I thank GOD for you!

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ENRICHED BY THE SPIRIT!

If something is “enriched” that means it has been made better than it was before, right? The Holy Spirit has enriched us with the Gospel message. We are far better off than we were before we had this message. The Gospel is our motivation, our wisdom, our strength to keep us standing firm until the end! We have been enriched by the Spirit!

1 Corinthians 1:4-9, New International Version

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

For His Love Endures Forever!

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Thanksgiving Day
Psalm 136

Creation – Verses 4-9

There’s a recurring theme throughout Psalm 136. Perhaps you noticed it. “For his love endures forever.” For whatever reason the NIV chose not to translate the “for” or “because” but it’s in every phrase, “for or because his love endures forever.” And the Hebrew word translated “love” is actually a special word for love. In the KJV this word was typically translated with “lovingkindness.” It has the idea of a heart that is so filled with compassion that it has to reach out in love to some object. It has the idea of loyalty, of unearned love and grace.

And, in God’s loving kindness He created the world. Now, think about that for a moment. Here is God. He has existed from all eternity and will exist to all eternity. He has absolutely no need, He has everything, He lacks nothing. He is just fine all on his own. He has no one rebelling against him, no one fighting Him, no one complaining to Him, no one profaning His name, no one angry or upset with Him. It was just God, no one else.

But God wasn’t content to just leave it that way. Rather, He wanted others to share in His joy, share in His love, share in His goodness. So what did God do? He created all things! He made the heavens, he spread out the earth, he made the sun, the moon, the stars. How incredible His power! But he didn’t just stop at creating a beautiful, incredible world, he made humans, he made you, he created you. Why? Because he wants YOU to be able to spend eternity with Him!

And so, today, we say, “Thank you God! Thank you for making all things; thank you for making me!” And why did He do it? Because his love endures forever!

Redemption – vv 10-15

The Israelites faced two things out of which the Lord delivered them. First of all they were slaves. What does it mean to be a slave? To be a slave means you are actual property of someone else. You can’t do whatever you want, you have to do what someone else tells you, you have to do the jobs no one else will, you work and work and work and do it all again the next day without any hope for a future or for release. Second, the Israelites faced death. When God delivered them from Egypt Pharaoh’s army came to attack them from behind and in front of them was a massive sea- they could either be slaughtered by Pharaoh’s army or drown in the water. They faced death. But what did the Lord do? He miraculously rescued them from both. He delivered them from their slavery in Egypt by the final plague, the Passover, where every firstborn in every home would die unless they painted the blood of a lamb over the door posts on their home, then the Lord would pass over them. After that plague the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt. Then, when they were standing before the Red Sea with water in front and Pharaoh’s army behind them and it seemed like they faced certain death and destruction, God did the unthinkable, He opened up the sea so the entire nation could cross it on dry land and be rescued. God redeemed Israel from slavery and from death.

But he hasn’t just done that for Israel. You and I were once slaves. We were once slaves to sin. We were in bondage, we couldn’t please God. All we could do is follow the sinful desires of our hearts. And not only that but we also faced death, not just physical death, but spiritual death. We were hopelessly lost slaves to sin and facing eternal death. But just like God delivered the Israelites, so he has delivered you. Not by the blood of a lamb, but by the blood of the lamb of God, Jesus, God has set you free from sin forever. He has rescued you from death not by the waters of the Red Sea, but the waters of your baptism where he worked faith in your heart and washed you with the blood of Jesus. That is something to continually give thanks for. Give thanks to the Lord, His love endures forever! Amen.

Faithfulness – v. 16-22

Ok, so we have a bunch of slaves who are going to leave their land of enslavement, travel several hundred miles through a desert wilderness without any food or water or extra clothes, have to defeat several powerful kings so they can take over a land that is already inhabited and strongly fortified. Right, sure, that’s going to work.

But it did. That’s exactly what happened. How so? Not because the Israelites were such great people but because God was such a great God. How did it happen? It happened because God had promised it would happen and when God makes a promise, you can be absolutely certain of it, you can count on it that it WILL take place.

And so, you can count on the Lord completely, 100%, absolutely. He promises that he will never leave you, nor forsake you. You can count on it. He promises that he will guide and direct you. He will. He promises that His angels are constantly guarding and protecting you. They are. He promises that you will have an inheritance – an Eternal inheritance in heaven. You have it. He will make good on all his promises. Why so? Because your God is faithful. You can see it in the “big things’ – that He sent His Son to live, to die, to rise for you. But you can also see it in the “little things” – the sun rose today, and will tomorrow, you have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. It all happens because your God is faithful. Thank the Lord for His faithfulness. O Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever! Amen.

He Remember us in our Low Estate – V. 23-26

Yes, our God’s love endures forever. He made us, He created us, He redeemed us, He’s faithful to all His promises to us. But one last thought which leads us to say, “Thank you Lord.” And that’s the truth that He even works through us.

Think about it, in comparison to God, what are you and I? Why, we’re nothing! I’ve often thought about little ants that busily build their little home, little morsels of dirt all piled up, they go about their lives completely oblivious to the fact that my foot towers above them is about to squash them and their little home. And how much infinitely greater God is to us than I am to that ant! Is that the way that God relates to us? Far removed, far away, distant?

Not at all. What are we told here? God remembers us. He remembers us in our low estate. He thinks of us. He even loves us!

And not only is that true, but He also works through us. Verse 23, “To the one who remembered us in our low estate” is quoted by Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. God had “remembered” her. And God had done what? Worked through her to bring about the most important event of all time – the birth of Jesus. Can you imagine? God worked through one of us humans to accomplish that!

And God continues to remember us and work through us. He brings people to know Jesus – through you and me. He brings His comfort and peace to other people as we share with them the words and thoughts of Scripture. He spreads the message of salvation through you and me! Really, the most important work of all, the sharing of the message of eternal life, God entrusts to you and me!

And so, we can say, not just today, not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day of life, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” Amen

Rededicate!

1st Sunday of Advent
2 Chronicles 28-29

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, We use words like that all the time, right? Well, what does it mean when we add those two little letters “re” to the front or a word? “re” is a prefix that often indicates that we’re doing something again. So, we have a mechanic “repair” our car- that is, he takes what was broken and he fixes and makes it work again. We take an old piece of furniture to a wood worker to “restores” our furniture – that is, he takes something old and makes it look new again or usable again. If you’re browsing the internet and the webpage you’re on has become outdated or new content has been uploaded, you can press the “refresh” or “reload” button to load the webpage again. We even occasionally have a husband and wife who will “renew” their vows to one another. It doesn’t have to be, but often a renewal of the vows comes after something has broken the relationship or many years have passed that commitment has become somewhat dulled over time and the husband and wife “renew” or “refresh” their promises to one another, recommitting themselves to one another again. We use these “re” words all the time, don’t we?

Well, our text this morning describes a lot of “redoing” – rededicating, re-consecrating, reestablishing – the religious life of the Israelites. But we first need to ask, “Why?” Why did King Hezekiah have to do this?

King Hezekiah ruled about from about 715 BC to 686 BC. He took over being king of Judah after his father, Ahaz died. Remember that about 930 BC is when the kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms after the spiritual rebellion that happened during the reign of king Solomon. So, after that there were two kingdoms – one in the north and one in south. The southern kingdom, also called Judah, continued to carry the line of the promised Savior. The northern kingdom when into a steep spiritual spiral that ended in 722 BC when the Assyrians invaded, demolished, and destroyed it. Unfortunately, the kingdom of Judah was in just about as bad a shape spiritually as the northern kingdom. Ahaz was a terrible king.

What did he do? What are we told?  He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.”  So what did the Lord do? The Lord allowed the Arameans to defeat Judah and inflict heavy losses on them. And how did Ahaz respond? “In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he though, ‘Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.’ But they were his downfall…Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the Lord’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods.” 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???”

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 whole 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, another day of grace to be His child, so rededicate!  This is what Advent is all about. Our Savior is coming, are we ready? Take this day of God’s grace and rededicate your life to Him!  Take the opportunity to recommit to living in His Word.  Take the opportunity to replace the sinful habits in your life with godly ones.  Take this opportunity to be reminded 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 blood 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 Working in Mysterious Ways!

Give thanks to God at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Sermonettes

Jonah 1:17– Thank you, God, for confronting me

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 desperate 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!

Jeremiah 32:7-25 – Thank you, God, for reminding me of the big picture!

To understand this next segment, we need to understand the context.  Nebuchadnezzar – the Babylonian king – has come with his army and is besieging Jerusalem.  He’s already overrun the rest of the country, and is about to destroy the capital city, Jerusalem, and will be killing many and taking many more off into exile.

What do you think?  Is that a good time to be buying property?  Not so much, right?  J

And, yet, that’s exactly what God tells Jeremiah to do.  He tells Jeremiah that his cousin is going to come and ask him to buy his field, and that Jeremiah should buy it.  So, sure enough, Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, and Jeremiah dutifully weighs out the silver, and buys the field.

Later, Jeremiah’s praying, and he says to God, and it seems like it’s probably with some degree of frustration, “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be handed over to the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. {25} And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign LORD, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” (Jer 32:24-25 NIV)

What was God teaching Jeremiah, and us?  He’s reminding us that He sees the big picture!  Yes, the army was at the gates at that point.  Yes, the Israelites were in trouble at that point.  Yes, they would be going into exile.

But they would be coming back!  It would be years later, but they would come back!  God knew the big picture, and would guide His people through it!

And so God will do with you and me.  He knows what will happen next month, next year, 50 years from now.  Even now He’s guiding and directing all things for the good of His people, including you.  In fact, even now God’s causing/allowing things in your life which will be a blessing for your great, great, great grand-children!

Thank you, God!  Thank you for knowing the big picture!  And thank you for reminding me of that big picture, that I might approach all of life with confidence and joy!

Exodus 17:10-12 – Thank you, God, for Gifting Me in Unique Ways!

Okay, everyone, I want you to do something a bit different.  Hold up your arms into the air.  Go ahead, hold them up high as you listen to this last sermonette.

The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land after having left Egypt.  Indeed, it wasn’t long after God had begun giving them manna, that the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites.  And God did something, well, strange.

He had Moses stand on the top of a hill, holding up the staff of God (the same staff, apparently, which he’d held out over the Red Sea when God divided it).  As long as Moses’ hands were up, the Israelites would be winning the battle; when his hands went down, the Israelites would begin losing.  Strange!  The challenge, of course, was for Moses to keep his hands up there.

By the way, how are your arms doing?  Starting to feel it a little bit?  Well, imagine doing this for hours, and the success of the battle depends on you keeping your hands up!  Would it be nice to have some help?

Well, that’s what happened!  Aaron and a man named Hur stood to Moses’ side, and held his arms up, and so the Israelites won the battle.  Aaron and Hur’s contributions were huge!  Simple, but huge!

And, you know what’s neat?  God uses each of our talents in accomplishing His eternal work!  God uses each of our talents – maybe we’re “Moses,” maybe we’re “Aaron/Hur”, maybe we’re one of the “foot-soldiers” in the trenches – to accomplish His eternal work!

All of which leads us to again say, “Thank you, God!  Thank you for gifting me in a unique way!  Thank you for using me to either hold up my hands, or to help hold up someone else’s hands, or to be blessed by those hands being held up!  It may not be obvious to me how it’s happening.  It may not be obvious to me how I’m a blessing to others.  But You’ve promised that I am.  Hands down!  J

Is it worth it?

Ash Wednesday
Matthew 26:6-13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, the one who bled and died for our sins, dear friends in Christ, is it worth it? How often do you say that phrase? You know, we’re constantly making value judgments in our life, aren’t we? $2.50 for a dozen eggs, seriously, is it worth it? $39 for a new pair of jeans, really? Is it worth it? I suppose I could change the oil in my car myself…but…is it worth it? I suppose I could drive to my friend’s house, but the roads are slick and icy, is it worth it? There’s so many things in life that we make value judgments for, aren’t there? Is it worth it?  We weigh our options and make a decision.

There’s a value judgment in our text, isn’t there? Along with a heart searching question. Would you do this? Would you or I do what Mary did here? Now, we need to keep in mind a couple things. We’re told of two different incidents in the gospels about Jesus’ being anointed by someone. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry he was anointed by a woman we assume to have been Mary Magdalene, she was a prostitute who came to Jesus while he was eating at a Pharisee’s home and wet Jesus’ feat with her tears and wiped them with her hair. This, however, is a different incident. This is most likely the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Jesus is at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany which was only 2 miles from Jerusalem. Was he someone who had leprosy whom Jesus cured? Seems so. Well, here a meal was being served in Jesus’ honor and Lazarus was there – Lazarus who was dead for four days and Jesus raised to life, as well as at least Jesus’ disciples. So at least 15 men are at this meal. John also tells us that Martha was serving. Matthew here simply says “a woman” and John tells us who this woman was: Mary. She came up to Jesus with an alabaster jar of perfume. An alabaster jar was a kind of stone that had a neck on it and when you were going to use this perfume you had to break the jar. And it wasn’t just any perfume it was pure nard. Extracted from a plant in India it took a lot of work, a lot of expense, and a lot of time on a camel to import it to Israel. Was this a family heirloom? Perhaps. And we’re told that it was “very expensive.” John again informs us that it was worth about a year’s wages. So in modern day, we could imagine possibly at least $25,000-30,000. And she poured it out, all of it on Jesus! Would you have done that? Would I?

The disciples are simply shocked while watching this and only one word can come to their mind with regard to this extravagance: waste! What a waste! This could have been sold and the money given to the poor! What a waste! But notice what Jesus says: Why are you bothering her? She’s done a beautiful thing. When she poured this perfume on my body she did it to prepare me for my…burial.

You know, Jesus had told his disciples on numerous occasions about his upcoming death. He told His disciples that he would be betrayed, rejected, suffer many things, be beaten, mocked, sentenced to death, be crucified, die and be buried. He had told them that He was the Good Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep. Jesus had even named the Jewish ruling council as the ones who will carry out the plot on His life. But then when it happens the disciples all abandon Jesus. But, we do know of at least one who was listening, one who got it, Mary.

While the disciples missed it, she got it. She understood that Jesus’ death was both near and imminent. She knew that Jesus’ death wasn’t going to be by chance either. Jesus had clearly said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ death on the cross was going to be a payment for her sins. So what did she do? She gave Jesus her best. There wasn’t going to be time to anoint His body when He died, so she did it now. And as the fragrance of the perfume filled the house, its smell was beautiful, but it’s message was strong: Jesus was going to die. This unlikely messenger Mary showed how much Jesus and His death was worth to her.

How much is Jesus worth to you? How much is He worth to me? Is He worth breaking not an alabaster jar, but breaking that sinful habit? Is Jesus worth taking that pet sin – you know the one we like to keep close to us and not let it go- and killing it? Is Jesus worth your time, your dedication?  Is Jesus worth 20 minutes reading His Word a day? What is Jesus worth to you? Is Jesus worth pouring out not perfume, but pouring out my wants for life, my desires for life, my hopes, my dreams, and laying them at Jesus’ feet, submitting my life to Him and His will? How often haven’t we been like those disciples and thought: Jesus isn’t worth it.

Mary showed her costly and humble devotion to her Lord who would soon be going to the cross.  Mary showed her faith in Jesus by showing that He was worth everything to her.  And isn’t this the beautiful picture we have every Lent is to see once again how much WE are worth to Jesus?  He considered YOU worth it to suffer at the hands of evil people, He considered YOU worth it to be tortured on a cross and die a horrid death.  You see, to Jesus you are worth everything.  It wasn’t with gold or silver that you were bought back from your previous way of life but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect!  God spent His blood on you!  How much does that make you worth?  How much is God’s blood worth?  Priceless.  To Jesus that is what you are!  This Lent once again see how much you’re worth to God and serve Him with all you have and are for He is worth it to you!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! What is it that will make this a good Thanksgiving Day for you? What is your “ideal” Thanksgiving Day so that at the end of the day you can sit back and say, “Now that was a good Thanksgiving Day.” What is it? Is it having all the family together? Is it if the turkey is cooked just right- moist and delicious? Is it if you get your fill of all the Thanksgiving feast trimmings? Is it if you get to do all your Thanksgiving Day traditions? Is it if the Packers come away with a win? What is it? What is it that will make this a good Thanksgiving Day for you? Perhaps another question: What is it that makes any day a good one? What makes one day good and another day bad for you? There could be all kinds of answers, right? But for most, good days are days when things happen like you plan or want and bad days are when things happen that you don’t want or don’t plan.

And knowing that there are such things as good days and bad days might make the words of our text this morning sound quite impossible: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Go’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Really? Joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances? Always? Continually? In all circumstances?

No way! Right? There’s way too many bad things that happen in life to make this possible, right? There’s way to much garbage and trouble and problems that we have to deal with on a regular basis to make this even possible, right?  But don’t we know God’s promises? God’s given us some pretty spectacular promises in His Word that extend for our entire lives- not just on good days. Surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age, I will never leave you or forsake you, God works all things out for the good of those who love Him, God will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  All kinds of promises and hundreds more. But isn’t there a little voice in the back of our heads that says, “Come on, show me the money God.” I need to see it to believe it. If things don’t happen the way I want or the way that I plan, then this can’t be a good day. And what happens? We make ourselves miserable. Jesus has given us more blessings than we could possibly use and is ready to load us down with even more, and we make ourselves sick wondering if God really means it and worrying that he might not! And hence our joy disappears, our prayers cease, and we find more things about which to complain than give thanks.

Historians have concluded that in Martin Luther’s day 6 out of 10 children died in infancy, life expectancy was about 40 years old, not long before Luther was born the black death wiped out a third of Germany’s population, in 1515 a law was passed that stipulated that German farmers could not be forced to work more than 15 hours a day. In the midst of all that, what did Luther write in his explanation of the First Article?  “I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle, and all I own, and all that I need to keep my body and life.” Where was the evidence, where was the proof?  In his day, Luther didn’t have much of either.  But he had a faith that believed he would receive because Jesus promised it.

And isn’t that the answer? How can we be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances? Is it not simply trusting that we will receive all we need no matter what simply because Jesus says we will?  So we can rejoice always. The joy that every Christian has is a joy that underlies their whole life. It is the joy of the gospel. The joy of knowing their sins are forgiven, the joy of knowing Jesus as their Savior. The devil knows he can’t take away your salvation so he will try again and again to take the joy of your salvation away. He will use adversities and troubles and problems to get you to think that God doesn’t care about you or make your life miserable, or convince you that you have no reason to rejoice. But remember, Jesus’ promise to you: He works all things out of the good of those who love him –even “bad” things God is able to turn for our good to draw us closer to him, to purify our faith, and give us opportunities to share the hope we have to others.  At Christmas time we let our children pick out presents for each other at the dollar store. Sometimes I am just shocked at what they pick out and think I’d never pick that out. Well, sometimes we think we understand life but really don’t. We think we know what would be best for us, but really don’t. God has a much greater idea of what we need when we need it than we do. A Christian rejoices always because he or she knows that God is graciously guiding all things to bring them to their eternal home in heaven.

How can a Christian pray continually? A Christian prays continually when he or she commits all things at all times to the one who cares for us. It’s an inward spirit of trust in God – a constant leaning of the heart upon God in all things. How is that possible? Because Jesus says that he hears all our prayers, listens to them all, and has made his home inside of us, His people. He hears the trust we place in him, he hears the thoughts in our heart as we think about him, he hears the prayers we speak from the heart that don’t even make it on our lips.

And give thanks in all circumstances? What happens when you receive gifts or blessings? Does it not lead you to give thanks? How can we be thankful in all circumstances? Isn’t it by recounting the great blessings God has given us: physically He’s given us air to breathe, food, water, clothes, house, cars, family, and an abundance of things we don’t even need, but even more importantly what has he given us spiritually? Faith, peace, joy, God’s presence, protection, guidance, care, love, His Word that nourishes our faith, His own body and blood in the Sacrament, Jesus’ perfect life credited to us, eternal life with him in heaven forever. You see, it’s when we see our blessings that we’re led to give thanks in all circumstances. And it really changes our entire outlook on life in general. People who are thankful see so many more things in life; they can see the blessing and mercy of God in every situation in life. I recently ran across a neat illustration: If you had a bowl of sand and in it mixed some iron shavings, it would be nearly impossible to dig through them with your hands to find them. But if you had a magnet you could find them all by mere attraction. Having an unthankful heart is like digging clumsily through sand and it’s almost impossible to find the blessings of God, a thankful heart is like a magnet that attracts and finds –even in the worst of circumstances- the blessings of God in every situation.

So, what will it take at the end of the day today to say this was a “Happy Thanksgiving”? The family, together or apart, wealth, much or little, health, good or bad, everything comes from God who wants his blessings to bring us closer to him.  “What then shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.”

I have no idea what blessings you’re thanking God for today.  But pray God that he would give you a faith that receives those blessings and then sees those blessings in the light of God’s greatest blessings, that he has forgiven your sins in Christ, that he has joined you to himself by the blood his Son, and that he will take you to heaven to be with Jesus in Paradise.  Then you will have a faith that leads you to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances today and tomorrow too.  Amen.

We covet what we value most; what we value most, we sacrifice the most for

9th Sunday after Pentacost
Joshua 7:19-26

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, the spy is ushered into a dark room without any windows.  He’s chained to one side of the table.  His interrogators pelt him with questions, trying to pry whatever information they can out of him about his organization.  But he’s been trained to withstand great suffering without giving up any information.  But he knows and his captors know that if he shares any information it will mean dire consequences for his fellow spies and, if he is released from his captors, the top secret information he gave away will most likely mean death for betrayal from his own people.  So what do his captors do?  They place before him a picture of his daughter implying that if he remains silent, she will suffer.  So what does he choose?  Of course, he gives up the information putting his own life on the line.  The spy valued his daughter most and was ready to sacrifice the most for her.

Well, the same is true in our lives.  Probably not in such graphic ways, though.  What we strongly desire or “covet” is what we value most and for what we value most we’ll sacrifice the most.  What is it that we “covet” or have strong desires for in life?  Well, if you really want to run in the Blue Ox Marathon in Bemidji, you may sacrifice all kinds of things in order to do so- maybe sacrifice junk food, sacrifice time relaxing on the couch for some intense running and conditioning.  If you really covet straight A’s, you’ll sacrifice play time for study time, maybe sacrifice sleep for a late night cramming session before an exam.  If you really desire having that new boat or that new car, perhaps you’ll sacrifice free time for extra hours at work, perhaps sacrifice spending on other things for saving your money.  Whatever it is that we covet, it is that which we value and for whatever we value most, we’re willing to sacrifice most, right?

And we see it in the account here with Achan.  At this point Joshua is leading the Israelites into the Promised Land which God had promised to their forefather Abraham hundreds of years earlier.  God had faithfully led them for 40 years through their wandering in the desert, faithfully provided food and water for them every day, and most recently, faithfully parted the Jordan River which was at flood stage for them to cross over and enter the Promised Land.  The first city they were to attack was the city of Jericho – a well-fortified and walled city.  And this was God’s direction on how they were to capture this city: they were to march around the city once a day for 6 days.  Then on the 7th day they were to march around the city 7 times and after the 7th time the people were to shout and God promised that the walls of Jericho would fall down and they could go right into the city.  Sound like a good plan?  There was one more piece of instruction that God gave them: all the silver, gold, bronze, and iron were to be saved and put in the Lord’s treasury and everything else in all the city was to be completely destroyed and burned.

Well, everything happened just like God had said and the Israelites won and destroyed the city.  Their confidence soared and they moved on to the next city which was significantly smaller and so they decided to send a small force and easily defeat it.  However, not only did they not inquire of the Lord before they went, they also had someone in their midst who had acted unfaithfully.  So, when they marched against the next city, they were routed and 36 of them died in the battle.  Their confidence was shattered.  “Now what?  This small force defeated us?  What if the rest of the Canaanites hear about this?  They’ll also come at us and easily defeat us!  We’re ruined!”

So Joshua prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered telling him that someone had stolen, had lied, had taken things from Jericho that should not have been taken.  So, they couldn’t defeat any enemies until they were right with God again and cleansed themselves from this sin.  So they drew lots narrowing it down to find the culprit from tribe, then clan, then family, then individual.  Interestingly, the perpetrator never stepped forward until the lot fell to him.

Finally, the lot fell to Achan.  And what does he say? “It is true!  I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel.  This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weight fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.  They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”  I saw, I coveted, I took.  What was he thinking?  Hadn’t God faithfully given them an amazing victory?  His actions cost 36 people their lives!  Well, with our experience at rationalizing sin, perhaps we can guess what was going on in Achan’s mind as he stole those things: “No one will know.  God is too strict.  What I’m taking is a mere pittance compared with what others have.  I’m not really being greedy, I just want to take care of my family.  Others are probably doing the same thing.  What a waste to burn this nice robe.  God is getting so much silver and gold out of this, he won’t miss this little bit.”  But regardless, he sinned against God and it affected the whole nation.  But when confronted he confessed his sin, they found the robe, the silver, and the gold hidden under his tent.  His sinful actions had consequences.  They rounded up all that he owned and stoned all of it, including him and burned it all.

Here we see the devastating consequences of the sin of coveting.  What does it mean to “covet”?  Finally, the word “covet” simply means to have a strong desire for something.  We generally think of “covet” in the bad sense, but it is possible to have a strong desire for something in a good sense.  This same word “covet” is used in the Bible to describe the desire that exists between a husband and a wife.  God also wants us to have a strong desire for Him and His Word.  One Psalm says, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for the living God.”  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  God wants us to have a strong desire for Him, His Word, for what is right and good.

But as we see in the case of Achan there is, of course, all kinds of bad coveting.  Bad coveting is always wanting more of something other than God.  It’s never content with what one has no matter how much that might be.  It wants to gain things at the expense of other people.  But here is what coveting boils down to: It is really a deified desire.  It moves a desire inside of us to have something at all costs into the place in our hearts that God has reserved only for Himself.   This coveting, this wanting, this desire becomes more important to us than God.

It happened with Achan.  God had clearly directed the Israelites to destroy everything and put all the silver and gold into the treasury.  But to Achan, by denying him something so obviously good (at least in his own eyes) God was being ridiculous and selfish.  So, at least in the moment, it was more important to Achan to have silver and gold than to obey God.  And that’s what coveting in essence does.  It reflects our value system.  Shows what is most important to us.  People don’t covet what they have determined to be little value.  People generally don’t covet someone else’s trash.  We covet what we value most and we’ll be ready to sacrifice things we determine of lesser value to have what we value the most.  What did Achan value the most?  Gold, silver, a robe.  What was he ready to sacrifice in order to get it?  His honesty, his faithfulness, his trustworthiness, his relationships with friends and family, the lives of his fellow soldiers, but most severely: He was ready to sacrifice his relationship with God in order to have gold, silver, and a robe.

It’s really idolatry.  It shows up in our lives too, doesn’t it?  In the end, isn’t it God who is the greatest good in life and of infinite value?  So, with a proper value system we should covet a strong relationship with Him and be ready to make whatever sacrifices we need to in order to keep that relationship with Him.  And whatever we give up in life in order to know God better is far worth the price.

But what so often happens?  Just like Achan, our value system gets all messed up.  We begin to think that the essence of life, of our happiness, our joy, stems from having something in this life: a better home, a new boat, a better spouse, a new car, more money, a better job, you name it, and we’ll be ready to sacrifice anything in order to get it – time spent in God’s Word, time with our family, our marriage, our credit rating, going into bankruptcy, our relationships with others.  What is our value system?  Is our faith and our relationship with God of supreme importance in life that we’re willing to sacrifice ANYTHING that might get in its way?  Or are we ready to sacrifice our relationship with God and what He wants for us for ANYTHING that we covet?  We covet what we value most and what we value most we sacrifice the most for.  But as our Gospel states God will not share mastership over us with anything.  We may be able to hide our thoughts and desires from people, but He sees it all.

Which leads us to one conclusion: there’s nothing we could possibly do to earn God’s favor.  For not only have we done many sinful actions, but God sees even our hearts and condemns the sin of coveting in each of us.  So what did God do?  Apart from anything humans have done, God strongly desired something, coveted, if you will, and just like we covet what we value the most so did God.  Yet, what did God covet the most?  God strongly desired the salvation of us humans the most.  And what God valued the most, He sacrificed the most for.  He sacrificed His one and only Son who laid His life down on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, shedding His blood for our sins and washing us clean from every covetous thought and feeling and desire.

God doesn’t want to force or demand anyone into being His child.  Rather, in pure grace God wants to win our hearts by what He’s done for us on the cross and in the empty tomb.  You see, God’s grace in the gospel is what changes our hearts.  God’s grace in the gospel moves us to want Him, to strongly desire Him.  He changes our value system in life making Him, our Gracious Savior, the most important and priceless treasure in our lives.  And since we have Him- and with Him His love and eternal life- we have all we need.  We can live content with what He’s given us in life.  We can be ready to sacrifice whatever it is in life that gets in our way of knowing God better.  And then we can say with the apostle Paul, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”  In Christ you have it all!  Live with that contentment!  Amen.

God’s Faithfulness

7th Sunday after Pentacost
2 Samuel 11:1-17

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me, so was David’s prayer and our prayer is the same, “Create in us a pure heart that we might live before you in faithfulness and purity.”  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

1960 was certainly not the highest time of morality in America, but being about 50 years ago it serves as sort of a benchmark for certain facts and statistics to show how fast immorality is growing in America.  Today the American divorce rate is about twice what it was in 1960.  Between 1960 and 2010, the number of couples who live together (have a sexual relationship) without the commitment of marriage has increase 17 fold.  Couples who live together (having a sexual relationship) before marriage have a 50% higher risk of divorce than any couple of any background who do not live together before marriage.  40 – 50% or 1 in 2 of recent marriages will end in separation or divorce before the death of one of the spouses.  In 2010 40.8% of all births in America were to unwed mothers, so about 4 out of every 10 children born.  The effects of sexual immorality in our world are staggering.  These facts are simply scratching the surface.  There is a host of other problems our world is battling: Internet pornography is a 4.9 billion dollar industry, every second in the U.S. $3,000 is spent on pornography and 30,000 people are viewing it.  And what about all the impure thoughts, emotions, desires that people have?  And who could possibly calculate everything behind these statistics: the pain, the hurt, the scars, of broken couples, broken lives, broken relationships, the negative emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical consequences, but even more the damage it does to children and families.

God commands that the sexual relationship exist only within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman and that there be no hint of sexual immorality.  And, think about it, what do a husband and wife vow in marriage?  In the traditional vow of marriage the husband and wife promise each other, “I promise to be faithful to you for as long as we both shall live.”  Marriage is really to be the embodiment of what it means to be faithful, for marriage when it functions as God intended it, is to provide an awesome illustration of the relationship between Jesus at the Church.  Will Jesus ever cheat on His people?  Will Jesus ever walk away from His people?  No way!  So just as Jesus would never cheat on His people and would never walk away from his people, so the husband and wife ought never to cheat on or leave each other.  Just as Jesus is always faithful to His people, the husband and wife are to be always faithful to each other.  Part of the reason that the marriage bond is so important is that it is meant to reflect the awesome relationship between Jesus and the Church.

And so, if we’re not faithful in marriage, if we don’t keep ourselves pure, if husbands aren’t properly loving their wives, if wives aren’t properly respecting their husbands, if husbands and wives are unfaithful to each other, then we’re really making God look bad.  But, when we live purely, when husbands love their wives, when wives respect their husbands, when both are faithful to each other, our lives provide an awesome picture of God’s love for His people.  Our respect for God’s design for marriage provides an awesome illustration of God’s faithfulness.  So, when others see us they are drawn to our faithful God.

But what a mess we so often make of God’s designs for marriage, for sex, for purity, for faithfulness.  And we see it in this account of David.  David, remember, is described as a “man after God’s own heart” and is listed in the book of Hebrews as a “hero of faith.”  But how tragically we see him fall into impurity here!  In a way this account is frightening to us because it shows us just how vulnerable each one of us is.  God doesn’t hide the sins of His great men and women in the Bible but He wants us to be warned and instructed by them.

First, it seems to start out rather small, doesn’t it?  David was at probably the highpoint in his life.  He was secured as King, living in a cedar palace in Jerusalem, his army had won some great victories in battle, the Lord had given him rest from his enemies.  But it is at this point that he’s especially vulnerable.  Sometimes the most dangerous times in our lives, the times when we are most vulnerable to sin and temptation, are the times when everything seems to be goin our way.  When we’re struggling and barely holding on, we can’t help but be focused on God.  It’s when life is good that we are most prone to fall, just like David.  And it starts our small.  Did you notice what the first verse said?  “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war….But David remained in in Jerusalem.”  Why does God mention that little detail?  Is it perhaps to show us that David wasn’t being faithful?  Sure David probably could have reasoned any number of things: Joab is a competent general, Joab is capable of leading the army, if he goes, I can get some other things done here in Jerusalem.  But it was the king’s job to lead the army into battle.  So, we learn something, unfaithfulness in the “small” things leads to unfaithfulness in the “big” things.

So David, with far too much time on his hands, was perhaps bored, perhaps he couldn’t sleep, looking for some excitement and he goes out and gazes over his city and sure enough what does he see? A beautiful woman bathing.  His sin began in his heart as he lusted after her and forgot his devotion to God.  That’s always where sin begins: in the heart.  All of a sudden this sin, this lust, this adultery, this impurity became more important to David than God.  And that’s what’s at the heart of every temptation to sin.  In the moment we think we need to secure something for ourselves, something we don’t already have, something we feel we need in order to be happy.  No longer was God enough for David, he needed something more, something else, something different a moment of sinful pleasure.

And then what began as a seemingly small unfaithfulness in not leading his troops in battle snowballed into what?  Lust, coveting another man’s wife, the wife of one of his best soldiers, then even after being warned that she’s the wife of Uriah the Hittite he commits adultery with her, she becomes pregnant and he could have stopped this roller coaster of sin by going before his nation and saying, “I want you all to know the truth, I have sinned” confessed his sin, sought God’s forgiveness, trusted in God’s help to get him through the consequences of his sin.  But instead?  He brings Uriah home, pretends to be interested in the battle – talk about a hypocrite! – ends up getting Uriah drunk, sends Uriah back to battle with his own death sentence, involves Joab in his sin, and has Uriah murdered.  How was David unfaithful?  He was unfaithful to Bathsheba, unfaithful to Uriah, unfaithful to his army, to Joab, but most of all unfaithful to God.  And where did it all start?  It all started because David wasn’t faithful in the “small” things.  If he’d been out with his army he wouldn’t have faced the temptation to be unfaithful in all those areas.  Wow!

The warning for us is clear: the devil will try to get us to be unfaithful in the small things of life.  He knows that sin begets sin.  Sin leads to more sin.  He’ll whisper in our ears things like: “It’s okay, just take a little peak at that website or that magazine, no one will notice.”  “It’s okay to go to the beach and look at the people there and lust a bit.”  “It’s ok to read that novel or watch that movie or show that degrades sex and marriage.”  When the devil whispers those things, remember David!  Remember how the small unfaithfulness led to all kinds of other things.  The devil loves to get us caught in the moment and get us to forget about the long term consequences of our actions.  What’s even more scary is that David sinned simply because he could, he was the king.

And of course, you and I have been unfaithful to God in all sorts of other ways.  We’ve been unfaithful in giving our whole selves, our whole lives to God, we’ve been unfaithful in giving ourselves to our spouses and loving them completely unselfishly, we’ve been unfaithful in keeping our thoughts, words, and actions pure.

And what’s at stake?  Just where we’ll spend eternity!  What’s at stake is whether we go to heaven or go to hell!  As we look at David in this account, his eternal destiny was in terrible danger!  If he hadn’t fallen into unbelief, he was certainly in grave danger of doing so!  Would that affair have been worth it if he had ended up in hell?!?  Would his unfaithfulness have been worth it if he had ended up in eternal damnation?!?  Whenever you and I are unfaithful, we put ourselves into the danger of being sent to hell forever.

And so what do we do?  Try harder to be more faithful to God?  Try harder to live more purely?  What about all our impurity and unfaithfulness in the past?  Can we make up for that?  Can we live purely as God wants?  Remember God’s standard: complete perfection.  But we’ve failed!

And so it becomes vitally clear that we need to understand how salvation works.  Salvation is God’s work, not ours.  We get to go to heaven not because WE have been faithful and pure, but because GOD has been faithful and pure.  God loved us with the ultimate faithful love: “This is love.  Not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Jesus lived His life in complete faithfulness to God and to His fellow human beings.  He lived in a completely and perfectly purely.  He never gave in to any of the devil’s “whispers.”  Faithfully He followed His Father’s will – even though it was painful – and He went to the cross.  And all for what purpose?

To save you!!!  To save me!!!  God’s faithful love accomplished that!

And God doesn’t stop there.  God continues to love you and me faithfully, day by day.  Yes, we mess it up over and over again.  Yes, we fail.

But God doesn’t stop loving us!  God continues to open the Word to us, continues to assure us that our sins are forgiven.  God continues to remind us of our baptisms, when He placed His name upon us.  God continues to come to us in the Lord’s Supper, giving us His true body and blood.  He continues to faithfully give us opportunities to hear the Word, to study it, to grow in it.  HE is faithful!  He is ALWAYS faithful!  He will NEVER be unfaithful!  Ultimately, our salvation depends on that faithful love of God for us!

And, that faithful love of God in turn inspires us to be faithful.  That faithful love of God inspires us to be faithful to our spouse, to be faithful to our fellow human beings, to live in a way that’s pure in our thoughts, words, and actions.  That faithful love of God strengthens us to say “no” to the devil’s whisperings.  That faithful love of God gives us confidence to face all of life, and to know that our eternal life is sure.

And so we’ll do our best!  No, not because it earns us anything, but because we want to say “thank you” to the God who has faithfully loved us!  And when we fail?  We’ll continue to cling to the faithful love of God, for God is faithful!  Amen.