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Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5

These words of Jesus do not forbid us to judge another’s public doctrine for Jesus says, just a few verses later in His Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” (15-16a).

They do not forbid us to judge between right and wrong and to admonish our brother when he sins for Jesus also tells us, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone…” (Matt. 18:15ff.).

So, what does Jesus mean when He says, “Judge not…”? A reading of the verses which follow provides the answer. Jesus is warning against our propensity to pick out and condemn the faults in others, no matter how small, and to overlook our own sins and shortcomings, even when they are large.

Thus, He says, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

It is hypocritical of us to condemn the faults of others while, at the same time, overlooking or excusing our own.
And Jesus warns, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

It often happens in life that we end up being treated in the same way that we have treated others. Thus, if we have been overly critical and judgmental, we are likely to learn what it is like at the hand of others.

But, of far more serious consequence, is God’s judgment. If we condemn the sins of others and are unwilling to forgive them, our Father in heaven will condemn us for our own sins and not forgive us either! Jesus says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Rather than being overly critical and judgmental of others, we should first look at ourselves in the light of God’s Word; for when we compare our thoughts and desires, as well as our words and deeds, to God’s commandments, we all come far short of God’s holy expectations.

The Scriptures say, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20; cf. Rom. 3:23).

Rather than look at the sins and shortcomings of others, we ought to agree with God that we are sinners and acknowledge and confess our sins before God, trusting that He will forgive us and cleanse us for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried, and … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

Rather than being judgmental and unforgiving toward our fellow sinners, God’s Word tells us to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you ” (Eph. 4:32).

O dearest Jesus, forgive me for being quick to judge and condemn others when I myself am a sinner and full of faults deserving of Your just punishments. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, forgive me and cleanse my heart and soul. And, move me to love others and seek to bring them to You that they too may know Your love and forgiveness and walk with You unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some, especially those who are teetotallers for “religious” reasons. “Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served,” some wonder? “And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?”

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence. What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); and he wrote to the Ephesians, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18; cf. Matt. 11:18-19; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Jesus. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher. Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified!

Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

Oh, that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith.

I can repeat the words of Jesus, such as those found in John 3:14-18: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills. It is as Jesus said in Matthew 11:27: “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (cf. John 1:10-14).

Jesus also said in John 6:44,63: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day”; and, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them. But when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does wash away sins and give His Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

John the Baptist said in Mark 1:7-8: “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (cf. Matt. 3:11).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did. And, I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins, and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are given and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Saturday, January 22, marks the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which opened the way for legalized abortion in the United States; and I would have to count that day to be the saddest in American history because, since that day, almost 63.5 million babies have been murdered in this country through legalized abortion, according to figures from the National Right to Life Committee.

It is, as I’ve said before, America’s holocaust because we have killed — or stood by and done little or nothing while it happened in our own land and communities — 63.5 million of our own children inside or partially inside their mothers’ wombs. If God graded on a numbers-based curve — and He doesn’t (one abortion brings His wrath) — Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime would come out looking like saints in comparison to us.

And why have we done it? The argument we usually hear is that it is a woman’s right and her freedom of choice. But the truth is that it is selfishness. People want to be free to indulge in sexual promiscuity outside of Biblical marriage but do not wish to be burdened and inconvenienced with the responsibilities of giving birth to and raising a child. They place themselves and their own desires and plans above the needs of another human being and choose to kill their children rather than being responsible and giving of themselves to care for them.

Science itself tells us that the unborn child in its mother’s womb is a human being — a heartbeat at 3 weeks, a highly developed brain by 8 weeks, thumb sucking by 9 weeks — and yet we still legally kill each day in our land thousands of human beings for the convenience of mothers and fathers.

We are alarmed at the death toll from the coronavirus but still murder far more babies each and every day through abortion. Perhaps the illnesses and deaths from the coronavirus are but a first step in God’s judgment upon our people and the people of the world who murder their children or support and encourage it! According to The Christian Post, abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2021, killing 42.6 million people, three times more than those who died of communicable diseases, the second-leading cause of death last year. You can’t say our nation and the world are not ripe for God’s judgment. The four horsemen of Revelation 6 are riding!

The Bible clearly forbids us to murder human beings (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). And the Bible also clearly teaches that it is God who creates life in the womb and appoints to that life a number of days on this earth: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16; cf. Psalm 31:15).

Since, as I said before, God does not grade on a curve, even one abortion is a terrible tragedy and heinous crime. But the crime goes on in America’s death camps; and the judgment of God, who created and gives life and values each life so much He gave his Son to redeem it, will fall upon our nation and people for all the innocent blood that is shed in our land, whether in abortion clinics or doctors’ offices and hospitals (cf. Deut. 21:1-9; Gen. 9:5-6). And don’t think our nation’s rulers and judges who either support abortion or do nothing to stop it will escape the wrath of God!

Some would argue and say, “What about cases of rape and incest and those pregnancies which endanger the life of a mother?”

The fact is that they are only a very, very small percentage of the pregnancies which end in abortion. But in cases of rape or incest, why should the child be put to death for the sins of another? Why not put to death the guilty rapist and the sexual predator? Yet, we destroy the innocent and let the guilty off with minimal punishment. And even when medical professionals determine the life of a mother could be at stake, is abortion the right answer? I’ve known of mothers who, without medical warning, gave their lives to deliver a healthy child and of many who’ve been told they would die if they gave birth but went on to have several children and with few complications.

My point is simply this: Pray for God’s mercy upon our people and an end to legalized abortion in our land, use your voice and your votes to protect human life whether young or old, encourage and teach Biblical morals to children and youth regarding God’s design for marriage and bearing children, and stand up for the protection of life against those who would urge us to tolerate their wickedness and ongoing slaughter of the innocent.

This is especially important now as our federal government leadership has promised to defend and further enable this merciless slaughter of children in our land. Unless they repent, they will pay the price, along with all who placed them in power.

And, speaking of repentance, there is a solution to this great sin against God. It is to repent – to acknowledge our sins and look to God for mercy in Christ Jesus and the sacrifice He made on the cross for the sins of all. And where there is true repentance, there will also be a change of heart and a sincere desire and effort to save and protect the lives of our children rather than destroy them.

O Lord, open our eyes to see our great wickedness and repent before Your full judgment falls upon our land and people! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The King James Version of the Bible.]

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By now, most of those New Year’s resolutions have been broken and forgotten, and we tend to go about our lives without focus. It’s for this reason that I suggest having a mission statement rather than just a New Year’s resolution or two.

I’ve written and spoken about this before but since I often forget to stay focused, I will talk about personal mission statements once again. Most organizations and businesses have one. Why not individuals?

What do I mean? It’s important for staying focused in life to have a personal mission statement that defines an individual’s basic purpose in life — especially in this information age where everyone and everything is trying to get our attention, time, and usually our dollars. In other words, it can prove extremely beneficial to sit down and define one’s mission and purpose in life, set goals and objectives relating to that mission and then evaluate our lives and all we do in relation to that mission and to those goals and objectives.

Adopting a personal mission statement can keep one focused on what is truly important in life and turn away attention from other, often less important, matters. Life is short and, without staying focused, a person may one day have to say he did a lot of things, none of which have any lasting significance. I’d sure hate to come to the end of my life with extensive knowledge of every television episode, movie or pop song and no knowledge of what life is really about.

My personal mission statement is adopted straight out of the pages of the Bible, Jesus’ own words: “Going, then, disciple all the people of this world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things that I commanded have you …” (my own translation of Matthew 28:19-20). Certainly, there are other good mission statements. The Bible is full of passages that would work well. How about Deuteronomy 6:4-5?

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Or, the last clause in Joshua 24:15?

As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Others may choose to write their own statements.

My mission statement starts at home, with my own family, and then branches out into the world to those I know and to those I have never met and maybe never will in this life. It can be used to evaluate everything I do and will certainly affect the goals and objectives I set for my life.

For example, if I seek to disciple the nations (the people and tribes of this world) for Jesus Christ by going, baptizing and teaching, I first need to be a disciple of Jesus myself and that involves studying the Scriptures, praying, and sharing what I have been taught from the Bible. That also means my objectives will include making time for study and prayer and also for going out and sharing.

In line with that, one of my goals as a student of the Bible is to continue working on reading and studying the Scriptures in their original languages, which requires some dedication and persistence on my part in doing more and more studying in Greek and Hebrew again.

My mission statement will affect how I use and spend my income, what I do with my time and how I relate to others around me. That doesn’t mean I must take a vow of poverty or become a monk in a remote monastery and do nothing but pray and read from ancient parchments, but it means the focus of my use of time and money is going to be toward accomplishing my mission and purpose here in this world.

Yes, it can even affect such things as diet and exercise. No, I won’t become a bodybuilder or health freak who denies the truth of Genesis 3. But without a healthy diet and adequate exercise, I’ll have a hard time carrying out my mission, so diet and exercise are important. Perhaps, if I consider them in light of my mission statement, meeting those goals and objectives will become easier.

It is connected to my relationship with my wife and our children because discipleship starts at home and with those closest to us. My wife and I have more than a few children for whom we have much love and concern — 15 children between us, 30-something grandchildren (I always lose track and then have to do a recount) — and that is quite a mission field in itself.

We want the best for them all, but our foremost wish and desire is that they all know their Maker and Redeemer and live in fellowship with Him, both here in this world and in eternity. We live to impart to each of them a knowledge of the LORD God and of the salvation He has provided for them (and for all) through the innocent sufferings, death and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ.

That desire extends, of course, to our church and all its members, to those with whom we have contact in our jobs, and to all the nations and peoples of this world.

My prayer is that of the psalmist: “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:17-18 KJV).

Yes, I have gotten sidetracked at times — a lot more often than I care to admit — and the result is a lot of busyness and activity in things that really don’t matter much in the long run. For this, I’ve also repeatedly turned to Christ Jesus in repentance and received His forgiveness. Then, instead of continuing to dwell on weaknesses, failures and much wasted time and energy, I try to put that behind me and get focused again on what my true mission and purpose is in this world.

St. Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14 KJV).

God grant to you His guidance and blessing as you consider setting a mission statement to guide you in your life. Make it a good one!

This is Pastor Randy Moll from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rogers, Arkansas.

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“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:6-8 (read 1-8)

The LORD God created us to be His own, do His will, and walk in His ways. When we rebelled against Him and turned to our own evil ways, He gave His only-begotten Son to redeem us that we might not be condemned but repent and turn to Him in faith and be forgiven, be His people, and have everlasting life (cf. Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:15).

But is He pleased with us if we only pay Him lip service and yet continue on in our own disobedient ways, doing our will and living according to our own sinful desires?

God’s people did this in the days of Old Testament Israel and Judah. They claimed to be God’s people and they worshiped Him outwardly with sacrifices and burnt offerings, but their hearts were far from Him. Instead of walking in His ways, they turned aside to their own ways and lived according to their own sinful desires (cf. Matt. 15:7-9; Isa. 29:13ff.).

What does God say? “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

God does not desire sacrifice or just going through the motions of confession. He desires that His people repent of their sinful ways, trust in Christ and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, and, as a fruit of His grace and mercy toward them for the sake of Christ our Savior, walk according to the LORD’s commandments, do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God.

In His Word, He has shown us what He requires and expects of His people. Rather than being dishonest and unjust, He desires that we live justly. Rather than being harsh and unmerciful, He desires that we be merciful and forgiving toward others as the LORD has been merciful to us — that we be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven” us (Eph. 4:32).

And, rather than walking in pride and self-righteousness and thinking we can earn God’s favor with our works and service, He would have us walk humbly with our God, acknowledging our sinfulness and unworthiness and trusting in His grace, mercy, and forgiveness for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us that “the LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18; cf. 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). And, “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Matt. 5:1-12).

O LORD God, my only Hope and Salvation, grant that I trust in You and Your mercy for Jesus’ sake and walk humbly in Your ways, looking for and awaiting that Day when You will receive me into Your glorious kingdom which has no end. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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