Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Suit Up! (A sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18)

Would a professional football player go into the game without his helmet? Would a firefighter go into a blazing fire without his protective gear? Would a soldier go into battle without his armor? Of course not! And we shouldn't go into the spiritual battles we daily face without first putting on the full armor of God which he gives us in his Word. Thank God we're forgiven for the times we've left our armor off -- whether accidentally or intentionally -- by Christ and the victory he won in the war for us! Now, read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18 and be encouraged to...

Suit Up!

A sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18

Sunday, September 17th, 2017 – Pentecost 15B

 

A professional football player wouldn't go into the game without wearing his uniform; his helmet and pads. A firefighter wouldn't dream of going into a blazing fire without his protective fire-proof gear. A cop wouldn't go into a shootout without his gun and his bulletproof vest. And a soldier wouldn't go into battle without his helmet or armor, without his gear. All of the above professions rely on the uniform they wear to stay safe and would be foolish if they were to leave it off as they got to work.

Friends, God has given us his Word to protects us not from linebackers, fires, bullets, but from enemies far more dangerous. God gives us his armor to keep us safe from the devil and his powerful allies. And we'd be fools not to use it. In our text for this morning, God, through the Apostle Paul, urges us to put on the full armor of God, and to suit up, as we engage in the spiritual battle that we're in. Our portion of God's Word for consideration this morning is taken from Ephesians 6:10-20…

 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

 

Are you strong enough? Are you strong enough to stand in the face of temptation? To serve God daily as he's created you to do? To withstand the evils of materialism, narcissism, commercialism? The Lord calls on us to be strong. But at the same time it's he who makes us strong through his powerful Word.

Just as the toughest NFL linebacker would get crushed without his protective gear, as the toughest firefighter would burn without his uniform, as the bravest cop or soldier would struggle mightily without his gear… you and I are bound to lose if we try to go it alone in our spiritual battles without the protection God gives.

And make no mistake. The battle is very real. The enemy is real. And the enemy is tough. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So what can we possibly do to fight against the demonic forces that we can neither see nor match in power? We have no strength of our own to fight satan! We're not like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stalone, or Bruce Willis in the movies. We're no Jack Bauer who can single handedly take down hell's terrorist forces on our own. If we were to fight the devil on our own, it would be like putting a 5 year old kid up against 100 ISIS terrorists. We wouldn't stand a chance.

And yet, so often we try to face the enemy on our own. We take off our armor as we leave our Bibles on the shelf collecting dust. We think, "I'll be just fine. I know the basics. I took the BIC. I took a confirmation class… well… it may have been a long time since, but I did take it!" And in refusing the help that Jesus gives we show how weak we really are as we fall into sin again and again.

We deserve to be left to face the enemy on our own. And we deserve to lose not just the battle but the war for the times we've deserted and gone spiritually AWOL. Jesus warned us how little strength we have on our own and the disastrous results when we try: "Apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:5-6) We deserve to lose at life and end up as satan's prisoners in hell.

But thank God that we're not on our own. We have a hero who fought and won for us. He crushed the devil's head on the cross when he took our sin on himself and, paying the penalty our sin earned, took our sin away.

And having won the war, he still continues to fight by our side and help us in every battle. Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…" But in the Greek "be strong" is "be strengthened." That is, it's entirely passive. Not "buck up and be stouthearted, men!" as if we could produce this strength in ourselves. But let God strengthen you. He does it for us by his mighty power.

And his mighty power is his Word; his Gospel that assures us we are forgiven for thinking we can fight on our own without him, for trying to do anything without him. His mighty power protects us. His mighty Word gives us armor. So let's use it! Let's suit up!

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes… put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…"

So let's take a quick look at each piece of our suit of armor and see how God protects us. First he mentions our belt: "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…" But the belt Paul had in mind was a waist belt, much wider than the belts we wear to hold up our pants. It protected the most vulnerable parts of the body as a sword swung upward into groin would drop you in a hurry. It also kept the armor in place and held the sword.

The truth of God's Word—the objective truth of God's grace to you in Christ, revealed in the pages of your Bible—guards your sensitive parts spiritually speaking. Satan knows where you're most vulnerable and that's where he's going to attack. But you know the truth! You know how deceptive satan's lies are. And you know they're lies. He never delivers on what he promises. You know what God wants. But most of all, you know what God has done for you in Christ. Don't believe satan's lies, but cling to that truth and be safe!

Next Paul mentions your breastplate: "Stand firm… with the breastplate of righteousness in place…" Of course, this piece of armor would guard a soldier's heart. And the righteousness which you have—and not your own righteousness, for that would be a breastplate of cardboard!—but the righteousness of Jesus, given to you, that righteousness from God, which is ours by faith, apart from works—that righteousness guards our hearts. In Jesus' righteousness we find peace with God and peace from a guilty conscience. Our hearts are safe.

Paul continues, alluding to the soldier's sandals: "Stand firm… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."  It's hard to fight a battle barefoot. A sharp rock could send you to the ground. And in the middle of battle, you can't be tiptoeing around! You need to be ready to move on a moment's notice, ready to dodge an attack. We are ready to move by the Gospel that gives us peace. We're ready to dodge the temptations that come our way because we know that no sin—nothing!—can satisfy us like the Gospel does.

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith," says Paul, "with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

A Roman soldier didn't have a small round shields that hung on his arm, but a huge shield, called a scutum, which was four feet tall and two and a half feet wide. When a soldier was in battle formation, his entire body was protected. And when soldiers knew a battle was coming they would soak their shields in water overnight so the burning arrows of the enemy would go out when they struck the shield instead of burning it up.

The devil won't give up on you. He will keep launching accusations against you like flaming arrows. But your faith in Jesus and in what he's done to take away your sin silences satan's accusations with a steaming hiss. Tssssssss! And they're out!

Of course, the warrior was not to hide his head behind the shield. He needed to look over it to face his opponent. So Paul continued, "Take the helmet of salvation…" On the Christian's helmet is written, "Salvation." Knowing the salvation you have in Jesus helps you to hold up your head with confidence and joy. It guards your mind and helps you keep your head when you might otherwise lose your cool.

You are protected from head to toe by this armor of God. What a foolish soldier he would be who would only wear his helmet and nothing else, or who would only take his shield, but not his armor. Likewise, we use it all—the full armor of God as we grow in our faith by regular use of God's Word. And when we suit up we remain well protected.

But how foolish it would be if a soldier was all decked out in his armor, but took no weapon into battle. But we have a weapon, Christian soldiers! "Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." We have the Word of God which can knock down any barrier set up against God's grace. So learn it. Study it. Read it. Know it. Use it—the mighty Word of God—as we go on the attack against satan and his allies to strike them down and win more souls for our side!

Yes, the enemy is real. Yes, the enemy is tough. Yes, the enemy is strong. But we are stronger—not on our own or by our strength, but with the bulletproof armor that God has given us. The war is already won! The victory is ours! Now let's keep fighting the battles we face each day. But don't do it without getting dressed first. Suit up, dear friends, and always wear the armor of God that he gives to you! And then, in the end, we will prevail, in the strength of the Lord and in his mighty power, amen! 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give

Monday, September 11, 2017

Get Up and Walk! (A sermon based on Acts 3:1-10)

​Are you healthy? Physically? Spiritually? We not have perfect physical health, but we do have perfect spiritual health thanks to Jesus, the One who gives perfect healing. We are sinless and holy in God's sight right now. And we will have perfect, glorified bodies in heaven one day soon! Those are two great reasons to go serve our Savior in thanks and "Get up and walk!" for him. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Acts 3:1-10 and rejoice in your perfect health! ​

Get Up and Walk!

A sermon based on Acts 3:1-10

Sunday, September 10, 2017 – Pentecost 14B

 

Have you ever noticed how many times we stand up and sit down in an average worship service? We stand up for invocation, confession, and absolution. Then sit down for the reading of the first lessons. Stand up for the reading of the Gospel. Then sit down for the hymn of the day. Stand up for the confession of faith. Then sit down for the offering. Stand for the prayer of the church and sit again for the next hymn. Stand for prayer and sit for the closing hymn.

No wonder some people joke about our "Lutheran Aerobics." J Now, maybe with some instruction as to why we stand when we stand and sit when we sit, you appreciate those "Lutheran Aerobics." But maybe if you've had a surgery on your knee or foot, or if you've got a bad back, maybe you'd rather not do the up and down and up and down of our liturgy. But either way, I'll bet the ability to stand and to walk is an ability that you and I far too often take for granted.

The man in our lesson for this morning was crippled from birth. That meant he couldn't stand. He couldn't walk. And in a day without wheelchairs, he couldn't get around on his own at all. He needed to be carried. And in that day there were no such thing as "desk jobs." If he couldn't work in the field or at some trade—obviously made much more difficult by his inability to walk—well, he didn't have too many options on how he could make a living. He would have to rely on the charity of others.

Well, thankfully he had some friends who were willing to carry him into the city each afternoon so he could lay at a busy entrance into town where he could beg for money to buy food. But one day, he didn't get what he wanted. He wanted silver or gold coins to buy food and drink, to pay the rent, to buy clothes, to live, to survive. But he didn't get what he wanted. He asked for money, but instead he would get so much more. Our text for consideration is from Acts 3:1-10…

 

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

This unnamed man didn't get what he wanted. He wanted silver or gold, but he got so much more. He just wanted a few coins, but instead he got a miracle. He wanted to buy his next meal, but he got the truth of Jesus of Nazareth and sins forgiven. He wanted something, but got so much more.

Can you relate? I think we all can. Because God gives us so much more than we could ever ask for. Let's face it. We're all pretty short sighted aren't we? I don't mean with your physical vision, but in thinking ahead. Think of it this way, if you had a magic lamp with a genie inside who could grant you any wish (and you can't ask for unlimited wishes, that would be cheating), what you wish for? A never-ending supply of money? Perfect health that could never be lost? A relationship restored? But all of those things will only last this lifetime.

Imagine there's a steel cable that's cutting through this room. It goes through that wall and keeps cutting through anything in its way for two thousand miles. And it goes through that wall and keeps going for two thousand miles in that direction. Now if I were to take a marker and put the smallest dot that I could make right here on that steel cable, and that dot represented this life on a timeline and the 4,000 miles of cable represented eternity in heaven or hell, well… the scale would still be waaaay off. We'd need billions of miles of cable and a microscopic dot.

As motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, used to say, "We're all going to be dead a lot longer than we're going to be alive. So we'd all better do some really long-range planning."

You see, we're all short-sighted. We think way too much about this life and way too little of the life to come. That's why we're just like that unnamed cripple. We ask God for way too little. We ask for better health and more wealth, for a nicer spouse and bigger house. We ask for silver and gold, and miss out on the real treasures that he has to give.

And what's worse, in our short-sightedness, seeking only the blessings for this life, we sin against God. And remember, sin isn't just the wrong things we do—doing what God forbids. It's also the good things we don't do—failing to do what God commands. And we who can walk, don't!

We have opportunity to get up off the couch, walk to the kitchen and serve a spouse by cleaning up and taking out the trash. But… "It's not my turn." So we don't. We have the opportunity to travel to and from church freely—and you don't even have to walk! You can drive! But instead of it being a joy, it often feels like a chore—when we even go. We have the opportunity to walk across the street and invite a neighbor to hear of God's grace with us in this place. But it might be awkward, so we stay silent and we stay put. So we who can walk, often don't.

And because we care more about the comfort and convenience of the moment instead of thinking long-term, for our bad priorities, for our apathy toward others, for our inaction in service, for seeking silver and gold more than righteousness and holiness… we are sick. We may not be crippled, but we're sick with sin. And that's a terminal illness—which terminates in an eternity of hell. And, in a sense, we are crippled, because on our own we could never do anything about it.

So what we need most is not silver or gold, better health or more wealth, a nicer spouse or bigger house. What we need most is healing—not from being crippled, but from our sin. And though we don't even seek it—though all we hope to get is more silver or gold like that beggar sought—God gives us so much more! He gives the healing that we need.

Silver and gold God doesn't always give, but he always gives his forgiveness. He always gives us the healing we need. God gives perfect spiritual healing in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Though he doesn't send an apostle to heal us, he sends one even better! He sends his Holy Spirit! "Get up!" the Holy Spirit says to us as he raises us from spiritual death to life. And he does that through the Word.

Through the Word of God, he leads us to believe the message of the apostles—a message backed by the miracles they did; miracles like this one! And what is that message? It's all about Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Jesus is God! He did take on flesh and walked this earth to become the perfect sacrifice for us. He lived a perfect life remaining spiritually healthy in all that he did. He died an innocent death taking the sickness of our sin on himself. And he paid for every one of our sins, taking the punishment they deserve, so that he might make us healthy and whole. As Isaiah put it, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

And in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—that is, by who he is and what he's done—we are healed! Maybe not yet in body, but in soul! We are sinless and spotless! We are healthy and whole! We are perfect in God's sight. And one day soon, he will restore our physical health and give us glorified bodies. One day, even after we're dead and gone and these bodies of flesh are decayed, nevertheless Jesus will say to us, "Get up and walk!" He'll say that to us on Judgment Day and our bodies, even having been turned to dust, will be restored! We will rise to be with Jesus and to walk with him forever in heaven!

But what about now? What do we do in this short blip of time we call life on this earth? What do we do while we wait for him? Well, we follow the example of this man in Acts 3. "He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God."

How foolish it would have been if this man, having been healed, said, "Thanks a lot, Peter. Thanks a lot, John. There goes my easy life of begging. There go the handouts. There goes the welfare! Now I have to work again, you jerks!" Of course he didn't say that! Instead he was eager to walk, eager to serve, eager to go to church and to praise God!

Well, friends, you've not only had your sins forgiven, but you've been given abilities too! You can walk! And you can do so much more! So get up and walk! Walk across the room to serve your parents, your spouse, or your kids! Walk across the street to take the message of God's grace to a neighbor. Walk with us at our next "Praise and Proclaim" walk. It's not as scary as it seems. Use all your gifts to praise God for the healing he's brought you!

And you know what will happen when we do? Well, look at what happened when this man, formerly crippled from birth, started walking: "When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

When we use our gifts and abilities to bring praise to God in thanks for the healing he's brought us, the Gospel will spread throughout Kenai and Soldotna, across the entire Peninsula, through all of Alaska, and around the globe! Others too will learn of the healing Jesus has won for them. They too will be filled with wonder and amazement. They too will praise God! So get up and walk, dear friends, for Jesus' sake. Amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give

Monday, August 28, 2017

Choose Wisely! (A sermon based on Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18)

Every day is filled with choices: when to wake up, what to eat, what to wear. It's also full of moral choices: whether to serve ourselves or to serve our God. Sadly, we all too often choose poorly and deserve to be separated from God forever. But for no other reason than that he is God of grace, he chose us to be his own, he rescued us, and he did it at great cost to himself. Now, when given a choice between serving ourselves or serving him, it's a no-brainer! We will gladly serve God who chose us as his own in thanks to him! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18 and rejoice that God chose you! 

Choose Wisely!

A sermon based on Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18

Sunday, August 27th, 2017 – Pentecost 12B

 

Indy just barely survived the first trap. At the last second, he understood that a penitent man bows before God. And falling to his knees, the blade went right over his head instead of taking it from his body. He then followed the footsteps of the Lord, stepping on the letters that spell "Jehovah," almost remembering too late that there is no "J" in Latin. He took a leap of faith to cross the invisible bridge and finally arrived in the room where an old knight protected the cup that Jesus used at the very first Lord's Supper—the Holy Grail.

But there were hundreds of cups sitting in that room. Which was the right one? Indy had to choose wisely. He let the antagonist of the story chose first. And that man chose poorly. Drinking from cup he aged rapidly and turned to dust right before Indy's very eyes. And the old knight explained that just as the true grail would bring life, so any false grail would take it from you.

Now it was Indy's turn. There was no time to lose. But he had to choose wisely. If he chose wrong, he too would die a horrible death. A lot was riding on this decision…

Joshua, the leader of the Israelites after Moses death, had led the people into the promised land and fought with them to rid the place of its inhabitants. Now, for the most part, the work was done. And Joshua presented the Israelites with a choice. And their decision, like Indiana Jones', was a life or death decision. If they chose wrong, they would die a horrible death, not just physically, but eternally.  "Choose wisely," Joshua told them and still tells us in Joshua 24:1-2 and 14-18…

 

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

2 Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods…

 

14 "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God."

 

Bad Choice

 

"Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord," Joshua told the Israelites. But wait… what? Throw them away? You mean to tell me that they carried those stupid idols with them that entire time! After seeing the true God show off his might by the ten plagues… after leaving Egypt through the Red Sea on dry ground… after eating miraculous manna and quail every day, after marching around Jericho and watching it crumble… After all they had come to know of the true God… They still carried these idols along with them for 40 years of wandering in the wilderness!

What a terrible choice they made! You can hear the sarcasm in Joshua's words, can't you? "If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you…" Literally the Hebrew word is "evil." "If serving the Lord seems [evil] to you…" "If serving the God who loves you and rescued you seems so terrible…" That's the way they were acting by carrying around these other false gods. And they deserved to be rejected by God for the way they chose to reject him. They deserved to be struck down by another plague or by venomous snakes or by the earth opening up and swallowing them whole. They deserved death for their terrible choices.

 

But… so do we. Because we have our own gods that we carry around with us. I've carried mine around for almost 40 years myself. No, I don't have a statue of a golden calf in my closet or anything, but I still choose to serve myself instead of my God—the true and only God who has only loved and rescued me!

Every day is full of choices for me. It's full of choices for you too. We can choose how we will spend our time—whether we will be faithful and diligent in our work, or if we'll be self-serving, whether we'll spend time with God in Bible study and prayer, or just be entertained, whether we'll use our time to serve our families, neighbors, and friends, or if we'll just use it to serve ourselves. Do you always make good choices? Do you always choose wisely?

And we have choices every day on how we spend our dollars. Will we spend wisely to care for our family, saving responsibly? Will we give generously to show our thanks to God and use the blessings he's given to share the Gospel with as many as possible? Or will purchase whatever it is we think will make us happy right now in the moment? Will we hoard our dollars in "self-preservation," trusting our savings more than our God?

How do you choose to spend your time? How do you choose to spend your money? I think the answers to those two questions are good indicators of what your god is. We may not literally carry around idols for 40 years, but we sure have our own gods—those things we put our trust in, spend our resources on, and think about most.

And while they may not seem like life and death choices like Indiana Jones' choice about the Holy Grail, nevertheless, they are life and death choices. More like the frog choosing to remain in the pot while the temperature slowly rises, cooking him to death, the daily choices we make, choosing to serve other gods, leads us to a slow, comfortable death. And, honestly, one choice to serve the "god" of self over the true God, one time, makes us deserving of death. We deserve to be forsaken by God. We deserve eternal death and to be forsaken forever in hell.

 

His Choice

 

That's what the Israelites deserved too. For carrying those idols around for 40 years, when they'd so much power and love from the true God, they deserved hell. Nevertheless, God didn't immediately wipe them off the face of the earth and damn them to an eternity apart from him. Why not? Who knows? That's grace. For no reason besides "that's who God is and what he does" God chose his people to be rescued and redeemed. When they confessed, "He is our God" in the last verse of our text, that was not their choice. It was God's. He rescued them. He brought them out of the Egypt, the land of slavery. He made them his own. The verses we skipped over make that clear. Listen to how many times God says, "I"…

 

2 Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants…  I gave him Isaac, 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.

5 " 'I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. 6 When I brought your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. 7 But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.

8 " 'I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. 9 When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.

11 " 'Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.'

 

Now, it might seem like God chose poorly. He chose rebels who would stray again and again. But God chose not for something in them, but entirely by his grace. And that's the same reason that God chose you. It wasn't anything in you, in who you were, in who you were destined to be, but entirely by his grace that he chose you to be his own. As God, through Paul, says in Ephesians 1(:4-5), "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…"

And he not only chose you, but he rescued you. He rescued you not just from Egyptians, but from satan. He rescued you not just from slavery, but from sin. He rescued you not just from enemy territory, but from hell.

How? Well, Joshua is a type of Christ. In fact, "Jesus" is Greek for "Joshua." Both names mean "The Lord saves." Just as God through Joshua fought the battles for the people and really just handed them the land when they put their trust in him, so God fought the battle for us in Christ. We do nothing. We trust in him and in what he's done. As one author summed it up: "As the Lord, through Joshua, conquered Israel's enemies and provided rest for the people, so [the Lord] through Jesus has conquered our enemies and provides rest for us."

Hebrews 4:8-10 puts it this way: "For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his."

Jesus did everything for your salvation. He chose you. He chose to come to earth as a man to live under the law. He always chose what was pleasing to God, every choice of every day. He chose to go to the cross. It wasn't nails or rope that forced him, but his love that compelled him. He chose to endure hell so you will never have to. He chose you over himself. So you have forgiveness. You have peace with God. You have rest from your own works. You have rest from the guilt and the shame. You have perfect rest in him. Jesus meant it when he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

 

Our Choice

 

Now, even though it was God who did the choosing, God who did the saving, God who made this people his own, Joshua still called for the people to make a decision. He didn't ask them to decide if they would be saved or not. Don't confuse this choice Joshua asks them to make with "decision theology." Joshua called them to decide whom they would serve. They had to serve someone. We all do. Would it be other gods? Would it be themselves and their own sinful nature? Or would it be the God who rescued them from slavery and promised to rescue them from sin?

You see, it was kind of a no-brainer. They didn't have to be smart like Indiana Jones to figure it out.

Which would you choose: Dial-up internet at $99 a month? Or 1GB downloads at $15 a month? It's a no brainer! Which would you choose: A free fillet mignon and lobster tail dinner? Or a can of Alpo that costs you $2? Which would you choose: Serving the God who rescued you from sin and death and satan and hell? Or serving your own sinful appetites which slowly lead you away from Jesus and toward eternal death in hell? It's a no brainer, isn't it?

So choose wisely, dear friends! Choose to spend less money so you'll be able to give more. Choose to spend less time being entertained so you'll be able to spend more time serving others. Choose to serve yourself less that you might serve God more.

Indiana Jones chose the right cup. He didn't immediately die a horrible death. In fact, he was able to save his dad when he poured water from the Holy Grail over his gunshot wound. He chose wisely. For us, our choice isn't a life or death decision. Our lives have been saved already. Our lives have been saved eternally. We have a guarantee of eternal life with God in heaven because of all that Jesus chose to do for us. It's a done deal. That means that the pressure's off.

And while Indy had to use his brain to make a wise a choice, our choice is a no-brainer. The choice is obvious: We choose to show our gratitude to the one who chose us to be his own and did everything it took to make it so. It's the only choice that makes sense! So choose wisely! Choose to live for him! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give


Monday, August 21, 2017

Wise Up! (A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

Are you smart? Are you wise? Do you know the difference? God wants us to be wise, not wise in the ways of the world, but wise in knowing him and his plan of salvation. And by the work of the Holy Spirit who has led us to know and believe in Christ through the Word, we are truly wise. "Wise up!" God says. But then he gives us that wisdom. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 and...

Wise Up!

A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Sunday, August 20, 2017 – Pentecost 11B

 

The English language can be funny sometimes if you stop to think about it. For example the difference between wise man and wise guy seems like it should be minimal. A man and a guy are pretty much the same thing. But a wise man is one with wisdom, who knows what to say and when to say it. A wise guy, on the other hand, usually has some smart Alek reply. He's got wit, but tends to fire off a sarcastic remark at an inappropriate time. Both are wise, in a sense, but only one really has wisdom.

That's the theme for this morning's lessons: wisdom. And what makes one a wise person instead of just a wise guy? And the answer really depend on what you mean by wise? Do you just mean witty and worldly wise? Or do you mean wise in God's eyes? Of course, you and I want to be the latter. And the Apostle Paul tells us how to "Wise up!" in godly wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16…

 

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

 

The Corinthians took pride in how wise they were. The city was full of scholars and philosophers who would wrestle with life's challenging questions. They had orators who were masters of giving great, flowery speeches. And then there was Paul, neither eloquent in speech nor impressive in stature. Some wondered if they even ought to take such a lousy preacher seriously. But Paul knew what made one truly wise: the message he came to share: the gospel.

Do you consider yourself wise? Well, you may know the best way to hunt a moose or catch a fish. You may know the best way to build a fence or teach a class. You might be smart. But do those things make you wise?

Americans love their self-help books where they read to gain knowledge and wisdom on how to find and keep love, how to earn and save more money, how to win friends and influence people. But do those things make you wise? Not if you make a ton of money, are surrounded by friends, enjoy every luxury of life and then die and go to hell.

That's where, "the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age" ultimately brings. Worldly wisdom teaches us how to serve the desires of our sinful nature. But it ends in damnation! They who trust such worldly wisdom, "are coming to nothing." Wise up! The world's wisdom isn't smart; it's stupid. It's not wisdom, but pure foolishness! They're not wise people but wise guys!

But friends, before we talk about those stupid people out there with stupid priorities and foolish investments, we really need to talk about these people in here. I foolishly waste my time on things I know won't bring me lasting happiness, while foolishly letting my Bible, which I know will make me truly wise, collect dust. I waste my money and energy on things that bring me fleeting escape from my problems while heartlessly ignore the terrible fate on those who need to escape an eternity in hell.

I read a lot and love to learn. But that doesn't necessarily make me wise. Sometimes I can be just as stupid as the godless heathen out there. I may be smart at making and saving money, at winning friends and influencing people, at getting the things that I want out of life. But I'm often pretty stupid when it comes to pleasing God. And I deserve hell for it. So do you.

What's the solution? Well, it's nothing you could ever come with on your own. You could study nature and science and learn all you could about the universe, but never discover a solution to your sin. You could search the globe to try to find answers to life's big questions and find nothing on the top of the highest mountain or in the deepest depths of the ocean trenches. You could read all the books the world with all its wisdom has to offer, and never find a fix to your biggest problem. Only one book has the answers to the questions, "Where did I come from?" "Why am I here?" and "Where am I going?"

And without that book, we are blind, deaf, and stupid! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…"

As a blind man can never see a beautiful sunset, so too, on our own, we could never see what God had in store for us. As a deaf man could never hear a beautiful symphony, so too, on our own, we could never hear of his plan for our salvation. As stupid man can never master quantum physics or become a neurosurgeon, so too, on our own we could never grasp or fathom God's plan for our eternity. It would be, as Paul said in the previous chapter of this letter to the Corinthians, complete "foolishness." So I can tell you to wise up all day long, but you can't! Not on your own!

Here's why: What am I thinking right now? Anyone want to take a guess? Nope. I was thinking of a number. Anyone know what that number is? Nope. It was 331,462. How come you didn't know that?! Because there's no way to know what I'm thinking in my head unless I communicate it to you. And there is no way that you could ever know what God had in store for you unless he revealed it to you.

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." And, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them…"

But you'll notice that earlier I said "on our own, we could never see…" "on our own, we could never hear…" "on our own, we could never grasp…" But we are not "on our own"! You could never know what God has in store for you unless he revealed it to you. But he has! He has revealed it to you! The Spirit of God has revealed to you all you need to know!

"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… We have [received] the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us… We have the mind of Christ."

God doesn't just tell us to wise up; he gives us the wisdom we need! We know where we came from: God made us to love and serve him and to be his own. Why are we here? To serve him by serving others. Where are we going? Well… we deserve to go to hell. But we're going to heaven anyway. How come? Because of Jesus, who is "the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:24) "Christ Jesus… has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

We have gained true wisdom because the Holy Spirit has revealed to us what God has done about our problem of sin. He's revealed the answer to our problem of hell in his Word (the Bible): "words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words."

And in that Word, he revealed how he fixed our problem for us: He sent his own Son to take on human flesh that he might live under his own law. And as true God he kept that law perfectly in our place. Jesus took on human flesh that he might die for our sins on the cross. And as true God that death paid for the sins of all people of all time. That message may sound like "foolishness to those who are perishing," (1 Corinthians 1:18), but to us, it is true wisdom.

You and I are completely forgiven for the times that we've been so stupid in falling for satan's tricks and falling into temptation. We're forgiven for the times we've chosen to be blind to the Word and refuse to read that which will make us truly wise! We're forgiven for the times we've chosen to be deaf to that Word and refuse to hear and obey it when it meant we wouldn't get our selfish way. We are fully and freely forgiven for every sin we've ever committed because of Christ and his work for us!

And because the Holy Spirit has made us know and believe these things, we are truly wise. "From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15) You may not be smarter than a fifth grader. You may not be the best reader the world has ever seen. You may still struggle with basic math. And you may feel like more of wise guy than a wise man. But you have true wisdom in Christ. You are far wiser than Socrates and Einstein and Gates and Jobs all put together!

Continue to grow in wisdom as you read the Word. (Now, with the start of a new school year is a great time to renew your commitment to be a student of the Word!) And as you do, you will gain even more wisdom and grow wiser as you listen and learn from the Word.

Then, finally, share your wisdom with others. "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." And as you do, they will gain wisdom and wise up. And they too will have the peace and joy that are ours. Then they too will be not just wise guys, but truly wise men and women. In Jesus' name, dear friends, wise up! Amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Learn from the Mistakes of Others

​"Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." That advice from Eleanor Roosevelt could just have easily come from the Apostle Paul. Learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before you or you're doomed to repeat those mistakes. Of course, we don't learn very well and we not only make the same mistakes, but fall into the same sins. Thank God that he sent Jesus to redeem us from those sins. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 11-13 and learn from the mistakes of others and learn of God's grace to us...​

​​Learn from the Mistakes of Others

A sermon based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 11-13

Sunday, August 13, 2017 – Pentecost 10B

 

Well, school's about to start. We've only got one week left to get ready for it. Then it's time to let the learning begin! So how do you learn? What's your preferred method? Do you learn best by reading a book? Do you learn best by observing and watching someone else do something first? Do you learn best by doing something for yourself and getting some hands-on experience?

Well, sometimes it's best to learn by experience. But not always. Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." I'm not sure if she meant you can't live long enough to make them all yourself because you'd never have enough time. There are too many mistakes to be made. Or maybe she meant you can't live long enough to make them all yourself because, some mistakes are fatal! You'll be dead before you make too many!

Either way, Eleanor Roosevelt may have gotten the idea for that quote from the Apostle Paul. "Learn from the mistakes of others," he told the Corinthians. Learn from the mistakes of the Israelites. Learn from their bad example before it's too late! My dad used to tell me that the sole purpose for some people in life is to serve as a bad example to others. "Don't do what they do or you'll end up where they are." That's Paul's point in our text for consideration this morning taken from select verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 10 …

 

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert…

 

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 

A few years ago, my son, Jude, would make us all smile at the dinner table. He would hear me yell at one of his brothers for some bad table manners and he learned from it. "I'm not going to do that!" he would exclaim. And when we asked, "Why not?" he would proudly declare, "Because I'm listening… and I'm learning."

I wish I could do that better: listen and learn. I wish I could learn from the mistakes of others so I didn't have to make them myself. But I don't. Not very well.

I've seen Super Size Me. I've seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I've read Eat, Move, Sleep. But I still find myself senselessly snacking and mindlessly shoving food in my mouth, even though I've see the health consequences in others.

I've seen how people get themselves into debt—massive amounts!—by failing to budget, by failing to stick to a budget, by purchasing whatever they want whenever they want it whether they can afford it or not. I've listened to Dave Ramsey's talk show. I've read his books. But I still get pretty impulsive when an item catches my eye and it only takes three clicks to buy on the Amazon app on my phone.

And… I've ready my Bible. I've counseled a lot of people. I've seen how selfishness and sin have ruined relationships and have ruined lives. And you'd think I'd learn from the mistakes of others. But I don't. I still find myself being selfish and sinful in what I say and think and do.

And I know I'm not alone. This is a universal problem: failing to learn from the mistakes of others and so being doomed to repeat those mistakes, failing to take heed to the warnings we see in others, failing to listen and learn.

We may look at the Israelites in the wilderness and think, "What ingrates! God led them through the Red Sea! He appeared to them visibly in a fiery cloud! They drank water from a rock and ate free food that miraculously fell from the sky and appeared like dew on the ground every day… and yet they refused to follow his simple directions! No wonder God scattered their bodies over the desert!"

We may look at the miracle of the feeing of more than 5,000 and think, "Really? They see a miracle performed by the God man, eat miraculous food, and all they care about is the next free meal ignoring the one who gave them this one? No wonder Jesus scolded them!"

We may look at the Corinthians and say, "Getting drunk at the Lord's Supper?! Thinking that hiring prostitutes is no big deal?! Having sex with your step mom?! What's wrong with you people?! Go get 'em Paul! Tell 'em what they deserve."

But… We're no better. Look at what we have. We have the New Testament! That's a gift that's far better than manna or fish or bread. We have the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation spelled out for us in black and white. (What Paul here calls "the fulfillment of the ages [which] has come.") That's a far better blessing than getting to see and taste a miracle!

And what do we do with it? We whine and complain that we don't have a life better. We, who were all baptized, not just into Moses, but into Christ, choose to wallow in the filth of our pet sins. We who eat the spiritual food of Jesus' very body and blood, then refuse to honor God with our bodies, but find comfort or just entertainment in overindulging in food or drink instead of finding comfort and joy in the Gospel.

Is God any more pleased with us—who refuse to learn from the mistakes of others in the past—but choose to continue to repeat those mistakes again and again? Of course not. Paul tells us, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us," But we don't listen and learn. We don't learn from the mistakes of others, but foolishly repeat the same sins of those who went before us. And we deserve to have our bodies scattered in the desert. We deserve to be cast into hell.

But you know that that's not what we get. Even though we fail to listen and learn, we fail to learn from history, we fail to let others bad examples serve as godly warnings for us, nevertheless, God continues to show his endless mercy and grace to us again and again.

In the middle of this stern warning that Paul gives to remember the judgment God finally brought about against his stubborn and rebellious people who refused to listen and learn, Paul offers one short phrase of total comfort and promise: "And God is faithful…"

God kept his promise to preserve his people to preserve the line of the Savior, in spite of their perpetual rebellion.

God kept his promise to send that Savior and then showed the world who he was by the miracles he performed.

God kept his promise to undo the work satan brought about in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God. He kept the promise to redeem us from sin, death, and hell. He kept the promise to forgive us by damning his own Son, Jesus, to hell on a cross to pay the penalty that our sin deserved.

 

God is faithful. He will keep his promise to forgive us when we confess our sins to him and plead for his mercy. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

God is faithful. He will keep his promise to work all things for our eternal good! "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?" (Romans 8:31-32)

God is faithful. He will keep his promise to take us to be with him in glory one day soon! And, "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

And God is faithful. He will keep his promise to help us to live lives of thanks to him for all of these gracious promises. "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Now please note: this verse does not say that God will not give you more trouble than you can bear. It does not promise that life won't be hard. It doesn't suggest you'll be able to handle every problem that comes your way. It says, "he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."

God will give you the power to resist the temptation to live a selfish and sinful life. He will give you the strength to resist the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature. He will answer that prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," by giving you not only the ability to resist temptation, but a second option: He'll give you an escape route and a shelter from that storm of temptation! "He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.""

It may be true that the sole purpose for some people in life is to serve as a bad example to others. But let's not be those people! Instead, let's learn from them! Let's do like Jude did and listen and learn. Let's get back into the Word on a daily basis and read of the mistakes of others so we don't repeat them. And let's read about God's great grace and about his faithfulness to every promise each day and let that grace move us to resist temptation as we live for him. In Jesus' name, dear friends, listen and learn. Amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give


Monday, July 24, 2017

Get Hooked On Jesus (A sermon based on Mark 6:35-44)

​Keep your lines tight! You'll hear that every now and then on the Kenai this time of year. Too much slack and the fish will get off the hook. In this week's sermon we see how Jesus provides for all of our needs, both physical and especially spiritual. But he knows that too much slack might cause us to disconnect from him and he'd lose us eternally. So he gives what we need--never any less and never any more--to keep us hooked on him. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Mark 6:35-44 and get hooked on Jesus! ​

Get Hooked On Jesus

A sermon based on Mark 6:35-44

Sunday, July 23, 2017 – Pentecost 35

 

At the seminary, we had a class called homiletics, which is a class that teaches how to write and preach a good sermon. In that class, it was suggested that every sermon ought to start with a "hook." That is, every sermon ought to start with some quick story or illustration that will grab people, capture their attention, and get them ready to listen. Then you can reel them into the Word, if you will, and strengthen their faith by it.

You get that illustration well, don't you—that of a hook? Many of us are going to the Fergusons' this afternoon to try to snag some sockeye in the mouth… with a hook. That hook is what grabs them. Of course, once they're snagged in the mouth, you're not done fishing. That's just the start. Then you need to keep the line tight and keep reeling to bring the fish close enough to net it.

Today we hear a familiar account. It's a Bible story you've all heard before where Jesus miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people by multiplying a few loaves of bread and a few fish. (And he didn't need a hook, line, or yarn to get those fish!) J But that miraculous event recorded for us in Mark's Gospel, wasn't the end of what Jesus wanted people to know about him, it was really just the hook. He didn't do miracles like this just to fill bellies. He did them that people would come to know him as the God-man, so they would get hooked on him.

And though he may not do a miracle in your life, that's really Jesus' goal for you too: He wants to use the circumstances of this life—the blessings and the trials—to draw you to him. He wants you to get hooked on him and stay on the line until he reels you into heaven. Our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is found in Mark 6:35-44…

 

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."

37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat."

They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"

38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."

When they found out, they said, "Five—and two fish."

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

 

What a cool miracle, huh? One kid of more than 5,000 people brought a filet o' fish Happy Meal to the long Bible Study that Jesus was teaching. And Jesus miraculously multiplied it to feed maybe 15,000 people! The text is clear that there were 5,000 men, that is males. So that's not counting any women or children that accompanied them. Can you picture Jesus' disciples passing out a free fish filet sandwich to every dipnetter on the beach?!

And what would that cost? Let's say the Happy Meal only cost $5. And let's say there were only 10,000 people. Still, that would cost $50,000 to feed them all! They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"

But Jesus didn't need to pass the offering plate to take a collection. He didn't need their money. He didn't need to send someone to the store. He didn't need the help of a vendor in a truck on the beach. He just took what he had—five loaves of bread and two fish—and turned it into more than they all needed. And more than 5,000 people didn't just get a nibble to tide them over, but "all ate and were satisfied."  And they had 12 big baskets full of leftovers to boot! An impressive miracle, to say the least, right?

But what's the point of this miracle? Why did Jesus do it? Was his goal to end world hunger? To boost the economy? To allow them all to get a free handout anytime they wanted so they would never have to work a single day in their lives ever again? Well, that's what a lot of people wanted. John records for us in his Gospel how the people tried to make Jesus their king after such an impressive miracle. They thought it would be great if he would do this same miracle every day. Can you imagine how wonderful life would be with free food for everyone in the country and enough leftovers to export and make a little cash besides?

But that wasn't what Jesus wanted. He didn't want to solve every problem in this life or let people have their best life now because he knew that such lives of comfort and ease would be terrible for them spiritually. With every need met without work, with every comfort just handed to them, the people would see no need for God. They would think that they already had all that they needed, when what they really needed was forgiveness. If they were too comfortable, the line might go slack and he'd lose them forever.

Jesus wanted the people to get hooked on him—to see him for who he was: the God-man, capable of miracles not because he was a prophet of God, but because he was God. And why did he want that? So they would come to know that as God, his death would be sufficient payment for all sins of all mankind. That's what they really needed. And that's the need he came to meet.

So what does all of this mean for you?  Well, look at the blessings that God has showered on you! The fish are in! J  You've maybe harvested all you need already. (It isn't a miracle, but it's pretty close isn't it, that Jesus sends hundreds of thousands of fish up the Kenai for so many people—a lot more than 15,000!—to harvest what they need for food?) And even if you don't like fish, look at all the other ways he has provided for all of your needs! You have stores within easy access, that have so much food it sometimes goes bad sitting on the shelves! You have enough money to buy that food from a job you can do by the gifts God has given you! You have so much more than twelve basketfuls of abundance beyond your needs. Just look in your garage if you don't believe me.

And why does Jesus give you all these blessings? Just to make you comfortable, complacent, and lazy in life? To give you so many good things that you think you don't need him? No! Of course not! But he gives you so much abundance to draw you to him in thanksgiving! He wants you to get hooked on him!

But how do we respond? We too often ignore those blessings that we consider "ordinary." We take them for granted. We feel entitled, like we deserve them because of how hard we worked to get them, instead of giving thanks to God for giving us the ability to work, the opportunity to work, the means to provide food and shelter and clothes, and so much more, we deserve none of it.

Or maybe, for you right now, it's hard to see all the blessings you have from God because of the trials and challenges you currently face. Maybe it's your finances, or a relationship with someone, or the lack thereof and the loneliness it brings, maybe it's a sickness, or just the drudgery of living in this sin infected world. But why does he let those things happen at all?! Couldn't Jesus step in with a miracle in your life and instantly make everything better? Ah… but he knows that that could make the line go slack and he might lose you eternally. So he let's those challenges, those trials, that pain, all draw you to him.

When you go fishing, sometimes you need to reel in hard and fast when the fish is coming at you. Otherwise the slack will let the fish off the hook. But other times you need to let the fish run and take out line. Otherwise, if you keep reeling, you'll snap the line and fish will get away. Well, Jesus is the master fisherman. He never gets it wrong. And Jesus wants you to stay hooked on him. So he'll use whatever it takes—sometimes blessings in abundance that move you to give him thanks, other times problems and pain that move you to cry out to him for help. But he does it all that you might stay hooked on him so he doesn't lose you for eternity.

So whether he gives you abundance or pain, know that he really is working all things for your eternal good. He's working for your best interest. And he's doing what's best for you. Because in the end, all that matters is that you know him as the God-man, not just a miracle worker who will give you your best life now, but as your Savior from sin, who, as God himself, could make sufficient payment for all the sin of all mankind by his perfect life and innocent death, who paid for your every sin to win God's forgiveness for you. As the God-man his death paid for all of your sin. You are forgiven by God. You are at peace with him. And though you certainly won't have your best life now, you will have your best life for all of eternity with him in heaven.

So how do we respond? We give back to him from the abundance of blessings he's given to us. You don't have to work 90 hour weeks just to put food on the table like our ancestors did because God has blessed you with so much! You have all you need and so much more! He's met your physical needs. He's met your spiritual needs. So give back some of your free time that you have only by his grace. Give back some of your wealth that you have only by his grace. Give back some of your energy and strength that you have only by his grace.

And don't just give of your leftovers. Jesus doesn't need your service. He doesn't need your money. He could just as easily multiply dollars as he did bread and fish. But he wants your heart. He wants your service. He wants your love. He wants you. So give him all that you are to show your thanks to him for the way he's provided for every one of your needs—your physical needs, and especially your spiritual needs. Stay on the line and keep the line tight until he reels you into his heavenly home. And then keep serving him by fishing for others. Who knows but God how he will use you to hook someone else? So let's keep fishing as we stay hooked on Jesus. In his name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give