Mark 10:17-27 “All In”

It’s hard to give 100% of ourselves to anything these days.  Not only is there so much to do each and every day, but there are so many things battling for our attention.  Families run here and there, bringing kids to the next sport or school event.  Technology, with its constant updates and instant communication, makes it incredibly difficult to be fully presence in any situation, at any time.  Even church has become something to do, and faith more of a “checklist” religion than a relationship.

Scripture challenges our “do everything culture,” in the same way it challenges a “do everything” religion.  We cannot simply follow all the rules, go to church each week, and call it good.  When the rich young ruler asks if this is enough, Jesus challenges him to be “All In.”  Are we “All In” when it comes to our relationship with Christ?  Or is faith simple another thing we have to do?

Questions to take home:

  1. What does it mean for you to be “fully present” in a situation (at work, at home, with a friend, in your time with God, etc.)?  Do you struggle with this?  What is one way that you could help yourself to be more present wherever you are?
  2. Jesus tells the rich young ruler to “go sell everything” and follow Him.  Do you think he was serious?  What do you think He was referring to?  How could we apply that to our own lives today?
  3. It’s really easy to turn a conversation about “giving things up” into legalism, creating more “to dos” while removing others.  Are there things that are inhibiting your relationship with Christ?  What things can you adjust in your life to better represent your priorities?


Sin, Sex, Lust, and Adultery: H.C. Lord’s Day 41

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 41

Q 108. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
A 108. That God condemns all unchastity, and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it and live decent and chaste lives, within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

Q 109. Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
A 108. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why God forbids all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires, and whatever may incite someone to them.
 
 
Reflecting once again on the events and news stories of this week, I am at the same time both surprised and disgusted at how timely this Lord’s Day is. To be clear: it is a horrible tragedy that anyone would have to be the victim of sexual violence of any sort for a point about the sin and evil in our hearts to be made. I am incredibly saddened for the many women who were victims of Harvey Weinstein’s many years of preying on young actresses.
 
I also recognize that, throughout the world, this is just a minor blip on the radar of the incredible perverse things that happen day in and day out. Whether it be the prevalence of pornography in the lives of everyday people, the use of sexually suggestive imagery in order to sell products, the sexual abuse of females of all ages by friends and family alike, or the stark reality of human sex trafficking which is abundantly prevalent in societies all over the world (even if we don’t want to see it), all highlight the depravity of our world and our desperate need for a Savior. I can only imagine that the Lord looks down on His creation and weeps bitterly at the absolutely horrid things we do to those who bear His image.
 
For me, all of this points out the relevance of the Heidelberg Catechism and its teaching once again. Many of those who experienced church as a child, especially in
protestant circles, had to go to a catechism class. It was more than likely boring, something that made you wish you never encountered it again. Yet here we are, staring down another national “wall-to-wall” news story of a great person mired in the scandal of sexual sin and we see that, despite social movements to promote equality and rights, the sin described here is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of many.
 
The point that this Lord’s Day is after, is the complete teaching of the seventh commandment. “Do not commit Adultery” is just the tip of the iceberg as it were. Moses elaborates on this, and all of the other commandments throughout the first 5 books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, and Jesus teaches about it in His earthly ministry as well. It isn’t just about cheating on your spouse, it is once again about the heart of the matter: sin.

Matthew 5:27-30

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
It isn’t enough to just not divorce your spouse, though if we look at our culture today we seem to have forgotten about that as well, it’s about the sin of lust and selfishness that is involved in all of this.
 
Sin is disordered love.  All of the commandments in the Bible are summed up in properly placed love:  Love God and love your neighbor.  When the love in our life is aligned well, we see flourishing in our relationship with God and those around us.  Yet when our love is misplaced, whether it be loving yourself and our desires, loving something else more than God, our spouse, our neighbors, etc., we see sin take hold of our lives.  Scripture teaches us how to have rightly ordered love.  It is important for us to heed these teachings.  For us, this is less about rules and more about the results of a life transformed by God’s love.
 
There are two things that I think need to be said in addition to this.
 
First, this commandment has long been used to keep people in relationships that are abusive and toxic.  While I am certainly not an expert on Scriptural interpretation, I know enough about the intent of God for His people and their lives that I can say with a high degree of confidence that this commandment was never designed to victimize or in any other way trap people in abusive or dangerous relationships.  The Bible describes a God that is very near to those who are low, downtrodden, and cast out; I believe this would include those who are trapped in cycles of abuse, neglect, and any other form of danger in relationships.  Those who have interpreted this commandment in such a way as to empower the abuser and blame the victim have completely missed the point, the intent, and the deep meaning of this commandment.
 
Second, at the 2017 Reformed Church in America General Synod, a motion was made and passed to clarify the meaning of this Lord’s Day teaching to also include same-sex sexual activity and marriage between persons of the same gender/sex.  While I believe that the Bible labels such activity as sinful, and clearly defines marriage in the Christian sense as being between a biological man and a biological woman (as those determinations were made at birth), it was the spirit of the debate which was of great disappointment to many.  It would seem that Homosexuality has become just the latest sin that some are using as the test of “good Christians” vs. “bad Christians.”  This is not right or at all in the spirit of unity that the Bible calls for in God’s people.
 
A proper and full understanding of the meaning and intent of the 7th commandment is certainly a good thing.  But elevating one sin above all the rest is certainly not.  Sin is sin.  Like we talked about last week, it is important that we understand that the core of the issue isn’t sex, or guns, or wealth, or anything else, the core of the issue is sin.  The Law is designed to point out sin and in doing so also point us to the need of a Savior: Jesus Christ.  When we turn to Him and put our faith and trust in Him, we find, as Scripture says, no condemnation… only grace.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job, then, to do the work of transformation through the testimony of God’s Word in the hearts and minds if His people.  Rightly ordered love does not look like us going to each person and pointing out their sins and condemning them.  Rightly ordered love looks to those created in God’s image and calls us to love them as God loves them, recognizing that God isn’t finished with them, or with us, and won’t be until we stand together in His presence on that great and glorious day when Jesus returns and makes all things right.


Unchastity: H.C. Question 109

Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
 
Matthew 5:27-29 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
 
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
 
Ephesians 5:3-4 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
 
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
 
Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
 
 


The Seventh Commandment: H.C. Question 108

What does the seventh commandment teach us?
 
Leviticus 18:30 – Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’”
 
Ephesians 5:3-5 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of
greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
 
Jude 22-23 – Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 – Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
 
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be
impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
 

Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.



The Root of the Problem: H.C. Lord’s Day 40

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 40

Q 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment? 
A 105: I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds—and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

Q 106: Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106: By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.

Q 107: Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 
A 107: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
 
I often have, in the back of my head, a compilation of partial thoughts and ideas about what to write about when it comes to these Friday posts.  After doing some reading and reflecting, I usually write up something in a sort of “stream-of-consciousness” sort of fashion that becomes the post for the week.  After that, I create the question posts for the next week, with all of their Scripture passages and the associated links, tags, etc.  Last week, when I was prepping those posts, I couldn’t have even fathomed the horrors that would unfold as they would be posted.  Nor could I have seen the absolute perfection in the timing of the topic we address this week.  And, while there is nothing convenient or good about murder, I do think that the relevance of a document as old as the Heidelberg Catechism and the associated Scripture that is cited here could not be more clear in a time like this.
 
All of America and a good portion of the world has watched in horror, time and time again as the news of mass shootings, suicide bombings, and a myriad of other murderous attacks have been carried out in places all over the world.  Whether it is workplace violence, terrorism, or mental illness is certainly a topic for discussion, but in the end, the same result is seen, the murder of human beings and the same culprit is to blame: sin.
 
The Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion, as well as the Bible’s teaching on murder, does not address the problem at the surface.  Far too often in times like this, we see media, politicians, and celebrities do just this.  We need to address gun control, they say, or mental illness.  Conservatives and Liberals alike have and will respond in ways that tout their own agenda or stance on an issue, calling out the other for their supposed support or lack thereof for gun control, response to terrorism, etc.  Many will post things about “praying for” or “thinking of” the victims.
 
Yet in the midst of the political crossfire, something that we all are sadly involved in these days with social media and the like, we seem to have missed the true depth of the problem: sin.  Mass killings in the United States or any other part of the world for that matter are not just a gun control issue.  If it were, places like Chicago and even Paris should be practically utopian by comparison.  Yet Chicago loses more people in a month to gun violence than died in Las Vegas in those few, horrific moments.  Are timing, location, and magnitude reasons for the lack of mention of one and the wall-to-wall coverage of another?  Should they be?
 
Sadly, this is also why some media outlets will highlight certain styles of attacks, those done with guns, while others highlight killings that involve other non-projectile weapons.  In either case, we are reminded that, for them, it is more about the message they want to convey and less about the lives that are lost.  This only further highlights, in my opinion, the depth of the depravity that we are faced with.
 
Mass killings are not just a terrorism issue, though many seem to be perpetuated by this twisted ideology.  Statistically speaking, mass killings are carried out more by white men with zero connection to the religion of Islam than by those who practice the religion, much less those who are immigrants to the United States (or those who are here illegally).
 
Mass killings in the U.S. are not just a mental illness problem either.  Despite the fact that, arguably, most who commit such heinous crimes have some sort of mental illness, and the fact that we definitely need to do more in the way of creating greater access to care for those who struggle with such diseases, simply blaming one event after the other on the political party in power for their lack of working to fix this problem is not, in fact, the solution to it.  Even if mental health care was free for anyone at any time, we would still see these sad events happen as is evidenced by other countries with superior medical and mental health care systems which are vastly more available than our own.  Yes, the number may be lessened, but it is not all altogether absent.
 
Why? Because the issue of murder, isn’t a political, ideological, national, or cultural issue, it’s a sin issue.
 
Scripture’s teaching about murder goes far deeper than a simple law that says we should not kill other people.  In fact, the word that is used in the Exodus passage is specific in its reference to the wanton taking of another life.  But, looking deeper into the reasoning behind it we can see, through the Scripture passages we’ve read this week, that Scripture is really going for the heart of the issue which is our heart, tainted by sin.
 
Q 106. Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A 106. By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.  In God’s sight, all such are disguised forms of murder.
 
 The search for a motive in the Las Vegas shootings will continue for some time.  Ultimately, it will be tied to some ideological or cultural problem that needs legislation to fix it.  There will be bickering and blustering about it and no doubt some politicizing of the issues in next year’s elections.  It’s happened with almost every event since these things become “commonplace” in our culture.
 
But the real issue, the issue of sin, seems to never be addressed.  Whether it’s because of a Western Church that is more focused on a “feel-good” message, or a culture that is actively trying to separate itself from its religious roots, we simply don’t want to address the issue of sin as a cause.  Simply put, I think it is because we want to be our own savior.  If it is ideological, cultural, or even political, we can fix it with the right party in power or the right push from this or that group.  However, if it is a sin issue, then we are forced to acknowledge something we don’t want to face: we cannot defeat sin on our own… WE NEED A SAVIOR!
 
Yes, there are common sense things that we can (and should) do as a nation, culture, and government to curb some of these things.  Some of them fit a liberal agenda, others a conservative agenda (though neither need be used or mentioned in reference to a tragedy in order to further their political career).  Whether it is immigration reform, gun control, or access to affordable health care, these are not political issues, they are human issues.
 
But, true transformation, whether it be personal or cultural, will not happen without the acceptance of a Savior and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.  We are so wholly broken that we cannot help but do these things.  Few would care to acknowledge that Scripture places on the same level the Las Vegas shooter and me, who has been and still is hateful, envious, and vindictive.  That is, in light of recent events, perhaps hard to swallow; but it is true nonetheless.
 
The issue that has been placed before us, displayed in almost unwatchable images of people running scared amid the barrage of automatic gun-fire, is the issue of sin and evil that is present in the world and in our hearts.  For this to be truly addressed, we need to acknowledge that without a Savior, without Jesus, we are wholly incapable of overcoming it, not just in the culture, but in our own selves.  Then, and only then, will we begin to see the effects of sin unravel as our old, murderous selves are put to death, and the New Creation that God has called us and created us to, emerge and effect change in this dark and broken world.


Condemning Violence: H.C. Question 107

Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 

Matthew 7:12 – So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:39 – And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Matthew 5:3-12 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:36 – Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Galatians 6:1-2 – 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. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Exodus 23:4-5 – “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.

Matthew 5:44-45 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Romans 12:20-21 – On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.



More than Murder: H.C. Question 106

Does this commandment refer only to murder? 

Proverbs 14:30 – A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Romans 1:29 – They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 2:9-11 – Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

1 John 3:15 – Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

 



The Sixth Commandment: H.C. Question 105

What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

Genesis 9:6 – “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

Leviticus 19:17-18 – “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

Matthew 18:35 – “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Ephesians 4:26 – “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

Matthew 4:7 – Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Romans 13:11-14 – And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Exodus 21:14 – But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.

Romans 13:4 – For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.



Luke 9:1-17 “Authority and Abundance”

Thoughts for Reflection:

Today is World Wide Communion Sunday.  It is a day that the Church around the world, from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group celebrates communion as one body, the Body of Christ.  We remember together that we are not here because of what we have done, but because of what God has done through Christ, in us.  We also remember that we are, together, called to be on mission with God in the world.

As we open Scripture today, we encounter a moment when Jesus sends out His disciples with His authority to continue the mission and work He was doing.  We also hear that, upon their return, much had been accomplished for the Kingdom.  Jesus is foreshadowing an even greater call that would go out to all His followers, the Great Commission, in which the whole church participates.

Questions to take home:

  1. Scripture is full of instances where God’s authority is given to a person or group of people for the purpose of fulfilling God’s will.  Can you think of some examples?  What is similar or different about them from today’s passage?
  2. After some time following, Jesus confers His authority on to His disciples and sends them out.  They return, Luke says, not as disciples but as apostles.  Today we talked about the difference in meaning of “disciple” and “apostle.”  What was that difference?  Where is God calling you to step out and make the transition from disciple to apostle?
  3. The Kingdom of God is one of abundance; every need is met beyond anything that could be asked for or imagined.  We are sent out to be proclaimers of the Kingdom.  How has God already met some of your needs for this task?  What needs do you feel still need to be met?  As we take communion (or as you remember it later), ask God to provide abundantly for them as He has for so much already.


Honoring Authority: H.C. Lord's Day 39

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 39

Q 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 
A 104: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.

The notion of honoring those in authority over us is not one that we would consider automatic in American culture anymore.  While the 5th commandment is indeed one that is still applicable to Christain life and family life in general, culture continually pushes towards autonomy, individualism, and self-determination.

While none of these things are bad, in and of themselves, when they take precedence over the God-given authority of parents, leaders, and other governing authorities, that can lead to problems.  Specifically, in families, children are given the ability choose things for themselves at ages much too young for the full ramifications of such a choice.  Children are not capable of governing themselves (think “Lord of the Flies”); that is why God set in place the parental authority and emphasized it so heavily in Scripture.

To be fair, parents and leaders in our culture have not necessarily done a bang-up job of exercising authority either.  Countless stories of parental abuse of authority coupled with the copious amount of blame shifting that seems to go on in our culture when things don’t go right (because apparently, it is always someone else’s fault) has led us to a fundamental mistrust of authority, not to mention a deep divide of ideologies when it comes to governmental authority.

However, Scripture does not give us a pass when it comes to honoring those in authority over us.  Neither does it give us excuses for the abuse of authority or the skirting of the roles we are given either.  Quite simply, parents are called to raise their children, to be the primary source of their learning, identity formation, and spiritual formation.  Parents are also responsible for teaching respect to their children through guidance and discipline.

Whereas it is often seen as natural for children to “rebel” from their parents in our culture, no such provision was given to children in the Bible.  Those who were unruly were cast out; the Law even says that such children are to be stoned.

Thankfully that is no longer the case.  We don’t live in a culture that threatens death for being unruly.  However, there is a way to exercise independence, learning to make decisions, failing every now and then, and gaining maturity and wisdom that can happen without casting aside the relationships we have or dishonoring the authorities in our lives.

Like all things that have provisions in Scripture, the paradigm of authority structures that is set up by God Himself is not meant to be burdensome, but to reveal God’s love for us.  Scripture says that God disciplines those He loves, thus setting the model for loving discipline between parents and children.  God’s goal, as ours should be as parents, is to see His children grow in wisdom, maturity, and identity.  This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.

This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, every time we see that happen in the Bible, things go horribly wrong and they end up in bondage to someone or something.  God’s ultimate desire for His people is flourishing in the way He originally intended.  Flourishing, however, does not mean following our whims and wishes, following after things that we think will make us happy.  Indeed, a flourishing life often understands and respects both boundaries and authorities, understanding them not to be limitations but guides in the exercise of freedom.

When we do this well, whether it be exercising authority or honoring it, we begin to experience the freedom and flourishing that God has planned for us in life.  What’s more?  Those around us begin to experience this as well as the light and life of God spreads through us and our lives point back to Him.



Honor your Parents: H.C Question 104 (Part 2)

What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 

Colossians 3:18-4:1 – Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Proverbs 20:20 – If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

Proverbs 23:22 – Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

1 Peter 2:18 – Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate but also to those who are harsh.

Matthew 22:21 – “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.



Honor your Parents: H.C Question 104 (Part 1)

What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 

Exodus 21:17 – Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

Proverbs 1:8 – Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Proverbs 4:1 – Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

Romans 13:1-8 – Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Ephesians 5:21-22 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

 



Matthew 13:31-34 "The Little Things"

There is no shortage of needs in the world today. Whether it is hurricane relief, earthquake recovery, the battle against hunger or poverty, or perhaps even standing against injustice, there is always something more we could be doing. Far too often, however, these momentous tasks are way too large for us to handle, and it frequently leads to inaction.

This week Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven in terms of things that are start off very little but have a profound amount of growth and impact in the environment around them. He doesn’t tell us that we have to be the most wealthy, popular, influential, or powerful. Instead, Jesus simply points to the faithful and trusting actions of God-fearing individuals that have far-reaching effects in the world.

Questions to take home:

Have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you knew you could help someone with something? What did you do? What caused you to do (or not do) what you should have done?

What is it that usually stops us from taking action when the Holy Spirit prompts us? Can you think of any Scripture passages that would help to encourage us when those times comes? Write them down on a card and keep that card with you this week.

Sometimes the “big things” scare us into inaction. What is one “little thing” that you could do this week that could sprout into something much greater? Will you do it?



Sabbath Trust: H.C. Lord's Day 38

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 38

Q 103. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 
A 103. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.

The issues of the Sabbath day in modern culture is complicated, to say the least.  Some say that Sunday is the new Saturday and that the day is for church and church only.  Others treat Sunday as a “second Saturday” that is interrupted by a church worship service.  In either case, I think, we miss the mark of what is going on when it comes to Sabbath rest and the Bible.

During Jesus’ ministry, he was confronted by a number of religious leaders that challenged Him on any number of teachings.  One that frequently drew criticism from them was Jesus’ treatment of the Sabbath laws.  His response, in one of these encounters, was this: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

For us, this is an important teaching because it gives the context for the ultimate purpose of the Sabbath.  God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Scripture tells us that this 7th day was made to be holy, a day set apart for rest.  Jesus’ teaching reminds us that the Sabbath was actually created after humankind was; there is an order of priority.

If humans were made second and placed in a sort of already created work/rest paradigm, then it would be right for us to hold one day a week for explicit rest in which we literally did nothing (you know like when your parents didn’t even let you ride bikes with your friends).  Sabbath would almost be like gravity in this sense, we wouldn’t be able to get around it.

This, however, is not the case for us.  After God has finished creating everything, He introduces the concept of Sabbath.  Something that was created and purposed for all of the creation, especially for humanity.

Observance of the Sabbath day was codified in the giving of the Mosaic Law to the people of Israel as part of the covenant.  Keeping the Sabbath was a practice that only the Israelites observed, and it was done as a sign of both covenant faithfulness and trust in God’s ultimate provision.   Herein lies a great deal of the meaning behind the Sabbath day.

In a world that never rests, we are called to be set apart and distinct as God’s people.  Does this look like the legalistic observance of a particular day of the week?  I think not.  Does it, however, emphasize our trust in God as the ultimate provider of all our needs by giving a day to honor Him?  Well… that would certainly be counter-cultural and different.

In today’s world, things never stop.  We can’t stop working, researching, checking email, texting, or posting on social media for fear that we will fall behind.  If we fall behind at work, the competition could take us over or take us out.  We could lose our jobs, our livelihood, and everything we’ve worked for.  In essence, we are in charge of our own destiny… or so the “American dream” would have us believe.

But what if that weren’t true?  What if we didn’t take the place of God, the place of the provider of all our needs in our lives?  What if we let God be God and trust that His ways are higher than our ways and that He will always keep His promises, even if it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing?

More than this, though: what if God created a sabbath day of rest/trust because He knew it would not only be good for us, but it is exactly what we need as humans?  It’s construct is a gift to us, we who would more readily work ourselves to death in an effort to get ahead.  Instead, God once again offers us grace and peace by supplying our much needed physical rest in the observance of a Sabbath day… and spiritual rest in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

“May our hearts be restless until they find their rest in You, our Lord and God.” – St. Augustine



Sabbath: H.C. Question 103 (Part 2)

What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-25 – For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Colossians 3:16 – Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

1 Timothy 2:1 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people

Psalm 50:14 – “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High,

1 Corinthians 16:2 – On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

2 Corinthians 8-9 – And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Isaiah 66:23 – From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.