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12th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - Series B

Text: Ephesians 4:17-5:2

Title: “Be Imitators of God”

Date: Sunday, August 12, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Hopefully there has never been a time in your life when you deliberately wanted to make someone sad. But the reality is that in your lifetime, you probably will make or have made someone sad…perhaps very sad. All too often we hurt the feelings of the very people we love using harsh, stinging words. It goes without saying that with sin in this world and in our lives, there is going to be sadness. And worst of all…we make our Lord sad with our sins of what we do and don’t do every single day of our lives. This “sadness of God” is a human term we apply to the Lord. It helps us to understand that our sins have separated us from our God. Our sins keep us from understanding God’s will perfectly in our lives on earth and from fully understanding God’s great unconditional love and forgiveness for us sinners.

         In our sermon text, St. Paul’s inspiring words to the church in Ephesus is unique. That is because this apostle of Christ does not address any specific problems in this church. Even though Paul is a prisoner in Rome, he writes to encourage believers in Jesus to live their Christian life daily in unconditional love and forgiveness. He writes encouraging believers to live out their Christian life until they are called to their eternal rest. Like you and me, these followers of the Living Bread…Jesus Christ…are new creatures who believe they are saved by grace and who “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (v 24)
         Ephesians 4 closes out with Paul’s encouragement to a live full Christian life so as to not grieve or sadden the Holy Spirit (cf. v 30a) due to the promise that the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith and guarantees eternal life. (cf. v 30b) With this in mind and to help you live a full Christian life, St. Paul makes a list of negative characteristics in verse 31 that grieve the Holy Spirit. These negative traits move from bad to worse. “Bitterness, rage, and anger” deal with emotional baggage bothering believers. “Brawling and slander” point to fighting and name-calling that saddens God. “Malice” is every form of hatred that is to be removed from the hearts of every disciple of Christ. Hatred harboring in our hearts is very, very dangerous because hatred is our natural condition that leads to vengeance, violence, and even murder.

Why are there such feelings in the church at Ephesus? There was a time when the Jews and Gentiles did not get along with each other. But now that these two different groups of people are thrown together as followers and worshipers of Jesus Christ…there are still some hard feelings lingering. Since all humankind is born with original sin inherited from Adam and Eve, evil lurks in the dark corners of our hearts. "For out of the heart,” says Paul, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Mt 15:19) that no one on their own can escape.

American author, educator, and clergyman…Henry Van Dyke (1852 – 1933) once wrote: “Cannibalism is dying out among barbarous tribes, but it still survives among the most highly civilized peoples…. If you wish to serve up somebody’s character at a social entertainment or pick the bones of somebody’s reputation in a quiet corner, you’ll find ready guests and almost incredible appetites.“ Of those ready guests with incredible appetites, it is sad to say that Christians are often among those ready guests with incredible appetites, even though we are tempted to wrongly think we are not as bad as the next person. Or we might consider many others to be far worse than ourselves. But neither one is really the truth because whoever sins against one law of God is guilty of breaking the whole law of God. Since our sinful hearts are filled with evil all the time, we are guilty…guilty…guilty! In Romans 8, St. Paul reminds you and me that "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so." (Rom 8:7) Indeed, sin has infected each and every one of us. Sin affects you and me day after day after day. No one is exempt from the curse of sin.

         But God in His grace seeks out the sinner and saves the sinner by His unconditional love. Our response to this is supposed to be to put sinful living behind us. Since you are a Christian, refrain from speaking evil and have a kind, merciful, and loving attitude and behavior toward others. The writer of Proverbs 16:24 writes: "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones." With the strength of the Holy Spirit, you can rid yourself of bitterness, hard-feelings, and anger. That’s because “the mind controlled by the [Holy] Spirit,” St. Paul says, “is life and peace.” (Rom 8:6b)

         With the strength of the Holy Spirit, you are able to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by imitating God with godly lives. (cf. 5:1) Since God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has made you and me His dearly “beloved children,” you and I are to “walk in love” and live lives of unconditional love “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (v 5:2)

As you probably know, this will not happen by your own strength and will power. Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, “I am the bread of life. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn 6:48, 51) This is the same flesh and blood that conquered sin, death, and the devil by dying your death on the cross and then rising to life again to forgive your sins and to give your life and salvation. This is the Living Bread…the Bread of Life…the same flesh and blood that gave His life for the life of the world and now gives to you and me at His Table and in His Holy Supper.

Only by this gracious and awesome love and work of God in Christ Jesus do you know what love is. His love and forgiveness should motivate you to live a life of love and forgiveness. And those who live a life of love and forgiveness will reflect divine kindness and compassion, (cf. Eph 4:32) that was learned from the forgiving Savior…the Bread of Life…Christ the Lord. Before coming to power, Louis XII of France had been cast into prison and kept in chains. Later, in the early 16th century when he did become king, Louis XII was urged to seek revenge on his enemies, but he refused. Instead, he prepared a scroll on which he listed all who had perpetrated crimes against him. Behind every man's name he placed a cross in red ink. When the guilty heard about this, they feared for their lives and fled. However, the king explained, "The cross which I drew beside each name was not a sign of punishment, but a pledge of forgiveness extended for the sake of the crucified Savior, who upon His cross forgave His enemies and prayed for them."
         The love of Christ for His dearly loved children is life changing. The love of Christ in you forgives others even as God has forgiven you. The love of Christ in you is what St. James puts this way: “…the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." (James 3:17) The love of Christ is the motivation that God’s Gospel of salvation in Christ provides for our daily, godly living in this sin-darkened, evil, wicked world. Too many of us try to live or do God’s will by our own strength or emotional willpower but faith cannot and does not work that way.

It is Christ’s undeserved love for you that is to be your motivation to walk in His footsteps. Christ lives in you so that others may see the Savior alive in you. Because the love of Christ is alive and well in each and every heart…of each and every believer…the strength of God is your strength. Christ dwells in your heart and life by grace through faith. Only then will you be able to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice. Only with the power of God’s love in your believing heart will you be an imitator of God…to be like God in true righteousness and holiness in thought, word, and deed. As St. Paul writes in Colossians 3: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col 3:12-13) Amen.

11th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Series B

Text: John 6:22-35

Title: “Wonder Bread”

Date: August 5, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

The people saw the wonders…but they did not see the signs. They saw Jesus heal the sick and drive out demons. They saw Him multiply the loaves and fishes. They heard Him teach with an authority not of this world. But they could not see beyond these wonders. They couldn’t see what these things pointed to. They see the things of this world, but not of the next. They see a man, but they couldn’t believe that this man is God.

         And yet, that is the point of the wonders that Jesus performed. That they wouldn’t be just wonders, but signs pointing to a greater reality. That the people would not just marvel, but believe in the One that the Father had sent (cf. Jn. 6:29)…the One sent to be the Savior of the world. But with eyes firmly focused on the wants and needs of this world, this Savior is not what they want or what they think they need. They don’t want the wonder bread that God can give them…a life they don’t have! Directing their eyes to the things above, this wonder Bread…this greater Bread…this greater Life…the Bread of Life…Jesus Christ proclaims: “Do not labor for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (Jn. 6:27)

         Picture in your mind for a moment, a father away on a business trip. Before coming home, he buys a gift for his little boy…a billfold with a $5.00 bill hidden inside. He returns home and walks into the house…calls for his son…and gives him the gift. The boy is so excited that he grabs the billfold and runs to show his friends before his father is able to explain that there is more to the gift. It was wonderful that the boy was excited about the gift, but he should have contained his enthusiasm until he fully understood and appreciated the total gift. Even so, our mission is to the whole person with the even greater gift of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and new life He brings.

         So…the question is: Do you have eyes too firmly focused on the things of this world and life? Even as Christians, we sadly miss the signs. After all, hasn’t it crossed your mind that if only Jesus were here today multiplying a few loaves of bread and fish, and healing, and teaching, and raising the dead…then our church would be so full that there wouldn’t be enough room for all the people who would come? Wouldn’t that be great? But thinking that way…you are just like the crowds who chased down Jesus that day in our Gospel reading, focusing on the wonders but missing the signs.

         Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is here…and He is performing wonders and signs. For instance, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread, and every day our Lord is doing just that…and for many more than the 5,000 gathered that day on the hillside! But do you realize it? Do you realize that day by day, God is providing you not only food and drink as Luther’s Small Catechism points out, but also clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children…just to name a few of His provisions? (Explanation of the 4th petition) Or do you take these things for-granted, or worse, thank yourself for them? How about your health and healing? Do you take everything that you are and have for-granted? Is it our work…for us? Or is it the work of God…for us?

         What about the signs and wonders that God is working in His Church each day? Relating to this question, here’s a little test for you.  #1: When’s the last time you saw someone raised from the dead? The answer is…the last time you witnessed a baptism. (Rom 6)  #2: When’s the last time you heard God speak to you? The answer is…just a moment ago when you heard the very Word of God read to you. (2 Tim 3)  #3: When’s the last time you practiced for the last day, the final judgment? Answer…this morning, when in confession and absolution you heard the verdict that will be pronounced upon you that day, namely that in Christ you are forgiven, not guilty. (Mt 18; Jn 20; Small Catechism, explanation to the Office of the Keys)  #4: And then what about the wonder bread? That’s an easy one, and by now you’re catching on! It’s here, on this altar, on the Sundays we have Holy Communion. Not just bread and wine, but the body and blood of Jesus Himself. Not just food, but forgiveness. Not just bread, but the bread of life. (Mt. 26)

         Do we fail to see these signs because these wonders come to you and me in such ordinary ways…through such ordinary means? It’s been that way since the beginning, when Satan blinded the eyes of Adam and Eve and focused them on something more, something bigger, something better, something a bit more exciting. Aren’t we following in their steps and being like the folks in the wilderness, grumbling against God…like the people on the hillside that day with ordinary-looking Jesus, asking for another sign?

         Children of God…believe and trust in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! See behind the wonders and see the signs. See the hand of God at work in your life. The free gifts of this life God lovingly gives you now signifies the even greater gift of eternal life that God gives by grace through faith. Believing you have life in His Name is the work of God and why Jesus lived and died and lives again.  (cf. Jn. 20:31)When it comes to your salvation, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or make God love you less. The cross shows us that. God cannot love you more than that or less than that. Your sins have been atoned for…you are forgiven…it is done! The work of God is for you! As Jesus says to the crowd: “This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Jn. 6:29) Martin Luther writes in the explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.” That’s because it is the work of God! And toward this end, our Lord is always working…at all times, in all places, and in all things…that we believe in Him and His work of salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.

         Leo Tolstoy, a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, wrote what the Encyclopedia Britannica describes as "one of the two or three greatest novels in world literature" titled War and Peace. But he also wrote a book in 1879 titled, A Confession, which tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. Rejecting Christianity as a child, Tolstoy went away later in life seeking pleasure. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, he drank heavily, lived promiscuously, and gambled frequently. His ambition was to become wealthy and famous, but nothing satisfied him. One question haunted him to the verge of suicide: "Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death, which awaits me?"

Nicky Gumbel, an Anglican priest and author, explains what triggered Tolstoy's conversion to Christianity. “He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. As he looked around at his contemporaries, he saw that people were not facing up to the first-order questions of life: "Where did I come from?" "Where am I going?" "Who am I?" "What is life all about?" Tolstoy eventually found that the peasant people of Russia had been able to answer these questions through their Christian faith, and he came to realize that only in Jesus Christ do we find the answer that God the Father sent His Son to work the work of God on the cross in order to take our sin away from us and put it on Himself so that we be set free. And to this end, God the Son sends His Spirit to work the work of God in us…to give us the gifts and grace of God in order that we might believe.”

Yes, Jesus is still directing your mind and heart to the things above. To shift your mind from sin to salvation…from what you want to what He wants… from the things of this world to the next…from what you do to what Christ has done for you so that you believe. Eat your Wonder Bread in this life and forever at the banquet feast of Heaven that will never end! Amen.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12 - Series B

Text: Mark 6:45-56

Title: “It Is All About Jesus”

Date: Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Before we get into today’s Gospel reading, let’s take a look at what has happened in the Gospel readings from Mark 6 the last few weeks: First, Jesus is rejected in his hometown of Nazareth. Then the Apostles are sent on mission impossible to heal, preach, and cast out demons in Galilee, which God makes possible. Next, John the Baptizer, who is Jesus’ cousin and the one who cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29b) is beheaded and buried. And last week’s scheduled Gospel reading was Jesus feeding thousands of people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, with 12 big baskets full of leftovers.

         In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus dismisses this same crowd after feeding them late in the day. He then compels His disciples to get in their boat and sail on the Sea of Galilee “to the other side…to Bethsaida.” After bidding them farewell, the Lord goes up on the mountain to get some time alone to pray. All seems well. Hours later, long after the sun has set, Jesus is still “alone on the land” and the disciples are still in “the boat…out on the sea.”

         Then a storm comes up. The water becomes very rough, which is not uncommon on the Sea of Galilee. Knowing how the winds kick up strong at night, Jesus is well aware of their situation. He sees them out there struggling and “…making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” (v 48) Even though several of these men are experienced fishermen and know how to pilot a boat in storms…they are having a very tough time in this storm. In this horrendous weather, their progress to get to their destination is real slow. It has now been around 8 hours of being distressed, tired, and tormented.

         As if that isn’t enough, somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., they think they see a ghost. Seeing Jesus walking on the water, they think He is a ghost and they cry out terrified and literally scared out of their wits. (cf. vv. 49-50a) Who of us here would not have reacted in much the same way? For the disciples, this is simply a case where faith gives way to superstitious fear.

The strange thing about this is not Jesus walking on the water. What is strange is that “…He meant to pass them by.” (v. 48) This is where the brakes slam on for me. What does that mean “…He meant to pass them by?” Did Christ mean to sneak by them but got caught? That doesn’t sound like the Creator of the universe…the One who controls the wind and waves with His very voice! Did Christ mean He wanted to beat them to the other side? Why would Jesus do that?

         Thank the Lord it doesn’t mean any of these things. It has much more significance than that. When the Bible speaks of God passing by someone, it often means He is going to reveal Himself to them. It means He is going to pull back the veil of His glory for a moment and show a glimpse of His power, His holiness, His perfection…and freely give His love.  That is exactly what Jesus is doing here. He wants to pass by them and let them see that He is there with them…that He is powerful and holy…that He is in perfect control of His creation. While it is surprising to see the Lord showing up the way He does, the disciples shouldn’t be shocked. After all, they have seen Jesus heal Simon’s mother-in-law. They have seen Him cure a leper…a paralyzed man…a bleeding woman…and a shriveled hand. They have seen Jesus raise a dead girl…calm a storm…cast out demons…and feed a huge crowd of people with almost no food. These are just a few of the many miracles Jesus did to show that He is God…that He is powerful, holy, and perfect…that He is the King of all creation. Miracles that the disciples will see when they land in Gennesaret and the people will lay “the sick in the marketplaces and [implore Jesus] that they might touch even the fringe of his garment.” St. Mark writes: “And as many as touched it were made well.” (v. 56)

So, when the disciples see anything out of the ordinary, they should KNOW it is Jesus. They of all people should “get it.” After witnessing the feeding of the five thousand, they should have understood much more than they did. They should not have been “utterly astounded” as having “little faith” or having “spiritual weakness.”  These disciples of Christ should have understood that the One who had multiplied the loves and fish could readily walk on the water.

         Yet, the most amazing thing has to do with Jesus Himself and how He responds to these guys. In fact, the Lord makes His identity and His love for them very clear when He says: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (vv 50b) Then St. Mark points out that Jesus “got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased….” (vv 51) Don’t you just love that? Jesus doesn’t say, “forget you guys, after all I’ve done for you” or “you of all people should understand.” He does not say any of that stuff. The Lord Jesus just comforts them by telling them again who He is. He comforts them by coming closer to them and being with them. “Brothers, I didn’t mean to scare you. Have some courage. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Or to translate it literally – Have courage. I AM He. Fear not.

         That is what this Gospel lesson is all about. It is all about Jesus! It’s about His love for His people…His love for you and me…as hard hearted and dimwitted and sinful as we are. Because you and I are this way, don’t we need to be reminded all the time of who Jesus is and what He has done for us and continues to do? In April 2001, in the midst of Israeli/Arab conflict, a motorcade carrying the Security Service Chief of Gaza came under gun fire from Israeli troops. The frightened security official called PLO leader Yasser Arafat from his car for help. Arafat in turn called the U.S. ambassador…who then called the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell. Colin Powell then phoned Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, who ordered the shooting to stop immediately. And it did. The Security Chief's connections eventually saved his life.

         In a similar way, Christians have a divine connection to Jesus Christ, who can make a world of difference in any situation. You look at your life and see situations that are tough on you and may even be scary to you. How about worries you have for your children or grandchildren no matter what their age? What about problems at home you do not want to talk about or ignore? How about financial concerns…health issues…job concerns?

         Whatever they are, just remember…Jesus is always with you! Never forget that God is always in control! The Lord sees you at all times…even when you can’t see Him or feel His presence. Jesus comes to comfort you…to remind you who He is…to let you know He is with you. This is Jesus…who is powerful beyond knowing…who created the universe…who walks on water…who calms the storms with His mere presence.

You have a God who is present in your life and who loves you more than you can possibly ever know. When He suffered torture and died for your sins on the cross…He did it all for you! When Christ rose from the dead victorious over sin, death, and evil…He did it all for you to assure you that He will raise you up on the Last Day! He showed you His power, holiness, and perfection by taking your sins upon Himself, and in exchange, giving you His holiness and righteousness in order for you to live with Him forever and ever.

So, your life as a Christian…as a baptized believer in the Lord Jesus Christ…is a life that continues to unfold and grow in who you are and what Jesus has done for you and continues to do. Don’t become distressed or terrified…because the Lord’s purpose is to exercise the faith His Spirit has created in you….which believes these blessed words: "This is My Body…This is My Blood…Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." God’s purpose is to work trust in you of His promises so that you might grow in faith…in hope…in patient endurance…and that you might grow to always rely on Him. Amen.

VBS Closing and Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 11 – Series B

Text: Luke 18:15-17 

Title: “Let the Children Come to Me”

Date: Sunday, July 22, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Five-year-old Kayse grew more and more excited about her upcoming first day of kindergarten. Kayse’s 3-year-old sister, Jayme, watched her with great fascination.

However, on the Sunday before Kayse’s first day of kindergarten, she fell and skinned her knee. Tears began to flow, and 3-year-old Jayme, seeing the blood on her big sister’s knee, tried to comfort her. She said, “Don’t worry, Kayse, if you die, you’ll go to heaven.” But that made Kayse cry even more. “I don’t want to go to heaven,” she said. “I want to go to kindergarten!”

Hopefully, after having gone to kindergarten, Kayse did want to go to heaven too!

         In Luke 18, Jesus was teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God because He wanted people to understand how to enter into heaven. Having child-like faith is important, as well as, humbly trusting in the righteousness of another. The only righteousness or good works that God accepts to gain access into heaven is that of Jesus Christ.

Luke then further illustrates God’s love and that kind of humble trust in Jesus by telling us about the Lord blessing the children. Luke writes in verse 15a that the parents were bringing even infants to Jesus so that He might touch them. The Greek word for infants (brephos) may also be translated as “(young) child.” Jesus likely scooped up each precious child into His loving arms and cuddle the child…place His hand on the warm, soft head…lift his eyes up to heaven…and pronounce God’s blessing on them.

However, when the disciples see the parents bringing their children to meet this famous Jesus for His blessing, they rebuke or scold the parents. (Lk 18:15b) Why did the disciples rebuke the parents? Luke doesn’t tell us the reason. At best, they are protecting Jesus and don’t want Him to be bothered by these interruptions. At worst, they see the situation as a waste of time. As the VBS children learned yesterday in Cool Bible Adventures, the disciples were something like BODYGUARDS, who keep people like us away from famous people. The way Jesus loved and healed people, it’s not surprising that crowds followed Him around a lot. So maybe there was a crowd pressing in on the Lord, and the disciples were just trying to protect Him.

         But Jesus will not let anyone keep the children away! He allows the children to come to Him saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Lk 18:16) We see here the heart of Jesus for all people, including young children. Children by their very nature represent helpless dependence. A baby, and even a young child, is unable to survive its early years on its own. A baby or young child is utterly helpless and utterly dependent upon others for its very survival. Likewise, helpless dependence on God is needed in order to gain entrance into the kingdom of God. As one scholar writes years prior to Rev. Billy Graham’s death: “When Billy Graham enters the kingdom, it will not be because he has personally preached to more people than anyone else in history. It will not be because he has remained impeccable in his finances when so many have failed. It will not be because he has been a faithful husband. It will not be because, despite his fame, he has remained a humble, self-effacing, kind man. When Billy Graham enters the kingdom, it will be because of God’s undeserved love and kindness toward Billy’s helpless dependence on Christ.

         No matter how young or old you are, never forget that JESUS WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU! (COOL!) [& giving a thumbs-up] and has time for you. Our sermon text demonstrates His love for children and His desire for children of all ages to come to Him. And as Jesus says in verse 17: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

         Just what is the kingdom of God? It’s the gentle rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people. The kingdom is at times spoken of as a future blessing, (Mt 7:21; 8:11) and at times as a present reality. (Lk 16:16; 17:20; Jn 3:3–5) As a baptized child of God, it should be your heart's desire to be under the gracious rule of God. (Mt 13:44–46) As a baptized child of God, you have forgiveness of sins. Scripture states that in baptism, we put on Christ (Gal.3:27) and that baptism is the powerful work of God. (Col.2:12) Baptism is that which saves and washes away sin. (Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21) Baptism is where we were united with Christ in His death and resurrection so that “we too may have a new life.” (Rom.6:4)

Also yesterday in Cool Bible Adventures, I had home-made autograph books for each child and for some of the VBS leaders, including myself. As you know, autograph books contain an important person’s or a famous person’s handwritten signature and possibly a personalized note. Even though there were no famous people at VBS, there were some very important people…incredibly important people…just as there are here today. Each one of us is important to Jesus and that’s why each child and leader signed each other’s autograph book. How do you know that you are important to Jesus? Because of God’s promise that JESUS WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU! (COOL!) [& giving a thumbs-up] St. John says: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) This awesome love of God is received by those who receive the kingdom of God as little children, demonstrating childlike faith. Renowned English Baptist preacher and author, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “We must not think a child cannot come to God until he is like a man, but a man cannot come until he is like a child. We must grow down until we become like a child.”

So brothers and sisters in Christ…believe and trust that JESUS WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU! (COOL!) [& giving a thumbs-up] Thank Him that He does since you’re not able to present any meritorious good works of your own to God because your “righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) to God. The only righteousness deeds or good works that God accepts to gain access into heaven is that of Jesus Christ. And only child-like faith and humble, helpless dependence upon Jesus and His work on the cross are you able to receive His loving gifts of sins forgiven and eternal life. Amen.

JESUS WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU! (COOL!) [& giving a thumbs-up]


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