God, not gods

“You shall have no other gods before me. [Exodus 20:3]

The first and greatest commandment…

…because without this commandment, everything else falls apart. If God Almighty is not your God then why would you care about honoring His name or remembering the Sabbath Day or have any respect for the other commandments?

You might say, though,

I honor my father and mother.
I don’t go around killing people or stealing from others.
I am faithful to my wife/husband.
I don’t back stab/gossip about people or covet their stuff.

That’s GREAT (on the surface) but you still violate these commandments in your heart and mind; sinning against God. Even thinking about killing someone or just getting angry with someone still violates the commandment (according to Jesus). Looking at another woman/man is cheating on your spouse (according to Jesus). Etc, etc… But then again, if God Almighty is not your God then why would you care?

Jesus says that this is the first and greatest commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

So what does it mean to have others gods (and we all have them; even this pastor)? Anything we fear more than God has become our god. Anything we put before God has become our god. Anything we honor more than God has become our god. And anything we fear losing more than God has become our god. Convicting, isn’t? At least for me it is when I meditate on this commandment.

The fact is: We worship gods.

Think about it:
~ You withhold giving to God because you fear you lack the resources?
~ You skip worship because you fear reprisal from others for not attending a certain event.
~ You spend more money on yourself than giving to others in need.
~ You nurture relationships with people more than you nurture your relationship with God.

And the list goes on. We all fall into one or more of these examples.

Oh God, please forgive me.

So we need to take a faith inventory of our lives and see what gods are taking up residence in our hearts; turning us away from God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Consider what things and people you think you can absolutely NOT live without. These may be your gods. And then lift these up to God in confession and ask for a heart inclined towards Him. Don’t fall for the lie that the gods in this world can give you anything of value. Only God Almighty can through faith in Jesus Christ. Only the One and True God is worth worshiping. Only the God of heaven and earth can give you your heart’s TRUE desire; eternal life.

Clean house
Sweep away those gods
Seek God

And, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Let’s pray…

Father God, what a travesty that we turn away from you and seek after other gods. Please accept my confession (and the confession of anyone else here seeking You). Please incline my heart to you that I may mediate on your promises and cling to the hope that you give through Jesus Christ. All praise and honor are due to You and You alone. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

One purpose

5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
[James 3:5-10]

I published a post a couple days ago titled, “A big fat lie”. I am not going to rehash what I said there as a way to get you up to speed here (I trust you are able to look back and read for yourself).  But what I am going to say is something that is rolling around in my heart as I prepare to preach this sermon on the 8th Commandment ~ “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”

How are you using your words?  Are they blessing and praising the Lord or bringing others down; people who were created in the image of God?  Are you crafting words together with the intention to create, build and maintain faith or are your words cursing others through inappropriate displays of power through gossiping and backstabbing.  What we say says a lot about our faith and relationship with Jesus.  What we don’t say also says a lot about us.

So as James says, how can a mouth bless and praise the Lord one minute and curse others the next.

This ought not be so!

As a fresh water spring can not produce salt water the same goes with the tongue.  The tongue has one purpose and one purpose only ~ to BLESS and PRAISE the Lord.



The pastor -|—

A big fat lie

When I was growing up I was taught a big, fat, lie.  It was not from my parents or a teacher or some other trusted adult.  The lie came through friends who they themselves learned from someone else.  And the lie came in the form of a childhood rhyme that you probably know very well because you were taught the same big, fat, lie.  And it goes like this…

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I am not too sure why I bought into that lie.  I think maybe I used it as a make-shift shield against bullies trying to make me cry (and believe me ~ I had a few of those people in my life growing up).  Maybe it was because I knew that those bullies would never use sticks and stones to actually break my bones so you might as well stop with the names.  But all the while I was using this rhyme as a weak, invisible shield, I was being hurt more than any damage that sticks and stones could inflict.

Names and words do hurt.

I started thinking about this rhyme as I began my sermon prep this week on the 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  And as I was remembering, all those names I was called as a child came rushing back.  I still remember the pain those names caused.  I still remember the laughter of those kids.  In a way, I wish they had broken some of my bones with stick and stones instead of using words to hurt me.

And today, the use of words continues to be a problem as many kids experience bullying online.  Even rough and tough football players are not immune to the power of words.  In the book of James, the author says that the tongue  is something that can not be tamed.  The same tongue we use to praise God is used to hurt our neighbor.  And I think the worst thing about this is that often times we don’t realize the pain we are causing because so many people try to hide their pain lest they look weak.

Maybe we spread a rumor about someone (true or not, it doesn’t matter).  Maybe we attack a person’s character without all the facts.  Maybe we participate in back stabbing.  Maybe we betray a person’s trust through sharing a secret.  Maybe we use words in a way that sounds comforting but really causes more hurt.  Whatever the form and context of our words, we need to be very mindful of what we are saying.  Luther’s Small Catechism has a great explanation of this commandment; one that we would do well to remember:

We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.

Romans 10 says that faith comes from hearing.  Since that is true then how do we proclaim the Gospel and build faith if we are using words in destructive ways?  May God be praised in all we SAY and do.

Dear Lord, grant me a kind tongue that seeks to speak well of others and gives you glory.  May my words not harm my neighbor but rather lift them up. In Jesus name, Amen.

The pastor -|—