Thursday, July 31, 2014

Create in Me a Pure Heart - A Review of the Sixth Commandment (A sermon based on 2 Samuel 11:1-27)

We aren't always pure in our thoughts, words, or actions. But thanks be to God he creates pure hearts within us. We are forgiven for our lust and our adultery! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 2 Samuel 11 and as we review the 6th Commandment and ask "What does this mean?" rejoice that Jesus makes us pure! 

Create in Me a Pure Heart

A Review of the Sixth Commandment

A sermon based on 2 Samuel 11:1-27

Sunday, July 27, 2014 – Pentecost 8A


"Idle hands are the devils workshop." When the kids get bored, they start to fight. When we have nothing to talk about, we gossip. And it's been said that kids are like mosquitoes; when they're quiet you know they're into something.

"Idle hands are the devils workshop." How true that was for King David. When he went on vacation he found temptation. 1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army… But David remained in Jerusalem.

Apparently spring was the time for all the kings, but David, to go out to war. Neglecting his duties, he had some extra time on his hands… 2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful… Just like Eve who saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, David let what entered through his eye take root in his heart and come to fruition in his sin… 3 David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.

David, David! What were you thinking?! Well, I guess he wasn't really thinking. He let his urges lead him rather than his faith and in full knowledge of his sin, slept with another man's wife. And the one night stand didn't end quite like David had expected: 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant." His sin of lust, became a sin of adultery, and, like sliding down a slippery slope, one sin followed after another. Uriah was too busy at battle (where David should have been) to even be suspicious of an affair when David, in an attempt to cover up his sin, called him home to spend some "quality time" with his wife. But Uriah refused the conjugal visit. "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"

Time for "Plan B." Inviting Uriah to king's palace he offered Uriah some of the king's wine. And who dare refuse such a generous offer?! Even after the 3rd and 4th and 9th cups were poured. 13 At David's invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master's servants; he did not go home.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So David did the only thing he could think of to cover up the affair. He'd have Uriah bumped off. How busy he must have been planning a wedding and a funeral at the same time. 26 When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife…

David told Joab, the man who murdered Uriah for him, "Don't let this upset you," (literally, "Don't less this be evil in your sight.") "the sword devours one as well as another…" And he thought he got away with it. But there was only one problem: "the thing David had done displeased the Lord." Literally, "It was evil in the sight of the Lord."

Wow! Talk about sins against the sixth commandment huh? I mean, how hard was this one for David to keep? You shall not commit adultery? The guy already had seven wives (cf. 2 Samuel 3:1-5 and Michal)! That's one wife for each night of the week! But he still wasn't satisfied. What was wrong with this guy? Was his sex drive in overdrive?

Well, maybe. But the real problem was in his heart. …Just like it is in ours. It may seem that this commandment is pretty straightforward. "Don't have sex with someone that you're not married to." Cool. Easy enough, right? Nope. Not right. It's no surprise by now that this commandment runs deeper than outward actions. We break it long before we act, by our words, by our thoughts, and by our attitudes toward marriage and sex.

King David later realized this after the prophet, Nathan, revealed his sin. He prayed that familiar prayer, "Create in me a pure heart, O God." (Psalm 51:10) Sin begins in the heart. Sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, sex withheld in in a marriage, are all sins that begin with a sinful attitude in the heart that says, "Sex is mine to with as I please. My body is mine to do with as I please." But how wrong that attitude is. Our bodies are not our own!

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! …19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price." (1 Corinthians 6:15,19-20)

And so we break this commandment not just in the way we act with sex, but in the way we think about it. Viewing other people as objects to be used instead of people to be loved is a serious sin. Jesus pointed that out clearly in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28) And just as we sin when we have our bodily needs met in someone other than a spouse, we sin when we have our emotional needs met in someone other than a spouse. We cheat. And we are unfaithful.

And whether you're married, or dating, or single, by the way we talk about sex, the way the think about sex, we cheat not just on a spouse (or a future spouse), but we cheat on God. We may try and argue to the contrary, "Don't let it be evil in your sight. Everybody's doing it! How am I supposed to know if this person can truly make me happy unless I first go for a 'test drive'?" But try as we might to justify our wicked thoughts and actions, try as we may to cover it up, it is evil in the eyes of the Lord—even if it's just a thought.

The prophet Jeremiah describes just how vile our sin is to God. (cf. Jeremaih 2 & 3) This is how he put it: "On every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute… You are… a wild donkey… sniffing the wind in her craving— in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her… But you said, 'It's no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.' …You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers… Is there any place where you have not been ravished? …Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame."

Friends, for our impure hearts, for our polluted thoughts and attitudes, for our dirty deeds… for cheating on God, you and I deserve hell. We are adulterated, impure and dirty, and, therefore, deserve eternal death.


Yet, just as he did for King David, God calls us to repentance and doesn't give us what we deserve. How can he overlook our infidelity and impurity and yet remain a just and holy God? Because of Jesus. Jesus was a human in every way, with all the same urges and needs as any red-blooded male. He was "tempted in every way, just as we are—yet…" and here's the truly amazing part! "…was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) He never lusted! He never had an impure thought! He never cheated on God, not even once. And he gave that perfection to you and me.

And though he's caught us in our sin, he took that sin away. He paid the price for our infidelity on the cross. He suffered the hell our impure hearts deserve and was divorced from the Father for our adultery. He's made our hearts pure by removing all the sin and dirt. We are un-adulterated! And now he says to us as he did that woman caught in adultery, "Then neither do I condemn you…"

Wow! We are not condemned! We are forgiven! We are cleansed and washed, whiter than snow, with all our iniquities blotted out! We have pure hearts created within us, we are renewed in spirit, and will not be cast from God's presence! (cf. Psalm 51:7-11)

And now, with the joy of salvation restored to us again, we have willing spirits that long to serve Jesus in thanks! (cf. Psalm 51:7-11) How can we thank him? We can keep the 6th Commandment! We can follow the example of Joseph and resist the temptations that we encounter, crying out, "How… can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9) We can honor marriage and keep the marriage bed pure! (cf. Hebrews 13:4) Single people, save yourself for marriage. You don't want your future spouse to have slept with other people before you, so give them that same gift. Give that gift to God.

We can fulfill our marital duty with joy and not deprive each other! (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5) I'm reading a book right now that suggests that married couples ought not go longer than three days apart to keep each other satisfied and to prevent a wandering eye or heart.

We can keep pure by not being idle, but by keeping busy with godly activities. (cf. Titus 2:5) For if you're upright and breathing, if you interact with other people, many will struggle to keep this commandment. And you will need God's help to avoid and resist and overcome the temptations to break it. But with his help we can, even if it calls for drastic measures. So take action, today!

Change the channel or better still, turn off the TV! Get some internet filters that block the sites that tempt you. Seek help from a friend asking him or her to check your internet history regularly. Visit and see all the help that site offers. That's

And sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures! Jesus said of lust, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matthew 5:28-29)

Maybe you need to cancel your cable subscription, get rid of the TV and computer altogether. Maybe you need to end a friendship when you're tempted to confide in someone besides your spouse. You may be inconvenienced when you have to drive to the library to read your email. You may miss that friendship and the outlet it gives. But you will be blessed as you live your life in thanks to Jesus—who's made you clean and holy, who's made you un-adulterated, who's created in you a pure heart and restored to you the joy of his salvation. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gone Fishing! - 2014 Vacation Bible School

Something look funkified in this email? View it on the web.

Grace Lutheran Church and School presents...
Gone Fishing!
2014 Vacation Bible School

Kids ages 3 through entering 6th grade are invited to join us Monday, August 4th, through Friday, August 8th, from 9am to Noon for some fishing fun! Only $10 per child will cover a week's worth of fun, including... 
  • Bible Stories
  • Games
  • Crafts
  • Singing
  • Snacks
  • And lots of fishing fun!
And, this year, special guest, Branches Band will close our VBS with a special concert, Friday, August 8th at 7pm, where the kids will be invited to join the band!

cf. for more informtation.

Copyright © 2014 Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church All rights reserved.
You receive this email because you're a member of Grace and we want to keep you informed as to what's going on in our important ministry to you and to the Penininsula.
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church 47585 Ciechanski Road Kenai, AK 99611 USA

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Telltale Blood -- A review of the Fifth Commandment (A sermon based on Genesis 4:1-12)

"Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain cynically asked of God after he'd murdered his brother in cold blood. But the truth is, "Yes!" We are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers! We are not to look only to our own interests, but are to do everything we can to look after the well being of others. We sin against this commandment all to often, not just in our actions, but in our inaction, in our hate-filled thoughts, and in the way we treat our own bodies. But thanks be to Jesus! He kept this commandment perfectly for us. We are forgiven! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Genesis 4:1-12 and be encouraged to help others and care for your own body...

The Telltale Blood

A review of the Fifth Commandment

A sermon based on Genesis 4:1-12

Sunday, July 20, 2014 – Pentecost 6A


Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boomba-boomba-boom! He could hear the heartbeat clearly. He could hear it getting faster. It sounded like it was getting louder. The strange part though, was that the man to whom that heart belonged was already dead. He was certain of it. He had killed him. He had also chopped him up and buried him.

In his grisly short story, The Telltale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe described the cold-blooded murder of an elderly man. The murderer then dismembered the corpse and buried it under the floorboards of the man's room, leaving no evidence behind. But when the officers came in response to a scream, the murderer's conscience gave him away. Ba-boom! Ba-boom! Ba-boom! He heard the beating of the dead man's heart, the telltale heart. He cried out for the incessant noise to stop and confessed to his wicked deed.

How similar to a murder we hear about this morning! Not only did Cain slaughter his innocent brother, Abel, but when called to account, he denied any involvement or even concern with that famous line, "Am I my brother's keeper?" But he wouldn't get away with it. The telltale blood of his brother cried out from the ground convicting him of his guilt. Listen to the account in Genesis 4…


Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man." 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." 

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. 

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"

"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" 

10 The Lord said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

The two boys loved to sit and listen to mom and dad tell them stories about the garden, about a time when the world was sinless and perfect. Their parents would care for the animals and tend the garden, but how much easier it must have been back then. Now, decades later, the boys were all grown up and were doing the hard work themselves. Cain worked the land, tilling the soil, planting the seed, and harvesting the crop, while his brother, Abel, subdued the animals that filled the earth, taking care of the flocks.

But one day, as they gave their weekly offering to God, just as their father had instructed, something odd happened. Cain had placed a large basket of fruit on the altar. Abel put the fat of two of his best animals next to it. Suddenly, fire shot down from heaven and swallowed up the altar (Fwoosh!). But when the brothers approached the altar, they saw that while Abel's sacrifice was gone, Cain's was still there, neither burnt nor scorched, both untouched, and unaltered.

Now we don't really know the details of the story, whether they were taught to sacrifice by God or by Adam, or if it was a just a spontaneous act of thanks and praise to God. We don't know how God revealed which sacrifice was pleasing to him and which was not. But in whatever way it was Cain knew it. And when Cain discovered that God wasn't pleased with his sacrifice the problems began. Long before he picked up the knife or spear, the problem began. It began in his heart. Filled with jealousy and rage, he began to plot.

Now here's an amazing detail of the story. Long before Cain picked up a knife or a spear, God stepped in to intervene. He spoke directly to Cain and tried to talk him down of the dangerous ledge on which he stood. "Sin is crouching at your door," he said. Like a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour, sin was ready to pounce on Cain and consume him, ready to strike and ready to kill.

Cain could master it, but he wouldn't. Even though God himself tried to talk him out of his sin, he would have none of the warning. The red alert fell upon deaf ears and blind eyes. And so Cain murdered his own brother, deliberately, deceitfully, brutally, and callously, even though Abel had done him no wrong. And poor Abel, whose name means "Meaningless" or "Vapor," amounted to nothing. His life seemed meaningless.

God again spoke to Cain, and giving him a chance to repent he asked, "Where is your brother?" But, like father, like son. Just as his parents refused to repent of eating the forbidden fruit, so too, Cain feigned ignorance of the matter and even talked back to God, claiming no responsibility for anyone other than himself. "Beats me! I don't know where he is!" "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Did he really think that God didn't know what he had done? Did he really think God didn't see him do it? Even if God hadn't seen, there was no hiding his sin from God. Because just like the telltale heart kept beating, the telltale blood of Abel cried out from the ground. It cried out to God for vengeance! And God had every right to slay Cain just as Cain had slain his brother, for God later decreed, "And from each man… I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed!" (Genesis 9:5-6) And yet, while God disciplined Cain so he might learn not to repeat his wicked sin, God didn't strike Cain down. He showed him mercy. In fact, he promised to protect him as he wandered the earth!

Neat story, huh? But what does it have to do with us? You shall not kill. Great! I got it. I won't stab anyone in a back alley somewhere. I won't abort a baby or help an old person with euthanasia. I won't even send out a hit on someone (like King David did) and murder someone by someone else's hand. And I won't even get in any bar fights so I hurt or harm my neighbor in his body.

But is that all this commandment really says? Or is there more? So, again we ask, "What does this mean?" Well, when did Cain commit murder? When he stabbed his brother, right? Wrong! At least if we believe what Jesus says in his sermon on the mount: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,'" (a four-letter word in Aramaic) "is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:21-22) Cain murdered his brother before he picked up the weapon. He was a murderer in his thoughts.

And the same is true of us. God is concerned with more than just outward worship and going through the motions. That's evidenced by Cain and Abel's offerings. Outwardly, both looked the same, but God looked at the heart. Have you ever called someone a fool? Or maybe something worse? Have you ever carried a grudge or secretly wished harm upon someone else, even if you never expressed it? Then you are a murderer!

And we break this commandment not only in what we do, but in what we don't do. By our attitudes that think, "Am I my brother's keeper?" and do nothing to help or care for others, we are murders! Jesus also said, "I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me… I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:42-43,45)

You know, sometimes I think the world gets this concept better than we Christians do. Don't believe me? Then read the warning labels on the products that you use every day. A cardboard sunshield that keeps a car cool warns, "Do not drive with sun shield in place." On a toner cartridge for a laser printer is a label warning, "Do not eat toner." And my personal favorite: A label on a toilet in a public sports facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan reads, "Recycled flush water is unsafe for drinking."

Why do companies put these sometimes ridiculous warning labels on their products? It's because they don't want to be sued for negligence. Failing to warn others, to help people use their products, to be concerned about their safety with an attitude that says, "Am I my brother's keeper?" just won't fly in the courts. And it won't fly in God's court either. For the attitude that thinks, "I can't help that person out because I might be inconvenienced, I might risk a loss, or I might get hurt," you and I are murderers!

And finally, this commandment doesn't just pertain to other people. It also applies to the way we treat our own bodies and the lives that God has given us. For our excessive use of alcohol, for the use of drugs that harm our bodies, for our laziness in avoiding the exercise our bodies need, and yes, even for the junk we eat, we are murderers!

Why are all of these sins against the fifth commandment? Because they allow hurt or harm to come to the body that God gave. Life is a sacred gift of God. Eve expressed that when Cain was born. She said, "With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man." Life is a gift of God. Only he can give it and therefore only he and the representatives he has established in government have the right to end it. For failing to respect this gift of life and for failing to remember that our bodies are not our own but belong to the Lord, we deserve punishment. And in a certain sense, by breaking this command, you and I killed Jesus. You see, it was for us that he went to the cross. He was murdered there, not by our hand, but because of our sins. And the blood of all those we've hurt cries out against us to God for vengeance against us. For breaking the fifth commandment we deserve to have God slay us forever in hell.

But that's not what we'll get. Why not? Because of a better telltale blood: the blood of Jesus. The author to the Hebrews reminds us that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22), but he also adds, "You have come… to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Heb. 12:23-24) You see, "Abel's blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies; But the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries."

What beautiful irony! While we murdered him on the cross and spilled his blood by our sins, by that same blood, he brought life to us when we were dead in sin. (Eph. 2:1) Jesus always respected God's gift of life. He never murdered or killed or had a hateful or unkind thought. He always sought to care for others and heal not just their souls, but their bodies. And what's so great about that is that because he did consider himself his brother's keeper, he gave that perfection to you and to me. And by dying an innocent death and suffering the torture of hell in our place, he took our every sin away. Now Jesus blood really does cry out to God for our pardon. "You've already punished every sin in me. You can't punish it again!" And so, you and I will not go to the hell we deserve. We will not be slain by God in hell, but will live eternally in the glory of heaven.

And what response can we possibly have other than that of Abel, who gave his best gifts to God? Hebrews 11:4 says, "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." So we too, by faith in the blood of Jesus, will offer our thanks to God. We'll remember how much he values human life: So much that he gave the life of his Son to save it! We'll take care of our bodies treating them not as if they were ours to do with them as we please, but as they actually are: on loan from God. We'll take care of others, going out of our way to help and defend them. And we'll turn our anger and hatred over to God, to master the sin that crouches at the door, to keep the fifth commandment even in our thoughts. And finally, we can't help but tell others of this telltale blood that cries out to God for our pardon and cry out in praise to him:

Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains Poured for me the lifeblood From his sacred veins. Grace and life eternal In that blood I find; Blest be his compassion, Infinitely kind! Lift we, then, our voices, Swell the mighty flood, Louder still and louder Praise the precious blood! (TLH #158) In Jesus name, and by his blood, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Honor and Obey - A Review of the Fourth Commandment (A sermon based on 1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-25)

Honor your father and mother. Also honor the state trooper and the city police. Also honor your local, state, and national leaders. Even honor the ones you don't like. Even honor the ones who are crooked. The fourth commandment isn't just difficult for children to keep. It's impossible for all of us to keep this commandment perfectly. Thank God that Jesus did keep this and every command in our place. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-25 and review the fourth commandment...

Honor and Obey

A Review of the Fourth Commandment

A sermon based on 1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-25

Sunday, July 13, 2014 – Pentecost 5A


The news quickly spread through the county. First the headlines read, "Local Priest Robs from the Offering Plate." Then worse news quickly followed the bad: "Sex Scandal in the Church!" And as if that weren't bad enough, soon the headlines read, "Local Authorities, Church Authorities Do Nothing to Stop It!"

"There is nothing new under the sun," King Solomon once wrote. (Ecclesiastes 1:9) And how true that is! These headlines don't describe some Roman Catholic priests in our day, but two brothers, Israelite priests who treated God's house with contempt. And because they didn't give honor or respect to God, neither were they concerned with the rebuke of God's representative, their father, Israel's Judge, the High Priest, Eli. They broke the fourth commandment in every way. And this morning, from their negative example we learn what it means to "Honor your father and mother…"

Listen now to select verses of 1 Samuel 2…


12 Eli's sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests with the people that whenever anyone offered a sacrifice and while the meat was being boiled, the servant of the priest would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14 He would plunge it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot, and the priest would take for himself whatever the fork brought up. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the servant of the priest would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give the priest some meat to roast; he won't accept boiled meat from you, but only raw."

16 If the man said to him, "Let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want," the servant would then answer, "No, hand it over now; if you don't, I'll take it by force."

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord's sight, for they were treating the Lord's offering with contempt…


22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 23 So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the Lord's people. 25 If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?" His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the Lord's will to put them to death.


These young men certainly didn't honor their father, did they? Robbing the tabernacle-goers of their offerings for their personal gain, committing adultery with the church workers, rejecting their father's rebuke as he tried to keep them from sinning against the Lord!

But wait a second. What can we really learn from these guys? After all, we're not that bad. I've never stolen from the offering plate! I've never slept with a coworker! I still call home at least twice a month to honor my father and mother! Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, got what was coming to them, right?! Thank God for his justice in bringing them down!

Well, you know by now we're not off the hook that easily. I think of all the commandments the fourth is the one that probably parents love the most and kids hate the most. It applies to kids, but not to us as adults, we think. Maybe you made sure to bring the kids this morning so they could hear it! After all, unless you're still living at home under dad's roof, you're not really under dad's rules. Or maybe your parents have already departed from this life, and so for that reason you feel this commandment doesn't really apply to you.

But Martin Luther explained how we break this commandment with more than just mom and dad. Why does God give such honor to moms and dads? Simple: Because they serve as his representatives. If an ambassador visits a foreign nation, and he is received in a dishonorable way being insulted and mistreated, it's more than just an insult to the ambassador, but an affront to the very country that sent him! It's the same way with God! Dishonor his representatives and you dishonor him.

We break the fourth commandment when we fail to obey and honor, not just parents, but all those whom God has placed in a position of authority over us—whether it's parents, or pastors, or synod officials, governors, police officers, senators or presidents. Eli wasn't just Hophni and Phinehas' father. He was also their pastor, serving over them as the High Priest, and he was also their governor, serving as Israel's judge. They broke this commandment by the disrespect that they showed toward every form of God's representatives.

But still, we're not that bad, right? Maybe you're thinking, "I do obey and honor my folks, I listen to pastor, and I am a good law abiding citizen." Okay, I'll grant you all of that. Let's say we do perfectly obey God's representatives. But how do we obey them? As we've seen in the other commandments, God's not just interested in outward actions, but in attitudes. There's a bumper sticker that reads, "Honor your father and mother… they haven't made out their will yet." Does that sound like an attitude of honor and respect? Of course not!

Tim was grounded for his bad behavior. And though he didn't try to sneak out, he pointed out how unfair and unjust and cruel his parents were! He grumbled and complained and did all he could to make sure their evening was ruined as well.

John didn't speed on his way to work and kept a close eye on the speedometer. But when he got to work, he griped to his boss how stupid the speed limits were! Couldn't the city planners figure out that everyone needed to go faster on that road?!

Amy didn't care if he was senator. He was the worst candidate! If he won the next election she might move to Canada! While she'd never dream of doing anything illegal, she would do all she could to ruin his name and make sure no one voted for him.

Sally went to Sunday School and did the homework that was demanded of her and memorized the verse she was assigned. But she too made sure her parents knew how much she hated doing homework in the summer.

What do all of these have in common? They obeyed outwardly, but they certainly didn't honor and respect and love the authorities that God had placed over them. And if we're honest with ourselves, neither do we. God doesn't just say obey, but honor and obey. Honor them. Respect them. Love them—even if they don't deserve it! Why? Because they're God's representatives! A sin against them is a sin against God.

You know the heart of the problem for Hophni and Phinehas lies in verse 12: "they had no regard for the Lord." Their sin, it says, "was very great in the Lord's sight..." literally, "in the Lord's face." And so is ours. Dishonor the parents he's placed over you, disrespect the pastor or elders he's called to represent him, grumble and complain about the government that God has established, and you dishonor, disrespect, and grumble and complain against God, saying to him, "I don't care if they represent you, God! In your face!"

And of course we deserve to have God take away our parents, remove the pastors and elders who feed us with his Word, and lose the freedoms and blessings we have through our government. In fact, we deserve to have God say, "You keep complaining and I'll give you something to complain about!" We deserve to have every blessing taken away and to be banished to hell forever!

Now if anyone ever had a right to complain about the authority over him, it was Jesus, wasn't it? He was perfect, but his parents were imperfect. Yet, Luke 2(:51) tells us that he "went down to Nazareth and was obedient to [Mary and Joseph]" (Luke 2:51). His pastors, the Pharisees, were ignoring the gospel and teaching nothing but law, yet, he told his disciples, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you," before he followed up with, "but do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." His government officials put him though a mock trial and condemned him to death, in spite of the fact that he was obviously innocent. Yet he honored and respected the government, paying his taxes and telling others to give to Caesar what was Caesar's. (Matthew 22:15-22)

And finally he perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father in all things! He never rebelled, never talked back, never complained, but always respected him, honored him, and obeyed him gladly and willingly—even when obedience meant torture, death and hell for no crimes of his own. How unfair! He had every right to complain. But ne never did. Instead he prayed to his Father, "not my will, but yours be done." (Matthew 26:20)

Why did he do all that? Why so obedient? He obeyed because he knew that we could not. He obeyed because he loved us so much! He obeyed perfectly and gave his perfect obedience to you. And he took every complaint, every disobedient act, every disrespectful thought you've ever had on himself! And on that cross he removed your guilt in breaking the fourth and every commandment! You are perfect in God's sight! And you are no longer hell-bound, but bound for an eternity of glory with your Father!

And he continues to bless us with his commandments! By the fourth, he not only protects and blesses those in authority, but especially those under that authority! God knows that under the authority he has established there is order, not chaos, blessings, not curses. And to this commandment he attaches a specific blessing!

Some of you may remember a man by the name of Captain Kirk. Well, Trekkie fans, do you remember who his first mate was? It was Dr. Spock. And do you remember the way Dr. Spock would wish someone farewell? [Vulcan hand sign] "Live long and prosper." Did you know that Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, wasn't the first to think up that line? It was actually God.

To the fourth commandment God added the promise: "Honor your father and your mother that it might go well with you and that you might enjoy long life on the earth." In other words, that you might live long and prosper. It certainly didn't happen for Hophni and Phinehas as their lives were cut short. But as we live to thank God for what he's done for us through Jesus, as we, eager to honor and obey God, honor and obey his representatives, he will bless us in his grace.

So go, dear friends, rejoicing in the grace of our Savior! Listen to mom and dad and obey them, not because they'll ground you if you don't, not because you need to be sure they keep you in their will, but because they are God's representatives and you long to serve him. Don't ignore your pastor or an elder or the encouragement of a letter from a synod leader, but give them the respect they deserve as representatives of God who bring to you his life-giving Word. And when you head in to work tomorrow, leave a little earlier so you're not tempted to speed. Honor our leaders in the government, yes, even the senators or president you don't particularly like. Don't forward the disrespectful joke. Lay off the unloving Facebook posts. And take their words and actions in the kindest possible way. Because God has given them their authority, honor them for Jesus' sake, in thanks to him for the forgiveness you have for your every sin! In Jesus name, dear friends. Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dedicated to Worship - A Review of the Third Commandment (A sermon based on 1 Kings 8:27-30)

"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" Are you always glad to head to church? Are you always eager to read your Bible and do your devotions? How dedicated to worship are you? As we review the 3rd Commandment and remember that to honor the Sabbath day we are to gladly hear and learn the Word of God, we are reminded of how often we fail to keep it. But we also rejoice that Jesus kept this and every commandment for us so we are free from sin, guilt, and shame. Now we are eager to re-dedicate ourselves to worshiping God, our Savior. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Kings 8:27-30 and be encouraged by the Word...

Dedicated to Worship

A Review of the Third Commandment

A sermon based on 1 Kings 8:27-30

Sunday, July 6, 2014 – Pentecost 4A


Thousands of people were packed on the relatively small hill. They covered the steps leading up the building. They all seemed to learn forward in eager anticipation to hear what he'd say when the speaker stepped out, took the podium and began with a prayer. It was a long prayer that took almost ten minutes, yet no one seemed to mind. They hung on every word. This was an exciting day that none of them would ever forget!

Seven years in the making, and decades in the planning, the temple of the LORD was finally completed! And what a magnificent building it was! Sitting atop Mout Zion, it was the highest point in the city and could be seen from anywhere. Though it was only 2,700 square feet, roughly the same size as this building we're in now, it had enough gold to add up to five and a half billion dollars' worth in today's economy.

And yet, that wasn't the really impressive part. The most exciting part of that day was the promise that God had made to his people; that he would dwell right there among them in that temple with his cloud of glory resting in that place.

So when Solomon offered his prayer of dedication before the people, you can imagine the excitement in the air when he cried out… 

27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.


We can imagine the excitement of a ground breaking for a church or school. Perhaps some of you remember celebrating the dedication of this building and know how thrilling it can be. But, why wait for the dedication of another physical structure to get excited?! Look at what we have right here, right now. We too have a place to worship! We have a place where God himself promises to be—"wherever two or three come together in [his] name!" (cf. Matthew 18:20) Here God comes to us to be with us to hear our prayers to give us forgiveness of sins, to receive our praise! Hard to believe, isn't it? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain [God]. How much less this [church]!

Though we're not completing a building this morning or even breaking ground, we too celebrate a dedication. We dedicate ourselves, or re-dedicate ourselves, to worshipping Jesus our Savior, to remembering the Sabbath day, and to gladly hearing and learning his Word!

So how do we "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy"? Well, go to church, right? Go often! Yes, that's certainly part of it. But is that all God asks in the third commandment? Is he just interested in having your butt in the pew one hour a week? Or is there more? What can we learn of the third commandment from Solomon and his prayer of dedication?

As I re-read this portion of his prayer, notice the emotions that Solomon expresses… 27 "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, 'My Name shall be there,' so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Does it seem like Solomon was just doing his duty? Does it seem like he was just worried about showing up? No way! This was exciting! God himself was present! His Name (everything he'd revealed about himself and his saving work) was there! Though heaven itself cannot contain God, he promised to be present in that temple! How excited Solomon was to be there!

But how about us? How dedicated are we to worship? Sure we may be dedicated to showing up, but are we always that excited to come to the place where God himself dwells? Sure, we can break the third commandment by skipping out on worship altogether, but God's interested in far more than you physically being here. This commandment is not about your physical presence in worship, but in your attitude toward worship.

Do you sometimes come out of habit, rather than excitement to be in the presence of God? Do you sometimes come to church, but mentally check out as you're running through your weekly to-do list? Or making a mental checklist of who's not there? Do you stay out late on Saturday night so you of course have a difficult time staying awake and paying attention on Sunday morning?

And this isn't just about this one hour each week! What is your attitude toward home devotions? Is that a chore to you? Something that needs to be done? How do you feel about Bible study? Do you think, "I put my time in at worship. Why do I need two hours?!" What is your attitude: Which excites you more: When it's time to watch your weekly TV show or when it's time for weekly worship? Which excites you more: Reading an email from an old friend or reading an email devotion? Which are you more eager to do: Tear open the package that just arrived in the mail or tear open your Bible and see what exciting blessings God delivers to your doorstep?

I have to admit that all too often I'm more excited about what's on TV, what a friend has to write, or what's on my doorstep, than I am about hearing and reading, studying and learning the Word of God. How messed up our priorities are when we get more excited about the petty stuff that really doesn't matter at all, when the most exciting stuff is right here, right in front of us, every day!

You and I may not openly despise preaching and the Word, saying, "Man, I hate being here this morning! I'd so much rather be fishing or still in bed." But do we gladly hear and learn the Word? Not always. And that in spite of the fact that God himself comes to us in that Word, promising to be with us, to hear us, and to strengthen us through his Word. In the Old Testament, those who failed to observe the Sabbath were worthy of death. (cf. Exodus 31:15) And so too, for our negligence, our apathy, and our pitiful attitudes toward preaching and the Word, four our lack of dedication to worship, we deserve to have God turn his back on us. We too deserve death—physically and eternally in the fires of hell, where there is no rest from our suffering.

Thank God, dear friends, for Jesus! For the one who was perfectly dedicated to worship, who was always eager and excited to be where his Father dwelled! Remember the 12 year old who went to Jerusalem for the Passover and stayed behind in the temple when everyone else went home because he just had to be in his Father's house? (cf. Luke 2:41-51) Remember the one who went to the synagogue regularly "as was his custom…"? (cf. Luke 4:16) Remember the one who entered the temple and drove out the animals and peddlers and money changers in a rage, because zeal for the Lord's house consumed him? (cf. John 2:12-17)

Thank God for Jesus, friends, who perfectly kept the third commandment in every way. And thank Jesus for not only being so dedicated to keep the third and every commandment, but who was so dedicated to us that he gave his perfect keeping of every law to us and took our every apathy, neglect, bad attitude, and mistake—our every sin—on himself. Thank Jesus for taking God's wrath in our place, so Solomon's prayer could be true of us today.

With the barrier of sin removed through Jesus, God does hear (and answer) our every prayer. Instead of turning his back on us, he gives his attention to us, literally, he turns his face to us. Every week, Pastor Hackmann reminds you of that awesome truth in the blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you…" You know, every once in a while, my wife will sit down next to me on the couch and start talking to me and I'll sort of half listen to what she's saying. "Yeah, yup, uh-huh, sure. Wait… did you say something?" But when the TV's off and I turn my face toward her, then she has my full attention. (I'm working on that by the way.)

With God, through Jesus, you always have his full, undivided attention. He turns his face toward you and makes his face shine upon you. He is totally dedicated to you. And not just for one hour a week, but every hour of every day! He hears your prayers night and day and never needs to take a rest. "He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:3b-4) And finally, when he hears your prayers, you can be certain that he will forgive.

You know what the word Sabbath literally means? It means rest. Because of Jesus, and by his perfect life in your place, by his innocent death in your place, you are forgiven of every sin! And you have rest from your sin and your guilt. You have rest from worry and anxiety because you know that one day soon you'll have perfect rest from every suffering and pain, when he takes you to glory to be with him face to face where his face will shine on you for eternity!

How will we respond to such grace? We can't help but re-dedicate ourselves to worshipping him! We long to hear this Word of grace repeated to us over and over again, not being dragged to church or guilted into going, but sprinting to get there in our excitement! We desire to not just show up on time, but to arrive early we're so excited to be there! We're not satisfied with just worship, but come to Bible class as often as we can because we just can't get enough of God's Word in one hour! And when we can't make it to worship, our attitude toward worship remains the same, we're eager to be there, sorry we have to miss, and long for the next opportunity.

And finally, since heaven itself can't contain God, since he is present with us, turning his face toward us, not just here at church, but everywhere we go, we know we can worship him anywhere. We carry the excitement to hear more about God's grace to us into the week! We rejoice in it so much we just have to hear more! It never gets old!

We long to read of Jesus' work for us in devotions. We long to listen to his Word in our cars. We eagerly open those emails, not to see the latest jokes, but to read the latest sermon or devotion. After all, what could possibly be more exciting than this rest that we have in Jesus? Another hour of sleep?! Forget it! I'll stay up all night to hear of his grace! A TV show? How boring! At least compared to God's awesome love for us that leaves us exhilarated! A package on the doorstep? How temporary the excitement it brings compared to the eternal blessings God brings me in his Word!

With a spring in your step, a sparkle in your eye, and a burst of adrenaline flowing through your body, eagerly and regularly find rest in Jesus. Gladly hear his Word and learn it! Amen!

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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