Believers are plantings in God's vineyard. Considering all the blessings he showers on us he has the right to expect that we will produce good fruit, the we will be a planting for the display of his splendor.
Ever sins Adam and Eve sinned we all have a heart that wants to blame others as they did in the garden. In order to take responsibility for our sins and trust Christ for forgiveness we need a new heart and a new spirit. God creates this new heart and spirit in us through the word and sacraments. As renewed children of God through faith we realize that no one else it to blame for our sins. We realize that each person is accountable to God. He will not punish us for someone else's sins, nor will he save us because of someone else's faith.
God showed Jonah grace upon grace. He rescued him from drowning. He gave him a second chance to obey him and preach in Nineveh. He provided a vine to give him shade. But Jonah struggled to be gracious to the Ninevites and rejoice in their repentance. So God provided a worm to destroy the plant and teach Jonah what it meant to be gracious to others.
Peter wanted to know how he could forgive someone more than 7 times. We wonder how Joseph could forgive his brothers for the terrible things they did to him. How can we forgive those who harm us? Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant brings to life Paul's statement that we forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us.
God tells Ezekiel and us that we are watchmen responsible for giving his warning to those who are living contrary to God's word and will. God then gives us an example of how such a warning is delivered in love as he pleads with Israel to turn from their sin because he doesn't want them to die in their sins.
After John sees a vision of the last day, the sun turning dark and the mood blood red, the stars falling from the sky, the question is asked "Who can stand?" Who can stand before the judgment throne of God? No one can on their own, by their own power, on the basis of what they have or have not done. All have sinned and deserve the wrath of the Lamb. But God provides John, and us, comfort. He shows him that before the judgment comes, those who belong to God through faith in Jesus are sealed for safety. Are you sealed for safety on the day of judgment? Look to your Baptism, look to the Lord's Supper, look to the objective promises of God that he has redeemed you. You belong to him. He has marked you with is seal.
Jesus sailed across the lake to get away from the crowds and to get some rest. But the crowds were waiting for him when he arrived. Instead of getting back in the boat and leaving, Jesus had compassion on them. He healed the sick. He taught them about the kingdom of heaven. And he fed them. Jesus cares for the whole person - body and soul. On the last day our bodies will be reunited with our souls. Yes, Jesus cares for our bodies.
Solomon showed proper, godly priorities when he ask for wisdom, not for himself, but so that he could properly govern God's people to God's glory. Moses showed proper, godly priorities when he chose to identify with God's people instead of enjoying the riches and pleasures of Pharaoh's palace. When we see that Jesus is our priceless treasure, our pearl of inestimable worth, we too will have proper priorities. We will make every decision in life by first asking how it will affect our relationship with Jesus and our eternal life. We won't want anything to be a greater priority than our eternal life in Jesus.
With a lot of experts saying different things about wearing masks or not wearing masks, about kids going to school or not going to school, it can wear you out trying to find the truth. The situation in which we find ourselves helps us identify with the people of Jesus' day who had to contend with great Rabbis telling them different things about what they should be doing and what was sinful and what wasn't. They were wear and burdened trying to find the truth. To them, and to us, Jesus says, "Come to me for rest."
Adam and Eve could do nothing to restore their relationship with God. In grace, God took the steps necessary to restore his relationship with them. He gave them a promise. He would send a seed of a woman to crush Satan's head. By paying for sin Jesus, the seed of a woman, the virgin Mary, removed the wall of separation between God and man. Because of Jesus we are called Children of God again.
When Adam and Eve distrusted God and doubted his word they sinned. Sin destroyed their perfect relationship with God and their perfect relationship with each other. Worst of all their sinful nature has been passed down to us so that our relationship with God and with others has been destroyed. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, flesh gives birth to sinful flesh. That's why we need to be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in word and sacrament. Only then can our relationship with God and others begin to be restored.
Before the fall into sin Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God and with each other. We look forward to that perfect relationship being restored in heaven. In the mean time, as the image of God is being restored in us through faith, we strive to improve our relationships as we strive to have Christ-like love for others, especially our spouses.
Adam and Eve were placed in Paradise to work it and take care of it. While still in their perfect state they had work to do. God still gives us work to do as opportunities for meaningful service to him and to our neighbor. We often fail to see work in this way. We tend to prefer idleness. Thankfully Jesus served God and his neighbor perfectly and then paid for our idleness, laziness and discontent by his death in our place on the cross.
God created Adam and Eve as special beings, unique, different from the animals with body and soul. Some equate this with the phrase "Image of God". But when Adam and Eve sinned they lost the image of God, yet remained special, unique beings different from the animals with body and soul. Paul helps us understand the essence of the image of God as he speak about the New Man being restored in the image of the creator, in righteousness and holiness. We look forward to the day when this image of holiness, righteousness and perfection is completely restored in us.
One of the rock solid foundations of the Christian Faith is that God is the creator of all that exists. He is Eternal, Almighty, All Wise, and loving. He also reveals himself as completely other - three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one divine being.
The Bible says that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. What is he asking the Father to do for us? Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 gives us some hints. He asks that we be protected from the Evil One, that we are sanctified, and that we are glorified.
What Paul found in Athens is what we find in our world today - Many worship an unknown god. Paul shows us that to proclaim the true God to them we will have to start, not with the Bible they don't know, but with what they do know, the natural knowledge of God.
Jesus is the living stone. He rocks because he lived and died in our place and rose from the dead. In him we are acceptable to the father. Our sins are all washed away. When the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus and brings us to faith we become living stones. God considers us his chosen people. A holy priesthood, we are able to offer ourselves as living sacrifices and proclaim his praises.
The church isn't a building, it's people. It is people brought to faith in Jesus through the Gospel in word and sacrament. It is people who devote themselves to the word, the sacrament, fellowship and prayer. It is people who let the light of Christ shine in everything they do.
Jesus reminds us that, although everything bad is a result of sin, we shouldn't think it's a punishment for a specific sin. The ultimate punishment for sin is Hell. He promises that everything can be used by God for our good and his glory.
Jesus models for us how to share the living water of the Gospel with others.
Share Living Water
· In _______________________ places
· With _____________________ people
· Let them know you have ____________________________________________
· Help them recognize their ______________________
· Manage their objections by
o Avoiding ________________________
o Focusing on _____________________
You don't often think of war in connection with Jesus, but Isaiah reminds us that he is a warrior. He left heaven and came to earth on a mission to defeat sin, Satan and death for us. He was victorious over his enemies. In grace, the Father gives his victory to us.
Don't look for glory on earth that doesn't endure. Look forward to the eternal glory Jesus won by his life and death in our place. Jesus endured it all for us by looking forward to the glory he would inherit after his resurrection.
Like Israel, we have many times each day when we have a choice to listen to God or to listen to Satan or the wisdom of the world. Considering all that God has done for us, choose life, listen to his word.
As sons of God through faith in Jesus you ARE salt and light for the world. Share the salt of the Gospel so that others are brought to faith in Jesus and preserved in the judgment. Let the light of your faith and the love of Jesus shine in all you do and say. Don't keep your faith to yourself.
Like Israel, you might feel God has wearied you, but the fact is, you are blessed. Treating God like an idol that you can manipulate is what wearies you. Seeing God as your Savior inspires you to serve God and your neighbor with joy.
All too often Christians major in minors. They focus on buildings and carpets and style of music. They insist on their own personal preferences and end up causing divisions that hinder the mission of proclaiming to gospel to all. Paul encourages us to focus on what matters, the salvation of souls, the proclamation of the gospel. When we do, divisions will disappear.
The Magi from the East set an example of what it means to be truly wise - They watched for the signs God gave, they acted in faith, worshiped the infant Jesus as their King and Savior, Gave gifts fit for a King, and obeyed the Lord's instructions not to return to Herod.
God sent Jesus into the world at just the right time to redeem the world. He sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts at just the right time so that we would be considered heirs with him of eternal life.
Joseph was a righteous man. When the Bible calls someone righteous it means that they trust in the one true God and his promise of a Savior. Like Abraham, righteousness is credited to a person through faith. Those who are righteous through faith show that righteousness in their lives, as Joseph did.
Did John have doubts about Jesus? Whether he did, or his disciples did, John knew what to do with doubt. He went to Jesus and Jesus removed doubts by pointing him to the prophecies of Scripture he was fulfilling.
God's law is truth but it can't sett you free because you break it. Only he Son can set you free by his life and death in your place, and his glorious resurrection from the dead. He has set you free from sin, death and Satan so that you can serve the Lord without fear and your neighbor in love.
Psalm 2 describes what Jesus faced as the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap him with difficult questions. When they were finished he asked them a question that made it clear that the Christ was to be both the son of David and the Son of God. Jesus is true God and true man, just who he needed to be in order to save us. Always take refuge in him.
There is no sacrifice we can make to pay for sin. The only sacrifice that paid for sin was the sacrifice that Jesus made in our place. As we acknowledge our guilt and look to Jesus for forgiveness we will be moved to do what is just and love mercy.
Jesus tells us not to worry and gives us excellent reasons not to - God cares for birds and flowers and we are worth much more than they. Paul reminds us that God sacrificed Jesus to save us and if he did that, why wouldn't he provide for our lesser needs? Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath learned from experience what it means to put God first, trust him and he will provide.
We confess that Jesus does everything well. Because he did he was able to win our eternal salvation. But how often don't we contradict our confession by doing the opposite of what Jesus commands as these people in the Decapolis did?
Earthly things can't bring lasting peace. Only forgiveness and the promise of eternal peace in Jesus can bring lasting peace. Earthly Jerusalem was supposed to be a place of peace but it has never lived up to it's name. We look forward to the New Jerusalem, the heavenly one, where there is perfect peace.
"Known by Their Fruit" Test the fruit of a teacher's doctrine. If it agrees with God's word it is good fruit, if it doesn't agree with God's word it is rotten, poisonous fruit. Test the fruit your produce. If the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Such fruit comes as we daily remember our baptism, crucifying our sinful nature by daily contrition and repentance, and rejoicing that, through baptism, God has united us with Jesus in his live and death.
Abraham and Lot experienced consequences for their sinful and selfish choices. But in the midst of those consequences they experienced God's Grace. God's grace to Abraham moved him to be gracious to others.
Be alert and always watching because Satan is like a lion ready to pounce when you are distracted. Trust God's promise to to help, to lift you up when you are humbles, to strengthen and support you no matter what.
It is finished. Every prophecy of Scripture concerning the Messiah has been fulfilled. The work the Father gave Jesus has been accomplished. There's nothing left for us to do or suffer. Thank you Jesus!
Great Faith: Jesus tested the faith of the Canaanite woman so that we would be able to see the great faith she had in her heart. Great faith rests on Jesus alone for help and salvation, and shows itself when tested.
The Transfiguration of Jesus makes us certain; certain that Jesus is true God, our Savior; certain that the Scriptures are the very word of God; and therefore certain that we have eternal life in Jesus.
God is Merciful and Just. Paul shows how that applies in our lives by the example of Israel in the wilderness, and the fact that he works hard to control his sinful nature so that he doesn't abuse God's mercy and end up being lost.
Even in hopeless situations Jesus asks "Why are you afraid?" He has power over wind, wave and water. Has power even over death. He has rescued you from the most hopeless situation of all - the punishment you deserve for your sins.
God was at work across the miles and through the ages to help the Wise Men get to know Jesus, and frustrating the evil of Herod. He is still at work through out History making sure we know Jesus and frustrating evil in our day with the goal of bringing us to eternal life with him.