Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jesus Feeds More Than Five Thousand (A sermon based on Matthew 14:13–21)

Wouldn't it be great to have Jesus give you food anytime you were hungry? But that's not the kind of King Jesus was to be. He's far better than a bread king. He feeds us with the assurance of his love and his power. He feeds us by his Word where he shows us how he puts his compassion into action. Jesus does still give food for our bodies. But we rejoice even more that Jesus feeds our hungry souls. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Matthew 14:13-21 and be fully satisfied in God's grace for you...

More Than

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

A sermon based on Matthew 14:13–21

Sunday, August 24, 2014 – Pentecost 11A


The huge crowd gathered around the man, hanging on his every word. They leaned forward to watch his every move, hardly daring to blink. They heard that if they came to see this man, they would see the spectacular, the unbelievable, even the miraculous. And they were not disappointed. What they experienced was incredible, in the truest sense of the word: It was hard to believe what they saw with their own eyes.

David Copperfield made all 305 feet and all 450,000 pounds of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor simply vanish. It disappeared. There was no trace even when the helicopters flew over the top of the island.

Of course, what David Copperfield did was merely an illusion. You can still visit the Statue of Liberty today. But what Jesus did in our sermon text for this morning was no illusion. It was no sleight of hand. There was no setup, no gimmick, no trick. And Jesus didn't make anything vanish, but made something multiply. With only five loaves up bread and two fish, Jesus fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And when they all ate their fill, there were twelve large baskets full of leftovers! Here's how it happened, according to Matthew 14:13-21…


13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."

16 Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."

17 "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

18 "Bring them here to me," he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

I.              The Miracle in the Gospel (Jesus Fed 5,000+)


When Jesus heard what had happened…  that is, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod… he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Perhaps he knew Herod would come after him, thinking him to be John the Baptist raised from the dead. Perhaps he wanted time to instruct his disciples and prepare them for the hard truth that following him would mean execution for them too. Or perhaps he just wanted some time alone away from the crowds, to just be with his Father and mourn the death of his cousin and friend.

But either way, Jesus' sabbatical was short-lived. His vacation too quickly came to an end when the crowds, who heard the news of Jesus' move, ran ahead of him on foot. Hearing of this [withdrawal], the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. He couldn't escape the busyness of being the Messiah, or at least of being the Miracle Worker.

But Jesus didn't shoo them away. He didn't say, "I'm on vacation. Leave me alone!" or "Don't you know my cousin was just murdered?! Can't a guy take a day off to mourn?!" No. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

And apparently, that job took all day. Soon it was dinner time and the disciples were without dinner. They were hungry and assumed everyone else must be too. So they urged Jesus, "Send the crowds away, so they can go… buy… some food."

But Jesus had other plans. Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." And you know the miracle that followed.

But you know, the NIV Bible kind of goofs up here. The header for theses verses reads, "Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand." But it wasn't just five thousand that Jesus fed! Jesus fed more than five thousand! That count didn't include the women and children. Perhaps Jesus fed seven thousand or ten thousand or even more with just five loaves of bread and two fish!

In John 6 Jesus tested his disciples by asking, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (v.5) And Philip said that two hundred denarii—that's two hundred days wages—wouldn't buy enough food! Let's put that into today's terms. Let's say you make $10/hr. for an 8 hour day. That would make a denarius about $80 in today's money. 200 denarii would then be worth about $16,000! If a lunch box like you get on the airplane only cost $4, then $16,000 would still only feed 4,000 people. Philip's math was pretty good.

And yet, without money, without a dozen chefs, without a McDonalds, even without a Sam's Club or Walmart nearby, Jesus fed more than five thousand people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. And there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers when they all ate all they wanted and were satisfied, literally in the Greek, "were all filled up"—they ate all they wanted until they were stuffed.

Cool miracle huh? Wouldn't that be neat to have as much fish and bread as you wanted, miraculously multiplied for you, for free? But that's not the point. That's what many of the Jews wanted, actually. They wanted Jesus to become their king that he might rid the world of hunger, that he would be their bread factory, their fish plant, maybe even their money tree as they could sell the left overs to other nations. But Jesus was not here to be their bread king. That wasn't the point.

The point was that Jesus demonstrated his power to care of his people and Jesus has the desire to do so. Jesus was showing them and us that he has compassion with action.

II.            The Miracle of the Gospel (Jesus Feeds Us)


And the same is still true of us today, isn't it? Jesus has compassion on us. And that compassion takes action as he feeds us every day.

Jesus still multiplies the grain that we might eat. In 1803 a man by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus made a prediction that if the world population continued to grow at the rate which it was trending, the human race would soon die off because the rate of food production could not keep up such population growth. We would simply become too numerous to find enough food and would all starve or die of disease. And this Malthusian Catastrophe as it's been called has been made popular again just last year by Dan Brown's latest book, Inferno. And yet, here we are, more than 200 years later. The world population has gone from 1 billion people 1800 to over 7 billion people today. And we have an abundance of food!

And we Alaskans especially know how well God still multiplies the fish right? Every year hundreds of thousands of fish escape the fishermen on the Kenai and the Kasilof Rivers to  make it back to their spawning grounds. But do you know how many are caught each year from those hundreds of thousands that once spawned? Preliminary reports of Fish and Game for the show that commercial fisherman alone (not counting dip netters and sport fishermen) have caught 258 million salmon in just this year!

There's no doubt about it: God still multiplies food! Even though it may not be in such a spectacular way as on that Galilean hillside, he still gives us each day our daily bread, even without our asking.

And yet, how often don't we take those gifts for granted? We grumble and complain when Walmart's out of our favorite snack again. We whine to our parents or to our spouse, "There's nothing good to eat in the house. When are you going shopping?" We gripe, "I don't really like this food. Do we have something else?" And when we do, we really grumble and complain, whine and gripe against God.

And that's just talking about food—let alone the other complaints we make about internet speeds or older vehicles or clothes out of style. What selfish, spoiled, ingrates we too often show ourselves to be!

And you know that for our sins we deserve to be punished for such ingratitude. And you know that if we were left to figure it out on our own, we would have been doomed to die, not of famine or disease, but forever separated from God. And you know that this Hellish Catastrophe, as God has so named it, is not just a prediction or a theory. It's not just an empty threat. It is a promise from God for all who rebel against him.

But Jesus has seen us in our sorry condition. He saw our fate and our certain doom. He knew that that Hellish Catastrophe would take us all. And he had compassion. His heart ached when he considered our plight. His stomach churned at the thought of us in hell forever away from him.

And his compassion led him to action again. So Jesus wouldn't be just a bread king. He wouldn't just take care of mankind's physical needs. He would provide for their greatest spiritual need. Rejected by the crowds after this miracle because he refused to be their break king, he lost a huge following. Many turned on him. And only a short while later, others would be screaming for his death. "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

And you know that the one who miraculously multiplied the bread and fish could have easily come down off the cross. But he didn't. He willingly died for us and for our sins. He willingly endured that Hellish Catastrophe that should have been ours that he might save us from it.

And all of his miracles—like feeding of more than five thousand—prove that he is not just an ordinary man, but that he is God. They prove to you and me that as God he could pay for our sins and for the sins of whole world. These miracles prove we are forgiven!

And so, by this account of the miraculous feeding of more than five thousand Jesus still feeds us. By his Word, he still feeds us with that life-giving, faith-nurturing food. Yes, Jesus feeds more than five thousand. He feeds us still with physical food, with spiritual food. He feeds us all by his Word every day, assuring us that we are forgiven, that we have peace with God, that we will be with him in heaven, all because of his compassion in action.

And we can't help but respond by giving thanks. Jesus, who is God, still paused to thank the Father for the five loaves and two fish. How much more so won't we thank God for what he's given to us.

And we give thanks not just in words, but in actions. We have compassion on others that leads us to take action. In a few weeks you'll have your dollars multiplied when you receive your permanent fund dividends. Consider using a portion of that to help share the Gospel here. (cf. Consider giving just one tenth of what you didn't work for or earn, but just received, back to God in thanks for the physical and spiritual blessings he's given you. Or if you'd rather not give to Grace, go to and click "Give a Gift" to support a mission where God's people are feeding others both physical food and the word of God.

And don't just give your dollars, but give your time as well. Look for ways to serve others. You can start right here. Visit to find out how. Or simply serve others in your own home with greater compassion in action.

No matter what you do, do something to thank God for feeding more than the five thousand. Thank him for feeding you—with bread and with fish, but especially with the Word that assures you that you are forgiven for Jesus' sake, by his compassion in action. 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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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Heart of the Matter - A Review of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments (A sermon based on 1 Kings 21:1-16)

How hard it can be to find contentment! With ads and commercials constantly urging us to be dissatisfied with what we have, how easy it can be to perpetually crave more! But when we're led to crave what God does not want us to have, we covet. As we review the last two commandments, we see how our malcontent hearts are really the heart of the matter in any given sin. But in Christ, and the forgiveness he gives, we find a true and lasting peace; one that gives us contentment no matter what our lot in life. With this contentment, we can strive to keep all of God's commands in thanks for what he's done for us in Christ. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Kings 21:1-16 and find contentment in Jesus...

The Heart of the Matter

A Review of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments

A sermon based on 1 Kings 21:1-16

Sunday, August 17, 2014 – Pentecost 10A


It's good to be king! To get what you want when you want it! You call for a cup of wine and it's brought in an instant! You call for some fun and the harem girls are lined up! No demand is too extravagant, no request too great! Nothing but the best for the king! The king gets what he wants!

At least that's what King Ahab, King of Israel, thought. If he wanted heathen princess, Jezebel, for his wife, that's who he'd take! If he wanted a summer palace, the builders would get to work right away. If he wanted to plant a vegetable garden right next to that beautiful palace, then as the King of Israel, it should be his!

But when the king doesn't get what he wants, look out!

This morning as we conclude our series on the Ten Commandments with the ninth and tenth, we hear how Ahab coveted a vineyard that he could not have. And as we examine the account, we'll get to the heart of the matter: His evil thoughts and desires.

Here's how it happened: Ahab saw the vineyard next to his palace and he wanted it. Why that particular vineyard? Well, it wasn't for the grapes. In fact, he wanted to get rid of the grapevines and convert it into lush vegetable garden. So why that particular vineyard? Location, location, location! It was right next to his summer palace. When he wanted veggies, he wouldn't have to wait. The servants could get the freshest produce fast. It would be great! Just like Subway says, he could "Eat fresh!"

He offered a fair price to the owner. He didn't want to cheat him. 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." In other words, "Name your price! I won't take "no" for an answer! I'm buying!"

Only one problem. Naboth wasn't selling… for any price! Why not? Was Naboth trying to anger the king? Maybe holding out for more money or two vineyards? No. He wouldn't sell because he wanted to keep God's law. In Leviticus 25 God forbid anyone to sell their land permanently that it should leave the family. So it didn't take Naboth long to decide, "No deal!" Naboth replied, "The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers."

And Ahab's response? Not unlike a toddler throwing a tantrum. "He was the king, for crying out loud! Who was Naboth to refuse his generous offer?!" Coveting what he could not have—what God had made clear he didn't want Ahab to have—he'd pout. So Ahab went home, sullen and angry… He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

Enter his "helpful" wife, the wicked pagan queen, Jezebel. Discovering why her husband was acting like a baby, she taunted him, "Are you a king or what?" Is this how you act as king over Israel? "If you want something, go get it! Or if you're too much of a sissy, I'll get the vineyard for you." And you know the rest of the story. Hiring false witnesses to charge Naboth with cursing God and king, she had him stoned to death. Ahab obtained his land, and finally cheered up. He could finally get his fresh veggies.


Wow! Despising God's Word (the 3rd Commandment) and the authority of the law (the 4th Commandment), the royal couple lied in court (the 8th Commandment), in order to murder a man (the 5th Commandment) and steal his property (the 7th Commandment). It's like they were out to see how many commandments they could break at once? What prompted all this? What was the heart of the issue? Ahab's heart was the issue! He wasn't content with the blessings God had given him.

And if we're honest, rarely are we. We often act like King Ahab who wasn't satisfied with all the rich blessings he had! We act like Alexander the Great, who after conquering every kingdom known to him sat down to cry because he had nothing left to conquer. We act like J.D. Rockefeller who when asked how much money would he need to be satisfied, responded with a sigh, "Always a little more."

We often follow the Toddler's Rules of Possession, which read: 1. If I like it, it's mine. 2. If it's in my hand, it's mine. 3. If I can take it from you, it's mine. 4. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. 5. If it's mine, it must NEVER appear to be yours in anyway. 6. If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. 7. If it looks just like mine, it is mine. 8. If I saw it first, it's mine. 9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine. 10. If it's broken, it's yours.

And though such attitudes as greed and covetousness are held up as virtues in our society under the title "ambition," coveting remains a serious matter of the heart; one which affect every aspect of our lives. Over the past two months, we've taken a look at how that's the case with all of the commandments. The heart of the matter is our hearts in any given matter. Why do we steal from our employers? Because we covet. We want to get paid the same even if we don't work our hardest. Why do we commit adultery? Because lust is coveting another person. Why do we lie and hurt others reputations? Why do we cause physical harm? To get something that we covet; maybe just a better reputation for ourselves. And why do we fail to do what we should? Because our hearts aren't right! We covet our safety, our comfort, our convenience. And by coveting, we always break another of Gods' commandments! And we make ourselves our god instead of the true God and we break the first commandment!

What fitting bookends the first and last commandments make! They get to the heart of the matter. We aren't content with the blessings God's given us (breaking the 9th and 10th Commandments) and so we reject him as our God (breaking the 1st Commandment) and serve ourselves and our wants instead (breaking all the other commandments in between). And though these sins of the 9th and 10th Commandments may be hidden from all others and we may appear pious and holy in all our actions, we can't escape the notice of God who knows all our thoughts, our attitudes, and our hearts.

And for such rebellion, for such covetous desires, for the attitudes and sinful hearts that produce the sinful thoughts—whether or not they ever take shape into actions—you and I deserve Jezebel's fate: to be thrown out a high window, to be trampled by horses, to be eaten by dogs, and to be banished to an eternity of hell. Was all that worth a few veggies? Of course not! Jesus put it this way: What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

So guard your heart against coveting! How do we do that? We find contentment in all the blessings that we do have—the greatest of which, of course, is our salvation… Though we deserve hell, what we get is so much greater than a palace with a vegetable garden that it's beyond compare. We get heaven.

We get heaven through Jesus who once said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." And though he had no place to call home, he didn't covet those who did. He never married, yet, he never coveted a wife. He endured suffering and misery and pain and didn't covet the situation of others, but willingly—even gladly!—endured it all and remained content. Why? Because his heart was right, placing God first, us next, and himself last. He willingly did what his Father asked of him to save us from our sins of covetousness. And taking those sins and every sin on himself on the cross, he took them all away.

Now, even though we deserve the fate of Jezebel, we get the fate of Ahab. God sent Elijah to him and brought him to repentance: When Ahab heard these words [of Elijah], he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah… 29 "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day…" (1 Kings 21:27-29)

And bringing us to repentance—sorrow over our covetous thoughts and actions and trust in Jesus work to win forgiveness for us—God does not bring the disaster on us that we deserve. Instead we get forgiveness, peace, and heaven. And when we compare what we get to what we deserve, we learn to be content with what we have.

We can say with the apostle Paul, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances… 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 everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)

And with such contentedness comes big change in our lives. Now, with our sinful natures crucified with Jesus along with its passions and desires, we have new attitudes, new selves, and new hearts. Now, what we crave more than anything is time spent with our Savior in his Word! Now our thoughts and desires are not "How can I get more?", but "How can I give more, not "Me first," but "Me last," not "What I want," but "What God wants."

And in response to Jesus' selfless sacrifice for us, we long to serve him, to "Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13), to "Look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4), to do all we can to help another person to keep and improve his property, his reputation, his family, and his life. In short, we try all the harder to keep all of God's commandments. Not because we must to get into heaven, but out of thanks that heaven has been freely given to us already.

Rejoice, dear friends, in all that you have through Jesus! "And be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) And in thanks to him, strive with all your might to keep the Ten Commandments, not just in what you say and do, but in your thoughts, in your attitudes, and in your hearts. In Jesus' name and by the strength he gives in the Gospel, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Politics of a Good Name Review of the Eighth Commandment A sermon based on 2 Samuel 15:1-12

Do you have a good name in the community? Or is your reputation tarnished? Either way you know the value of a good name. You know why God wants to protect your good name and why he wants you to protect the good name of others. Sadly, we too often break this commandment. Whether by actively sharing gossip, by passively listening to it instead of stopping it, by failing to defend someone or take their words and actions in the kindest possible way, we deserve the name, Damned. But thanks be to Jesus! By his perfect life and innocent death he gives us a new name: Sinless Saint! Read (sorry, no audio was recorded this week), this sermon based on 2 Samuel 15:1-12, rejoice in the new name you have in Christ, and resolve to help others get and keep a good reputation...

The Politics of a Good Name

Review of the Eighth Commandment

A sermon based on 2 Samuel 15:1-12

Sunday, August 10, 2014 – Pentecost 9A


In his explanation of the 8th Commandment Martin Luther wrote: "We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way."

Have you been paying attention to the different candidates running for political office this summer? If you've kept track of how many those running for office were to break this commandment before elections, how many files do you think you'd need? Doesn't it sometimes seek like the goal of every politician to make sure his opponent is given a bad name? How often have you talked badly about one of the candidates trying to make sure that no one thinks well of that guy? That everyone takes his words and actions in the worst possible way so no one votes for him?

Mud slinging politics and the breaking of the 8th Commandment aren't new to our time. In fact, not much has changed in the past 3,000 years! King David's son, Absalom, spread lies and smeared his own father's name in order to take the kingdom from him. Listen to what he did in 2 Samuel 15:1-12…


In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?" He would answer, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." 3 Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you." 4 And Absalom would add, "If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice." 

5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 

7 At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, "Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: 'If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.'" 

9 The king said to him, "Go in peace." So he went to Hebron. 

10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron.'" 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing.


Absalom's ambitions were simple: Become king. Since King David had seven wives and lots of sons by those wives, the position wasn't guaranteed even to the oldest son. So to ensure that he was next in line, he'd have to work for it. He'd have to politick a bit and win the Israelites over one heart at a time. So he lied about his father and his administration: "My father's too incompetent and too inept to adequately deal with all of your problems. If only I were put in charge, things would be fair and equitable, unlike the way dad treats you." "If only I were appointed," is literally, "If only he appointed me." In other words, if only dad had a clue." And intentionally giving his father a bad name, he improved his own name in the eyes of the people.

He lied to his father about his intent to travel to Hebron (where his father was proclaimed king and from where he ruled for the first 7½ years of his reign) and went there to build a secret following of supporters who would crown him king there.  With incredible political astuteness, Absalom stole the hearts of the Israelites.  "And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing."

How ironic that Absalom, who's name means my father is peace, waged a quiet war against his own father to steal the kingdom. How hypocritical to offer sacrifices to God as a pretext to destroy his dad! How despicable! Thank God we're not like Absalom, huh?


Or are we? Maybe you and I aren't running for office or trying to win a kingdom, but how well do we keep the 8th Commandment? If there were a hidden microphone recording every single word you spoke this week, how comfortable would you be to have it played back in front of everyone? God doesn't need a microphone. He heard every word.

Did you smear your own parents name this week? "If only my parents weren't so lame! I can't believe how clueless they are!" That's not just breaking the 4th Commandment, by dishonoring your parents, but it's also breaking the 8th! Did you lie to protect your own name and pass the blame on to someone else? Did you pass on some "dirt" about someone else, maybe adding, "I'm only telling you this so you can pray for them" to make it seem loving and compassionate, rather than slanderous?

Or maybe you've broken this commandment by what you've failed to do. Have you defended others reputations when you hear the dirt? Have you allowed the gossip to continue by providing a listening ear? Have you "sympathized" with others by helping them bash the one they're mad at, by simply nodding in agreement while they unload?

"Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."?! What a lie! Bones heal in a matter of weeks. Reputations can take a lifetime to heal and be scarred for a lifetime. We have damaged the reputation of others. We've allowed their reputations be damaged in our esteem by what we've heard and believed. We've failed to defend others, to take their words and actions in the kindest possible way and to help others do the same. We have played the politics of ruining others' reputations

And so when we look into the mirror of the law, we do see Absalom staring right back at us. How despicable we are! How deserving we are of the bad names: Gossip, traitor, sinner. How deserving we are to have God call us "damned." God, forgive us of our sin!


And rejoice that he does through Jesus!

You know, Jesus knows what it's like to be the butt of jokes, to be mocked and taunted, to have his name—which is above every name! (cf. Philippians 2:9)—dragged through mud. Perhaps prompted by this betrayal from a once trusted advisor by from his own son, King David wrote in Psalm 55(:12-14), "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God." But this Psalm may not be just about David, but a prophetic Psalm that pointed ahead to Jesus who was betrayed by his close friend, Judas.

As a result of that betrayal, Jesus was put on trial. And though he was slandered, falsely accused, with lie after lie—even in a court of law where his life was on the line, he did not react in like manner. He refused to play the politics and slander back. He remained silent. After he was sentenced to death, Jesus went to the cross. And even there he took the words and actions of those who were torturing him in the kindest possible way and prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He kept the 8th Commandment perfectly and remained perfect in every way. Why? So he could give that perfection he gives to you and me.

And there he took the name Sinner on himself. He took your name and mine on the cross where God's wrath was poured out against every sin we've committed. And by that act, he gave us his names: Perfect, Sinless, Holy One. Now you and I are no longer know as Absalom but as Jesus. God sees Jesus' perfection when he looks at you and he calls you by these new names: Christian, Forgiven, Perfect, Saint.

Our name is not dragged through the mud as our sins deserve, but lifted up by God and held in the highest regard! We are called God's own! And Jesus still stands in heaven as our mediator, defending us and speaking well of us before God the Father! What grace upon grace he gives us!


And we can't help but respond in thanks! How? By protecting others' reputations and helping them keep their good names. Luther offered three ways of doing that: First, by defending others. When a young David was slandered by King Saul who sought to kill him, Saul's son, Jonathan, risked his own life to defend him. "'Why should he be put to death? What has he done?' Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him." (1 Samuel 20:32-33) In thanks to your Savior for the good name he's given you can risk your reputation at school or at work to defend the person who's picked on and slandered. You can speak up and stop the gossip!

Second, Luther encourages us to speak well of others. It's easy to point out the flaws and defects, the mistakes and the sins of others. But in thanks for the forgiveness we have in our Savior we can overlook those things in others and follow mom's advice: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!" Instead, come up with something nice to say. Speak well of others often enough and find yourself soon believing it!

Finally, Luther encourages us to take others' words and actions in the kindest possible way. That means when you hear the gossip you don't believe all that you hear. That means you give people the benefit of the doubt. It means we don't read hidden motives into the words and actions of others. It means we forgive others for their unkind words even when those words are aimed at us. Another of David's sons, Solomon, wrote in Ecclesiastes 7(:21-22), "[Don't] pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you— for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others." Instead, follow Peter's godly advice and in thanks to Jesus, "live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called." (1 Peter 3:8-9)

"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1) Rejoice in the good name that you have through your Savior! And with your new name, do all you can to protect the good name of others! 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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Give Glory to the Lord with All You Have! -- A Review of the Seventh Commandment (A sermon based on select verses of Joshua 7)

When Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompei, many people were instantly embalmed and frozen in time. When they were later discovered, there were many who were clutching their money or their valuables. They spent their last moments in life trying to get more stuff for themselves. Sadly so do many today. And you and I aren't immune from our greedy desires that lead us to steal the property or money of others. We fail to help others to protect and defend their property and means of income and break the 7th Commandment. Thanks be to God for sending Jesus! He won forgiveness for our sin by his perfect life and by his innocent death. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Joshua 7 and rejoice in the forgiveness God gives and be encouraged to manage the blessings God has given you to bring glory and honor to him... 

Give Glory to the Lord with All You Have!

A Review of the Seventh Commandment

A sermon based on Joshua 7 (select verses)

Sunday, August 3, 2014 – Pentecost 8A


Have you seen the new movie, Pompeii? When Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried that ancient city, countless people were instantly embalmed in ashes and frozen in time for archaeologists to find them exactly as they died. One woman found in the city had her feet turned toward the city gate, but her face was turned backward toward a bag of pearls that lay just beyond her outstretched hands. Even as the sky was falling—literally!—she couldn't resist the temptation to try and grab them for herself. Yet her only reward was death. She ended her life investing it in something temporary and worthless.

We hear of a similar story this morning in one of those lesser known Bible stories of the Old Testament. A man by the name of Achan tried to take what wasn't his, and it also ended in his death; and not only his, but in the death of his family and many of the Israelite troops. Here's what happened…

Joshua had just finished that famous battle at Jericho—you know the one—where they marched around the city once a day for six days and on the seventh day they marched around it seven times. After the seventh time they sounded the trumpets and gave a great shout to watch the walls "come a tumbalin' down." And just like that, the city of Jericho was theirs! Well, technically, it was God's.

All of the people (except Rahab and her family) were killed and all of the silver and gold and plunder was devoted to the Lord. The victory was God's and so were the spoils. They were either devoted to the treasury of the Lord or were to be destroyed as a sacrifice to him. Joshua even warned the people, "Keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury." (Joshua 6:18-19)

But one man didn't listen. Achan, son of Carmi, took some of plunder of Jericho and kept it for himself, burying it in his tent. After all, what was the big deal? The people he stole from were dead. It's not like they were going to miss it! But the items he took were devoted to the Lord. And, so, the results were devastating. When the Israelites went to attack the city of Ai, what seemed to be an easy task, they were routed. 36 of their men were killed in battle and "the hearts of the people melted and became like water." (7:5)

"What went wrong?!" Joshua wondered. And when he cried out to God this is what God said: "Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction." For stealing the devoted things of God, the Israelites themselves would be devoted to destruction.

The next day, when Joshua assembled the Israelites, God revealed which tribe was the guilty party. It was Judah. Next he revealed which clan of Judah, and then which family of that clan. Finally, God revealed which person of that family had taken the devoted things for himself. It was Achan, son of Carmi.

And while he could have spoken up at any time during this lengthy process of revealing who the culprit was, he remained silent—nervously biting his nails and sweating it out, hoping against hope that they wouldn't discover it was him. He could have confessed, but kept quiet until after he was finally found out. Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me." And even then, when he finally did confess, "It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel," (7:20) he used the word for sin that means "goofed up" or "made a mistake" rather than the more honest word that means "deliberately sinned" or "chose to rebel." What a fool! Did he really think he could hide what he'd done from God?!

And a swift and thorough justice was soon delivered. "Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan… the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor" (which means "trouble"). "Joshua said, "Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today." Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them… Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger." Boy! Was it worth it Achan? I don't think so. And they made a memorial so that all of Israel would learn from Achan's bad example: "Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day… Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since."


What a vivid lesson for Israel: You shall not steal! And what a vivid lesson for us! But, wait a second! We're not like Achan! Right? I mean, I've never gone into a bank and held it up. I've never robbed a little old lady in some back alley. I've never broken into anybody's home to steal what wasn't mine. And I've never tried to shoplift any items from any store without paying for it—not even a candy bar when I was a kid! I'm no Achan, right? And neither are you, right?

Well, maybe we haven't shoplifted, robbed a little old lady, or held up a bank. But why not? Out of love for God? Or out of fear of getting caught? What if you could get away with it? Maybe you wouldn't steal a DVD or a CD from the store, but if you could download it onto your computer without paying for it? Maybe you wouldn't take petty cash from work, but a few office supplies? After all, no one will notice right? You're not hurting anyone! … Ah, how much like Achan we really are!

In fact, even if you've never actually taken anything that wasn't yours, you and I are still thieves. You see, we break this commandment not only by what we do, but also by what we don't do. Do you always work your hardest at your job? Or do you sometimes take a little extra break? Do you ever take care of personal business while you're on the clock? Then you've stolen from your employer! They're paying you to work, not to be lazy or do your own thing. The money they paid you for the work you didn't do, really belongs to them.

In an article in Parade Magazine from 1990 a company in California estimated that the cost that "time theft" cost U.S. businesses was over $220 billion—that's billion, not million—each year. These "intangible crimes," as they're called by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, consist of fake sick days, getting someone else to punch in your card on the time clock, making personal telephone calls and conducting private business during work hours. Are you guilty of stealing some of that $220 billion?

If not, you still break this commandment when you waste or mismanage the blessings that God has entrusted to you since "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (Psalm 24:1) You break this commandment when you fail to help others protect and defend their property. And you break this commandment just by your attitudes, even if you do all the right things. You break this commandment by simply being malcontent with the blessings God has given. This commandment, like all the rest, is kept or broken in the heart.

Greed is one of the most dangerous poisons known to man. It tells us that the secret to happiness is having more stuff. If a little is good, then a lot must be better! But like saltwater, money and stuff can't ever really satisfy. They leave us craving more and finally dehydrate and kill—not the body, but the soul. When we refuse to be content with the blessings he's given us, we really steal from God.

Now, we may be able to hide our theft from everyone else, like Achan did, and bury it deep in our hearts where no one else can see it. But don't be a fool like Achan! You know that you can't hide any sin from God! Do you think God doesn't know? Of course he does! He knows your every sin! So give glory to God and confess your sin to him. Don't try to hide it! …And when you do confess your sin to him with a sincere heart, a beautiful thing happens. He takes that sin away!  


He takes every one of our sins against the seventh commandment away through Jesus who lived perfectly in our place. Though Jesus had no earthly wealth, no house or home, no land, no donkey or horse, though all he really had was the clothes on his back, he remained perfectly content. When satan tried to tempt him with the riches and wealth of the nations, Jesus said, "No, thanks. I'm not interested." Because he trusted in God and was content with what he would provide. He always remained perfect and he gave that perfection to you and me. And he took our sins of theft and every sin on himself on the cross.

Remember that day—that Good Friday? Remember who was crucified next to him? A thief. And do you remember what Jesus said to that thief? "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 24:43) In other words, "Every one of your sins has been forgiven! Everyone theft, every crime, every attitude of greed or malcontent is erased and gone. You are perfect and therefore, qualify to enter into my paradise of heaven!"

Friends, he's said the same to you and to me! That's why he came: to forgive the sins of thieves like that man on the cross, like me, like you. Now, you and your family won't be stoned to death for your sin! You won't be burned! Not in this life and not in the life to come! You will never experience the hell that you deserve for your sin and for your foolish attempts to cover it up! Paradise is yours!


So, how can we thank Jesus for what he's done for us? Well, first we can learn to be content with what our Savior's given us. When we understand and appreciate the paradise that he gives us when we deserve to be stoned and burned, we can sing with all sincerity, "Take the world, but give me Jesus!" He's given us forgiveness! He's given us salvation! He's given us heaven! And on top of all that he's given us shelter. He's given us clothes. He's given us more than enough food. And he's given us so much more on top of all of that.

So what else do we need? Why bother chasing after more that we can't take with us anyway! It's like Paul said, "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." (1 Timothy 6:7) And besides, we could lose it all in this life already anyway. As Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)

And since the Lord has given you so much—especially that inheritance of glory in heaven—you can thank him by giving away the blessings and possessions that he's letting you manage to help and to serve others. Don't hoard it and hide it like Achan, but generously give your time and your offerings to his church to help others hear of his grace. Cheerfully give of your wealth to support your family and those in need. Don't be wasteful, but good managers of God's gifts.

And be content with what you have.  Because finally, you know that a hundred years from now it won't matter how much money or stuff you've accumulated. It won't matter how much fun you had or how pleasant your retirement was. It won't matter to you how much you were able to leave to your kids or even the memories that you made with them. It won't matter if you have a bag of pearls. But it will matter that through faith in Jesus, your every sin has been forgiven! It will matter that the riches of heaven are yours! It will matter when he says to you, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 24:43) Rejoice, dear friends in the wealth that you have in Jesus and give glory to the Lord with all you have! Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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