“’But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’” (Mark 10:7-9, ESV)
Jesus cited God’s words from Genesis 2:23-24 affirming the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Husband and wife become one flesh, a bond which is meant to be permanent. The fact that Jesus says it confirms that it is a universal truth, not to be redefined by contemporary cultural ideas and norms. Although Jesus did not discuss all the sins of sexual immorality that result from ignoring this truth, he did address divorce because of the question raised by the Pharisees in an attempt to trick Him. Jesus’ response tells us that divorce is sinful and can lead to even greater sin, adultery.
Unfortunately in our day people have disregarded that truth in favor of satisfying the lusts of the flesh and the eyes. Divorce is one of the major problems in our world today even among Christians. People treat marriage casually, forgetting that God hates divorce. It is a sin caused by sin. Divorce occurs because of basic human selfishness and rebellion for it is an act is one in which one or both spouses ignore the vows which they made before God. Divorce occurs when one or both spouses selfishly insists on his/her own way all the time, or abuses the other physically, emotionally or verbally, refuses to forgive, serve or love the other, or when one or both covet someone else’s spouse or another person. If married couples would only remember the vows they made before God and seek God’s help to keep them they could grow together in Christ Jesus and fulfill the promise they made to Him and each other.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)
When I am confronted by people who advocate for the legitimacy and holiness of same sex marriage, I always cite Genesis 2 to demonstrate what what God teaches about sex. Regardless of how one views this passage, as literal or figurative, the Lord uses it to teach a theological lesson about the fundamentals of life. It is obvious that the only sexual relationship He sanctions is between one man and one woman in marriage. Woman is the only real helper God has created for the man. She is designed by God as the perfect helper or companion. The Lord placed her in the garden as the supporter of the man. She alone answers his need, for she alone is his true counterpart in creation. And this perfect and blissful union is fundamental to God’s creation. Two become one flesh. God is three in one, but in marriage, two human beings, one man, one woman, become one. And since human beings are made in the image of God, like God, this union is unbreakable, or should be. Only in such marriage can we experience true intimacy.
Genesis teaches us that God created sex and created it good, but it is good only if it is used in the way He intended it: in marriage. Those who think the primary purpose of sex is pleasure maintain that they can do whatever they want with their body. They either do not know or choose to ignore what God’s purpose is. As far as they are concerned God wants them to be happy and happiness is produced by the pleasurable experience of sex. But when sex is abused or used in a way contrary to what God has ordained, it is sin and will always produce harmful results. Yet people in the world are unwilling to think about these results and deny that there are any harmful ones. They are unwilling to accept the consequences: AIDS, other STDs, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, depression, emotional turmoil and suicide. Only by faith in Christ can we find forgiveness for these sins and the strength we need to overcome our sinful desires.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:20, ESV)
These words of Jeremiah are a reference to the Messiah who would die for the sins of mankind. Yet the words spring forth from the prophet’s own struggles. The Lord had commanded him to preach warning and judgment and to cease praying for the nation of Judah. This was because the people disobeyed God and broke God’s covenant by worshipping the gods of their pagan neighbors.
Naturally, Jeremiah’s negative pronouncements engendered opposition and persecution from the people of his own town. This was the first real opposition that he. He felt like a lamb led to the slaughter (11:19), for he was not expecting any problems. Perhaps the townspeople were afraid that their fellow countrymen would blame them for his words. Or perhaps they were annoyed because Jeremiah was calling for them to give up their own idols and false notions about Yahweh.
We Christians today find increasing opposition from the media, society and our fellow countrymen as well as friends and relatives. The people of this world do not want to change, do not want to submit their will to anyone, let alone God. They want the gospel of grace and tolerance that ignores sin, not the gospel of grace and law which warns people of their sins and the forgiveness found in Jesus alone. To accommodate and attract people many churches have toned down the demands of the gospel to make it more politically correct and tolerant of diversity. In the process, they call Jesus a liar. Such accommodation to popular opinion and pressure from media and government makes the gospel worthless and the church and the Christian unfit for the Lord’s service. Our only recourse in the face of opposition is to continue to remain true to God’s word and to call on the Lord as Jeremiah did.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)
Saint Paul did not want us to underestimate the obstacles that stand in the way of living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. These obstacles are often placed in our path by Satan our adversary. He and his minions are so crafty that they know just how to accuse and tempt us and just who to use to do it. He influences his slaves to accomplish his ends. His slaves include those in high places of earthly authority who wreak terrible havoc and inflict violence and terror on all of humanity. He is at his best when he convinces people that he does not exist. Then they think they are in control, exercising their free will. They are not prepared for the devil nor can any resist him. Therefore he has free rein to use his deceitful allurements.
Paul wants believers to always be vigilant and on our guard, thoroughly equipped for the battle at any moment and ever in prayer. We are to put on the spiritual armor of God which Paul likens to the armor of a Roman soldier. We must use this spiritual armor to defend ourselves against the assaults of temptation and doubt. We are also to wage spiritual battle offensively to free souls from the darkness and slavery of sin.
The truth of the gospel must be the foundation for it all. We must be ever mindful that we who are in Christ possess His righteousness by faith and that our salvation is assured. Such assurance will protect us when the devil tries to convince us that we are too evil for God to love us. Paul points out that the boots we wear are the gospel of peace. These signify that we are to be always walking in the peace of God and extending it to all we meet. The offensive weapon we have is the word of God. When we speak it in prayer, preaching, teaching, counsel and conversation, it cuts deeply into the souls of men, revealing and exposing their sins and causing them to repent, to die to self and become alive by faith to Christ.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville
“Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him.'” (Mark 7:18b-20, ESV)
As we read this passage of Mark, as Jesus addresses the false holiness of the Pharisees, we note that the evangelist tells us that with this teaching Jesus declared all foods clean, that is acceptable and suitable for eating, though sometimes I wonder if He meant liver, squid and eggplant. Basically food is important because it nourishes and satisfies. Eat what you like and feel comfortable eating, but with moderation and balance in all things.
We may notice that what Jesus says is nearly the complete opposite of what is popular and trendy in modern culture. If we are to believe what we hear in the media and what we see on the food networks and numerous postings on social media sites, food and eating are touted to be among the most important things in life. While we all need food, our cultural attitude has made food something which consumes people, rather than the other way around. Food is something to live for, revel in and praise. Food has become an idol with celebrity chefs and diet gurus as the priests. People proclaim the benefits of certain foods depending on their point of view or political philosophy: vegans, vegetarians, paleos, raw foodies, or what have you. Many of these often proselytize proclaiming that their diet is the best not just for them but for everybody. Food, so it seems, is the thing that makes us good or bad.
But Jesus tells us that it it is not what you eat that defiles you, the real you, the inner person. He says that it is what comes out of you that defiles you, works of darkness, sin and evil. They not only defile a person but also reveal the evil that is within. Deeds and words reveal that a person is hopelessly defiled and sinful and in need of a Savior. Jesus, the bread of Life, not physical food, is that Savior.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25-27)
Christians these days think it is okay to be angry about President Trump and to express that anger with vehement protest and inflammatory rhetoric. That is not what the word of God tells us. We may not agree with all that Trump does or says but we must love him as Christ loves us.
In Ephesians 4 Paul exhorts us to live lives worthy of God’s Kingdom. We are called to be holy, to be separated from sin and live lives of purity and righteousness. We are not to live according to the ways of the world. We have been made one with Christ and so He expects us to imitate Him and enables us to do so. Paul then goes on to show the ways we do this using very concrete and balanced examples that point out the negative actions and attitudes, what we must not do or think, and the positive ones, what we should do and think. And the model for us to follow is Jesus Himself.
As we ponder these standards, we ought to consider Paul’s admonition about anger. What he says is totally contrary to the behaviors endorsed by our politically divisive culture. Inflamed by the propaganda and opinion of the media, self-promoting politicians, celebrities and taking heads, many Americans seemed to be enraged, overwhelmed with anger to the point of violence, slander, disrespect, and abuse.
Not so says Paul! While it is okay to be angry about injustice, immorality, and the lies that Satan uses to enslave people to sin it is not okay to let that anger lead us to sin. Rather than angry rhetoric, demonstrations, marches, and inflammatory rhetoric, we Christians are called to promote truth and love And the truth we are to proclaim is the gospel which tells us that we all are sinners. The truth is that Christ loves us as we are. The truth is that He exposes our sin and enables us to fight and overcome it, to change our way of thinking and living to glorify Him. The truth is we need to treat all others with the same love and kindness that Jesus shows us all, to forgive rather than hate. The Lord would rather we should be focused on Him and His Kingdom by living by His standards, not the world’s. So let us trust in Him by faith so He can enable us to use Godly wisdom to discern the truth from the lies.
“And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” (Mark 6:56, ESV)
The Jews of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to be like Moses. Like Moses, the Messiah would lead the Jews out of slavery. He would also have power over natural forces just as Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea so the people could pass through and escape the forces of Egypt. But Jesus is Lord of the sea. He did not need to part it. Jesus walked on the surface of the water. The disciples were fighting heavy winds as they struggled to cross the Sea of Galilee. In the midst of this struggle they spotted Jesus walking on the water, quite calmly and with no trouble despite the winds. He showed the apostles, as He shows us, that He is no mere man like Moses. He is greater than Moses. And He shows us He is no mere King or political or military leader. He is the Creator and sustainer of all life. He is the Sovereign God who rules the universe.
This awesome picture of Christ as Almighty God frightened the disciples who were confused about the nature of Jesus. It scares many people, and if we are honest it scares us when we think about how sinful we are in the presence of such a Person. What does He think of us? What will He do to us? And yet, we see in our reading that He is a God of love and compassion. He healed the sick merely by allowing them to touch the hem of his garment. There is great and awesome power that should make us tremble, but there too is great and awesome love that should send us to our knees to ask for mercy and then rise up knowing that we have it because the Lord always keeps His covenant. He loves us even though we stray and delights to grant us mercy in spite of our failure and sin.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville