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.



Sabbath: H.C. Question 103 (Part 1)

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 – In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

1 Corinthians 9:13-14 – Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 3:13-17 – while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Titus 1:5 – The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-12 – But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

Psalm 40:9-10 – I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.  I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.  I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

Psalm 68:26 – Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Romans 10:14-17 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

1 Corinthians 14:31-32 – For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

1 Timothy 4:13 – Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.



Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50 "Debt Forgiveness"

The Kingdom of God/Heaven is one of the central parts of Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at what Jesus meant and what the Bible refers to when the “Kingdom” is mentioned. We will also look at how this teaching impacts and transforms our lives through the message of the Gospel.

Forgiveness is the central pillar of the Kingdom of Heaven. Embodied in the life and work of Jesus Christ, our Scripture today reveals Scripture in terms of a massive, unpayable debt that is wiped away. Rather that treating us the way we deserve according to the Law, God shows us His great Love and Grace, forgiving our sins and setting us free from their burden when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.

Questions to take home:

Read Ephesians 2:8-9. How do you define “Grace” and “Faith?” What does this passage mean to you? How does it impact your daily life?

Jesus’ teaching on God’s forgiveness involves action on our part as well. How does this impact how you view the subject of forgiveness? Why is forgiveness so hard for us?

What changes need to take place in your life when it comes to forgiveness? Are you quick to forgive, or better at holding a grudge? Is there someone in your life you’ve not forgiven that needs to be? Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften your heart and help you to see that person as God sees them, no matter what you may have against them.



Place your hand on the Bible… H.C. Lord's Day 37

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 37

Q. But may we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently?
A. Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.

Such oaths are grounded in God’s Word and were rightly used by the people of God in the Old and New Testaments.

Q. May we also swear by saints or other creatures?
A. No. A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the only one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely.  No creature is worthy of such honor.

Again we return to commandment number three and we see much of the same themes drawn out in the questions this week.  Last week we emphasized the need to honor God with how we speak.  Doing so means that we avoid cursing and avoid taking the name of the Lord in vain.  We also do not want to empty the holy name of God by linking it to false claims, deceit, or any other manner of sinful talk.

We also talked about the position of our heart in this conversation.  Scripture says that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  This rings incredibly true for this week’s questions as well.

There are times when it is appropriate to invoke the name of the Lord.  These times, however, are not haphazard or random and their use is inextricably linked to how we honor God with our speech.

When we link God’s name with deceit, we empty His name of the honor and glory it is due.  However, when we use God’s name to promote truth and garner trust in the name of what is right, we participate in honoring Him and giving God the glory He is due.

Placing one’s hand on the Bible in a court room has often been seen as a symbolic act of claiming to be trustworthy in the name of God.  It used to be that this act indeed had significance in culture and in the world.  Sadly, it seems, this is no longer true.  Too many people are more than happy to “swear to God” whilst using that to promote a lie.  This has, sadly, rendered this phrase and its associated actions somewhat meaningless in society.

God’s people, however, are different.  Meaningless or not in a secular culture, God’s name still has meaning and significance among His people.  Despite what happens around us, we are God’s people are still charged with upholding the greatness of God’s name and honoring it with our hearts and our lives.  For us, the name of the Lord is not empty but rather sacred and treasured.  And so this should be reflected in our lives.  In doing so, we may participate in renewing God’s name in the culture around us as well.



"In the name of…" H.C. Question 102

May we also swear by saints or other creatures? 

Romans 9:1 – I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—

2 Corinthians 1:23 – I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.

Matthew 5:34-37 – But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 23:16-22 – “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

James 5:12 – Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.



Oaths: H.C. Question 101

But may we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently? 

Deuteronomy 6:13 – Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Deuteronomy 10:20 – Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.

Jeremiah 4:1-2 – “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord.  “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.”

Hebrews 6:16 – People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.

Genesis 21:24 – Abraham said, “I swear it.”

Joshua 9:15 – Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

1 Kings 1:29-30 – The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

Romans 1:9 – God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you

2 Corinthians 1:23 – I call God as my witness—and I stake my life on it—that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.

 



Holy Name: H.C. Lord's Day 36

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 36

Q 99. What is the aim of the third commandment?
A 99. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.

In summary, we should use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess God, pray to God, and glorify God in all our words and works.

Q 100. Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent and forbid it?
A 100. Yes, indeed; No sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than blaspheming his name. That is why God commanded it to be punished with death.

In the same way that God’s majesty should not be emptied through false imagery and idols, God’s name should not be emptied through language unbecoming of His people.  More importantly, it should not happen that we use the name of God to deceive or allow sin, whether actively or passively.

For the Hebrew people, the name of God was never spoken.  They considered it so Holy that, rather than risking defacing it, they used other names that referred to God.  This action set apart God’s name for what it was meant for, namely worship.

For us, this commandment encourages intentionality and thoughtfulness in the use of our words.  We live in an age where words are a dime a dozen; we see them everywhere.  Far too often words lose their meaning because of it.  Remember the “polar vortex” of a couple winters ago?  It was voted, at the end of that year, as a word/phrase that should never be used again.  Apart from the fact that no one wanted a winter like that again anytime soon, the word was so over used that no one wanted to hear it spoken.

Other words, for us, are quite common place.  Far too often, those words are swear words or curse words that have taken a prominent place in our vocabulary.  Anytime something goes wrong, one of them just pops up.  It could be argued that these words are not taking God’s name in vain because they don’t use it.  However, one of the chief things that the third commandment points to is the honoring of God in how we speak.

When curse words flow freely from our lips, our hearts are not aligned with God’s love or His will for our lives.  We experience anger, even hatred toward whatever it is that is happening.  These things are not of God.  In fact, Scripture says that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  Our speech is an indicator of what is going on in our heart.

So, the third commandment is both reminding and encouraging us: honor God with your speech.  Do not take His name in vain, and be thoughtful of what comes out of your mouth.  It is an indicator of where your heart is at that moment… for good or for ill.



Swear Words: H.C. Question 100

Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent and forbid it? 

Leviticus 5:1 – “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

Leviticus 24:10-17 – Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

Then the Lord said to Moses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

“‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.



The Third Commandment: H.C. Question 99

What is the aim of the third commandment? 

Leviticus 24:10-17 – Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

Then the Lord said to Moses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

“‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.

Leviticus 19:12 – “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.

Matthew 5:37 – All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

James 5:12 – Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

Leviticus 5:1 – “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

Proverbs 29:24 – The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies; they are put under oath and dare not testify.

Psalm 99:1-5 – The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.  Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.  Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy.

The King is mighty, he loves justice—you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.  Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

Jeremiah 4:2 – and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.”

Matthew 10:32-33 – “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Romans 10:9-10 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Psalm 50:14-15 – “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

1 Timothy 2:8 – Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.



Worth 1,000 words? H.C. Lord's Day 35

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 35

Q 96. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?
A 96. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s Word.

Q 97. May we then not make any image at all?
A 97. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.

Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.

Q 98. But may not images be permitted in churches in place of books for the unlearned?
A 98. No, we should not try to be wiser than God. God wants the Christian community instructed by the living preaching of his Word—not by idols that cannot even talk.

Why does it seem like the inside of churches is so drab?  Especially in Protestant churches, the walls are often quite plain and the decor can seem… well… less than inspired.  While this might not be true of all churches, in many cases plain is the name of the game.  But why?

At the time of the reformation, there was a great push by the reformers to remove the icons and imagery from the church.  One of the chief fears and complaints about much of the art work that is present, much of which you can see in old cathedrals in Europe, is that the art itself became the center of worship rather than what it was meant to point to.

The same is true with icons and with relics.  These things are “infused” with special spiritual meaning and intended to be a way of helping the people of God focus on God.  However, over time these things became the objects of worship themselves.  People kiss images of Mary and other saints; are we honoring God with that, or the person whose image is portrayed?

Granted, everyone answers to God for their own heart, but if the Church is promoting such idolatry, isn’t that a problem that it should address?

The reformers said “yes.”  Their response was to remove almost everything artistic from the church.  Many great master pieces were lost during that time as Protestants took over places of worship and rid them of their so called idolatry.

Many would ask if this was the right way to go.  It certainly was a response that was the otherside of the pendulum swing.  For them, there was no middle ground.

Yet God is a God of beauty; His artistry can be seen throughout creation.  He also created us with a creative spirit and gifts to bring that creativity out.  No doubt He desires us to use these gifts in ways that honor Him.

What is important about this week’s Lord’s Day is the nature in which that happens.  So much can be drawn from artwork.  Themes, emotions, and even metaphors can be found there in ways that are not possible anywhere else.  Indeed, these gifts should be celebrated.  However, it is also important that we remember

However, it is also important that we remember that these creations are not meant to be worshipped, but instead to direct our focus to the gift giver: God.  He is the ultimate creator, the one who holds the universe in His hands.  He alone is to be worshipped and adored.



Icons in Church: H.C. Question 98

But may not images be permitted in churches in place of books for the unlearned?

Romans 10:14-17 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Peter 1:19 – We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Jeremiah 10:8 – They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.

Habakkuk 2:18-20 – “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?  Or an image that teaches lies?  For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.

Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’  Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’  Can it give guidance?  It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”  The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.



Images: H.C. Question 97

May we then not make any image at all?

Exodus 34:13-17 – Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

“Do not make any idols.

2 Kings 18:4-5 – He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.



The Second Commandment: H.C. Question 96

What is God’s will for us in the second commandment? 

Deuteronomy 4:15-19 – You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.

Isaiah 40:18-25 – With whom, then, will you compare God?  To what image will you liken him?  As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it.  A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple.

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.  No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.  “To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

Acts 17:29 – “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.

Romans 1:22-23 – Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Leviticus 10:1-7  Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said:

“‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’”  Aaron remained silent.

Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered.

Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire. Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said.

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – But Samuel replied:  “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”