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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our Response to God’s Gifts - December 11, 2016 - Third Sunday in Advent - Text: Isaiah 35:1-10


Two weeks ago we talked about what a good and gracious gift giving God we have. We were reminded that our faith life and faith walk are not of our choosing, earning or deserving, but our faith life and faith walk are God’s doing, they are a response to all that God has done, all that He does and all that He will continue to do in and through us. It is God who has chosen us, put faith in our hearts and through His very means of grace continues to strengthen and keep us in faith. Our faith life and faith walk are a response of faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit and so, our actions, our lives reflect that faith which has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. This is shown in our lives through our regular divine service and Bible class attendance, through our speaking words of encouragement and building up one another, through our giving of our time, our talents and our treasure in service to God and His kingdom. Our text for this morning is another reminder of what a good and gracious gift giving God we have and how wonderful His gifts truly are.
 
In verses one through four we read about the first response to what God gives. “1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; 2it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’” (v. 1-4).
 
The first response to what the Lord gives is the response of the whole earth. The whole earth will rejoice greatly and shout for joy, because even the whole world is waiting in eager anticipation of Christ second coming. The whole world is waiting for Christ’s second coming because it too is enslaved to sin, just like human beings. The whole world is waiting to be recreated and made perfect again, like it was before the fall into sin. And when it has been recreated the whole world will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
 
The glory of the Lord will be given to all. The whole world, plants and animals, great and small, all will be given the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is the original perfection in which all things were created.
 
The glory of the Lord will overcome us. We will all be perfect. Then we will build up each other, the strong building up the weak. There will be no struggle for authority, for power, or for might, or seeming authority, power or might. We will all be perfect and live in perfect harmony.
 
In His second coming God will make all things new on the earth as we read picking up at verses five, “5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes” (v. 5-7)
 
The Lord will grant physical healing to all. There will be no more diseases, no more broken bodies, no more blindness, no more deafness, no more pain and suffering, no more ailments of any kind. Our bodies will be healed completely and made perfect.
 
The whole earth, the ground and all, will be healed of original sin. Man will no longer need to toil and labor, pulling weeds, or chopping down thorns. There will no longer be places that lack water, nor places that have too much water. The whole world, all of creation will be perfect. All these things will happen because God will make these things happen.
 
For the believers in Jesus Christ, for the faithful, they will follow the way to heaven as we read picking up at verses eight, “8And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there” (v. 8-9).
 
The way of holiness will be the highway that leads to heaven. This way will be for those made righteous by God. Do not misunderstand what Isaiah is saying. It is not our righteousness, but God’s righteousness put on us at our baptism, earned for us by Jesus death and resurrection. God’s holiness will be the highway that leads to heaven.
 
The heathen, the unclean, the unbeliever will not be allowed on this highway. Isaiah is very specific when he says that “The unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way.”
 
And on this highway there will be no fear because there will be no enemies, they will all have been defeated. This highway will be a protected highway, protected from all harm and danger, from all evil. This highway will be a highway for the Lord’s people.
 
Our response is further described in verse ten. “10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (v. 10).
 
If you have been following our theme from two weeks ago and today, it should not surprise you when I say that our response of faith is first and foremost to be given the gifts God has to give. We are given His spiritual gifts by being in divine service and Bible class, by having family and personal devotions, by remembering our baptism and attending the Lord’s Supper. We also are given God’s gifts by acknowledging that He is the giver of all.
 
This also means that the opposite is true, that is that we refuse the gifts God give by not having regular attendance in divine service and Bible class, by not having family and personal devotions, by not remembering our Baptism and attending the Lord’s Supper, for to not take part in the gifts God gives is gift refusal and is sin. Thus, it is imperative that first and foremost we are given to!
 
Next we respond by giving ourselves to the Lord, as He motivates us to do so and only as He motivates us to do so. I have said it before and I will say it again, God does not want our money, He does not want anything from us, as if we have anything that He would need from us. God is God and He has everything and everything is His. He is the one who gives in the first place. What God wants is, God want us. He wants us to be in divine service where He can give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. He wants us to be in Bible class. He wants us to have personal and family devotions. God wants us, He wants you and me. And He wants to pour out His good gifts and blessings on us. When God has us, all the other things will fall into place. Let me say that again, when God has us, all the other things will fall into place. It is God who comes to us through the means of grace, through the Word, the Bible, through Confession and Absolution and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith and to keep us in our faith. It is Jesus death and resurrection that has won for us forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven and it is through His means of grace that He lavishly pours out on us all these gifts.
 
After being given to from the Lord, we respond by singing praises to His name. We respond by praying and thanking Him for His many good gifts and blessings.
 
I want to make sure that we understand, our faith life and faith walk is not a have too, but it is a get to, it is not responding to God because He needs something from me. My faith life and faith walk is my responding to what the Lord has done for me and continues to do for me, what the Lord has given to me and what He continues to give to me. Our faith life and faith walk is what Christians do because of our need to respond to the many good gifts and blessings we have been given from the Lord. It is the fact that we just cannot help it, we must respond. And one’s faith life and faith walk is a privilege meant only for believers.
 
Fourteen and a half years ago God, through you, extended a call to me to be your pastor. In contemplating this call one person told me, “You don’t want to go there, that’s a dying congregation.” Well, two responses crossed my mind. First, dying congregations need a pastor too, but second, is it really dying? Since I have been here I have seen some members of this congregation pass away, and literally die, but I have also seen many children born and many new young families become a part of this congregation so that, really this congregation is not getting older, but younger. I have also witnessed many members transfer from sister congregations.  However, my concern is that this still may be a dying congregation. I say that because, unfortunately this congregation seems to follow the same pattern of most all congregations, that is that on any given Sunday 60-70% of the members refuse the gifts God has to give by absenting themselves from divine service and Bible Class. I have to tell you, I hurt for God because so many people reject Him each and every Sunday morning. And this rejection is after He has given and has done so much for each one of us, as we have been reviewing two Sunday’s ago and this Sunday and as we have been hearing on our Wednesday mid-week services.
 
I do not want to sound like a clanging cymbal or a noise gong, but I must reiterate, our time on this earth is short. Our time on this earth is fast and fleeting. And, especially compared to eternity, our time on this earth is nothing. And so I would encourage you, move your eyes and your focus off this world and the things of this world. Instead, move your eyes to focus on what lays ahead, on the goal of eternal life. And then, with the Lord’s help, motivation and prompting, do everything to make sure you are ready. Ladies and gentlemen, I encourage you, I urge you, I exhort you to be given the gifts as the Lord gives them!
 
In a moment we will confess our faith, our faith as Christians, using the Apostle’s Creed. This is our statement of what we believe. This is our statement which guides our faith life and faith walk. My pray continues to be that God will continue to give to you all the good gifts and blessings He has to give through the very means He has to give them, most especially His forgiveness and strengthening of faith, so that in the end, when we pass on to Him, or when He comes to us, we may all together, with all the saints who have gone on before us, stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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