Do not steal

You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15

Nearly everyone knows and understands that taking another person’s property without permission is wrong. We simply shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to us, or use something that belongs to another without permission. But the sad truth is, we steal from one another every day, most times without even realizing it.

The reality of human life is that, so often we want things that don’t belong to us. The temptation to steal is ever present. When we think of stealing we almost always equate it to theft. Stealing, however, comes in many other forms. When we cut corners on a job we deprive employers of quality labor and consumers the full value of a finished product. Some take credit for the work of others. Debts often go unpaid, or we do our best to get the “best price” rather than make a fair payment for goods and services. These, and so many other instances, are commonplace occurrences, and we are all guilty at some point.

With the commandment against stealing, God reminds us that He is the provider of all we need for life in this world. We are to fear and love God, trusting in His provision, so that we may help our neighbor retain possession of his property and thus enjoy the gifts with which God has blessed him. In this, we also have peace of mind, understanding our God is one who blesses His people so that they may enjoy life.

Prayer: Generous God, give us grateful and generous hearts, so that we may share the blessings of our kingdom with those whom we meet. Amen.

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Fidelity in marriage

Matthew 19:1-8

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

God is the source of many wonderful blessings, not the least of which is the blessing of marriage. In marriage, a husband and wife express their love and desire for one another and share the intimate relationship of sexuality. Physical desire shared in marriage is meant to enhance, build and support those living within the framework established by God. This expression of love is a wonderful gift, therefore, we should strive to follow the commandment concerning marriage and sexual relationships; “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

With the sixth commandment, God provides the means for building loving relationships and the parameters by which spouses may enjoy the beauty of intimacy and love. As a man and woman stand before the Christian community and exchange marriage vows, they promise one another a lifetime of love and desire. In celebration of the couple’s love, the community promises to love, honor and support the newly wed couple as they begin a new life as one flesh. Still, there is great temptation to satisfy urges brought on by sin and brokenness. The world seems bent on reordering human sexuality to suit its own purpose.

Sadly, people are often wounded because of misplaced sexual desire. Infidelity frequently leads to divorce. Still, God comes to repentant sinners and through Christ, the woundedness of adultery is forgiven. Even in the brokenness of divorce, there is mercy and grace. As we contemplate the commandment concerning adultery, we would do well to recall a statement from theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the blessing of marriage, for loving relationships, and for the lives we share together. Amen.

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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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