man who kept all of these still could not sell all he had and give to the poor- which is what he lacked.  The other way to get to heaven is by the grace of God. 
But the commandments that Jesus listed should not be overlooked.  They all had to do with love for neighbor (Calvin called them the second table of the Law).  The ones missing were putting other gods first, making idols, misusing God's name, keeping the Sabbath, and coveting.  It is not that these were unimportant, but the ones listed by Jesus were more visible, measurable, and plain.  Jesus was giving the young man something concrete to strive for.  1 John 4:20, 21 echoes this in saying, 20 "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister."

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to show love for you by loving those around me.  Help me to go out of my way to love others that I hear are in need.  We pray for those who are recovering from disasters today. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

6/6/11 Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

(Jesus in Temple James Tissot 1896-94)

Thoughts: James calls this "The Royal Law" (James 2:8).  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 (love God), and Leviticus 19:18 (Love neighbor). It is important to look at the Old Testament context for these laws. Calvin points out these are the two divisions of the ten commandments- the focus on God and the focus on human beings.  The context in Deuteronomy is that the passage begins speaking of God as one (similar to the first of the Ten Commandments).  Then the passage asks us to pass these commandments on to our children.  So the motivation to love God is that God is the One and Only, who will also be God to their descendants.  Before Leviticus presecribes loving neighbor, it speaks of not seeking revent and not holding a grudge.  So the context is that the person we are called to love has done enough wrong so that we would want to seek revenge or hold a grudge.  It appears then, that this is similar to Jesus' prescription to turn the other cheek.  It is important to see these commands to love in their context.

Prayer: Help me to lvoe you and my neighbor, Lord. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

6/5/11 James 2:8-11

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

(Jesus and Woman Caught in Adultery Jn. 8- "Go Leave Your Life of Sin"  Adultery and Murder were both here)

Thoughts: The royal law is the law of love (Mt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10).  But the Law itself is impossible to keep.  If you break just one commandment you are labled a law-breaker.  The Law requires purity and holiness.  It is like a glass of clean water, and each sin is a drop of poison.  One drop of poison pollutes the purity of the whole thing.  If you don't murder but commit adultery- you are a lawbreaker  Two excuses I have heard people say about breaking the Law these days- 1) Everyone does it, and if we do not allow it, we alienate ourselves from the culture around us; 2) There are other sins we allow, so why not allow one more (or why pick this one to not allow).  If we know something is wrong- if it is clear, then we would be foolish to say it is unimportant, or rationalize it away- or even rationalize all moral laws away.  The Royal Law is a Law of love- it affects our neighbors and their relationship with God. 

Prayer: Give me grace to do your will, no matter the cost, O Lord.

Friday, June 3, 2011

6/4/11 The Law of Christ Galatians 6:1-2

 1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

(Porters carrying the load of another in Machu Pichu, Peru)

Thoughts: Paul speaks of "the law of Christ" and fulfilling it by carrying each other's burdens.  The Law of Christ is not a different Ten Commandments.  Generally, most believe that God's will, hopes, and plan for humanity- summed up in the Ten Commandments- is united and unchanging.  This passage speaks of "sin" and "temptation" things that would be meaningless without rules or laws given to us.  Paul was probably not referring to the Beatitudes (which some consider a type of Law).  Jesus was once asked what is the first and greatest commandment, and he replied "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is like it- love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:38-40).  In this context of carrying burdens, the command to love neighbor fits in nicely.  In other words, when we carry the burdens of others, we fulfill Christ's command to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to listen to your great command to love.  Give me grace to love others out of gratitude for your great love. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

6/3/11 The No and Yes of the Law- Romans 6

14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!

Thoughts: Paul seems to contradict himself here.  On the one hand we are not under the law, but on the other hand we are called to listen to the law.  What this means is that we are not SAVED by obeying the Law (being good), but we are called to still listen to what God's will is for humanity- what we are called to do in life.  We do not have to be perfect to be saved (no one can meet that standard).  But just because we do not have to be perfect, does not mean we are called to ignore the Law.  It also doesn't mean that we can sin as much as we want because we are saved by grace.  God's grace should enable us to live gratefully- listening to His wishes- trying to please Him. 

Prayer: Help me to live gratefully by grace, listening to you. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

6/2/11 Paul's Take on Jesus' Law Romans 3:27-31

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

(Paul Andre Rublev)

Thoughts: This passage indicates we are saved by faith alone- not by faith and doing good (the Law).  There is only one God, who saves all people (Gentiles as well as Jews) the same way- through faith.  But just because we are saved through faith, doesn't mean the law is invalid or unhelpful.  Paul says that Christians "uphold the Law."  Which Law?  Not the ceremonial laws- the washings and sacrifices; not the dietary laws- forbidding pork and other foods; but the Moral Law.  Jesus emphasized such things- like love over hate; justice over injustice; the Ten Commandments.  Christians do not rebel against the Law, but seek to keep it.  Legalism is believing we are saved by doing things.  Legalism is over-ephasizing rules to the point of perfectionism (but no one can be perfect).  Paul says here we are not saved by the Law, but by faith.  The other extreme is anti-nomianism (believing there is no law anymore).  In the West, our biggest problem now is the idea that to have any rules at all means somehow we are de-emphasizing grace.  Moral laxity has historically been the reason for the downfall of Christianity (like to the Muslims in the 500s; or France pre-Columba).  The faith is strongest, and is what it was designed to be by our Lord when we emphasize both God's grace and the idea of holiness or law-keeping.  It is by grace that we are saved, and it is also by grace that we are able to keep any of the Law.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to recognize my need for your grace.