From the Christ Church call to worship, March 15, 2015
“You shall not bear covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” This is the tenth and final commandment. This is a commandment that is difficult to dodge. Coveting, that is desiring those things that are not yours, is one of the easiest sins to slip into. It is very easy to covet in such a way that the sin remains entirely internal. No one sees you doing it. And, unlike the prohibition of murder, it is one of those sins that seems so harmless, so innocent. It seems to hardly register as a sin.
Why? Is it wrong to want something? Is it wrong to have a desire? Continue reading
From the Christ Church call to worship, March 8, 2015
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This is the ninth commandment. Solomon seems to have had a number of encounters with this sin, since he gives descriptions throughout the book of Proverbs of the destructiveness of false testimony. In 25:18, the man who lies is like someone wandering around with club whacking people. Elsewhere he says it is like someone stabbing with a sword (12:18). Lying is therefore a form of violence, a way of attacking your enemy. But it is an attack that pretends to be something else. Lying is a way of hiding hatred (10:18), so that when there is hatred in your heart, there are lies on your lips.
As king of a great nation, Solomon inhabited a court of power hungry men trying to establish themselves. Telling lies is a way of politicking, whether it be the politicking of first graders or of congressmen, there is nothing new under the sun. And Solomon knew what it was to be surrounded by men who were trying to play him with lies. And so he particularly gave pointed warnings about being a man in power who allows himself to be moved by a lie. Lying is not for a prince (17:7) and a ruler who listens to a lie will soon be surrounded by wicked men (29:12). Therefore, you want not only to be free from lies himself, but to be free from liars (30:8). Continue reading
“You shall not steal.” This is the eighth commandment. In the New Testament, Paul gives his advice for the man guilty of stealing. In his letter the Ephesians, he says, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” (Eph. 4:28). And in Romans, he gives this summary of all the ten commandments, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law,” (Rom. 13:8).
Think about the change in demeanor that it would require in order to move you from a temptation to steal so that you might provide for yourself, to a desire to give away so that you might bless others. And ask yourself if you are walking with this old, sinful demeanor. Are your eyes on yourself, are you twisting every situation to make sure that you have your own needs taken care of? Are you sneaking things past and excusing the evil in what you have done because the sin feels justified purely because it is what had to be done in order for you to get what you want? Continue reading
“You shall not commit adultery.” This is the seventh commandment. And Jesus let us know that this command extends far beyond just the physical act of violating your marriage vows. It includes even the lustful glance that betrays a heart full of adultery. Jesus was not introducing a new standard when he taught this. Throughout the Old Testament, it is clear that a lustful glance was the beginning of sin. Job was righteous because he had made a covenant with his eyes to not allow this to happen. And David’s sin with Bathsheba is told in such a way that we see his adultery beginning with his glance at Bathsheba bathing.
Why is a glance like this a sin? To begin with, it’s a sin because God told us it was. We need nothing more than this. But it is not hard to see other reasons why it is forbidden. It is a sin because it is faithless and Paul told us that “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Why is sexual lust a lack of faith? It is failing to trust God that he has good things intended for you. It is longing, even if only internally and for a moment, for something that God has not given to you. It is failing to trust that God has a feast prepared for you, a feast of good things, of lasting pleasures. It is disbelieving in the goodness of God.
From the Christ Church call to worship January, 2015
“You shall not murder.” This is the sixth commandment. It seems to be the big E on the eye chart. If you talk to a non-Christian about their need for a Savior to deliver them from the guilt of their sin, then this is the commandment that most of them would like to dwell on. “Look, I’m a basically good person. I haven’t murdered anyone.” It seems like the one place that we can stand in the ten commandments and be safer ground.
But Jesus doesn’t let us off that easily. First, he tells us that if a man is angry at his brother without a cause then he is in danger of judgment. And then John tells us that, “whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Continue reading
From the Christ Church call to worship January 4, 2015
“Honor your Father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” This is the fifth commandment and, as Paul points out in Ephesians 6, this is the first commandment with a promise, the promise that when we give honor to our parents, God blesses our own heritage. We give honor upstream and God blesses our downstream.
But, when you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that the reason that this promised blessing is attached to this command is because we, in our flesh, are likely to expect the opposite. We fear that honor and deference to father and mother are likely to hold us back rather than bless us. So God reminds us that, in the end, those who have honored their parents will find themselves firmly planted in blessing. While those who dishonor their parents will find themselves emptied out and spent. Continue reading
From the Christ Church call to worship December 7, 2014
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” This is the fourth commandment. The word Sabbath, simply means a resting, a ceasing from action. God wants us to rest. He commands us to rest. Isn’t that a strange thing? Why do we need to be commanded to rest? Isn’t that what we would all naturally want to have?
It’s like finding out that there was a divine command to go shopping, or a day at the spa, a direct order from God to take the next week at the lake cabin. Why does God have to command us to rest? It seems a bit like throwing a rock into the air and then commanding it to drop. Of course it’s going to fall, that’s what it naturally does. So why tell us to rest, when that is what we would all say that we would like to do?
Because despite what we say, resting does not come easy to us. Throughout the Old Testament one of the charges that God brought against Israel was that they would not keep the Sabbath, they would not rest. And the same charge could easily be brought against us. Continue reading
“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.” This is the third commandment. Most specifically, there are two parts to breaking this commandment. First, you must invoke God’s name in a vow – that is what taking his name means. Second, the one who makes this vow, then treats that vow lightly, as if it was an empty thing. For instance, to swear in court by God’s name, when you intend to tell a lie, would be a direct violation of the third commandment. We could add to this, the terrible custom of using the name of “God” or “Jesus” as if it were a swear word. These are mock vows that act as if the name of God were a triviality.
But we should remember that at the Great Commission, Jesus commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of the whole earth by baptizing them into the name of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” God’s name, revealed as Yahweh in the Old Testament, has been revealed to us once more as the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that name is taken up by each of us at our baptism. Continue reading
From the Christ Church first service Call to Worship on Nov. 9, 2014
In the second commandment we are prohibited from making a carved image or likeness of any sort to be used in the worship of God. The church has always had a hard time being faithful to this command. What is it about the human heart that is inexplicably pulled towards wanting to draw God? Or, considered from the other side, why is it so important to ensure that we not draw God?
I believe that the problem is that the use of images in worship is a way of trying to tame God, it’s a way of making him serve our own proclivities by portraying God, not so much as he is, but rather as we want him to behave. When we use images in worship, our vices are indulged and set up as a picture of the god that we want to worship. Syrupy-sweet sentimentality, machismo run amok, ethnic chauvinism – we paint those things that we see in ourselves, that we want to indulge. Continue reading
From the Lord’s Supper meditation at Christ Church first service 10/12/14
In Scripture the word “flesh” generally indicates the opposite of faith. When you trust in flesh, you are trusting in what you can see. You are being faithless and resting your hopes on something that is plain to your eyes. Continue reading