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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

You Can Be So Stubborn! (A sermon based on Amos 7:10-15)

"You can be so stubborn!" Has anyone ever told you that? That's not always a bad thing to be stubborn. When it comes to the Word of God and its proclamation, we ought to stubbornly keep preaching it even when others don't want to hear it. We ought to. But we don't always. Thank God that he sent Jesus to live and die for us to win forgiveness for our apathy, cowardice, and silence. Now, read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Amos 7:10-15 and let that forgiveness move you to stubbornly share that message with those who will listen and even with those won't. 

You Can Be So Stubborn!

A sermon based on Amos 7:10-15

Sunday, July 16, 2017 – Pentecost 6B

 

They call it combat fishing for a reason. You're not just fighting the fish, but fights can quickly break out between over fishing rights. One fisherman wants the good spot in the river—right where it bends and a particular channel brings the fish right through. But another fisherman is already there. But that doesn't stop the first. He muscles his way in just feet from the other. That's when the fight starts. "You can't fish here. I was here first. You're too close! Our lines will get tangled! Back off! Go find somewhere else to fish!"

Today we hear of a similar fight, but it's not over fishing rights, but rather over preaching rights. "Get out of here! You have no place here! I was here first. Find somewhere else." That's what one priest told a prophet. And the fight ensued. I guess you could call it combat preaching.

Over the last few weeks we've looked at Job, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and saw how God called them to proclaim the message of his grace even in the face of some serious opposition. Today, we continue that theme looking at another prophet of God and his call: Amos was a farmer and a shepherd… until God called him to preach. And, like all the prophets of God, he too faced opposition. A priest named Amaziah didn't want Amos preaching in his turf. But Amos wasn't going to give up his place in the river, so to speak. He was going to preach until he caught, or rather, God caught people by that message.

That's what we're called to do too. Last week we were called to "man up." This week, we're called to get a little stubborn, not in our sin, but in our witness, so we don't give up, even when we face opposition. Our text for consideration is found in Amos 7:10-15

 

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.' "

12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom."

14 Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'

 

People don't always like what I have to tell them as a pastor. "The devil is real and he is out to kill you eternally. You are a sinner incapable of any good before God on your own. It is a sin to have sex unless you're married. It is a sin to hold a grudge against that person who hurt you. It is a sin to speed, to be lazy, to get drunk. Hell is for real. And many people will go there. If your faith isn't growing, it's dying. And I'm concerned for your soul."

Sometimes people don't like what the pastor says so much, that they just don't listen. They "unfriend" me on Facebook. They ignore me when I call. They delete my emails before reading them. They don't like what will be said, so they don't listen.  

That's how it was with Amos. Amaziah and Jeroboam, worshipping in Bethel, where there was an altar to two golden calves, didn't like what Amos was saying. He was preaching that for Israel's sin God would send punishment. They would be attacked by an enemy nation, the king would be killed, the people carried away as slaves. Amaziah equated the message Amos preached to treason. Where was his patriotism? Where was his national pride? This Amos was a Benedict Arnold, betraying his country with this message of doom. And he claimed God sent him!

Not to mention Amos was cutting into Amaziah's revenues. This was his turf. This was where he made his bread. And Amos' message conflicted with his message of peace and prosperity. He didn't like it. So he tattled to the king: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you… Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'" "Stop him, King!" And to Amos he said, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there." "This is my fishing hole!"

But Amos wouldn't budge. He wasn't in the business for the money. He was making a decent living back home as a shepherd and fig farmer. He didn't choose to come here. He probably would have preferred to stay home. But God sent him with this message. And Amos had to answer to God before he'd answer to Amaziah or King Jeroboam. So he'd stubbornly keep right on preaching.

Now, friends, you know that when you speak the truth of God's Word, a message that you didn't come up with, that you don't get paid to preach, that you'd maybe not speak at all, but would be content to just stay home instead, it will bring you opposition. Some people won't like you have to say. They'll want nothing to do with a message of sin, of punishment from God, of hell. And that can sometimes lead us to say nothing at all.

Here's a true story: A pastor was once encouraging his members to invite a friend to church for Easter. One woman, let's call her Sally, had a good friend that sat next to her at work. Let's call her Sue. She had known her for seven years, but never invited her to church. But with her pastor's encouragement, she built up the nerve and finally invited her. Sue started laughing. She not only accepted the invitation, but confessed to Sally that her pastor had encouraged her to invite a friend to church as well. And Sue intended to invite Sally. But the laughter stopped when the two realized that they both belonged to the same church, but kept their faith hidden from each other for seven years. True story.

Does that sometimes happen to you? Have you failed to talk to a co-worker about your faith because it's "none of your business"? Friends, it is your business. If your neighbor's house caught on fire in the middle of the night, it would be your business to warn him. Yes, he might get mad at you for waking him up at 3am. Yes, he might have some choice words for you even as he came to the door. But if you say nothing, you would be responsible for his life.

Friends, your neighbor's house may not be on fire, but your unbelieving friends and co-workers are headed for the fire of hell. That's your business. You don't need to be a prophet or a prophet's son. You don't need to be a pastor or a pastor's kid. Amos was a layman, a shepherd, and a farmer. But he stubbornly spoke the truth in love, even when others tried to threaten him and silence him.

But for our apathy, for our cowardice, for our silence, for stubbornly refusing to share the message God has given us to share… we deserve to go into exile. We deserve to die by the sword. We deserve hell.

But God has sent his prophets (and his evangelists and apostles) to preach that harsh truth of the law to us, not just to scare us, not to manipulate us, not to make us despair. But he sends one to preach that harsh truth to us, to lead us to repent of our sin, to turn to God for help, to seek the solution to our sin that's only found in him. So don't be stubborn, but confess your apathy, cowardice, silence, and sin to God.

And then listen to the message that God sent his prophets, evangelists, and apostles to preach: that message of comfort. Amos' message wasn't all gloom and doom. After he preached the law, he comforted those who confessed their sin by the sweet message of the Gospel. In the last verses of his book he wrote…

11 "In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be… 13 "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God.

And of course, you know the perfect restoration that is yours in Christ. Through his perfect life and innocent death, your apathy, cowardice, silence, and every sin is removed. You will not endure the hell that you deserve. You will have the paradise of heaven, with an abundance of every good thing, picture in Amos 9. And this is all yours by God's grace alone.

And it's that grace that makes us eager to do whatever he asks to show our thanks. And what does he ask of us? To go and share the message he's given us. And you don't need to be a prophet or a prophet's son. You don't need to be a pastor or a pastor's kid. But you can still be like Amos who stubbornly spoke the truth in love, even when others tried to threaten him and silence him. You can be so stubborn.

Because the Lord takes you, from whatever occupation you have or had, and he says to you, "Go, prophesy to the people in Kenai, Soldotna, Nikiski, Sterling, and Kasiloff. Tell them the harsh truth of my law that you might share with them the comforting truth of my gospel."

And coming up, you have an opportunity to learn to do that better. Come to the Praise and Proclaim evangelism training the evening of Friday, August 4th. Prayerfully consider practicing sharing your faith on Saturday, August 5th. As you do, you will face opposition. You may get doors slammed in faces. You will have people upset that you're in their space! They may yell at you, "Get out of here! Go away! Go back to where you came from!" But you can be so stubborn. You can be as stubborn as Amos. And some will hear and heed the warning. They'll listen and they'll learn. They'll hear the comfort of the gospel and they'll believe and be saved.

Make no mistake. We're in a fight, not over fishing rights, but over preaching rights. We're engaged in combat preaching. But with the help of the Lord and driven by his grace, we can be so stubborn, to his glory and in his name, 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

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stand Up and Man Up! (A sermon based on Ezekiel 2:1-7)

"Man up!" Ever been told that before? It's a call to toughen up even in the face of a challenging or painful situation. "Rub some dirt it in. It's only a flesh wound!" The reality is that when we speak the truth of God's Word, we will often face fierce opposition. But that's no time to back down. It's time to man up! And we do this in thanks for the way Jesus "manned up" to live a perfect life and suffer hell on the cross for us, to make us sinless and holy. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ezekiel 2:1-7 and man up! 

Stand Up and Man Up!

A sermon based on Ezekiel 2:1-7

Sunday, July 9th, 2017 – Pentecost 5B

 

I think that this past week, I manned up a bit. I did a repair on the van—without asking Vermillion for help—all on my own! It wasn't a huge repair, but still… I manned up. This week, I operated a chainsaw for the first time. I oiled it. I fueled. I cut things. I admit that before I started, I was scared of a machine that could cut off my leg. But now I think it's kind of fun. I manned up. And going on a couple of hikes in bear country, I was packing heat. I carried my .44 Magnum in a holster on my shoulder… you know, just in case there was trouble and I needed to step in. As I spun the chamber of my loaded six-shooter, I thought, "Now this is a man's fidget spinner." And I manned up.

After recounting to my wife all these manly things I've done, I told here, "You know, I think I got a few more points on my man card this week, like at least 5." She agreed that I'd done some manly things, but added, "But since you're giving yourself 'man points,' I have to take some away. I'd give you maybe 2." I'll take it. I can use whatever I can get.

Actually, I recently finished reading a book called "Play the Man." The title is taken from 2 Samuel 10 (:12) where General Joab tells his troops, "Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of God." (ASV) In other words, he says, "Man up." But the book doesn't emphasize man skills like tying knots and small engine repairs. It highlights being the man in being first to apologize, to lead your family in the Word, to raise godly children. It's a call to "man up."

Today in our sermon text God calls Ezekiel to be his prophet. And in a sense, he calls him to man up. The job that God was giving him would be a tough one. He would preach to a rebellious, obstinate, stubborn people, who wouldn't want to hear what he had to say. They would mistreat Ezekiel, scratching him like thorns and stinging him like scorpions. So Ezekiel would have stand up and man up.

You and I too are called upon to stand up for what we believe in. We are called to stand up for Jesus. And it won't be easy. We will face opposition. So we too are called upon to "man up"—men, women, children alike.

Our text for consideration is from Ezekiel 2:1-7…

 

He said to me, "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

3 He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.

 

This week we celebrated the Fourth of July. We celebrated the freedom that is ours thanks to the countless men and women who stood up for what they believed in. They "manned up" and fought for a cause bigger than themselves. And many gave their lives for it. Let's face it: It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when taking a stand is going to cost you.

You and I have been called to take a stand for our faith. We have been called by God to stand up for what we believe in and to boldly share that faith. But sometimes, standing up for Jesus will be met with opposition. And that should be no surprise to us. God's told us so.

He told Ezekiel his call wouldn't be easy: He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn… In fact, at times it would be downright painful.

A few years ago I had to man up on a bear hunt. To get a good shot, and then to track the bear, I had to climb up the mountainside where the bear was. And it wasn't a nice grassy knoll. I had to scramble through thick brush full of Devil's Club. And I know now why they call it Devil's Club. The thorns clawed at me and cut my hands as I grabbed at any branches I could to stay on the mountain. Well, that's how God describes enemies of the Gospel: like Devil's Club: "briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions…"

So it takes courage. We need to man up! But too often we wimp out, don't we? "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." But too often when the going get's tough, we back down to avoid pain or discomfort. We hide our faith at work, so we don't become the object of ridicule. We keep our pet sins hidden in our closets, but not too far back so they're in easy reach. We fail Jesus because we, like the disciples, run away scared when following him might mean personal injury (or just inconvenience) or loss of property (as we give generously to his church and can afford fewer toys for ourselves). We fail Jesus. And for it we deserve to lose our freedoms. (And not just the national freedoms we just celebrated, but the spiritual freedoms we enjoy as well.) We deserve hell.

I don't think any of us would call Ezekiel a wimp for letting his knees buckle and turn to Jell-O when he saw a vision of God sitting on his throne with wheels covered in eyes, carried by four-faced, six-winged creatures that burned like fire. He saw "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord," and "when [he] saw it, [he] fell facedown…" (Ezekiel 1:28)

That's how we all ought to respond to our sin. You see God in his love sends others to confront us in our sin and call us out: pastors, husbands, wives, co-workers, even our kids. And that's not the time to "man up" in arrogant defiance or denial, but to humbly back down. To confess your sin and fall on your face.

And when we do, God sends someone to share the Gospel comfort we so desperately need. So after Ezekiel fell facedown, God told him "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me." And God's Word and God's Spirit stood Ezekiel up. And it enabled to take his stand.

And God's Word and his Spirit do the same for us. Though we deserve death… Though we deserve hell… Though we deserve an eternity apart from God and therefore have every reason to wimp out, fall facedown, and just cry in the dust… The Gospel picks us up. You are not going to hell. You will outlive death. You have a paradise of glory awaiting you.

And all of this is because of what God has revealed to you in his Word: that God became man in the person of Jesus, that he "manned up" and lived a perfect, sinless life in your place, and when it came time for him to die, he "manned up" even more taking the sin of the world on himself, becoming the perfect sacrifice to pay for it all.

So we have no more sin. And that means we have no more guilt. We have no more shame. We can stand before God himself on Judgment Day and make that bold, audacious claim:  "You cannot damn me to hell because I am sinless. I am perfect. Your Son's blood shed for me makes it so!"

The Gospel makes us stand up. And the Gospel makes us man up. Since Jesus so willingly sacrificed himself for me to rescue me from the hell I deserve, the least I can do is make a bold stand for him. And we speak up and we share our faith, even if it means we face ridicule for it. We man up and stand up for Jesus! Confront your child or your spouse in their sin. Do it lovingly, remembering that you are a sinner too, equally worthy of hell, finding your peace in Jesus' forgiveness. But don't ignore the problem! Man up and confront it. Invite your friend to church and challenge the apathy he or she has toward religion. (Yes, you may invoke their ire and start a fight.) But man up and share your faith! Take that pet sin—that one you know you keep feeding—and take it out back and shoot it (figuratively speaking, of course… put down the gun). Man up and stop doing those things that you know lead you away from Jesus instead of toward him.

We live in tough times. Temptation surrounds us. Haters are going to hate, like thorns and like scorpions. And if they rebel against God, they're sure to rebel against us. So we who follow Jesus need to man up. And the freedom of knowing that we are perfect, sinless, saints, dearly loved by God and guaranteed recipients of his heaven, give us the courage to do it—to man up.

And when we do, others will see our courage. They'll see what we're willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel. They'll see what we're willing to give up for the sake of Jesus. Some will still mock us and do all they can to hurt us. But others will want to know what makes us so bold and courageous, what makes us so tough and even manly. And through our witness, and by the same Word and the same Spirit that brought Ezekiel to his feet and brought us to faith, some will come to believe.

In a sense, we are freedom fighters! Jesus already won freedom from sin, death, and hell for us. But now we're fighting to free others—to bring to them the Key that unlocks their prison cell—to bring to them Jesus. So dear brothers, and sisters, (of all ages), we don't need to get any "man points" for it, but we do it out of love for our Savior who lived and died for us: It's time to stand up and man up for Jesus' sake! 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

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Friday, July 7, 2017

​So Blessed, Every Single Day! (A sermon based on Lamentations 3:22-33)

What blessings do you enjoy from God every day? How often don't you take those blessings for granted? But thanks be to God! Of the many blessings he gives us, his grace and mercy, his love and forgiveness, all ought to be at the very top of our list! Because of his great love for us in Christ, his mercies are new every morning! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Lamentations 3:22-33 and rejoice every day in God's forgiving love!

So Blessed, Every Single Day!

A sermon based on Lamentations 3:22-33

Sunday, July 2, 2017 – Pentecost 4B

 

Okay. It's time for another interactive sermon introduction. You ready? Paying attention? Over my vacation in Wisconsin I played a game with my mom and my boys called "5 Seconds." A category was named and you then had 5 seconds to come up with 3 things in that category. If you couldn't get three, play passed to the next player, but they weren't allowed to use any of the things already said. They had 5 seconds to come up with 3 things on their own.

This morning, I'm going to give you a little more than 5 seconds. I'll let you think for a bit, but I want you to call out things in the category, trying not to repeat something someone else said. Got the concept? Ready? Then here's the category: Things God blesses you with on daily basis. [Repeat:] Things God blesses you with on daily basis. Go!

[Wait for responses.]

That's a pretty good list we came up with in a short amount of time. That wasn't too difficult of a category was it? There are so many things that God blesses us with daily that we so often take them for granted. We could have named things like toenails that keep our toes safe when we drop things, refrigeration that allows us to store food without it spoiling so quickly, nose hairs that filter the air before it reaches our lungs, gravity that keeps us from floating away, road systems than bring our groceries to us, satellites that give us access to information in such a short time, sleep to recharge and refresh… the list could literally go on and on for days, couldn't it?

And yet, we take these things for granted. We even expect that we should get them. We feel entitled to things that we have neither earned nor deserved. And we deserve God's wrath for such ingratitude and entitlement. But some of those gifts we receive from God every day [which you mentioned] is his love, his compassion, his forgiveness, and his grace. So we are not consumed, but are saved. We are so blessed, every single day! Our text for consideration this 4th Sunday of Pentecost is found in Lamentations 3:22-33…

 

22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. 30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

 

I have a confession to make. I'm not proud of this characteristic I find in me, but it's there. It's this: That I am normally pretty to slow to be thankful for the many blessings I have from God and at the same time I'm pretty quick to gripe when I don't get what I want.

That's maybe why I find listening to "First World Problems" so compelling. They too often describe me… 

  • One of these super delicious nachos I'm eating just stabbed me in the roof of my mouth. [Angry.]
  • One pillow is too low. But two pillows is too high. [Frustrated.]
  • The passenger on the plane next to me started the same move I'm watching a minute ahead of me. And he keeps laughing before I'm ready. [Pout.]
  • I have too many groceries to carry in in one trip. I'm going to have to back out to the van a second time. [Sigh.]
  • I don't have enough dip for my chips. But if I open a new dip, I won't have enough chips for my dip. [Confused.]
  • I had something witting to say, but the topic was changed before I could say it. [Angy.]

Seriously, even though I'm a grown man, I still find myself complaining when I don't like dinner (at least inwardly, even if I'm too polite to say it out loud). I find myself whining when my internet speed isn't as fast I think it should be, forgetting what it was like with a dial up modem. I get frustrated when my cell phone is out of range, taking for granted that I have a computer in my pocket that is way faster and has far more features than the first PC I owned in high school.

So here's my confession: I… am a spoiled brat. And that is when things are going well. When I face any kind of problem, I get even worse. And it doesn't take the destruction of my city with most of my friends and family carried off into captivity to a foreign nation like happened to Jeremiah to make me whine. A stubbed toe drives out any gratitude for the delicious meal I just ate. A higher utility bill drives out any gratitude for a personal dividend check. And a misbehaving son drives out any thought of my Savior's love and patience with me. Hi. My name is Rob. And I'm a spoiled brat.

But, at least I'm not alone, right? Aren't we all a bit like that? Slow to thank. Quick to gripe. That's in our sinful human nature. We are all the spoiled brat that takes and takes from God, that feels entitled to get even more, and rarely stops to give thanks. We're like the son that complains to his parents, "Only fourteen presents for my birthday?! Last year I got fifteen! I want two more!" Or like the little girls who demands, "Daddy, I want a pony! Get me a pony!!!"

What would you do if your child talked to you that way? I expect that you would quickly put that child in his or her place. I expect you would stop enabling that selfish and spoiled behavior. You would stop giving in to the self-absorbed demands.

And for our self-absorption, for our thankless attitudes, and ungrateful expectation that God continue to bless us with all of those things we listed at the start of the sermon, God ought to stop giving us these daily blessings and worse. God ought to stop giving us daily forgiveness. He ought to give us hell.

But instead, God gives us problems and trial and pain to draw us back to him. He gives us a wake up call, that we risk to lose everything that matters if we keep whining about things that don't.

So what's our response?

​ ​
Jeremiah says, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope…"

What do we do? We burry our faces in the dust. Not like the ostrich, pretending there is no problem. (For, like the ostrich, such head burying fools no one, least of all God.) But bury your face in the dust in repentance, falling on your knees, accepting the yoke of discipline that God gives, heeding the rebuke of his law. "Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace."

But how can we do that? Don't we risk losing God's love if we admit what we've done and how we've been? No. We don't. Because. "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him… For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."

He will show compassion. He will offer his unfailing love. And he will do it every single day: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

And again, just like last week, it's not insignificant that Jeremiah, like Job, used the word "Lord" (all caps), the name connected to the covenant promise to send a Savior from sin. And the Lord did show his love and compassion and faithfulness in the person of Jesus. Jesus never took for granted the blessings he had from the Father, but thanked him for them every day. He never complained, even when the Father laid on him a humbling mission to become a man to rescue us. He never whined when the Father laid on him a mission to have men lay on him a cross. He never grumbled when the Father laid on him the iniquity of us all and asked him to endure hell on that cross to rescue us.

And by the work of the Lord,  God's mercies "are new every morning." We are so blessed, every single day. Every morning is a clean slate. Every absolution is a brand new do over. Every gospel proclamation is a declaration that you and I are sinless and holy in every way before God!

So dear brothers, dear sisters, count your blessings, not your woes. Get over your first world problems. And rejoice in your other world blessings. Give thanks to God for them every day—for the greater spiritual blessings he gives, and then for the smaller, but countless other blessings he showers on us daily. The next time you pray it, think about that prayer (that we so quickly rattle off) a little more: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever! Sincerely give thanks to God for the many blessings he gives you each day. And accept any hardships he permits or sends your way as opportunities to grow closer to him.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we all did that? If each day we offered prayers of gratitude and thanks instead of any complaint. Can you imagine if our gratitude overwhelmed our frustrations, consumed our attitudes, and spilled over into our daily lives? What would life look like for you? How would you live differently? What kind of an impact do you think such grateful living would have on those around you?

Well, the next time you feel like whining about the things you think you should have or about how badly things are going for you, maybe listen to some "First World Problems" and remember how good you really have it. Play "5 Seconds" with the category: "Things God blesses you with on daily basis." And especially remember your Savior and his love and grace that won full and free forgiveness and heaven itself for you. Remember that, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Remember that you are so blessed, every single day! Then with restored gratitude to God, let it spill over into your actions as you live for Jesus each day in thanks. In his name, dear friends, amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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