Protecting our neighbor

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13

The commandment against murder is one that most people feel they have kept but this is far from the truth. Believe it or not, in the biblical sense, we have all committed murder at some point in our lives. Killing doesn’t always end up with someone dying, at least not in the physical sense. Killing takes on many other forms. So, what does this commandment mean?

According to Luther’s Small Catechism, the fifth commandment means that we are to fear, love and trust in God so that we do not cause harm to anyone in any way, but rather we are to help and support our neighbor with all physical needs. If we intentionally do anything to cause harm to our neighbor, we are in effect committing murder.

Bombs, bullets, and other weapons are not the only means by which humans kill other humans. We often use words to kill our neighbor in mind, body and spirit. Bullying or attacking a person’s character or reputation are forms of killing self-esteem. Making fun of a person’s physical characteristics or appearances kills confidence. Such behavior, as seen played out in our society, have serious consequences.

In light of the fifth commandment, we Christians must strive to find ways to love, defend and protect our neighbor. For as the apostle Paul writes; “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10

Prayer: Loving God, give us the will to care for and protect the lives of our neighbors, building them up in faith and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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To honor our parents

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

As God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He did so inviting the children of Israel into a relationship with their God and Creator. The God of creation, the God of deliverance, the God of love provides all we need for life in this world. Within this provision is the gift of parents who help us to grow in fear and love of the Lord.

With the fourth commandment, God calls us to love and cherish those whom He has chosen to nurture and guide us. Sadly, parents do not always live up to the expectation God places upon them. We are all sinful beings. We all fall short of God’s glory. Even as the relationship between parent and child is corrupted by sin, this does not relieve us from the meaning of the commandment. We are to love and honor our parents, just as we love and honor the Lord.
When human bonds are broken, we can lift them up to God, praying for healing, reconciliation and wholeness. We give thanks for faithful parent-child relationships, and pray that God’s love would rest upon those whose relationships are strained.

God’s command to love our parents is certainly a reflection of His love for us. It is the first commandment given with a promise attached. The promise of long life and God’s continued presence is given to all who live in the bonds of love. And so we honor our parents, serving and loving them just as God commands.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of parents, for their love and guidance, and for the promise of life with you. Amen.

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Remember the Sabbath Day

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
Exodus 20:8-10

People today are so busy and distracted that the voices of competition, success, selfishness, pride and pleasure often deafen our ears and fill our lives with earthly troubles. But as God’s people become quiet, we hear yet another voice. We hear that whispering voice that calls out to us. As we listen even closer we hear the voice of God.

Breaking out of the cycle set by “other gods” we soon find that it is the one true God who sets the rhythm of life. God blesses his people with all they need. He allows six days for work and gives the seventh for rest, worship, and prayer.

As we consider the Third Commandment, we understand that we are to fear, love, and trust in God, so that we may be rested and refreshed; not only by our taking time away from unnecessary work, but especially by gathering with the people of God to worship, pray. Remembering the Sabbath day means we remembering God is the source of our very lives and livelihood. Keeping it holy means gathering with the saints for worship and thanksgiving. Jesus says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And the people of God say, “Amen.”

Prayer: Gracious God, bring us rest and refreshment through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Respecting God’s name

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7

Our names are precious to us; they identify not only who we are, but serve as a vital link to past generations; they allow us to pin point our niche in the history of our family. When we speak of our relatives, and those we love we use their names with respect. The closer we are to a person, the more careful we are in using his or her name. Such is the case among God’s people and the relationship we share with our heavenly Father.

Through baptism, God makes us his children and calls us by name. The relationship established by God is such that He reveals His name unto us that we may worship Him, give thanks and call upon Him in times of need. Just as we use the names of those we love in endearing ways, we ought to consider the ways in which we use the holy name of God.

Within his small catechism, Martin Luther teaches us that we are to fear and love God so that we do not use His name superstitiously, or to curse, swear, lie, or deceive, but to call upon God in prayer, praise and thanksgiving. When we pray, we may want to ask God to help us always use His name in endearing ways, to help us examine our close relationship with Him, and to use His name to bless others. Pray for the church around the world, that all may come to know God and rightly call upon His name.

Prayer: Almighty God, you revealed your name unto us that we may call upon you. Help us to use your name in faithful ways, that we may tell other of your grace. Amen.

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God of deliverance

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:1-3

Hear these words from God, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out…” There is great comfort in knowing that the God we worship is the very same who delivered, that is, rescued His people from a life of bondage. God, who is eternal and unchanging, continues to rescue His people.

We all are in need of rescue, we all wander from God’s intent and purpose in our lives. There can be no denying that each of us is a sinner in need of redemption. Certainly, we need a Savior. Thankfully, we have one. The God of the Exodus who delivered the children of Israel so long ago is the God who sent His son Jesus as Savior for a fallen humanity. Through Christ’s self-giving sacrifice, God has delivered His people from the consequences of sin and the powers that defy God.

There is peace, joy and comfort in these words, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out…” As you read them, consider from what have you been delivered? In what ways has God rescued you? As you ponder these things, pray and give thanks to the One who saves. Pray for those who are in the midst of struggle that they too might grow in faithful understanding. Pray for the lost and the lonely, the hungry and those who thirst for God’s love.  Pray that they too may believe God loves them so much, He promises to deliver them from sin and open the gates to everlasting life through Christ our Lord and Savior.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for delivering us from the powers of this world, and opening the gates of your kingdom. Amen.

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Being a servant of all

Mark 9:30-37

Look out for number one. First come, first served. I need my space. The world practically begs us to always consider “Me first.” Inward focus is the order of the day, thus we become stars of our own social media pages, updating our status and sharing an abundance of selfies. Not to be out done, even celebrity evangelists find ways to increase their fame by teaching us how to become a better you, because God wants us to live our best life now. The struggle for greatness, success, and social status seems to be at an all-time high. But as scripture teaches us, Jesus isn’t concerned with our greatness.

Jesus says we are to put the needs of others before our own. As long as we discriminate between people, as long as we judge some more important than others, as long as we desire to be more important ourselves, we block out what God is calling us to do and be. Jesus came and took upon himself the role of a suffering servant. He came to touch, to embrace, to heal, to forgive, to help, and to love, even when he knew it would take him to the cross.

Our prayer should not be such that we desire to become greater, more prosperous or influential. God is fully able and fully willing to give us what we need in life. For the purposes of his mission, God often works through the insignificant and humble to do great things. Understanding this, our prayer becomes much different.

Prayer: Humble us, O Lord, that we might love and serve our neighbor. Make us your servants, fitting us for greatness in your kingdom. Amen.

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Joy that lasts forever

John 11: 17-44

The room is dimly lit and the atmosphere is one of quiet anticipation. The emotional toll is paid at first with tears. In time, smiles may come to the faces of loved ones who share stories while they await the inevitable. In these final minutes of a life shared, our need for God’s mercy and grace is worn upon the faces of those who pray for God’s peace and comfort.

When facing the passing of loved ones, the life we have shared always seems too short. We are never ready to say farewell to those who have filled the precious moments we’ve tucked safely away in the corners of our memory. Such times, when recalled, pass by in an instant. In one moment we are keeping vigil, in the next, our mind may revisit a time of pleasure, a time of laughter, a time of joy. Oh that death would step aside and the joy would last forever.

The sisters Mary and Martha were not ready to say farewell to their brother Lazarus, but sickness had set in, one so serious as to lead to death. Most of us have had this same experience, when sickness comes to a loved one, death is not received as good news. Yet, with Christ, good news abounds! Our Lord has conquered death.

The good news of God’s grace brings those who mourn from the depths of sorrow, to the realization that because Christ lives, we too shall live. For Christ is the resurrection and the life. The toll required by our sinfulness is no longer paid with tears. Because of Christ Jesus, death must step aside, for the joy of heaven is ours forever.

Prayer: We thank you for your grace, O God, and for your mercy that endures forever. Amen.

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