The Fourth Commandment

The Fourth Commandment

Honor your father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.


Would you be alive today if God’s Old Testament laws were still in place? God demanded in Deuteronomy 21 that any son who refused to obey his parents should be stoned. If I had known as a child that I should have been killed for disrespecting my parents I might have thought twice before letting my little defiant heart make itself known.

God knows his creation. He made everything you see out of nothing, so it makes sense that he knows the best, most beneficial way for this world, his world, to run. In this commandment he gives some clear directives on how to get the most out of this creation. God says that if this commandment is obeyed, a long, enjoyable life will follow. Implicit in this promise is that if we fail to follow this commandment, things will not go very well. Continue reading

Why Christ Our Savior? Because He Is the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:1-7)

Text: John 14:1-7

Theme: Why Christ Our Savior? Because He is the Way, Truth, and Life


Why are you here this morning? Why are you here instead of say, Community Lutheran Church just around the corner? Or why aren’t you at the Jehovah’s Witness’ place just down the road or Riverside Presbyterian on south side of 7? Why Christ Our Savior over the Baha’i Temple just east on 7 or Our Lady of Hope off Algonkian?

Why are you here? Why Christ Our Savior? There are thousands of different church bodies across our nation and dozens of churches within twenty miles of here, what makes this church any different from any of those other churches? What makes this church worth attending?

Maybe you chose Christ Our Savior because you grew up going to a Lutheran Church, so it’s what you are comfortable with. Maybe the Fall Festival we had yesterday brought you here. Maybe it was because the pastor here kept bugging you about coming to church.

Whatever your reason for being here today, let me suggest one more reason that should keep you coming here. Why Christ Our Savior… because Christ Our Savior is the place where your troubled heart can be completely stilled, where all of life’s problems can be put into a proper perspective.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I can offer you this because it what Jesus offers. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he said. Continue reading

The Third Commandment

The Third Commandment

3rd Commandment

Did you ever win a perfect attendance award? I went to a smaller school which had an awards ceremony at the end of the year. At this ceremony, those who had perfect attendance would be called up front to receive a certificate. Everyone would clap and those select few would return to their seats beaming with pride. I wanted that experience! One year my parents planned to take a trip to Disney from my home in Michigan. They planned to take us out of school for a few days to make this trip happen. My biggest concern… would this trip ruin my otherwise good chance of getting my perfect attendance award?

What if God gave out perfect attendance awards for his Sabbath day, for church? Could you make a case for winning one? Would you even care? Continue reading

Don’t Give Up, Pray! (Luke 18:1-8)

The Believer Prays Persistently

Text: Luke 18:1-8

Theme: Don’t Give Up, Pray!

1) Pray Continually

2) Pray Boldly

            Earlier this week I was in the middle of a bowl of cereal when Laura and the kids joined me for breakfast. Laura was busy getting her coffee ready (a very important step in the morning) and Gideon didn’t feel like waiting until Laura was done to start breakfast. He plopped down on the seat next to me, and asked for a bite of my breakfast.

At first, I held strong, “No Gideon, Mom will get you something in just a bit, this is Daddy’s breakfast.”

Now, those of you who have lived with small children know that just because you say “no” when one of your children asks for something, doesn’t mean that they’ll give up.

And so it went that morning, Gideon accepted my initial answer of “no”, waited a bit and then asked again… and again… and again… until low and behold, Dad started sharing his breakfast with Gideon.

You know, there is a lot that we can learn from children when it comes to faith and prayer. Jesus himself said the same thing when he was on this earth. Continue reading

God Cares (Jonah 4)

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Me Without You = Prejudiced (Jonah)

Text: Jonah 4

Theme: God Cares

            In the Hoff house, we have three or four different Bible story books for our little ones. Every single one of them has the story of Jonah. It’s one of Gideon’s favorites because he gets to make a spitting noise when Jonah gets spit out by the fish.

The story of Jonah is easily one of the most famous in the Bible. People have always been fascinated by the story of the man who lived in the belly of a fish for three days. Jonah is a story colorful enough to get even the crustiest imagination going again. What was it like to be swallowed by a fish? What did he do for those three days in the fish’s belly?

What’s striking to me though, is how different the Biblical account of Jonah is compared to the children’s stories I have read more times than I care to count.

You see, when I read from Gideon’s Bible books at home, I read a fun, interesting story about a man who initially ran away from God’s command, but after the fish incident he went and preached and all was well.

But I’d encourage you to go home today and read the book of Jonah. It’s only four chapters, you can read it in ten minutes. When you read it straight from the Bible it becomes clear that there is nothing fun or happy-go-lucky about Jonah. The reading from Jonah 4 for today makes that clear. I almost cannot believe what I am reading. Continue reading

The Second Commandment

The Second Commandment:

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

names-of-JesusWhy I cringe at this commandment

Martin Luther wrote of the Second Commandment, “As the First Commandment inwardly instructs the heart and teaches faith, so this commandment leads outward, and directs the speech of lips and tongue into a right relationship to God. The first things that break forth out of the heart and come into the open are words.”

Some may remember that the King James translated this commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” Using God’s name in vain cuts to the heart of this commandment. To take God’s name in vain would be to use his name in an empty and meaningless way, to make his name have little or no value. We fail to obey the Second Commandment whenever we empty God’s name of its significance.

What does this say to the parent or teen that let “Oh my God” slip from their lips every time they are surprised or frustrated? Are they really uttering a prayer at that moment?

How does this jive with the guy who lets fly the “God damn it” whenever he encounters a problem? Is he really asking God to send the object in question to eternity in hell?

What does this teach the person who resorts to “I swear to God” every time he wants to emphasize the truth of a statement or story? Does he really realize that he is asking God to hold him accountable for the next words that come out of his mouth? Couldn’t he in these cases take Jesus’ advice and let his yes be yes, and his no be no?

God’s name is emptied of meaning not only by the preacher teaching false doctrine or by the individual lying under oath in court, but also by us who think and say God’s name without affording it the respect it deserves.

It’s also worth realizing that a breaking of any of the other commandments also breaks this commandment. Christ’s name is tarnished every time one of his Christians acts in an unloving way to his neighbor. Assuming that you are known as a Christian, theft, murder, adultery, gossip and every other sin tarnishes God’s name when people look at you, and gather that Christians really aren’t different from other people. As Christians we represent Christ, so our every sin tarnishes the name of Christ.

With this law as a standard, I have been weight, I have been measured, and according to God, I have been found lacking.


Why I give thanks for this commandment

For centuries the Jewish people have taken this commandment so seriously that they do not speak the proper Hebrew name of the LORD. Whenever they come across the LORD’s name in the Old Testament, they say a more generic Hebrew word for “lord”. They go out of their way to make sure that God’s name remains holy and untarnished.

This commandment, however, does not forbid us from ever uttering the name of our God. One can, and should draw from this commandment that there is a proper time, and manner to use God’s name. In his explanation to this commandment Luther wrote, “We should fear and love God that we… call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

The fact is, we don’t have to tiptoe around God’s name. You see, when we were stuck in the mire of our sin, unable to please God, unable to utter his name without it being a disgrace, Jesus died for us. Blood was shed. Forgiveness was offered. Our relationship with God was restored.

God has asked us to call on his name because he loves us and loves to hear from us. He loved us enough that he wanted to adopt us as his children even when the cost of that adoption was death on a cross. He gave us the perfect reason to call out in his name, praising him and giving him thanks because he gave us Jesus, he gave us life, he gave us heaven.


The Second Commandment

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie, or deceive, or use it superstitiously, but call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

God Is In Control, You Can Trust Him (1 Samuel 22:6-16)

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Me Without You = Paranoid (King Saul)

Text: 1 Samuel 22:6-16

Theme: God Is In Control, You Can Trust Him

            I’m guessing all of you are up to speed on the latest happenings in the world of American politics. Many of you are probably sick of hearing about the fact that the United States government is in shutdown. But I couldn’t resist bringing up politics this morning.

Now I’m not a very political person, but every once in a while I like to turn on some talk radio to see what the folks at NPR and Rush are saying. I mostly do it because I get a kick out of it. I get a kick out of it because it never ceases to amaze me how unloving and paranoid people can be in the political world, how the idea of taking each other’s words and actions in the kindest possible way is basically unheard of on a show like Rush Limbaugh.

Today we are talking about paranoia, the sin of taking others words and action in the worst possible way, the sin of failing to trust in God with you whole heart (now we’ll get into how paranoia is really a lack of trust in God in a minute, but for now back to politics). For me, there is no better example of paranoia running wild than in the world of politics. Continue reading

The First Commandment

The First Commandment:

1st Commandment

                Which false god is the false god for you?

Is it Aphrodite? If much of your time and money is spent on making yourself look and feel beautiful, if you often find yourself wondering what other people are thinking about you, if you obsess about love and finding fulfilling human relationships, then she is the god for you!

Is it Apollo? If you are a writer, like me, then he is the god for you. If you have a loved one suffering some debilitating disease right now, he is the god for you. Worship him and you will never have writers block again, and your sick relatives will all get better (as long as your worship is sincere enough, that is).

How about Hera? Does your life revolve around having a family? Does the thought of losing your family fill you with dread and fear? Pray to Hera! Give her offerings and your family will be safe and happy.

What about Demeter? Are you a farmer? Does your very existence depend on a good crop? All you have to do is worship Demeter better than anyone else, and your crop will be 10 times its former size!

By now you may be wondering, “What’s the point? I have never worshiped another god. Besides those days of having a different god for all of life’s troubles are far behind us!”

Are they really? Continue reading