Monday, September 5, 2016

September 3-5, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Philemon 1, 10-21 “LOOK WHAT JESUS LETS YOU DO!”


PENTECOST 16

September 3-5, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Philemon 1, 10-21



“LOOK WHAT JESUS LETS YOU DO!”

1.     You can stop offending.

2.     You can let it go.

3.     You can be a peacemaker.



Philemon 1:1, 10-21 (NIV1984) “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the Gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. 17So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.”



          It always seems to come down to people, the people in your life. People can be a source of great joy and happiness. Think of the joys parents get from their children, the happiness a husband can provide for his wife, a wife for her husband, the joy of true friendship, the camaraderie at work. It works the other way too. People can cause you great heartache and you can cause heartache to others. Think again of parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and co-workers. It comes down to relationships and because of sin many relationships can suffer. God’s Good News for us today is that with Jesus in our lives we have what we need for our relationships to be a source of joy and not heartache. Look what Jesus lets you do!

          For instance He lets you, enables you to stop offending. When a relationship goes bad it’s because one or both parties in that relationship have caused hurt or offense by sin. In the word of God before us today the offender is named Onesimus. The book of Philemon is a very short book of the Bible, just 25 verses. It’s also a very personal book of the Bible. The Apostle Paul writes a personal letter to a man named Philemon regarding Onesimus. Onesimus had offended Philemon. How? He was a runaway slave. A word on slavery. In the Bible God does not condone slavery but as hard as this might sound to American ears, He doesn’t forbid it either. What He does do is teach Christian slaves and slaveowners how to live in a slave owning society to the glory of God. Anyway, Onesimus had run away from his master Philemon. By doing so he had stolen from Philemon. Philemon was out the money he had paid and the work he had hoped to accomplish. If we read between the lines of verse 18 Onesimus probably had not left empty handed. Probably stole some money to live on as he ran away. Onesimus, whose name means “profitable” had become very unprofitable for Philemon. Onesimus was the offender.

          But he stopped offending. How? “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 10I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the Gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced. 15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good—16no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.” Somehow (we know how!) after running away Onesimus came in contact with Paul, heard the Gospel message of a Savior for all people, even slaves, named Jesus.  The presence of Jesus in Onesimus’ heart changed him. He wanted to make things right. He needed to go back to Philemon. You can imagine his fear, his worries but his connection to Christ meant he needed to make things right.

          Your connection to Christ means you need to make things right too. Look what Jesus lets you do! You can stop offending. Now I want you to think of your relationships. Are there any that are broken right now? If so take an honest look. We all know how easy it is to blame others. But as Christians we know we need to look in the mirror first, the mirror of God’s law. Do I have a sharp tongue? Were the words that I said, true as they were, not spoken in love? Have I let drugs or alcohol or pornography get a hold of my life harming the people in my life? Brothers and sisters, if the mirror shows us we are the offender we can stop. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Believers in Jesus have beat drug addiction and alcohol abuse. They have quit porn. They have learned to say and mean those hard words, “I’m sorry.” If you are having trouble, give your pastors a call. We can help you with God’s words and point you to other help if you need that as well. Don’t let those relationships suffer. Look what Jesus lets you do! You, like Onesimus can stop offending.

          And you can let it go if you are the one hurt. Most of the time when relationships have trouble there can be fault on both sides. Oftentimes there is more on one side than the other. Such is the case with Philemon and Onesimus. Philemon was living in slave owning society. He was a believer in Jesus. We are not told what kind of master he was but he had suffered loss. A successful escape would only embolden others. If Onesimus came back to him what should he do? Why make an example of him of course. The law back then allowed all kinds of punishments for escaped slaves, including death. Masters who were too easy on their slaves were looked at as inciting violence and rebellion. How should Philemon handle this? “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”

          What should Philemon do? Let it go. He needed to welcome Onesimus back just as he would Paul, a brother in the Lord. Why? Jesus. “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” Somehow (we know how!) through the ministry of Paul Philemon had become a believer in Jesus. He was freed from the slavery of  sin, death and the devil through Paul’s work. In that sense he owed a debt of love. So instead of collecting on the debt owed by Onesimus Philemon could let it go. Not in the Frozen way, in the forgiveness way. As someone who had experienced forgiveness from Christ Philemon could forgive as well.

          So can you. You can let it go. In the best case scenario the person who has hurt or offended you will like Onesimus come back and apologize. When that happens there is a part of us that thinks, “Well I will, but only after you’ve paid a bit. You need to hurt like I hurt.” Make sense. But it’s not Christ’s way. Look what Jesus lets you do. You can let it go and forgive and welcome that person back into your life as a brother or sister in Christ. What if they are not sorry? Still Jesus lets you let it go. Through Christ you can put it into the hands of the heavenly Father who knows just what that person who offended you needs, mercy or justice.

          There’s one more thing Jesus lets you do when it comes to relationships. You can be a peacemaker. Paul found himself in the unique position of knowing both parties, the offender and the offended. He knew both of their stories. He knew what Jesus would let him do, be a peacemaker, one who could intercede on behalf of another. Is that you? Are you the person, neither offended nor offender, who knows both and the misunderstandings and the hurts and the fears? Nobody should be a meddler or a busybody but in some cases the one that God wants to use to bring reconciliation is you! Look what Jesus lets you do.

          Jesus is the big difference maker in all of our lives. When Pastor Martin Luther studied this letter to Philemon he concluded, “We are Christ’s Onesimi!” In other words he saw a picture of Jesus. As he read of how Paul interceded on behalf of Onesimus he was reminded of how Jesus has interceded with the heavenly Father on our behalf. We the offenders. He the offended. We know how that has turned out. God let it go. That’s what Jesus enabled God to do. And with God it’s all about people. What joy we bring to Him when we follow His lead. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 13-15, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: Exodus 20:1-6 “AN EXCITING CONCLUSION”


CONCLUSION TO THE COMMANDMENTS

August 13-15, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: Exodus 20:1-6



“AN EXCITING CONCLUSION”

1.     God is serious about punishing sin.

2.     God is (even more!) serious about saving us!



Exodus 20:1-6 (NIV 1984) And God spoke all these words: 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”



          Some of you may remember that a while ago I had to make the painful revelation that my wife, Chris, is a cheater. No, not in anything important or a bad way. She cheats at the endings. If we DVR a Packer game so we can skip the commercials and halftime and just watch the game she cheats. She finds out from another TV or her phone the ending of the game. She just can’t let it play out. Or if she is reading a book, she starts it and then just can’t wait to find out how it ends so she reads the last chapter. Maybe you can tell that bothers me a little bit. On the other hand I have to admit that I understand why she does it. The ending, the conclusion, is important. A game has to have a final score, a good book, an exciting conclusion. We’ve all felt cheated when the TV show ends “to be continued.” Today we get to the exciting conclusion to the Commandments we’ve been studying all summer. It is very important. So let’s say it together with its meaning on page 6 in the bulletin.



THE CONCLUSION



What does God say about all these commandments?



He says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”



What does this mean?



God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. Therefore we should fear his anger and not disobey what he commands.



But he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments.  Therefore we should love and trust in him and gladly obey what he commands.



          Now the first thing that probably caught your attention is that God says He is a jealous God. What? Normally we think of  being jealous as wrong and sinful. Green with envy is not good. But God is just and holy. What gives? Well it has to do with how we use that word today. Now it means feeling resentment at the blessings or good things that happen to another. Originally it simply means to want what belongs to you. And so a wife can be righteously jealous if her husband is taking the affection and attention and love that belongs to her as his wife and is giving it to another. He is wrong, not she. A farmer can jealously guard his sweet corn crop from joyriding teenagers who sneak into his field to grab a few ears. They are wrong, not he. God is righteously jealous in that He simply wants what belongs to Him.

          That takes us to the second thing that may have caught your eye. Those of you who have had the privilege of studying the Bible for a long time noticed that what we use as the Conclusion to the Commandments is actually part of the extended version of the 1st Commandment. And God spoke all these words: 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” The First Commandment tells us to only treat God as God. Give Him what belongs to Him. That part of it is used as the Conclusion is to remind us that perfect obedience to His commands is what God deserves and is owed. And He is serious about that.

          So serious He must and will punish sin.  “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me.” There you have it. God is serious about His commandments. He means what He says. He will punish sin. Not fair! We might cry. Why do the children get punished for the sins of the fathers? God is simply reminding us of the truth that children see and do. Those who hate God tend to have children who hate God. And there will be punishment. In a sense that’s good news. The militant Muslim terrorists may escape international or American justice. They will not escape God. Those who murder and rape, gang members and drug pushers who don’t get caught have already been caught by God and will get punished. God is serious about punishing sin. And it does feel good to know God cannot be mocked and the evil will get their due.

          But then there’s that part of us that remembers there are other people who sin. Our look at the 10 Commandments this summer reminded us that God doesn’t just count blatant sins. He counts them all, all the times we have not put Him first or have said “Oh my… and used God’s name, our habits of putting others things ahead of God’s word and worship, our disrespect to our authorities, the times we have thought badly of another, been selfish with money and things, reveled in the bit of juicy gossip and wanted what belonged to another. If God is serious about sin we are going to get punished too.

          Well God is serious sin but we will not be punished. We will not because God is, can we say, even more serious about saving us sinners. “…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Did you notice the difference? 3rd and 4th generation of those that hate Him but a thousand generations of those that love Him? Now for the big question. Why? Why would someone love God so much that they would willingly keep His commandments? You know. Jesus! Have you ever been stopped for speeding and the police officer let you go with a warning? How did you feel? Did you ever break something really important or big, like a family heirloom, a car, the machine at work and the owner was kind and gracious to you? How did you feel? Have you ever really hurt another person, sinned against them and they forgave you and accepted you back? How did feel toward that person? We have sinned against God in more ways than we are aware of. We are commandment breakers. Even though we don’t want to, we still fall into sin. We ought to be punished to the 3rd and 4th generation. God is serious about punishing sin. So serious that He punished Jesus. There was no warning. No that’s OK. Jesus took for us the full punishment that we deserved. Yes, God is serious about sin but He is even more serious about saving sinners. So He gave us His Son to keep every commandment perfectly in our place and to pay the full price for all of our sins. That’s why we are people who love Him and want to obey His commandments. God graciously blesses that obedience and motivates us to more to show love for Jesus.

          And that’s also why we have come together as a church. A thousand generations. Think of all the “greats” you have to add. What if God allowed us, gave us the privilege of making a difference for a thousand generations to come. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the good old USA. God doesn’t let us peek at the last chapter. But if the Lord keeps this world going what if the reason the Gospel message, the good News of the God who saves through Jesus was preserved in our country because of what you and I do today? He trusts us! He trusts us, brothers and sisters, and He has entrusted us with His word, the Gospel message of Jesus. Even though angels could, to our thinking, do a much better job, God trusts you. He trusts me. That’s why we have gathered together as St. Jacobi Lutheran Church to work together to proclaim the true Gospel.

          And that’s why we called you, Heather, Wade and Alex. St. Jacobi owns the Gospel ministry that God has entrusted to. We have called you to serve as teachers in the public ministry of the Gospel. That means that you will serve on behalf of the congregation. You will carry out Gospel work on behalf of these people who will pray for you and support you. We don’t have a school because no one else in the Milwaukee area knows how to teach the three R’s and everything else that now is taught at the elementary level. We have it to teach children to love Jesus. It’s not good enough for your classrooms to be filled with law and order. They need to be filled with law and Gospel. It’s not enough for you to excel at teaching the subjects and grade levels assigned to you. You need to excel at teaching children to love Jesus. Wade, you helped us out last minute last year on an emergency basis and did a bang up job. I thank you for that. I know what you will continue to bring. Heather and Alex you have already blessed our campus with your kind and smiling faces and will bring your best for Jesus. When you get tired or have a hard day I want you to think of a thousand generations. You have the chance to affect a thousand generations for Jesus.

          It’s all about Jesus. That’s what the Conclusion to the Commandments teaches us. God is serious about punishing sin and even more serious about saving sinners. I guess there we are all kind of like my wife Chris. We’ve peeked at the ending even though we are not done yet. It’s a good one. At the conclusion of this world Jesus wins. And because He wins, we win too! Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

9th & 10th Commandments August 7th, 2016 Weekend

The 9th and 10th Commandments
August 7th, 2016

I Kings 21:1-16  Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”  But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”  So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.  His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”  He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”  So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”  So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.  They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.”  When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
In the name of Jesus, whose blood cleanses away all sin, dear fellow redeemed children of God,
Years ago I had a job where running errands sometimes took me to a parking ramp where which had a tire ripper.  If you were going the right way into the ramp the big iron spikes in the roadway folded down as your car rolled over them.  But if you were going the wrong way the spikes tore into tires and disabled the vehicle.  In the movies or on the news sometimes you will see policemen put down those strips of spikes to stop vehicles they are chasing. 
The 9th and 10th commandments seem to me to be like spike strips.  If anyone is thinking that they woven and juked and dodged their way through the first eight commandments, the 9th and 10th commandments stop them in their tracks.  In the 9th and 10th commandments God forbids coveting- in others words sinful desires for things that God has given to someone else and not to us.  These commandments pierce into haughty hearts and rip away any thought of sinners like you and me making it into heaven on our own by keeping those commandments.  They remind us again how much we need Jesus.  As we look at Ahab’s coveting today we see that our coveting doesn’t make us happy and our coveting makes God angry.
I think the naughtiest word I ever heard my mom say was “Oh that stinker!”  She might have said those words talking about us kids and our behavior or she might have been watching a TV show where the villain came up with a sneaky evil plan.  When you read this story of Ahab and Jezebel taking away Naboth’s Vineyard don’t you just want to say, “Oh those stinkers!”  It all began with coveting.  Coveting that really doesn’t make us happy.
     “Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”  But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”  So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”   This wasn’t the first time that Ahab had been sullen and angry.   As you read through the book of Kings , you get the feeling that Ahab is not a happy man.  The Bible tells us that he “did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all of the Kings of Israel before him.”  All that evil, didn’t make him happy.  He wanted to have a princess for his wife.  So married Jezebel, whose father was king of the Sidonians.  But Princess Jezebel was wicked and cruel and brought God’s anger into Ahab’s life rather than bringing true happiness.  Because of Ahab’s wickedness, God shut off the rain.  It turned Ahab’s kingdom into a dust bowl so that he could not have the beautiful crops he wanted.  He didn’t have peace in his heart because he didn’t listen to what God was saying though the prophet Elijah.  Instead of listening Ahab called Elijah the “troubler of Israel.”   Just before these verses, one of God’s prophet tried to talk to Ahab about something he had done wrong and we are told Ahab went home, “sullen and angry.”
      Jezreel must have been a pretty place.  It was on a hill so it was a little cooler there in the summer.  There was a nice spring there with cool water.  Ahab still isn’t content. He wants a vegetable garden.  He could have planted a nice vegetable garden anywhere on his vast holdings of land but instead he wanted to plant a vegetable garden where Naboth’s vieyard was.    That gives us an insight into how selfish Ahab was.  In the movie, “The Emperor’s New Groove”, the selfish Emperor wants to tear down a peasant’s house because it will make an excellent swimming pool.  Things are a little like that as Ahab wants to tear out a vineyard which takes years and years of careful tender care before it produces a crop and put in a vegetable garden where it was easier and quicker to make things grow.  The land he wanted belonged to Naboth.
       The land had been in Naboth’s family for generations.  Jezebel’s father the king of Sidon, could have just seized the land from his people.  The King of Israel didn’t have that right.  The king was the protector of the land but he was not the owner.  God sets things up differently for his people.  Each family was to treasure the land for generations as a reminder that God had given them the land and one day would send a Savior born in this land.  That’s why Naboth says, ““The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”   Naboth’s answer should have been enough to see that God had the vineyard in mind for someone else and not for Ahab.  Instead Ahab went home pouting.
     “He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.  His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”  He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”   Doesn’t sound like the coveting something that belongs to someone else is making him too happy.  Coveting sort of does that.  That evil craving for something that God has given to someone else pushes contentment and happiness out of our hearts.  In its place comes a foolish stubborn drive to get something  that we think will make us so happy.  But then when we get it, we’re not as happy as we thought we would be and we are on to the next thing to try to make us happy.  In the end it is a cycle that doesn’t make us happy at all.  That’s why God say’s “And why do you worry about clothes?...If God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  The pagans like Ahab run after these things.  Coveting things doesn’t make us happy.
      Did your mom or dad ever say, “Don’t make me say it twice.”  That was their way of saying they were serious about something.  With the 9th and 10th commandments God lets us know that he is serious about us not coveting.  The policemen won’t ever slap the cuffs on you for coveting but God takes coveting seriously.  He is concerned about our thoughts and coveting doesn’t belong in our hearts and minds.  Our coveting makes God angry.
     The house that I grew up in had a milk chute.  Years ago when milk was often delivered to people’s houses, the milkman would leave the milk in this little chute by the door.  We sometimes used it to get into the house when we were locked out.  We would have my younger sister crawl through the milk chute and go and open up the door for the rest of us to come in.  One of the reasons God takes coveteous thoughts so seriously is that they worm their way into hearts and then let in the “big” sins, big in sense that they cause harm to others.  Look what Ahab’s coveting did.  Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”  Jezebel takes things from there.  “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him.  In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people.  But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”  So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.  They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.”  Instead of being horrified that his selfish thought had led to all of this, we are told. “When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.”  Whenever we get the idea that our evil thoughts are really no big thoughts let’s take a look at Naboth’s body with stones piled up on it.  Scoundrels lying, a family’s reputation ruined, a fake trial, corruption, a wrongful death sentence carried out maybe even with the people throwing the stones thinking they were serving God, family land lost- all of those sins were let in by coveting in Ahab’s heart.  It made God angry.   Remember God’s sentence for Ahab and Jezebel? Say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Then say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood--yes, yours!'"
     Coveting thoughts in our hearts tell God that he doesn’t know what he is doing.   “He should have given us more money!  He gave that person too much.   He should have given me a body that is healthy and strong!  He should have given me cooler parents, mine are the worst.  He should have given me a wife or a husband that looks like that!”  Those thoughts are there in the blink of an eye.  Those awful thoughts so often open the door for sins that hurt others to come in. Those thoughts leave out of the equation how our strong and smart God might work blessings in our lives in ways we never thought  possible through things and people we never thought would be a blessing.  Coveting thoughts fail to see the things God may protecting our souls and bodies from by keeping some of the things we want far from us.  If a scan could see wrong thoughts inside of me and inside of you sin would light up the screen.   We need a Savior.  We need Jesus.  Good thing we have a Savior.  He blocked up the milk chute of his heart and coveting out of his heart.  He did that for us.  By faith God hands that record to us and looks at us as though not even the tiniest evil thought had even entered our hearts and minds.  Jesus went to a cross and paid for not only the evil thoughts but all of the evil deeds that went along with them.  Our sins are washed away!  He gives you strength now to more and more to say with Paul “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” 

         I always found that the 9th and 10th commandments were the hardest to memorize.  Maybe that’s because I thinking that the 9th and the 10th commandments were not quite as important as the others.  I guess I wasn’t seeing that because of my sinful nature I have a heart that looks and sounds like Ahab’s heart.  I have a sinful nature all too willing to follow Jezebel around.  Good thing we have Jesus a Savior who covers us.  Amen.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

July 30-August 1, 2016 Pastor Timothy J. Spaude Text: James 3:3-12 “ANOTHER REASON I NEED JESUS: “I’M NO EXPERT TONGUE TAMER”


REASONS I NEED JESUS #7

July 30-August 1, 2016

Pastor Timothy J. Spaude

Text: James 3:3-12



“ANOTHER REASON I NEED JESUS:

“I’M NO EXPERT TONGUE TAMER”



James 3:3-12 (NIV 1984) “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”



          I tell the Confirmation Class kids that it’s always easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes. The fact of the matter is we learn best from our own, especially when they hurt. I can still remember the day. I was sitting in my college dorm room with friends and my roommate, good friend, lifting partner. He’d had a girlfriend for quite a while and had been spending more time than usual with her. Some of the guys didn’t like that and started in on him. What started as friendly teasing was getting a little personal and heated and that’s when one of the guys said to my roommate, friend and lifting partner, “Even Spud says you’re whipped.” His gaze turned to me. My face flushed because it was true. Behind his back, instead of defending him, I had joined in. I had some fence mending to do. Have you ever had that happen to you where you got busted for talking behind  someone’s back? If you haven’t, count yourself blessed because you know there are plenty of times you could have and should have.

          Sins of the tongue. We tend to downplay them. “I was only kidding,” is the excuse used to justify cruel teasing. “Well it’s true,” covers a multitude of gossiping and character assassinations. God doesn’t downplay sins of the tongue. Listen again as He reminds us how powerful our tongues actually are. “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Little bits control huge horses.  Relatively small rudders steer huge ocean going ships. A tiny spark causes great destruction. California and other western states have experienced the damage one little spark can cause. In a recent devotion I read this. “Martin Luther once commented, “The gossip has the devil on his tongue, and the listener has the devil in his ear.” Not to improve on the Reformer’s observation, but before the devil is on the tongue and in the ear, he’s in the heart.” When we engage in those sins of the tongue the Devil is in our hearts. Hear again how serious God is. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

          Your tongue gets you in trouble with more than your college roommate. It gets you in trouble with God. And here’s another reason I need Jesus. I can’t tame my tongue. Neither can you. God knows that. He had James write, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” State Fair is just around the corner. My wife used to help neighbors show Belgian draft horses. Have you ever been close to one? Go in the horse barn and see. They are huge draft horses with bulging muscles. And yet these slight of frame girls could easily lead them around. But they couldn’t tame their tongues. Construction workers can control massive cranes placing trusses and beams exactly where they need to go. But they can’t control their tongues. Think of how easy the lies come when you are put on the spot or justly accused. Kids murder each other with words that hurt on the playground and at school and now in text messages and posts to hurt those who are left out. Jesus gave what is known as the Golden Rule to show how easy it is to know how to love others. You can use it in reverse to show our shameful sinful hypocrisy when it comes to sins of the tongue. Do you like it when other family members tell stories about you that don’t make you look good? Why do that with others? Do you like it when those under your authority, your children, students, workers, talk badly about you and make you look bad? Why do feel like you can do that to your authorities? Think it’s no big deal? Look again in the mirror of God’s Word. If you are someone who sits around a campfire, in a dorm room, in the break room, on social media, gossiping, stirring up dissension and  making separations among friends, family, co workers, God calls you a pervert. And you thought that just applied to sexual deviants. The list of tongue sins is endless. Husbands bark at wives. Wives belittle their husbands. Parents think angry yelling is a form of discipline. Children think sass is a constitutional right. Shall we go on? And then there are the times we don’t use our tongues. You’ve heard it said that silence is golden? Silence can also be deadly. For God expects us to be the ones who stand up and defend our family, co workers, bosses, school mates.  I’m no expert tongue tamer. And neither are you.  I need Jesus. And so do you.

          And thankfully we have him. Did you notice in the Gospel lesson how Jesus used His tongue? He had it perfectly tamed. He used His tongue to bless His enemies. “Father, forgive them.” He used His tongue to give a criminal heaven. “Today you will be with me in Paradise!” Jesus is perfect. And He was perfect for us. You see there were more enemies of Jesus and people who dishonored His name on His mind than the ones right before Him. It was more than Roman soldiers who placed Him on the cross. We did too. Oh no, not that we put Him there. We made it necessary. Jesus went to the cross willingly because He loves us so. He didn’t want us experiencing the hellfire our tongues have earned so He took it for us. On our behalf He stands before the Father and says, “Father, forgive them. I have paid their debt in full. I have taken their sin and I give them my righteousness.” On our last day on earth He will come for us and say, “Today! Today is your day for paradise.” Thank you Jesus.

          Yes, thank you Jesus. In the Gospel lesson there was someone who did that! One of the criminals. Did you notice how he used his tongue to defend Jesus? We can use our tongues in a God pleasing way too. James tells us how. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” I worked for a construction company for several years while in college. You know how they can talk. Every once in a while when someone would let off a blue streak the foreman would yell, “Do you eat with that mouth?” It was meant to be a humorous way to say, “Knock it off!” James would have us think of how we use the gift of speech and ask, “Do you pray with that mouth? Do you pray to your holy God asking for mercy and help with the same mouth that you tear down and hurt people who were created in the image of God?” And then he uses a couple of pictures. In nature fruit trees only produce the kind of fruit that they actually are. Springs of water can only be fresh or saltwater, not both. Our tongues will only spew forth what already exists in our hearts. If our hearts are evil we will trash another in order to make ourselves look better. If they are pure, we will defend. How can we get them pure?

          There was a very famous man who lived about 3000 years ago. He realized that his response to God’s mercy had been to let his heart become evil. And when he realized that he also realized he could not change on his own. King David prayed to God. We use a portion of that prayer in one of our orders of worship we haven’t used in a while. Please stand and turn to page 20 in the front of the hymnal and sing the prayer you find on the top of the page with me so that from our mouths will come praise and not cursing. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free Spirit. Amen.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[Reason #7 of “10 Reasons Why I Need Jesus” Pastor Bivens



[Reason #7 of “10 Reasons Why I Need Jesus” 

Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.

Intro: [Ever leave a restaurant and notice people smiling at you? At first you may think you are looking good and people are pleased to see you. Then you look at a mirror. You didn't just eat your lunch. You're wearing part of it. It's embarrassing. The mirror tells the truth about the spaghetti sauce, mustard, or catsup now a part of your wardrobe.] A major purpose of God’s Law is to serve as a moral or ethical mirror. We look at the demands of divine law and see how our ethical behavior has been compared to what God requires. It isn’t pretty, is it? God demands perfection; we offer imperfection. God requires love for him and our neighbor—always. We offer a lot less in attitude and behavior. We focus on the 7th Commandment today and see another reason why we need Jesus, why I need Jesus. And I’ll phrase it this way:
Another Reason Why I Need Jesus:
I See Jack Roland Murphy in my Mirror
1.      I see loveless dishonesty in my life.
2.      I want love and integrity in my life.

Part 1: I see loveless dishonesty in my life (like Jack Murphy)
1.      Jack Murphy, born in CA (1938) and grew up in PA, was a top student with an aptitude for music and sports. He had a passion for surfing, and won a National Championship (nickname: “Murph the Surf”). By the age of 17, he had been invited to play violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. In addition to being a surfer and concert violinist, Murphy was a tennis pro, movie stunt man and high-tower circus diver. But Murphy also had a dark side: he eventually become known as a jewel thief and convicted murderer. In 1964, thieves stole more than 20 gems, including the Star of India, a 563-carat star sapphire, from the Museum of Natural History in NYC. “Murphy loved the getaway scenarios that felt like something straight out of an action film. There was the thrill of escaping the law by boat or car, and this was part of a glamorous package that included an affluent lifestyle made up of swanky parties, fancy apartments and yachts around the Caribbean.”
2.      By 1970 (age 32) he had been convicted of theft and murder and sentenced to two life sentences in prison, plus 20 years. His God-given gifts and skills were misused and earned him punishment.
3.      What hits me the hardest about Jack Murphy are these 2 main truths: (1) He was greatly blessed with talent, intellect, social and educational opportunities, athletic and musical abilities – how fully the Creator blessed him! (2) He used what he had lovelessly, dishonestly, putting sinful desires and selfish ambition first, way ahead of wants and needs of others around him. He stole much from others, sometimes silently and cleverly and sometimes violently. If you think I am now going to draw parallels between him and me – and you – you are correct. Are we not richly blessed with abilities and opportunities that the majority in the world can only dream about? But don’t we abuse, or fail to use, so much? It’s not for lack of gifts and possessions; it’s the evil nature that is never satisfied and never thankful for what’s received.
4.      And the complexity of ways to steal! It’s not just stealing a farm animal or moving a boundary stone anymore. One of the employees at a bank in Kansas was putting money in the ATM machine and accidently put $20 bills in the $10 slot, and $10 bills in the $20 slot.  So when people pushed $10, they got $20, and when people pushed $20, they only got $10. You can finish this story yourself. All the people who were short-changed $10 came complaining and demanding that the bank pay them back.  But guess what?  Not one customer who got too much money back came into the bank to return the money.  They just drove away. That’s called “stealing.” 
5.      And our difficulty to confess it. Norman Rockwell painting (Oct 1936): In the picture, both the woman and the butcher have pleased looks on their faces…as if each knew a secret joke. Look closely at their hands. The butcher is pushing DOWN on the scales with his thumb and the woman is pushing UP on the other side with a dainty forefinger. They think they are taking advantage of the other…. STEALING without the other knowing. It serves to illustrate our attitude toward the 7th commandment.  Both the butcher and the lady would resent being called thieves. Stealing often masquerades as “smart business, clever advertising, just looking out for oneself, a victimless crime (when insurance companies and government are involved), or necessary because “everyone else is doing it.” It’s still stealing. Movies & TV often romanticize dishonesty and make it legitimate if “good or clever” people rob “bad guys.” But it’s still stealing and sinful.
6.      That’s why I – we – need Jesus! It’s more than a lack of love for my neighbor or too much love for myself. It’s a lack of trust and love for God and sometimes more than that. I disagree with how much he chose to give me; I am not content with the kind of gifts he sent me and I am not content to let him distribute or redistribute things as he wills. If we trust God to provide everything we need and the things we should have, we’re not going to steal. I need that kind of trust and love to stand before God on Judgment Day – and can get this only from Jesus, who has it and shares it freely.

Transition: Let’s return to the saga of Jack Roland Murphy, “Murph the Surf.” He was sentenced to a double life sentence plus 20 years. But the rest of his story needs to be told.

Part 2: I want love and integrity in my life (like Jack Murphy)
1.      After some famous Christian athletes visited his prison and shared the good news of Jesus, Murphy was on the receiving end of a miracle of God. He was given new life in Christ. He began participating in the prison chaplaincy program, leading Bible studies, and mentoring other men in prison. His parole date was moved up progressively because of good behavior. After 19 years in prison he was released with a lifetime parole. Once free from prison, Murphy began visiting prisons and jails all over the U.S. as a part of prison ministry. The Parole Board terminated his "lifetime parole" in 2000. To this day he continues to serve Jesus and souls.
2.      I can understand it if people see “injustice” in this. Many would say he should have to pay for his crimes in full and it isn’t fair for his sentences to be reduced and his parole lifted. I get that. But I chose to talk about Jack Murphy today because of the parallel between him and us because of Jesus Christ. Murphy received two blessings: (1) the opportunity to begin a new life with new goals, new patterns of giving rather than taking, new level of integrity and honesty. (2) a new heart, new way of thinking, new set of desires and intentions in his heart, mind, and will. This allowed him to take advantage of the new opportunities and freedoms by cultivating a different lifestyle. It’s not just a matter of “education” or getting new information – a new heart is needed. (Teddy Roosevelt: man without education may steal from a freight car; a university graduate may steal the whole railroad.)
3.      That’s why I – we – need Jesus! Jesus gives more than pardon or forgiveness. His love gives birth to love in us. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation!” (2 Cor 5:17). I am not saying that is more important than the forgiveness of sins and I am not saying that living a new life results in forgiveness of sins. No, that is all 100% by grace, freely given and fully paid for by Jesus Christ. But I am saying that it’s a wonderful package deal: new life and a growing faith-life accompanies heavenly citizenship. And new promises! Recall today’s Readings: 2 Co 9:6-11 [call to generosity on the foundation of gracious giving of God guaranteed!] and Mt 6:19-24 [encouragement to seek heavenly treasures rather than lesser and less secure earthly ones]. God’s love and faithfulness are the key. As in Philippians 4:19—And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” With that confidence, and with thankful love for what he did for us, we express new attitudes about money and possessions – our own and our neighbor’s.

Conclusion:  Dr. Madison Sarratt taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University (in Nashville). Before giving a test, the professor would admonish his class something like this: "Today I am giving two examinations--one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can't pass trig, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the exam of honesty." Well expressed. If we are identifying priorities, character is higher than math skills – or literature knowledge, spelling skill, or penmanship. That’s why we all need Jesus – to remove our guilt for loveless dishonesty and to supply a new heart that can express love and integrity here on earth and forever in heaven! Amen.