Month: September, 2017

AUGSBURG CONFESSION

AUGSBURG CONFESSION

The Lutherans stood before the entire world and confessed. Given the opportunity to say what they believed, they freely and joyfully confessed the truth that God justifies sinners by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake. The Augsburg Confession was read out loud on June 25, 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg. Written by Philipp Melanchthon, this document explained the faith of the Christian Church as taught by Luther in accordance with the Scriptures. Article IV contains the central confession of how God saves people. Read it. Especially Article IV.

A Rose of Christian Love by Roger Rohde, Sept. 3, 2017

A Rose of Christian Love

Romans 12:9-21

The rose is probably the most popular flower through which love is expressed.  Our text for today talks about Christian love and as it does so one can see eight petals on a rose that define Christian love.

The first petal of Christian love is that Christian love is genuine.  People in the Christian congregation are not simply to tolerate one another, but they are to sincerely care for one another as would a closely knit family.  This means, as Jesus points out, that when we deal with one another in the church we do not simply wish people well or tell them that we will pray for them, but we will actually do something to show our love for our brother and sister in Christ (James 2:15-16).  This, of course, is not always easy to do.  Some people simply seem more lovable than others.  Yet, sincere Christian love does not distinguish between people.  As the Bible tells us: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:13).  In other words, God’s love knows nothing about skin color or nationality.  Christ died for all and all are to be loved in Christ by what we do and what we say.

The second petal in Christian love is that Christian love is pure.  Our text states: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Christian love has two sides: hating evil and pursuing that what is good.

The world often understands love to mean tolerating people and their beliefs.  That is not what God says.  He emphasizes that sincere Christian love hates evil and clings to that which is good.  The determination of what is good and evil is not to be based upon personal opinion or the decision of the majority, but by the Word of God.  Christians are to uphold all that the Bible declares because it is the eternal and abiding truth of God.  Taking our stance on issues based upon God’s Word will not always be popular, but it will be a proclamation to the fact that we love the Lord above all else.  Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Mathew 6:24).  Who is it that we serve?  What determines the truths by which we live?  Christian love is always pure having the standard of right and wrong determined by God’s Word.

Petal three in this rose of Christian love is tender affection.  Christian love displays itself in tender affection to all.  Our text states: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with them who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.”  In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks of having tender affection and sympathizing with one another:  “I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even the pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as you heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48).

Here the Lord tells us that there is a marked difference between the people of the world and the people of God.  The true children of God care about all people with tender affection and sympathy because they have experienced this love from God firsthand.  God’s people are not to choose who they wish to love and care for, but like Jesus they reach out to all people.  When Jesus took on human flesh, His heart was filled with affection and sympathy for all mankind.  He lived as a man because He loved us, and He died in our place to pay the debt of our sin and bless us with His love, so that we may in like fashion show tender affection and sympathy to all people.  In our relating to one another do we display the likeness of the heavenly Father’s tender heart and sympathizing spirit?

The fourth petal of the rose of Christian love is zeal.  Christian love is zealous for the Lord.  Christian love in our text is spoken of as “never lacking zeal, but having spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

God wants zealous, enthusiastic people as members in His church.  No Christian congregation has ever been built with members who are indifferent or lackluster toward the Lord.  In fact, the Lord tells us in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one of the other!  So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”  Indifference in attending worship services, studying God’s Word, serving Him or bringing the message of the Gospel to all people are indications that a person is not tied to Jesus Christ by faith.  While works do not save us, James clearly tells us that our actions can be a measuring stick to our faith in and commitment to the Lord (James 2:14-17).  We have many interests in life and are committed to many things, but if what we do does not center on Christ and His will we do not love Christ and our fellowman as God commands.

Patience is another petal in this rose of Christian love.  Our text states: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  A true believer in Christ lives with the certainty that he will one day dwell in heaven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus for all mankind.  He, therefore, patiently waits upon the Lord through life’s present trials and he lifts up all situations to the Lord in prayer.  Through faith he does not get bogged down with the problems of this life, but he lives knowing that all situations in life have their God-given purpose in leading us to touch other lives and have our own faith strengthened in Christ.

Another petal to this rose of Christian love is generosity.  Christian love practices generosity.  The text states: “Share with God’s people in need.  Practice hospitality.”

Jesus’ ministry was marked by generosity.  In His first recorded miracle He created the best wine served at the wedding of Cana.  He fed over 5,000 men, not counting women and children, with five loaves of bread and two fish, having 12 baskets of leftovers.  Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead when the original request of Mary and Martha was simply to heal him of his sickness.  Most significantly of all, Jesus poured out His lifeblood, dying on the cross to pay for our sins, when He could have rightfully left us to be lost eternally in our sins.  Again and again Jesus displayed His love for all mankind by His generously caring for us and giving us the gift of eternal salvation.

The truth is that if this love of Christ truly dwells within us it will flow through us and touch the lives of other people.  John in his first epistle wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words of tongue but with actions and in truth” (3:16-18).  God in Galatians 6:10 states, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good, to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Humility is the next petal on this rose of Christian love.  Our text declares, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

This description of humility is best displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (verses 3-8).

Jesus Christ, eternal and sinless God, took on human flesh and lived like a man.  He humbly served others eventually giving His very life on the cross to pay for our sins and grant us the gift of eternal life in heaven.  During His earthly ministry Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them.  He ministered to those who despised Him in the same way He did to all people.  No one was too insignificant or sinful that the Lord would not minister to them.  The Lord looks for such humility to be within us who know Him and have experienced His undeserved love.  Jesus says to us in His Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27, 28, 32-36).

The final petal in the rose of Christian love is peace.  Christian love is peaceful.  Christian love is not about stirring up conflict, making judgments that are to be left to God, or seeking to better oneself by putting others down.  That is anew by the redeeming grace of God and walk by the Holy Spirit.  Those who know Christian love never repay evil with evil.  They don’t try to justify actions and attributes that God says are wrong.  They have God’s peace in their hearts through the saving work of Jesus and they seek to deal with all people by that saving grace.

This truly is a great challenge for all of us.  Yet, this is why it requires God’s

Spirit and not our own efforts.  By our natural flesh we will never deal with evil by ministering to others in patience, humility, affection and sympathy.  We can only do this as Christ’s love rules our hearts and minds, and the Holy Spirit directs our words and actions.

Surely God has laid a lot before us as He presents this rose of Christian love to us today.  With gratitude in our hearts we can see God’s love for us through Christ and the fragrant rose of Christian love by which He has blessed us.  As we receive this rose of Christian love by faith, may we under the Holy Spirit’s power give this rose of Christian love back to God by the way we love and minister to others in His name.  Let us have this fragrant rose of Christ’s love blossom in each of us and the life of this congregation, so that the world will be blessed in Christ through the Christian love we practice.  Amen.

Truths About God’s Grace by Roger Rohde, Aug. 20, 2017

Truths about God’s Grace

Romans 11:1-6, 13-24

Grace is an essential element of Biblical truth.  Grace is one of the key

points that separate Christianity from all other religions.  It became one of the five

solas of the Reformation.  The word “sola” means “”alone” or “only.”  There were

five solas emphasized in the Reformation of the church in the 1500s: Sola

Scriptura – Scripture alone; sola fide – faith alone; sola Christus – Christ alone;

sola Deo Gloria – glory to God alone; and sola gratia – grace alone.  Our text leads

us to consider the importance of God’s grace for ourselves and for the mission

God has given us in our lives.

The first truth from today’s text is that God’s grace rejects no one.  Previous

to our text Paul noted that the Jews had rejected the Gospel of Christ as Savior,

and hence the Gospel was proclaimed to the Gentiles.  Based upon that fact Paul

asks the question: “Did God reject His people?”  Can the Jewish people no longer

be saved by the Gospel of Christ?  Paul’s response is that God does not reject

anyone from hearing and being blessed by the Gospel.  Just because the Jews

rejected Jesus as the Messiah does not mean that God now rejects them and

doesn’t want the Gospel proclaimed to them.

Paul points to himself as an example of this truth.  In Acts chapter 6 and

following Paul, then known as Saul, had a hard heart with regard to Jesus being

the promised Messiah.  Saul involved himself in arresting Christians and having

them imprisoned or put to death.  Yet, in Acts 9 it is revealed to us that the Lord

spoke to one of His disciples, a man named Ananias and said: “Go to the house of

Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is

praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands

on him to restore his sight.”   Ananias responded: “Lord, I have heard many

reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.

And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call

on Your name.”  Jesus responded to Ananias: “Go!  This man is My chosen

instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the

people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for My name”

(verses11-16).

Paul notes that if God had rejected the Jews after they despised and

crucified His Son, Paul would never have become a Christian, the great missionary

to the Gentiles, and a writer through whom God gave us much of the Bible.

 

God’s grace rejects no one.  Do we?  Do we turn our backs on certain

people because they do not fit into our perspective of being “worthy of God’s

grace?”  If God called you instead of Ananias to go and meet up with Saul, would

you have do it?  For us to answer that question positively would probably be

hypocritical.  The truth is we struggle loving our enemies, praying for those who

persecute us, and ministering to people in Jesus’ name who do not fit into the

way we feel people should be.

The second truth found in today’s text is that God’s grace is an act of God’s

doing and it is for all people.  Paul notes in our text that if salvation is by grace,

and it is, then it is no longer by works.  If it were by works, it would no longer be

grace.

The word “grace” literally means “undeserved love.”  It is not a love given

us because we have been such good people or we were such an obedient people.

No, our receiving God’s grace has nothing to do with us deserving it, for in fact we

are unlovable.

God bestows His grace upon us because His heart is so filled with

undeserved love for us.  His mercy and grace come our way not because of

anything good within us.  The Bible defines our hearts as “deceitful” and

“desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  We are told by God that “none of us are

righteous before God, nor do we seek Him” (Romans 3:10-11).  We were like all

people “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  God’s grace is a pure

gift of His doing.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that

whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Paul

noted in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you are saved through faith and that not

of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  The

forgiveness of sins and the sure hope of everlasting life in heaven we have in

Christ solely rests on God’s grace and what He did for us as He offered up His Son,

the Lamb of God, as the only complete sacrifice for sin.

The third about God’s grace in our text is that God’s grace leads to true,

humble, and God-pleasing adoration of the Lord.

In our text God uses the illustration of “some branches” (referring to Jews

who did not trust in Jesus as the Messiah) being removed from the olive shoot,

which is God’s church.  They were removed and Gentiles who trusted in Christ as

Savior were added to the church.  This does mean that we as Gentiles can

personally boast about being God’s people and better than others.  No, Paul

points out that the branches do not support the root, but the root supports the

 

branches.  Our place in the Christian church as God’s people is because of God’s

grace, which has its root in Jesus, the Root of Jesse, the true source of salvation.

Paul, therefore, tells us not to be arrogant about our place in the Christian

church.  It is by God’s grace that we are children of God and heirs of everlasting

life.  We are in humble adoration to sing the praises of God and His grace.  Paul

reminds us in I Corinthians 1:30-31: “It is because of God that you are in Christ

Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness,

holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in

the Lord.”

The fourth truth about God’s grace found in our text is that God’s grace is

meant to move us to minister to all people.  This brings us back to the first point

in our outline: God’s grace rejects no one.  Paul tells Pastor Timothy and hence all

of us: “God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”

(I Timothy 2:4).  How about us?  Do we really want everybody to be saved and do

we so relate to others that we show our interest in them being saved?

In our text it becomes quite clear that God has not given up on the Jews

and neither should we.  In fact, God’s so loves and desires the salvation of all

people that we should always look upon, treat, and reach out to others as people

God wants in His kingdom, because He does.  God has not forgotten Jewish

people though many have rejected Him.  In His grace He is still seeking to bring

them and all unbelievers unto Himself that they may be a part of the heavenly

family.  God’s plan for you and me is to be so changed by God’s grace in Christ

that we will become all things to all people that by all means we may save some

(I Corinthians 9:22).

Has God’s grace truly changed us so you that in Christ’s love we are

reaching out to all people?  Jesus’ love reaches out to sinners.  He was time and

again ridiculed for eating with sinners, having Himself touched by them, and

forgiving them of their sinful activity.  Yet, this is precisely why Christ came to this

world.  He said: “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost”

9:11).  Because of this grace we are saved today.  Will we now deny this

grace to others by failing to bring this Gospel to sinners?  Do we in faith embrace

and live by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.?

If so, then we need to stop thinking of ourselves as better than others.  We

need to stop turning our backs on certain people because they don’t meet our

qualifications.  We need to be filled, molded, and shaped by God’s grace in Christ

Jesus and appropriately displaying it in our lives.  That’s what Paul did.  That’s how

 

God’s grace changed his life.  We conclude with these words of the Apostle Paul

which hopefully will be a motto and truth of God’s grace by which we all live: “I

am what I am by the grace of God, and God’s grace was not wasted on me.  I

labored harder than all the other apostles, nevertheless it was not I, but God’s

grace in me” (I Corinthians 15:10).  Amen.

Why do You Doubt? by Roger Rohde, August 13, 2017

Why Do You Doubt?

Matthew 14:22-33

Our faith is like a pendulum that swings back and forth between moments of spiritual triumph and moments of spiritual depression.  At one moment our faith is so great that nothing we experience in life can phase it, and the next moment our faith is so shaken by circumstances it seems as if we’re going to drown.  In today’s text God seeks to deal with our fluctuating faith as He directly asks us: “Why do you doubt?”

The first cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we overlook God’s purposes in our lives.

It is no accident that the disciples were in the boat at the time this storm suddenly arose.  Jesus had put them there.  Sometimes we bring troubles upon ourselves by not following God’s direction, such as Jonah did.  Jonah refused to follow God’s will and preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.  As a result he found himself in a terrible storm and in the stomach of a large fish.  Sometimes we bring problems upon ourselves because of our disobedience to God’s will or our great desire to satisfy the desires of our sinful flesh.  But this is not true for the disciples in the historical account before us.

Our text begins by telling us: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side.”  Jesus sent them off in the boat well aware that they would come upon this severe storm at sea.

Jesus had a purpose for having the disciples in that boat at that time.  What preceded our text was Jesus miraculously feeding over 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Following that feeding the crowd desired that Jesus be their earthly king.  While Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, His purpose is not to be an earthly king.  Jesus said before Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  The disciples were still too spiritually immature not to follow the incorrect desires of the crowd.  Hence, Jesus immediately sought to get them out of there.  His purpose in putting the disciples in the boat was to get them away from man’s misconceived notion about Jesus.

Jesus had a second purpose for putting them on the boat.  Jesus wanted them in the boat at the time of the storm to teach them about His true identity as the Son of God.  John in the conclusion of his Gospel wrote:  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).  The purpose behind all the miracles that Jesus performed was that people would know that the Son of Man is also true God.  That was exactly what came out of this miracle as “the disciples worshiped Jesus saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

The Lord still works His purposes of strengthening and purifying our faith in Him through the storms of life He places us in today.  I can look at my own life and see how placed me in the midst of storms that my faith could grow in Him in ways it may not have grown had I been spared from those storms.  The Lord tells us that we “may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials so that our faith may be refined” (I Peter 1:7).  As we go through difficulties in our lives, we are not to doubt God’s wisdom in the way He is leading us, but we are to trust in His purposes of developing and strengthening our faith through the circumstances in life He would have us encounter.

The second cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we question His presence with us.  Years ago my family and I were driving on an interstate highway in the middle of the night when tornado warnings were issued.  It was too dark to see if any funnel clouds were forming, and there was absolutely no place to get off of the highway.  Jeri and I were becoming a bit uneasy when Joshua, our son, about three years-old at the time, told us that we didn’t have to be afraid because Jesus was with us.  Move forward in time to when Joshua was about seven years old.  We found ourselves in a similar situation and this time it was Joshua who became uneasy.  We told him that he did not have to worry because Jesus was with us.  Joshua’s childlike faith was now gone.  He looked toward the back of the van and on each side and sincerely reported to us: “I don’t see Him.”

The disciples did not acknowledge Jesus’ presence with them during the storm although He had promised to be with them always.  Even when Jesus physically appeared, the disciples thought Him to be a ghost and were terrified.  The disciples lived in fear and doubt, because they did not believe in Jesus’ presence with them.  Their fear was only stilled when Jesus said to them: “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Unfortunately, like the disciples of old and my son, Joshua, we don’t always maintain the childlike faith God wants us to possess.  When difficulties come we live in fear because we forget Jesus’ promises to be with us.  In Joshua 1:5-6, God promises: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage.”  In Isaiah 43, God leaves us with these words: “Feat not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (1b-2a).  Shortly before Jesus’ ascension He assured us: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).  We are even assured of the Lord’s presence with us at the hour of our own death: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with Me” (Psalm 23:4).

To cast doubt from our lives and live by faith, it is critical that we constantly turn to God’s Word and hear His voice that assures us of His presence with us.  We may not always see His hand, but through His Word we can hear His voice and live in the blessed assurance that He is with us to work out all things for good to them that love God.

A third cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we fail to trust in His power.

Once the impulsive Peter recognized Jesus he wanted to get out of the boat and walk to Him.  “Come,” Jesus said.  This request of Peter spoke to his love for the Lord and his faith in Christ.  All went well for Peter as he exited the boat.  He walked on water until he took his focus off of Jesus and saw the wind and the waves.  Dwelling on the storm rather than on Jesus, Peter quickly sank.

Sink is what happens to us when we take our eyes off of Jesus and no longer trust in His unwavering power and love.  The cross upon which Jesus died for our sins and the empty tomb from which He rose from the dead assure us that we are more than conquerors through Him Who has loved us.  Resting our faith on Jesus allows us to face every situation and circumstance in life with the certainty that Christ will safely see us through all life’s storms and bring us to the shores of heavenly glory.

Faith in Christ does not mean we will be free from experiencing any pressures or difficulties in this life.  Faith in Christ assures us that God has a purpose for all the things we encounter and that He is present with us so that by His power we can make it through all the storms of life and be the better because of them.

Today Jesus reaches out to us as He reached out to Peter in our text.  He is drawing us to Himself and saying: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  By virtue of what the Lord has taught us today may we be strengthened in our faith to know that Jesus pilots our lives that we may be with Him in heaven.  Amen.

The Rallying Point of a Thankful Heart by Roger Rohde

The Rallying Point of a Thankful Heart

Psalm 136

There is no question that one of God’s most challenging commands is for us to give Him thanks.  The concept of thanking God runs throughout the pages of Scripture.  This giving of thanks is commanded of us by God not only when things go to our liking, but He commands us to give thanks in every and all circumstances.  A passage that clearly states this is I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

This concept of giving thanks to God in all circumstances called to mind a Southern Gospel song I have come to love.  It is entitled, “On the Mountain.”  The words of the song go like this: “Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain And you’ve got peace of mind, like you’ve never known But things change, when you’re down in the valley Don’t lose faith, for your never alone.  For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley When things go wrong, He’ll make them right And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times The God of the day, is still God in the night.  We talk of faith way up on the mountain But talk comes easy, when life’s at its best Now it’s down in the valley, trials and temptations That’s where your faith if really put into the test.  For the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley, When things go wrong, He’ll make them right And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times The God of the day, is still God in the night.”  The point of self-examination in this song is quite clear.  We are people of faith when all is well, but what about when we are in the valley?  Do we still thank God?

The rallying point to a thankful heart is not the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but the fact that the Lord’s love is steadfast.  The Lord loves and cares for us whether we are on a mountain or in a valley, whether the circumstances are bright like the day or dark like the night.

Our God is good.  This is a hidden concept that comes out in the very first line of our text, when it states: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”  Change that last word ever so slightly and you have this meaning: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is God.  Ironically such a change in translation is not manipulative, because in the ancient language “good” and “God” are derived from the same word.  We can thank the Lord in all circumstances because He is God in the good times and bad times, in the day and in the night.  The rallying point to a thankful heart is the steadfast love of the Lord.

Our text goes on to describe the significance of God’s steadfast love.  First, because of God’s steadfast love we have the gift of life and all the good things that surround our lives here on earth.  Verses 5-9 speak of the creative work of God.  This brings us to remember the significance of the first two chapters of Scripture which speak of God’s creative work in detail.  You, I and the universe in which we live have not come to be by chance or some self-regeneration.  The world we know and the people in it are the result of God’s wisdom and power that created all things.

Most certainly today’s world is no longer perfect as God had first made it, because man made a choice to forsake the will and way of God by eating from the forbidden tree.  Yet even though man disobeyed God, God’s steadfast love would not let His creation go down the tubes.  To this day God continues to bless us with everything that supports our body and life.  We read near the end of today’s text: “He gives food to all flesh, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

You and I aren’t always sitting on a mountaintop in our lives, but that does not mean God has ceased to love and care for us.  We have always had air to breathe and food to eat.  We have always had a roof over our heads, something to wear, and someone who cares.  Unfortunately, we don’t always thank the Lord for His creative and providential care, because we lose sight of these truths.  A Sunday school teacher had this brought home to her when she asked her class where they got all the things they needed to live.  Without hesitation the answer rang out, “Walmart.”  Like that Sunday school class, we forget Who is the ultimate source of all the food we have to eat, the clothes that is in our closets, and the roof that is over our heads.  There are so many middlemen between these things we have and the God Who gives them to us that Walmart rather than God is seen as the great provider.

The truth found in the First Article of the Apostles’’ Creed is God is our Creator and Provider, and that we are to give Him thanks all of our days.  His creative and providential hand shows us that His steadfast love endures forever.

Second, God’s steadfast love is the rallying point for a thankful heart, because God’s love is the basis of our eternal salvation.  Our text makes us mindful of this as it refers to how God’s hand delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and brought them safely into the promised land of Canaan.

The Bible tells us that we were in bondage as we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  We had no way of saving ourselves, because we were in such bondage from the time our mothers conceived us (Psalm 51:5).  It is while we were in this state that God demonstrates His love for us.  God sent His believed Son to the cross of Calvary to suffer and die that the debt of our sins would be paid.  He took on our sins and was punished as though He were the sinner, so that through the lifeblood He shed we would be His forgiven children and heirs of everlasting life in heaven.

God now asks us: “If I did that for you while you were my enemies, will I not in My steadfast love care for you until you enter the eternal home in heaven that I have prepared for you” (Romans 8:32)?  The truth is that God in His love cares for us, watches over us, and will be our God in the valleys as well as on the mountains.  Because of His steadfast love, we can give thanks to Him in all circumstances.  Amen.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church All rights reserved 2017