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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, February 17, 2019

God’s Warning and Encouragement - February 17, 2019 - Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Jeremiah 17:5-8

You shall have no other gods before me. What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things. With these words God begins His moral law, the Ten Commandments. And if we could keep this first commandment we would be able to keep them all. Our problem is, of course, that we cannot even keep this very first one. Indeed, how often it is that we go running after other gods and idols who are not God. On any given Sunday churches across the world, across our nation and even our own church is lacking those who have gone running after other gods failing to be where His gifts are being given out, the Divine Service. Our text for today is God’s Word to the children of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, but do not think they are not His Word of warning and blessing to us today. Indeed, all God’s Word is His Word to us.
 
Our text begins with words of warning even words of a curse. “5Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land” (v. 5, 6). God, speaking through Jeremiah tells us that cursed is the man who trusts in man. We live in a world where too many people put to much trust in humanity as if humanity is the answer to life. We trust in government. We trust in science. We trust in our own self reliance, as if we can change the world.
 
God through Jeremiah warns us that cursed is the one whose heart turns away from the Lord.  We mistakenly trust the idea that human beings are by nature good. We are told to look inside ourselves for the answer to life’s questions. Indeed, we know that when we look inside ourselves all we find is that we are lost and condemned sinners, unable to save ourselves.
 
God through Jeremiah warns us that the cursed one is like a shrub in the desert with no water. When we depend on ourselves, when we look inside ourselves all we can see is our sinful human nature. We see that every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. We see that we are indeed dry to the bone with a lack of the Lord’s blessings even His greatest gift, forgiveness of sins.
 
God through Jeremiah warns us that the cursed one shall never be satisfied. We live in a world which touts what we call a theology of glory. There are those that preach what itching ears want to hear, that God’s desire is that you have all that you want, that God desires that you are rich, powerful, and famous. Indeed, as the world strives for the things of this world there is no satisfaction. One who chases after the things of this world is chasing after the wind and will never have peace.
 
But there is good news. God does not leave Israel, nor us wanting. He goes on to speak words of blessing. “7“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (V. 7, 8).
 
God through Jeremiah tells us that blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. The one who trusts in the Lord is the one whose desire is to be given the gifts and blessings the Lord has to give, indeed the one who is blessed is the one who desires, more than anything else, to be where and when the gifts of God are given out, which is what it means to have no other gods, to fear, love and trust in God above all things. The one who is blessed desires to make regular, every Sunday and diligent, as often as possible, use of the means of grace, those means God gives through which He gives all the gifts and blessings He has to give.
 
God through Jeremiah tells us that the one who is blessed is like a tree planted by water. Indeed, what better place could one plant a tree than by a source of water from which the tree gets life? What better place for a Christian to be planted than to be planted where God gives out His gifts, the place that distributes the means of grace. As King David said, I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord. Indeed, there is no better place to be planted than to be planted where the means of grace are present and the gifts of God are given out, the Divine Service.
 
God through Jeremiah tells us that the one who is blessed is not bothered by heat, not anxious about water. Certainly we may understand God’s Word as a glimpse of heaven. Heaven is a wonderful place filled with God’s glory and grace. Heaven is a place of perfection. The older I get the more my thoughts drift heavenward and the joy that awaits. The older I get the faster time seems to be rushing by and I begin to contemplate even more what is important in this world. When we are young we tend to think that time moves rather slowly and that a hundred years is a long time. As we get older we realize that compared to eternity, forever, a hundred years is merely a snap of the finger. And when we realize that heaven is a place of complete and unending joy we begin to realize that there may not be much of what has happened in this world that we will dwell on. Indeed, it is sad that we put so much time and energy, emotion and frustration on the unimportant things of this world and very often to the neglect of what is most important, getting ourselves ready, making sure we are ready and getting others ready for what is most important, our eternal life in heaven where we will not be bothered by heat nor anxious about water.
 
God through Jeremiah tells us that the one who is blessed does not cease to bear fruit. As you have heard me say many times over the past few weeks, God has called us to and given us life, faith, forgiveness, gifts, talents and abilities, even a job and career. He has given us to be priests in the priesthood of believers so that we live our lives in our vocations as living sacrifices serving Him by serving others. This service is our fruit of faith. As you have heard me say, we do not need to tell people our priorities because we live them. We make time for what is important. Indeed the fruit of our faith is the way we live and how we live, how we use the time, gifts, talents and abilities God gives us. And as God blesses us so we cannot help but bear fruit.
 
What does this mean? God’s word to the children of Israel through Jeremiah is His warning to us today. His warning is to not trust in ourselves. Because we are conceived and born in sin and because God’s demand is perfection, we have no way of saving ourselves. We must look outside ourselves for our salvation. We must look to Jesus.
 
God’s warning is to not trust in fallible man. Here again, what can man do. As we look at the history of God’s chosen people, the children of Israel we see a glimpse of our own lives. We see how our lives are lives of ups and down, lives of trusting in God and lives of wavering. Our lives are filled with sin and confession and we rejoice in the absolution God gives. It is because of our sinful nature that we return every Sunday to Divine Service and begin the service confessing our sins so that we might hear the greatest words we can hear, that our sins are forgiven.
 
God’s warning is to not think we can save ourselves. When we hear the Law and fail to hear the Gospel we have a tendency either to despair or to think we can save ourselves, that is we tend to be self-righteous. It is only as we hear the Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ perfect life for us, in our stead, His taking our sins, His suffering and dying, paying the price for ours sins that we truly understand that He is the One who comes to us from outside us to redeem us, to buy us back to make us right with Himself.
 
God’s encouragement then is to trust in Him and Him alone. I know my nature. I know that I make mistakes. I know I make wrong choices. I know I cannot depend on myself. But, at the same time I know that God is perfect and holy. I know that God never makes mistakes. I know that God loves me and that I can depend on Him and Him alone. I know that even before He began creating the world God had me in mind. He looked through time and saw me and chose me to be His child. And I know that I can trust and depend on God and God alone.
 
God promises us gifts and blessings. God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you. God gives His gifts and gives His gifts and gives His gifts. God gives His gifts through the means He has given to give us His gifts, His means of grace. God gives life, physical life at conception. God gives faith and forgiveness through the waters of Holy Baptism. God gives forgiveness of sins through confession and the words of absolution, your sins are forgiven. God gives and strengthens faith through His Holy Word, read and heard. God gives us His body and blood to eat and drink in His Holy Supper so that He becomes a part of us. His life becomes our life. His suffering and death become our suffering and death. His resurrection becomes our resurrection and His eternal life becomes our eternal life.
 
God’s promise is eternal joy. As I said, heaven is a wonderful place, filled with God’s glory and grace. Heaven is a place of perfect and eternal joy, eternal, forever joy. Thanks be to God, that unworthy though we are, He makes us worthy. He makes us right with Himself. He gives us the promise, the hope, the certainty of the joy of heaven with Him, through His Son.
 
How is this done? God’s demand is for us to be perfect and we are not and cannot be perfect, so He takes care of that for us. God sent Jesus, God Himself in human flesh and blood to live for us, to take our sins, to suffer hell and die for us and to rise for us defeating sin, death and the devil. Jesus has earned for us and gives us forgiveness of all our sins, once for all. All we can do is to reject that forgiveness and unfortunately time and again people reject and continually reject that forgiveness. Forgiveness is rejected when the means of grace are shunned and rejected. Forgiveness is rejected when we fail to confess our sins thinking we are not sinful or at least not as sinful as the next person. Thanks be to Jesus that His offer and His giving forgiveness is always available, at least until our time on this earth is over. You see, the unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit is dying in unbelief, that is dying rejecting the gifts of God. Which is why it is so important that we take the time and make the time to make sure we are lavished with the gifts of God, faith, forgiveness and salvation and that we strive to share the good news with others so they might be saved as well.
 
How true it is that we get it right when we point to Jesus and just to Jesus. Jesus gives life. Jesus gives new life. Jesus gives forgiveness of sins and eternal life. God loves you so much and He has so much He desires to pour out on you and give to you.
 
Let me encourage you as Jeremiah, do not trust in man nor in yourself. Trust in God, trust in Jesus. Have a desire to be given the gifts of God through the means He gives His gifts, His means of grace. Know that God loves you so much that He sent His Only Son to live for you and die for you. He makes you right with Himself. And His desire is to continue to pour out on you and lavish you with His gifts, faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And He stirs in us to rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Here am I! Send Me. - February 10/2019 - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Isaiah 6:1-8 [9-13]

Certainly you have heard the, shall we say, great commission “joke” that begins with God’s call, “Who will go and work today?” and the humorous response, “Here and I, send him, send her!” Unfortunately, what makes that “joke” funny is the fact that there is probably more truth than fiction in that call and response. This morning in our Gospel reading we have the call and sending of Peter, James and John, to be fishers of men. In our Epistle lesson we have Paul’s encouragement to speak words of understanding to others. And in our text from the Old Testament reading we have the call and sending of Isaiah.
 
One note of interest, before we get to our text, is this, and I know I have at least mentioned this before, but it is certainly worth repeating, at least in our context this morning. Many years ago, I distinctly recall a pastor preaching on the great commission passage of Matthew twenty-eight, where Jesus says to “19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20), and the pastor suggested that rather than this being a passage of great commissioning, it was a passage of God’s great promise, “I am with you always.” Personally, I am of the conviction that this preacher is right, that this is a passage of God’s great promise and His promise is that “as we are going,” and as we talked about last week, that is as we are living our lives in our vocations, we are to live lives as priests, as living sacrifices, always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus. This is our calling from God and His promise to us, that He will never leave us nor will He forsake us and that He will give us the words and the courage to speak the words He gives us to say..
    So, let us get to our text and the calling of Isaiah. Our text begins with the heavenly scene being set, we read beginning at verse one, “1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (v.1-3). The first thing that Isaiah, and we notice, is that the Lord’s glory filled the temple, in other words, God is present.
 
The second thing we might notice is that the seraphim give reverence to God and speak the Trinitarian praise. Certainly this is evidence of the fact that we do worship a God who has revealed and continually reveals Himself to us as a three in one, triune, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Also, here we are shown that the angels serve the purpose of serving God and giving Him glory.
 
As we move on in our text, we hear Isaiah’s confession and absolution, picking up at verse four, “4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (v. 4-7). Isaiah knows he cannot stand in God’s presence and so he confesses his sins. Certainly Isaiah’s words are words of warning and example to us in our own sinful lives. We do not stand before the Lord, but when we come into His presence we too come with confession on our lips.
 
As for Isaiah, upon offering his confession, the seraphim offers absolution with the coal and the announcement that his sins have been taken away, they have been atoned for. Every Sunday morning we begin our divine service with confession and when we confess our sins, we hear the Lord announce to us, through the voice and word of our pastor, that our sins are forgiven and we know for certain, as we confession, so our sins are forgiven, our sins have been taken away, our sins have been atoned for, not by our pastor, but by Jesus.
 
After confession and absolution, we hear God’s call to Isaiah and His message. We pick up at verse eight,  “8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ 9And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” 10Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’ 11Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: ‘Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump”(v. 8-13). God calls and Isaiah answers.
 
God’s message is a message of desolation. God’s message is a warning and although the people hear God’s message and warning, they do not understand and this lack of understanding is a part of God’s punishment. When Isaiah asks, “how long will this punishment lasts” God’s answer is that it will last as long as necessary, but God also promises that there will be a remnant.
 
So, as usual we ask, what does this mean? Again this morning we are reminded that God is the prime mover. God moves first. God created us and God calls us. Just as God called Isaiah to recognize His glory, power, might and authority so God calls us to recognize His glory, power, might and authority. And this is not an easy task as we might think. The world proclaims and would have us believe that there is no God, that there is no creator, but that this world happened along by itself. The world would have us believe that all things arose spontaneously out of nothing and that order arranged itself out of disorder. For us Christians to recognize and proclaim order and to recognize and give honor to God for His glory, power, might and authority is not an easy thing to do, because it brings ridicule and condemnation from the world, yet, what else can we do, as God moves and stirs in us to give glory to Him.
 
As we said last week and many times before, God calls us. He calls us to faith, which He does through the means of Holy Baptism as well as through His Holy Word. God also calls us to divine service. God has so much that He wants to give to us and His desire is for us to be where He delivers His gifts, in divine service and Bible class, making regular, every Sunday and every day, and diligent, whenever offered, use of His means of grace.
 
God gives life at conception. God calls us to faith and God calls us to vocation. Yes, God calls us and gives us His great promise as well. God’s call is that we are to be His priests, a part of His royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own people. God calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices to Him so that others see our good works and give glory to Him. Not that we do this perfectly, but that He is with us to help us to live and do so as forgiven and redeemed children.
 
In order to help us to be His people, God calls us to recognize His salvation. This too is more often more difficult than it sounds. We live in a world where we are taught that there is nothing free, but that there are always strings attached. We live in a world where we are taught that we must do something for God, that our eternal salvation is somehow dependent on us and what we do. We live in a world where we like to compare ourselves with others and we believe that we can be good enough and we can do enough good things to make ourselves right before God. As a matter of fact, we are taught to feel good about ourselves so much that we believe that we only need Jesus a little for our salvation, at least not as much as the person who is so much a bigger sinner than we are, at least in our own minds.
 
And so, God calls us to recognize how sinful we truly are and we do this, we recognize our sinfulness only when we compare ourselves to Jesus, the sinless, spotless, perfect and holy Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Certainly we might compare ourselves with others and so we might think of ourselves that we are rather good people, but if we are going to make any comparison, we must compare ourselves with Jesus and then we do find ourselves wanting. When we compare ourselves with Jesus we then confession as Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” And when we confession our sins we hear our Lord’s most beautiful words of absolution that is that our sins have already been forgiven.
 
God also calls us to be faithful. Let me say that again so you do not misunderstand. God calls us to be faithful. He does not call us to be successful, whatever that might mean, but He does call us to be faithful. God does not call us to any type of worldly success, which is the temptation of this world, but He calls us to be faithful. There are times I like to put things into an eternal perspective. Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Millions of people watched the ball game and even more the commercials, and that is okay, but what connection is there between this game and heaven? We are people who like to dream big. How often, especially as children, and perhaps as adults, have we dreamed of changing the world? What would it be like if we were rich and famous? What would it be like if we were playing in the Super Bowl? Well, thinking in terms of eternity, and the perfect joy of heaven, when we are in heaven how often do you think the Super Bowl of 2019 will be discussed? In terms of eternity, since heaven is our home, since our life on this earth is short, how important is it that we have lots of money, that we have a new car or a new house, or any of the amenities we have? Again, God’s call is that we are faithful, even unto death.
 
Interestingly enough, as you have heard me say time and again, God calls us and He gives to us. God calls us into being, that is He gives us life at conception. God calls us to and gives us faith, in particular through the means of Holy Baptism and His Word. God calls to us and gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution, as well as through His Word and His Holy Supper. God calls us to vocation, to live lives of faith. God calls us to be faithful. And God works and stirs in us to respond to all He gives to us and does for us.
 
Please hear God’s Word to Isaiah and His Word to you this morning, “7bYour guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. 8[So hear] the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ [And answer,] ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Is. 6:7b-8). May the Lord bless you as a forgiven priest in the priesthood of believers as you hear God’s call and as He works in you to be a priest living your life as a living sacrifice to Him. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

I Knew You - February 3, 2019 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10 [17-19]

If you walked into an ice cream parlor and ordered a scoop of ice cream you might think it would be rather strange if the attendant gave you the ice cream in a bowl but did not give you a spoon with which to eat it. You might think it even more strange if the server asked you if you brought your own bowl, or simply asked you to stick out your hands. Of course, they do not give you ice cream in the first place, you have to purchase it and so certainly you would expect that for the price you would get the bowl and spoon as well.
 
When it comes to our God, we rejoice in the fact that we do not purchase any of the blessings He pours out on us. If we did purchase them they would no longer be gift and actually we know that the price is higher than we could pay anyway. The price for sin, the cost of forgiveness is death, physical human death. Blood had to be shed. With our God, when He gives us the gifts He has to give, He gives us all His gifts and even more. God gives us life, at conception. God gives us faith, forgiveness and new life, through His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins through confession and His Words of absolution. God gives us strengthening of faith through His Word and through His Body and Blood in His Holy Meal. God gives us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and so much more.
 
One great example of what a great, gift giving God we have is in our text for this morning. In our Old Testament reading we have the call of God to Jeremiah as a Prophet. God’s calling of Jeremiah is similar to His calling of us, at least in His calling us to life, to faith and to vocation. Our text begins by reminding us that God’s call to Jeremiah was even before He was conceived. We begin at verse four, “4Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (v. 4-5). Here again, we are reminded that even before we were conceived, even before the Lord began creating the world, He had us in mind!
 
God called Jeremiah, yet, in a way similar to Moses, Jeremiah protested. His first excuse was that he was too young. We pick up at verse six, “6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (v. 6). God calls each of us to faith and He calls us to our vocations, that is He calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices so that others may see our good works and give glory to the Lord, yet how often do we protest that we cannot do what God calls us to do.
 
Although Jeremiah protested, God answered his protest. God told Jeremiah He would give him the words to speak. We pick up at verse seven, “7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (v. 7-10). And so, God also gives us His authority to speak His Word in His name and He promises us that He will be with us to the end of the age and He will give us the words to speak so that it is not we who are speaking but it is He who is speaking through us.
 
Finally, God promised Jeremiah that He would give him protection and confidence. We pick up at verse seventeen, “17But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (v. 17-19) God’s promise to us is that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
 
Now, let us take a closer look at God’s gifts and calling for us. As you have heard me say time and again, God gives us life at conception. There really is no mystery as to when life begins or when a person is a human being. It does not matter what you call the pre-born child in the womb, whether you call it a zygote or a fetus, or any other name, because from the moment of conception it is a human being. It is not a cat or dog or mouse or horse, it is a human being. It has all the necessary DNA programing, all the necessary genetic information without anything needing to be added so that all that is needed is nutrition, nourishment and it grows bigger and bigger as a baby. And certainly we understand that at conception God gives us each an eternal soul.
 
As Christians, as believers in Jesus, we know, we believe that God even knew us from before He began creating. Remember, God does not live in time as we do. God lives in the eternal present so He is able to look through, what amounts to us, as time, and He is able and He does see us, even before He created us. And we know, we believe that He has called us to faith even before He began creating us.
 
Although God knows us, and calls us to faith even before He began creating, it is while we are in the womb and our mother attends Divine Service that we hear God’s Word and He works and gives us faith. Also, it is after we are born that God’s call is even more manifest to us and that call is through the external means of grace, especially the means of Holy Baptism. Remember, God’s usual way of dealing with us is not directly, but indirectly, not immediately, but mediately, through a mediator, through a means and in particularly through the means of grace; the Word of God, the Bible; confession and absolution; and the sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these means that the Lord gives us the good gifts and blessings He has to give; faith, forgiveness and life, even eternal life.
 
God gives us life, at conception. God gives us new life, faith and forgiveness, even eternal life especially through Holy Baptism and God also calls us to vocation. It is through our vocation that we serve God by serving others. Whether we are married or single, a husband or a wife, an employer or employee, no matter what our vocation, we are to use our vocation not for self service but to serve others.
 
And we understand that as we are serving others in our vocation so, we are serving God. Remember, God does not need anything from us, as if we would have something to give to Him. He is the prime mover. He gives and we are given to. He gives life, faith, forgiveness. He also gives us gifts, talents and abilities as well as a job or career in which He gives us the privilege to serve Him by serving others.
 
Might I remind you again that we are all priests in the priesthood of all believers. The pastor is not a priest. He does not offer sacrifices. As Christians, as believers in Jesus we are His chosen people. We are a holy nation. We are a priesthood of believers and as priests we do offer sacrifices, that is we offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord.
 
God gives us life at conception. God calls us to and gives us faith through His means of grace and God calls us to our vocation. Finally, God calls some, not all, but some men into the office of Holy Ministry.
 
What does this mean? Have you ever made a promise that you could not keep? Or maybe the question should be, how often have we made promises we cannot keep? And certainly we have had promises made to us that have not been kept. Our problem is that we are conceived and born in sin, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, and we cannot depend on ourselves. When we look inside ourselves we only find sin and disappointment. In order to be confident in our faith we must look outside ourselves, we must look to Christ and the cross, we must look to the Lord. And when we look to the Lord, when we rest on His promise we can be confident in our salvation. Because our salvation comes from outside us, because our salvation comes from God, who makes and keeps all His promises, we can be confident that we are saved.
 
The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden and it was set at death, physical death, our bodies will die, and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death, our souls will be eternally separated from God. Because we are conceived and born in sin, we cannot pay our own debt. Only someone, who was perfect and holy, only someone who had never sinned had to pay our debt and that is what Jesus did. Thus, we can be confident in our forgiveness because it has been earned for us and it has been given to us and it comes to us from outside of us.
 
Finally, we can be confident in our future because it has been set, earned and given to us from outside of us by God. Remember, God does not need anything from us, rather He gives everything to us. And when God gives to us, He gives us the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. It all begins and ends with the Lord. He gives life at conception. He gives new life through Holy Baptism. He gives forgiveness through confession and absolution. He gives forgiveness and participation in His life, death and resurrection through His Body and Blood in His Holy Supper, He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Holy Word. He gives and gives and gives and we are given to. All this gift giving is why our desire as Christians, more than anything else is to always be when and where His gifts are given out so that we might be given more and more.
 
I pray that God’s Word this morning is a Word of encouragement for you, both in your faith and in your faith walk. So, to encourage you, I want to leave you with God’s Word to Jeremiah, with one word changed, and as you hear His Word to Jeremiah, listen to the fact that this Word is to you as well. As God told Jeremiah, so He tells you, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a [priest] to the nations.” “8Do not be afraid [of them,] for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” “9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” We, you and I, have God’s Word and promise which are sure and certain. My prayer for you is that you might be strengthened through His Word and always ready to respond giving an answer for the hope that you have in Christ. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.