Jesus Quenches Your Spiritual Thirst!

2nd Wednesday of Advent

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Israelites before Jesus waited and longed for the waters of life.  We read in the Psalms…

“My soul thirsts for God for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2) “O God, you are my God earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)  “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” (Psalm 143:6)

The Israelites waited.  They trusted God’s promises.  They knew one day God would send a Messiah, a Savior, into the world.  But they didn’t know when or exactly what it would be like when He came, or the words He would speak.  They thirsted for living water.  Then He came.   The Gift of God appeared.  The Spring of Joy burst forth in the middle of the desert (slide 2).  Jesus came, He was born into this world, He brought “living water” that satisfies, “water” that completes, “water” that comforts, “water” for thirsty souls!

(slide 3) If it was all up to us we should be wandering around thirsting.  If we were all on our own we would be wandering around in the parched and dry desert of… unbelief.  If it was up to us we would be trying to satisfy our thirst with the world’s sand (slide 4) – like earthly power or wealth or pleasure.

But, then Jesus came (slide 5).  He gave us “water” to drink.  Not just ordinary water, but living water.  He sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts, He worked faith inside of us, He led us to trust in Him for complete forgiveness of sins.  He rained down upon us the life-giving waters at our baptism.  He gave us His Word.  He comforts us with the joy of our eternal salvation.

So, no longer do we thirst for meaning in life, we know who we are: children of God.  We no longer thirst slavishly for the pleasures the world offers for we have all we need in Jesus.  We no longer have to thirst the way the world thirsts for things in this world which will one day pass away because we have what is eternal.  We have tasted the waters of life.  Through His word we have seen our Savior born into this world as a little baby.  Unlike the Old Testament Israelites, we see the life of Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior in the Word.  We have His Word.  We thirst for His Word.  His Word brings us comfort.  His Word satisfies our greatest thirst.  We drink His Word and it fills us, it fills us so much that it becomes part of us.  We live His Word in our lives.

So, here we have a lady whose life was a mess.  She had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband.  She didn’t even know that she was spiritually parched.  And here, Jesus reaches out to her with life-giving, living water, which satisfied her spiritual thirst for eternity.  If Jesus was willing to do that for her, he certainly has filled you so you will never thirst spiritually.  He certainly continues to fill you with His living water that becomes in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life!

Rededicate! For He is dedicated to you!

2nd Sunday of Advent

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins.  To him be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  He made metal images for Baal worship.  He sacrificed his sons to false gods.  He worshiped the false gods of the heathen nations around him.  And if that wasn’t enough, he went into the house of God, took the sacred furnishings and cut them to pieces and then he locked the doors to the house of God.  And to top it off, he set up altars to false gods in every street corner of Jerusalem.  God summarized his rule: “He had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord.”  How might you have felt if you were an Israelite at the time of King Ahaz?  “Can it get any worse than this?”  “Should I follow him if I want to live?”

And then Ahaz, the Israelite king who did all the evil and wickedness we just talked about, died.  His son, Hezekiah, took over and “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  Immediately, he re-opened the doors of the temple and repaired them.  He re-consecrated the priests and the Levites (those responsible for leading worship).  He had the priests re-consecrate the temple and its furnishings.  He resumed temple worship with blood sacrifices for sin.  He reassembled the people for worship and praise to the true God.  He restored the bringing of sacrifices and offerings.  The people of Judah responded with abundant offerings and sacrifices.  And then at the end of the account of all these reforms we read: “So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly.” (2 Chronicles 29:35-36). 

Things got pretty bad in Israel, but are things much different today?  Is there godlessness in the world around us?  We see beautiful blessings of the Lord … murdered in their mothers’ wombs.  Drug deals, murders, theft, and corruption are constantly on the news.  And it seems like the sound of police sirens never stops.  How the world continues to wander away from God!

Yet, before we shake our heads at the Israelites or the world around us we need to take a look at our own lives.  What horror we would feel if all our thoughts for just one day were read aloud for everyone to hear.  What terror ought to loom inside of us when we consider our own altars to the idols of greed, selfishness, and jealousy.  What guilt weighs us down from our many past failures and sins!  How often we have shut the doors of God’s temple inside of us!  How unfaithful we’ve been in our devotion to God and His Word!  How far have we fallen?  Each of us has to ask, “Can it get any worse than this?”  Are we ready for the coming of the King?

The Israelites at the time of Hezekiah weren’t ready for the Lord’s first coming.  Many Israelites had completely rejected the Lord.  They had forsaken God, turned their backs on God, and refused to worship Him.  But what did God do?  He didn’t wipe them off the face of the earth, He didn’t completely annihilate them for their unfaithfulness, and He didn’t even leave them to sit in the stench of their sin.  Instead, in great love God gave the Israelites another day of His grace, another opportunity to rededicate themselves to Him.  And even more than that… God accepted their rededication!

And look at what we have standing before us today…yet another day of God’s grace, another day when God gives us the opportunity to rededicate our lives to Him.  God did not have to accept the Israelite’s rededication, but He did.  The same is true for us, we have no right or reason on our own to be accepted by the Lord, but He has accepted you.  In amazing love God took you where you are, lost in sin every day, and accepted you! Before you were even born, Jesus lived a perfect life for you.  Before you were born Jesus died to pay for each of your sins.  Before you were born Jesus gave you the victory of His resurrection!

God chose you to be His own child and now He gives you another opportunity to be His child, so rededicate!  Take this day of God’s grace and rededicate your life to Him!  Take the opportunity to commit to living in His Word.  Take the opportunity to change the sinful habits in your life.  Take this opportunity to be who you are, God’s loved child!

The Israelites took the opportunity under King Hezekiah and rededicated their lives back to the Lord.  They consecrated themselves for the Lord’s service, they cleansed the temple of the Lord, and they started worshipping the Lord again.  Very importantly, they also all began to bring offerings and sacrifices to the Lord.  With these offerings and sacrifices they were again reminded of the coming Savior.  How blood needed to be shed for the forgiveness of sin, how a sacrifice would bring about the forgiveness of sins, and how it would be a whole and complete sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  The people responded with their offerings with such generosity and such abundance that the priests could not handle it all by themselves.  And then “Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people.”  Their rededication caused all of them to rejoice!

And you know what?  Rededication does the same for you and for me, too.   It causes us to rejoice, to have joy!  As I prepare for the King and remove the idols of greed and selfishness in my life, I lean more fully on the Lord.  Trust in the Lord replaces anxiousness, security replaces uncertainty, and prayer replaces worry.  As I prepare for the King and am cleansed from the guilt of my past sins, thankfulness replaces regret, kindness replaces anger, and joy replaces sadness.  What joy fills my life as I rededicate my life for the coming King!

And it doesn’t even stop there.  Rejoice!  The more you prepare the more clearly you see God’s love for you.  As you rededicate your life, the more time you’ll want to spend in the Word, and the more time you spend in your devotion to God’s Word the more clearly you’ll see the love of God your Father.  The more clearly you see the love of God, the more you’ll appreciate the first coming of your Savior Jesus!

But are we on our own?  It’s NOT completely up to us to rededicate our lives for the King! Rejoice with the Israelites at what GOD brings about for his people!  Rejoice, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil 2:13).  It is God who works in us through His Word to identify sin in our lives.  It is God who works in us through His Word to convince us that Jesus won forgiveness for all of our sins.  It is God who works in us to give us the strength to reject sin and live the life He wants us to live.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rededicate your lives to the Lord!  Why?  Because that baby in the manger came for YOU!  God has dedicated Himself to YOU in the most wonderful and profound way, He became one of us.  The almighty God was born into this world as YOUR brother.  Jesus dedicated Himself totally to YOU by living His life for you, by dying your death for you, and by rising from the dead so eternal victory is completely yours.  Yes, rededicate!  Because God has already completely dedicated Himself to you!  Amen.

Thank you, God, for confronting me

Thanksgiving

How would you have felt?  God asked Jonah to go preach in the capital city of one of Israel’s most powerful enemies… because God wanted to show them compassion and love.  Would you have been jumping up and down to go?  Jonah wasn’t.  So he got on a ship that was sailing as far away as possible.  But God sent a fierce storm, so fierce the ship was about to break up, the sailors figured out that the storm was because of Jonah.  So with Jonah’s permission they threw him overboard…and everything immediately grew calm.  But what happened to Jonah?  “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”  Do you think Jonah got God’s message?  Do you think he had time to think?  Do you think God got his attention?  He did…in a very unusual way.

Have we been in Jonah’s shoes, shoes of rebellion against God? God tells us to forgive those who sin against us, but do we say, “No way!  That’s his problem; after all HE sinned against ME!”  God tells us to put Him first, but do we say, “No!  I have my own wants and needs to take care of first, maybe if I have some leftovers I’ll give something to God.”   We’ve all had times like that.  And what does God do?  He wakes us up.  Probably hasn’t been with a great big fish, but maybe it’s a sudden challenge in our lives which draws our attention heavenward.  Maybe it’s a serious illness that strips us of our “I can make it on my own” attitude.  Maybe it’s a long, hard look at God’s law that shows us how greatly we’ve fallen and how desperately we need a Savior.  Whatever it may be, THANK the Lord for confronting us with our sin and showing us our need for a Savior.  Realizing our sinfulness let us confess our sin to God:

Hosea 3:1 – Thank you, God, for your faithful love

God has taken away your sin.   For as high has the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for you; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed your sin from you.  You are forgiven.  How might you picture that kind of love?  I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed this one.  God gave the Israelites and us an object lesson.  God told the prophet Hosea to marry an adulteress, a prostitute.  God wanted Hosea to unconditionally and unselfishly commit his life to a woman who had a terrible history of being faithless and unfaithful in the deepest way.  How would you have felt if you were Hosea?  I think it’s safe to say that no one looks for a spouse who is unfaithful or not-trustworthy.  But what was God’s point?  Look at the verse, “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”  What’s the point?  God still loves the unfaithful.

Although we are the unfaithful ones, unfaithful with the gifts and abilities God’s given us, unfaithful with our devotion to His Word, although that is who we are…guess what…  God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for your unfaithfulness.  God picked you up and united Himself with you.  God still continues to love you. God will not turn away from you, God will never divorce you, God does not leave you.  God loves you unconditionally and His abounding love and forgiveness will never, ever run out for you!  Is that something to be thankful for?  THANK you, Lord, for Your incredibly faithful love!

God comes for you!

2nd Sunday of End Time-Last Judgment

Doesn’t it just take your breath away?  You know it’s coming.  You’ve waited so long that your eyes hurt and burn with anticipation.  That glow has been hanging there in the distance, you know it’s coming, it will be here, it’s almost here.  Then, rays burst over the horizon, light blasts over the fields and mountains, heat and warmth blanket you.  The darkness of night is over, the sun has risen in the sky, what an awesome sight!  What an awesome feeling!  It takes your breath away!  The day has arrived!

No doubt that same scene, the break of day after being up all night, sent chills down the spines of people living in the 5th Century BC as well.  That’s when the prophet Malachi wrote these words.  He wrote to people who were indifferent towards God, people unconcerned about the truth of God’s Word, people living in unrepentant sin, and also to faithful believers yearning for God’s love and justice.  Sound familiar?  These words are written for our day too; written for your attention and my attention.  Hear the Word of God (Malachi 4:1-2).

There is a day.  It is sure.  It will come.  God has set the day.  One day, one final day, on the Last Day, The Sun, that is, the Lord, will rise in the sky.  Those who don’t believe in Jesus will perish; they are the evildoers and the arrogant ones talked about in the text.  For them the day is burning; for them that day will be like an oven; for them on that day they will be chaff, like grass tossed up in the air; for them on that day they will be totally destroyed, without root and without branch.  On that day the Sun, the Lord, will rise with the scorching heat of just judgment.

Isn’t it easy to look at the first part of our text…easy, until we realize the punishment described ought to be ours.  Are you and I ready to see the Lord?  Are we ready for our holy and perfect Judge to rise in the sky?  “Oh, but that day won’t happen for a long, long time.  Just look, every day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, just the same as it always has.  Besides, I have so much to accomplish, so many plans and dreams, so much to do and experience.  Maybe when I’m older and don’t have so much to do, then I’ll spend some time with God’s Word, then I’ll have some extra money lying around for the Lord, then I’ll care a little more about the people close to me, but until then I’VE got to get MY stuff done.”  You see, if I don’t understand that the Day is coming I’ll actually appreciate what God tells me less.  I’ll think, I’ll always have tomorrow to tell my friend about Jesus, I’ll always have tomorrow to turn my life around, I’ll always have tomorrow to care more deeply about those around me, I’ll always have tomorrow to be strengthened in God’s Word.  Are we ready to see the LORD rise in the sky?  Brothers and sisters, realize this: God does not lie, The Day comes!

That day does come, but also realize this, the fire, the heat, the judgment, rightfully yours and mine, has already been suffered and paid for.  When Jesus was on the cross and announced, “It is finished,” God does not lie; the judgment for sin was paid, your sin was paid for.  The day that ought to scare and horrify us, is now a day we look forward to and anticipate.  Because of Jesus the day that was coming with fire and judgment on us is now coming for a completely different purpose.

So, if the day comes not for our judgment what’s the purpose for us? God, who exists outside of time, has set a time for you and me.  Why is this comforting?  God is coming here in His magnificent splendor with an army of angels.  In the end God wins.  Satan has been defeated.  Right now, we see evil run rampant, it seems it has no end, but God says, “The day comes” evil will be judged.  Right now, our lives are so unstable, but God says, “The day comes” we have a goal, an outcome.  Right now, we need something to look forward to, and God says, “The day comes!”  Each day when we see the sun rise in the morning, our salvation comes a little closer.  The Day comes!

What does this day bring for you?  “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing it its wings.” That day is coming and it will be awesome.  On that great and glorious day Jesus will come as Lord of lords and King of kings.  He will bring justice; each person will be held accountable for his/her sins.  But, fellow sinners who revere his name, don’t be afraid, but rejoice, because the Judge is Jesus who has clothed YOU with His perfect, holy, and innocent life.  In God’s eyes your sin is gone…because of Jesus!

Because you wear the white robe of Jesus’ perfection that day is release and freedom.  The sin, that so infects you now, will be healed completely then.  On that day the sin of the world around us, which tempts and hurts us so often, will be completely annihilated.  On that day the temptations of Satan will be cut off forever.  The day of healing comes!  Will that be a day to rejoice?  Absolutely.  Don’t you want to be there?  Absolutely, so hold fast to the whole truth, the whole Word of God.  Don’t you want your friends to be there?  Tell them!  Don’t you want your great-great-great- grandchild to be there?  Pass the Word on to your family!  “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”  When calves have been penned up and are first released into a field they run out as fast as they can and jump around…that’s a picture of the joy and excitement that you and I have on that great day of healing!

Doesn’t it just take your breath away?  With eyes of faith you see the glow of the Sun, the Lord, about to rise into the sky and shed the light of life on you.  The day comes!  Rejoice! On that day your God and Savior, your Sun of righteousness, will come here to take you there!  Amen.

Stand Firm!

1st Sunday of End Time – Reformation Sunday

Baptism- Matthew 28:19-20
Luther was born November 10, 1483.  The very next day his father took him to the church to be baptized.  Since November 11 is St. Martin’s day, they named him Martin.  He was also given another name on that day.  When the minister poured water on his head and read the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit,” Martin Luther was called “God’s son.”  Although for a while Martin Luther didn’t recognize it, on that day God made Martin Luther His very own child.

The same is true for us.  You and I, too, can look back on our baptism and see what a great miracle God did in each one of us.   He washed you clean from sin, put faith in your heart, gave you a new life, and claimed you as his very own child.  You also have the name written on you “God’s son” or “God’s daughter.”  And that’s GOOD NEWS!

Crisis in Life- Galatians 3:10
Martin Luther was a gifted student and studied to become a lawyer.  During his schooling he came down with a serious fever, once almost bled to death, and witnessed many people around him dying.  Perhaps Luther often thought about dying and what his relationship with God was.  He tells us that he saw God as a fearful judge who was never satisfied no matter what he did.  His soul was in turmoil.  Then on the road to Erfurt, lightning struck near him and he cried out to St. Anne- the patron saint of miners- and vowed to become a monk, surely he would find some rest for his soul in the strict obedience of the monastery!

Oh, it sounds so right doesn’t it?  “There must be something that I can or have to do to earn salvation; to earn God’s favor!  God simply is not dumb, surely he demands something of us!”  But what does God demand?  Perfection in everything.  God says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Cursed is anyone who relies on the law to be saved!

The Righteous will live by faith- Romans 1:17
You are forgiven!  Jesus lived a perfect and innocent life for you.  Jesus died to pay for every one of your sins.  Jesus rose from the dead to declare you innocent!  Your sins have been taken away.

But Luther didn’t understand this right away.  He spent his time in strict monastery obedience.  He was also put to work lecturing and preaching on the Bible.  The false teaching of the Catholic Church still caused him to misunderstand God and His Word.  Although he lived in strict obedience to monastery rules, his sins still gnawed at him and his conscience greatly plagued him.   He said, “I could not believe that he (God) was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God …”

The Lord worked through his powerful Word and convinced Martin Luther of the truth.  Finally, he understood.  The righteousness of God is NOT the righteousness God demands of us, rather, the righteousness of God is what He credits to us, it is a gift, it is free, it is ours by faith!  The righteous life Jesus lived is now credited to us- He took our sins on Himself and gave us His perfect robe of righteousness.  So, instead of earning or deserving God’s love or God’s forgiveness by something we do, God’s love and forgiveness is freely ours.  It is completely separate from anything we do or do not do; in grace God credits us with the perfect life that Jesus lived.  That’s awesome news!

Indulgences come to Germany; Taking a stand! 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
God convinced Luther through the Word that God is a God of love.  Luther dove into Scripture and little by little discarded the errors taught by the Catholic Church.  Luther proclaimed the truth of Scripture again and it caused quite a stir among the Church and the Empire. Specifically, when the Catholic Church was selling indulgences (pieces of paper that would “forgive sins”), on October 31, 1517 Luther posted 95 statements on the church door asking for a debate on this subject.  Luther wanted to get a chance to defend his teaching based on Scripture and to bring the Catholic Church back to God’s Word. Instead of debating with Luther on the basis of Scripture, the Church tried to please him, then threatened him, and finally the pope excommunicated him. The Church never did give him the chance to defend his teaching; rather they only wanted to hear him recant his teaching.  Finally, Luther stood before the Emperor himself and the Emperor asked him if he would recant or else he would be an outlaw.  Luther answered, “If I am not convicted by testimony from the Holy Scriptures or by common, clear, and evident reasons… and if I am not convicted by my own published writing, my conscience being held fast in the Word of God, then I can not and will not recant anything, for it is neither safe nor advisable to act against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen!”

It sure didn’t look like Luther was in a position to win a victory.  How could he be right and everyone else in the Church, the great Catholic theologians, be wrong?  But Luther took to heart God’s Word, “”But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” You and I take to heart God’s Word too.  Stand firm on God’s Word.  When society says God’s teachings aren’t “popular,” stand firm.  Stand firm on all of God’s Word.   When church bodies go away from God’s Word and trust in human teachings, stand firm on God’s Word!

Final Victory! Psalm 118:15-19
On February 18, 1546 Luther was on his death bed.  He was asked if he still held to all of the teachings he rediscovered from the Bible and Luther responded with a firm “Yes.”  After that, God gave Luther the final victory.  What great news when God takes one of His own to heaven!

What a God of love we have!  He sent Martin Luther to lead the church back to the good news of the Bible.  Like Luther we too want to treasure God’s Word, hold firmly on to it, and share its good news with other.  So finally, reassured from God’s Word we close our eyes in death only to open them in life eternal!  “Shouts of joy and victory…”

God Bought You!

sinful from birth
20th Sunday After Pentecost
Psalm 51:5

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father — to Him be glory and power forever and ever. God speaks to us today from Psalm 51 verse 5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Can you picture it?  His situation is hopeless.  It’s almost totally pitch black.  There’s a faint, small, glimmer of a light way, way, way at the top.  But there’s no way he’s going to reach it.  Why? Because he’s sitting at the bottom of a pit, enclosed by a round and smooth wall all the way around him with a diameter of 20 feet wide and a mile high.  Things aren’t look very good are they?  Well maybe if he jumps as high as he can…nope, he gets a couple feet off the bottom and falls right back down.  Well, maybe if he tries to climb up the walls…nope, they’re completely smooth and he falls back to the ground.  All by himself, without the necessities of life, his future doesn’t look very good, does it?

That man sitting hopeless at the bottom of a pit is a picture of you and me by nature.  We were born in the inescapable pit of sin.  No, we didn’t just fall into it when we reached a certain age; the pit is the starting place for each and every human life beginning at conception.  From our very conception our spiritual condition was totally lost.  You see, we inherited this sinful condition from our parents, who inherited it from their parents, who inherited it…all the way down the line from our first parents Adam and Eve.  As descendants from them we inherited their sin.  So when we look at our text for this morning it stares us right in the face and says, “Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” in other words, “You, are evil.”  Ouch!  What else can we do but cry out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

When you were hopelessly sitting in that pit of sin, God sent Jesus, who jumped into that pit, picked you up, put you on His shoulders, and carried you out of the pit.  Since we were born from sinful human beings we were born in sin.  God’s justice demands that all sin be paid for, including the original sin we were born with.  And so, our gracious God in incomprehensible love took it upon Himself to rescue you and me from our original lost condition.   And how did He do this?  The Son of God sacrificed His own life as complete payment for you!  Wow!

So, when we consider the words, “Surely I was sinful from birth,” we realize that at every single instance of our lives we desperately need God’s forgiveness.  But then, when we look at the whole love letter of God, the Bible, we realize that there was also not a single instance in our lives when God’s forgiveness because of Jesus was not there for us.  That’s love.  That’s amazing love.

So, why does God want us to know that I was “sinful from the time my mother conceived me?”  What’s the point? At the very instant our lives began, in God’s eyes, we were His enemies; we were sinful, disgusting, detestable, and worthless.  But what did God in His amazing love do for us, His enemies?  God himself became one of us and gave up His life so we could go to the perfect mansions of heaven.  God claimed you as His very own; God made you His child and His friend, God saved you.  So, what’s the point? You see, the more clearly we realize what a hopeless pit we were lost in, all the more clearly we see God’s unimaginably great love for us.  That He shed His own blood to pay for our sins completely.

Sometimes we hear people say, “Babies aren’t sinful,” or, “Children are so innocent.”  When people say these things it sounds nice.  And babies are cute and they haven’t been corrupted in the same sense as you and I have by our culture and the world around us.  But, the fact is, they are just as sinful as you and me from conception.  And if I don’t understand this I will actually appreciate Jesus … less.  If I came into this world innocent do I really need Jesus?  Not really.  If I was not sinful at birth, then I wasn’t in that pit at all and didn’t actually need someone to rescue me.

But I was born in the pit.  And look how much God loves me.  He loved me from the very moment I became a human being.  You see, if I know that I was born completely sinful I appreciate all the more that God has rescued me!

Yes, you and I were born in this world in a pit, destined to hell, and in amazing love God has rescued you.  How? In His amazing love He paid the most precious price for your salvation, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). God shed His blood, paid His very own precious blood, for whom? For YOU! Yes, God bought YOU!  And that was true for you from the very point you were conceived! Amen.

God is Concerned about You!

14th Sunday After Pentecost
Isaiah 40:26-31

Peace to all of you who are in Christ!  In the name of Jesus.  Once when I was a little child, I was with my mom walking through a supermarket and I spotted a big bag of butter finger candy bars.  I thought to myself, “Boy, do those look good- in fact it’s just in my reach- I bet if I grabbed that bag and begged mom that she would buy it.”  But when I turned around, “Where’s mom?  All I see is strange, scary people, my heart jumps to my throat, mom’s gone, she forgot me, tears are coming, I’m all alone, lost!”  Ever felt that way? Ever feel like that today?  Maybe it isn’t quite as dramatic any more, but it can be just as scary.  Maybe today you’re just lost in the craziness of this world.   What’s going on in the world with the economy, the wars, terrorist attacks, health care, etc.?  Where do I fit in?  Is there anyone who cares about me in this great big glob of this world?

Guess what, God has an answer for you.  He answers you in the same way He answered the people of Israel.  You see, the prophet Isaiah wrote to faithful believers who very likely just saw many of their comrades hauled off to captivity.  Now they probably felt deserted, down hearted, and lost- wondering if God is still concerned about them.  Just like God comforted his believers almost 3,000 years ago, He also comforts you today- in His Word God shows you His concern for you by pointing to His creation.

Why did God create the stars in the sky?  Out of many reasons God picks one for us today.  God in his power faithfully “brings out the starry host one by one” every night and by His might holds each of them in their position.  Did you know that on a clear night without much moonlight you can see about 3,000 stars in the sky with your eye?  With a good telescope you can see about 100,000.  It is estimated that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy and there are about 100 billion galaxies that we know about.  Our text says God has a name for each and every one of those stars in the sky and not a single one of them escapes His notice!  If God shows that much concern for stars which are part of His creation, that tells you how much concern He has for the prize of his creation, humans!  God purposefully and carefully formed humans.  More than that He sent his own Son, Jesus, to die for humans like you, you are the prize of His creation.  God cares about you, He’s not only concerned that you exist; He is concerned about every single circumstance in your life.  Everything in your life- no matter how insignificant- is the object of God’s deepest concern.  God your Creator even promises that He knows even the number of hairs on your head (Matt 10:30)!

If God is that concerned about us, why do you and I still mutter to ourselves things like, “’My way is hidden from the Lord.’ God has no idea what I am going through.  He has no idea how difficult my life is right now.  He doesn’t understand what pressures are suffocating me.  God is completely unconcerned; I mean when I walk on the sidewalk I don’t care about those little ants crawling on the ground, that’s probably how God feels about me”?  If God really cared about me He would show me.”

But God IS concerned about you, He shows you in His creation and He tells you so in His Word.ea God, the only and everlasting, is the LORD of free and faithful love.  He tells you He has forgiven all your sins and He has because of Jesus.  He tells you He will take you to heaven and He will because He has promised it.  God tells you He is deeply concerned about your day to day life.  How can God do this?  I mean my wife and I have a hard enough time trying to take care of 1 child, but God takes care of ch and every one of his children individually.  How?  Because He is the “Creator of the ends of the earth”!  Will God ever become weary or tired out? NO!  Is there anything in your life that God can’t turn for your eternal good?  NO!  Your Creator’s wisdom is beyond searching out!

Do you sometimes feel lost in the craziness of life?  Can you think of times when you might feel like God has abandoned you the mess of this sinful world?  He hasn’t.  The God who created this entire universe has you and every single tiny particle of your life in His constant care and concern.  This same faithful, loving, and all-powerful God promises with His Word to renew your strength, to lift you up like on eagle’s wings, to cause you to run and not grow weary, and to walk and not be faint.  Does God have the ability to do this?  Yes, He does because he is the Creator of all things!  So, are you lost in this world like the little child all alone in a great big supermarket?  Not at all, because God is concerned about you!

God has declared you Innocent!

12th Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 3:22-24

Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.  In the name of Jesus, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. God speaks to us this morning in Romans chapter 3, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Imagine being caught red handed stealing millions of dollars from the U.S. government.  How would you feel standing before the judge?  Nervous, scared, upset, guilty?  Now imagine that the judge in his verdict looks at you and says, “Not guilty, you are innocent?”  Now how do you feel?  Pretty good?  Certainly.  I think so.

All of us will one day stand in another courtroom, God’s courtroom.  God, the Judge, is the One who created this universe, He is perfect and holy in every way, He is almighty, and He does whatever He wants.

And, the holy God hates sin.  God says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Here in our text God says, “For all have sinned and (literally) all keep on falling short of the glory of God.”  Yes, God says “all have sinned.”  You can deny it, you can turn your back on it, but it’s a fact: you and I are total sinners and no matter how hard we try we keep coming short of the perfection God demands.  For example, God says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves at all times.  This past week have we done that perfectly, have we always put others’ needs above our own?  God says we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.  Have we perfectly held God above all else, above our money, our job, our fun?  If we are honest with ourselves we have to answer, “No, we haven’t.”

God’s justice demands that we pay for our sin with an eternity in hell.  But God has justified you, He has declared you to be innocent in his eyes.  How can he do that?  He points at Jesus and to the cross, and says, “That’s why you are forgiven.  Because of Jesus.  And I choose to give it to you.”  You are innocent by God’s grace.  You and I deserved death because of our sin, but God in His grace sent His only Son to live and to die and to rise again to give you eternal life.

And God hasn’t only declared you innocent but He has declared the world innocent because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  God says every person here is declared perfect and holy.  God has said not only every person here, but every person in Johnson City, every American, European, African, everyone in the world is innocent.  How does that affect the way you view your fellow man?  Jesus paid the price to declare your spouse innocent, your friends innocent, your coworker innocent, and your enemy innocent.  If God has forgiven them are you going to want to treat them like a jerk?  Or, are you going to want to spread God’s verdict to them so God can work faith in their hearts too?  Absolutely it’s the second!

And just think if God has declared you to be innocent, then who can hold the guilt of all of your past sins against you?  No one.  If God, the One who created the universe and is in complete control of everything, declared you innocent that says something about how very important you are.  If God is willing to send his Son to pay the price to declare you innocent, you can be sure He will be with you, He will guide your life according to His plan, and He will victoriously take you one day to heaven.  AND, God has declared you innocent!  Amen