Monday, December 05, 2016

Sermon on Romans 15:4-13, for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, "The God of Endurance, Encouragement, and Hope"

In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. How is God, the 3 in 1, described for us in our reading from Romans today? What qualities or characteristics does it say God has? Today I especially want to look at these three qualities, that God is the God of endurance and encouragement and hope. But though we won’t get to all the qualities named in the reading, notice the other descriptions of God as well. Jesus became a servant, to show God’s truthfulness, and the Gentiles will praise God for His mercy.
Verses 4 and 5 show that the first three qualities of God—endurance, encouragement, and hope—are all reflected to us in the Bible, the Scriptures. Perhaps that should come as no surprise, but how would you ordinarily get to know the qualities of a person? Say you meet a new friend, the way you ordinarily get to know them is through personal interactions, time spent together (aka fellowship), and conversation. With more and more people using electronic communication, through phones and the internet, we sometimes miss out on the real face to face interactions. Something is lost from our conversation and understanding of each other. But what about knowing God?
Since God the Father is an eternal, unseen Spirit, we cannot see or interact with Him in the same way. But that certainly doesn’t mean God is unknowable, remote, or inaccessible God definitely and intentionally made Himself known to humanity, in order to save us from the folly of our sins. God has revealed or shown Himself to us in multiple ways. The two most important ways God are through His Word, the Holy Scriptures, and sending Jesus His Son, in the flesh. Many did meet Him face to face, and in personal fellowship and conversation, they got to know Jesus, the exact representation of the Father. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” So the people who lived and walked with Jesus knew Him in this way. But for the Old Testament generations before Jesus came, and for New Testament generations after, its primarily through God’s Word, the Bible, that we encounter and know Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps you have a Bible that sits by your bedside. Perhaps on a coffee table, or on a shelf. The best-selling and most widely translated book in world, and yet also the least read. Or mostly. Do we ever think about His Word as the gateway through which we encounter and get to know the living God? And He tells us in Romans 15:4 that the Scriptures were “written in former days for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” The next verse says these very same qualities, endurance, encouragement, and hope, are God’s qualities. In other words, God has a very important message He wants us to read and to hear! He wants us to find His encouragement and hope in these pages!
Yet sometimes it remains an intimidating book. Sections or even whole books of the Bible, can be confusing or difficult to understand. Some may even be frightening, as we heard even in our Old Testament reading about God’s dread judgment against the wicked. But faithful Christians and teachers of the Bible who have gone before us, wisely remind us to keep on the path of learning, and pursue God’s wisdom. Hold difficult teachings with reverence and respect, so perhaps later on God may clarify them to you, but those precious jewels of comfort and instruction that you do understand, hold those dearly in your heart.
Scripture is truly a book of encouragement and hope if we are attentive to its whole message, and heed its warnings about our sin. And it is a message of endurance, encouragement and hope because it points us to Jesus, the Savior from our sin. The message of sin and grace that runs through all the Bible, reaches its climax and resolution in His death and resurrection for us. So if the Bible intimidates you, don’t worry—pick it up and read. A little each day. Use a study Bible or come to Bible class to explore your questions. Pray each time you read it, that God would give you humility and that He would open your mind and heart to hear His teaching. In these pages you will encounter the God of endurance, encouragement, and hope.
What does it mean for us that God is a God of endurance? Endurance reminds us of sports and athletic competition. A person doesn’t win a race or a sports competition if they can’t endure to the end. If you don’t finish a race, or have enough endurance to outlast the other team, you can’t win. The opposite of endurance might be quitting or giving up. “It’s too hard! I can’t go on! They’re too good; we’ll lose anyways.” These are all the voices of defeat and failure. Coaches urge, encourage, and sometimes even yell (!) at their players to endure, to keep up the fight, to overcome the obstacles and barriers, so that they get to the finish line, or compete to their fullest ability. The God of endurance gives His Scriptures to us so that we would not give up. That we would receive His strength to bear through the difficulties, obstacles, and barriers of life. That we wouldn’t give in to the voices of defeat, but hear His voice of victory.
Our struggle is to live and remain faithful to Jesus. To take up our cross and follow Him. Every one of us has their own crosses to bear—and while some of those may remain private and hidden from others, we also are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. God has given us brothers and sisters in Christ to bear one another’s burdens and to encourage each other. Just a few verses before our reading, in Romans 15:2, it says “let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” One of the key ways we care for each other in the Christian church is to build one another up. The Word of God gives us the instruction and encouragement to do it. God teaches us endurance: “we can do all things through Him who gives us strength”. We don’t race or struggle in a vain competition that can never be won or with no end in sight, but there is a finish line. God has promised eternal rewards and rest to those who finish the race by faith in Him.
And the God of encouragement speaks in special tenderness to those who are most crushed and broken in life. Jesus calls the weary and heavy laden to come and find rest for their souls. Scripture tells us that God doesn’t break the bruised reed or put out the dimly burning wick. When our faith is at its lowest ebb, God doesn’t extinguish it or crush it out, but nurtures our faith back into a lively trust. That we have a God of encouragement means that God is eager to speak to our deepest distresses and struggles; His Word brings living hope. There is no shortage of trouble and need around us. Luther wrote almost 500 years ago that everywhere we see a world that is filled to overflowing with suffering and need, and 500 years later, it’s much the same. But he goes on to describe how the Christian responds—we are to fight, work, and pray, and have heartfelt sympathy.
What does this mean? Just as God strengthens us and comforts us by His Word, He transforms us to do the same for others! 2 Corinthians also says this, that God’s comfort extends from us to others in their afflictions and sufferings. And we all share together in the sufferings of Christ. We face the troubles of the world not listening to voices of defeat and surrender, but with God’s voice of endurance, encouragement, and hope. God moves us to fight for the downtrodden and the voiceless, to work tirelessly to build others up and do good, and to pray that He would bless and expand our efforts beyond what we can see or do. God gives us endurance and resilience through the confidence that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
You see, knowing God and believing in Jesus, His Son, brings the God of endurance, encouragement and hope, right to us. Through His Holy Scriptures, these amazing qualities of God produce the same effects in our lives as well. And the last of those three qualities is hope. Hope is such a positive word, but one that can seem very wishy washy and weak in our everyday use. In ordinary English, hope doesn’t always mean much more to us than “wishful thinking” or “a hope and a prayer”—like hope is always some long shot possibility. But the Bible doesn’t use the word hope this way. Hope in the Bible is not wishy washy or weak, but more like the word “confidence.” Hope is not yet realized, it’s not something that we see. But it is something we wait for with confidence and certainty because God doesn’t break His promises. Romans 5 tells us that “hope does not put us to shame”. That’s because God is true to His Word—which He showed by sending Jesus (Romans 15:8), just as He promised. 
Hope rests upon this solid foundation: Jesus Christ. All other ground is sinking sand. Christian hope is a resilient, confident hope, closely linked to those other two qualities of endurance and encouragement. We can make it through the difficulties of life because Jesus has overcome the world through His cross and empty tomb. Hope needs a reason or object, and Christ is that reason. He’s the reason for the hope and joy of this Christmas season. God was sending His Son into the world to rescue us from sin and its ills. The Hope that God gives in Christ Jesus is sturdy and it is eternal. It gives us the reason to face life certain of what Jesus has done for us, certain that our sins are forgiven, certain that He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. So in the closing lines of our reading, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” His hope pours down upon us and overflows and increases! Have the joy of sharing that hope with others, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Read through Romans 15:4-13. What are the qualities or characteristics of God listed in this passage? Verse 4 describes three or four things that the Scriptures or God’s Word does. What are they?
  2. What do we need endurance for? What is it? What is the opposite of endurance? Read 2 Corinthians 1:6; 6:4. What is our Christian endurance “up against?” In other words, what things do we have to endure?
  3. Why is it so comforting to know that God is the “God of endurance and encouragement”? What does this mean about His desire for us in struggles and difficulties? Does He care?
  4. How can God and His Scriptures bring us encouragement and hope? What is the good news that lifts us up through the hardships of this sin filled life? Why is Jesus central to that message of good news and hope?
  5. In everyday life, why might “hope” be treated like a weak word? How is hope understood in the Bible? Romans 5:3-5; Psalm 119:116. If hope “does not put us to shame” or “disappoint us” (NIV), what does that mean about the certainty of our hope in God’s promises?
  6. God’s work through His Word aims to produce certain qualities among us as Christians. Read Romans 15:5-7. What effect does God produce in our lives together according to these verses?
  7. How does Christ’s service to His people show God’s truthfulness and mercy? What promises had God made to the Jews, that were shown true in the servant life of Jesus?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon on Matthew 21:1-9, for the 1st Sunday in Advent, "Successful Journeys and Clear Destinations"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today the cycle of the church year begins anew, with the First Sunday in Advent. We renew a journey of sorts, a journey that lasts us one year—a journey along the places and paths that Jesus followed, from the time He was anticipated as Savior, to His birth in Bethlehem, through His ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. This first half of the church year, we call the “Festival Season.” It wraps up with Pentecost, when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, and follows with the part of the church year that we just finished, is the long “non-festival” season of the church year, or “ordinary time”. Sundays that review the rest of Jesus’ teachings, leading up again to the anticipation of His return. Along the journey, we get to know Jesus better and better, not as a friend who joins us occasionally, but as our constant companion who leads us and has finished the journey before us. Each year, this cycle and journey renews, as we renew our watch and waiting for the Lord’s return. Advent is a time of waiting.
Since Advent is the time of waiting and hope as we prepare for Christmas, it always strikes us odd that the first Gospel reading of the year is from Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. But for many centuries, Christians began Advent with this reading. It reminds us that successful journeys most often have an intended destination in mind. In Jesus’ case, the destination is clear—it’s not Bethlehem (that’s just the start!), but it’s Jerusalem, and ultimately the cross. Our reading gives us a preview, a glimpse ahead, of where Jesus’ journey will take Him. Advent and Christmas reminds us that He is the King born among men, the Prince of Peace—but the Palm Sunday entrance reminds us that He is the King who was born to suffer for our sins on the cross. Though the journey took Jesus on many paths unexpected to us—Jesus always had a clear sense of His purpose and final goal. He was on earth to bear witness to the truth and to obey His Father’s will to go to the cross for us.
The way that Jesus entered the city was clearly meant to communicate something very important to the crowds (and to us). Riding in on the donkey was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” Jesus riding on the donkey communicated loud and clear, that this prophecy from Zechariah 9, was coming true in Him. And they understood it—at least as far as recognizing Him as a King. They showed this by the correct “royal treatment” of spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road before Him, and raising shouts of acclamation to the Son of David. They saw their King coming to them, all right, and the actions played out that day by both Jesus and the crowd echoed the crowning of other kings from Israel’s history. Here was their new leader, a man descended from the royal line of King David, a popular leader and teacher, and One whom they hoped would take the throne and give the kingdom back to Israel!
Everything seemed to be shaping up as they might have expected…until the events that followed that week. The betrayal and arrest of Jesus on Thursday. His trial before the priests and Pontius Pilate that night and Good Friday morning. His crowning with thorns and a mocking purple robe, and being lifted up on a cross that noon on Good Friday. No! This wasn’t the way that His coronation as king was supposed to end! Not as a man falsely accused of revolution and executed by the Romans! But while the crowds had their own ideas about what kind of King Jesus should be, Jesus, as I said, always had a clear sense of His purpose and goal. This was not an accident or detour, but He was going on the correct path to His destination. Going to His true enthronement, first on the cross in contrasting humility and divine glory, but ultimately enthroned at God’s right hand, after rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. Jesus was ascending to a much higher throne and authority. His sacrifice on the cross, and His rising from the dead, would result in God giving to Him “all authority in heaven and on earth.”
All of it was part of God’s plan, and here at the start of the year, we get to glimpse the long range plan before diving into the story. We get to see down the road toward the finish line, where Jesus’ purpose and goal on earth would take Him. Knowing all along the way what He was aiming for, knowing what He must suffer and do. Listen again to the words of that prophecy: “Say to the daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you…”. Daughter of Zion, people of God. Your king is coming to you. So much is wrapped up in those words. God sent His Son as King to the earth. The King, not only for His people, for that would be too light a task—but a king for all nations. Luther said this shows that we did not seek the king…He sought us. We did not find the king…He found us. This shows us how completely God’s kingdom comes to us by grace. We did not work for it or engineer it ourselves—we did not bring it into existence and seek Christ to be the King. He came down to earth to us, to be our King.
You could search the whole earth, and down through all of human history, and you’d never find a king to compare with Jesus. Never a King so perfect and just, a King who bears the titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness. His government and peace spreads through all nations by His great commission—making disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. His kingdom is incomparable. Consider the description of historian Philip Schaff:
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

The King with all the might and glory of an everlasting Kingdom—because it is ruled by the Son of God. The King whose kingdom is ever increasing and expanding, and will one day establish perfect and eternal peace. The King who rules with truth, justice, and righteousness. And this is the King who comes to you. Righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The mighty, yet humble King? Yes, He dies on the cross. Who fights His enemies by laying down His life—so that He might consume sin and death forever. The King who has salvation? Yes, whose rescue for us is more than political or military victories—whose rescue is more than problem solving our national crises (a wish that the Jews and we might have in common)—but the King whose rescue is an eternal salvation. The rescue from sin and its power, from death and the grave. The salvation that envelops us even now in the Kingdom of Jesus, making us new day by day through repentance and the forgiveness of our sins. The salvation that He brings to us.
Your King comes to you…we were lost. We didn’t know or understand the journey…we’d fallen and gotten trapped along the way. But He found us, He came to us. He comes to us even today. Jesus is still coming, by the way. Advent is not just a historical drama, about events 2,000 years ago in Judea, with little to do with us today. Rather, we are part of that ever expanding kingdom of Jesus. The kingdom that first came to us through the preaching of Jesus’ Word; through the waters of Holy Baptism, claiming us as His own. The kingdom that came because Your king is coming to you. He still comes to us today, through the Word of God, heard here. Through His Sacraments, as He feeds us with His body and blood. Through the fellowship of His church, His citizens.
And His Kingdom still is yet to come. There is a promised day, when your king will come to you again. Jesus will appear to us, in the body, in full glory like the sun, with every eye on earth transfixed by His sight. For some it will come as a day of fear and judgment, because they did not believe. But for we who believe, it will come as a day of joy and excitement! We’ll lift up our heads, because our redemption will be complete! And so our King is every coming to His people. He came of old at Bethlehem. He comes to us in His promised gifts, meant to sustain His kingdom till His return—gifts of Word and Sacrament. And He will come again one day, to judge the living and the dead.
Today we renew that journey—a journey that is still ongoing—but one that is promised to be successful, because we have a clear destination and purpose. And we have One who has gone before us leading us on. So let us run the race that is set before us, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and Perfecter of our faith! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Though it seems out of place to begin the season of Advent, the church year historically begins with the reading of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday. Though we are anticipating Christmas, this reading focuses us on the destination of Jesus’ journey on earth. What was the ultimate purpose for Jesus’ coming?
  2. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation. What is the past, present, and future coming of Christ? How is Jesus’ kingship uniquely shown in Matthew 21:1-9?
  3. What did the prophecy from Zechariah 14:9-13 foretell about what kind of King Jesus would be? The world is looking for peace without a messiah. How does Christianity show us true peace, that comes through the Messiah? John 14:27; 16:33
  4. Why did people lay downs their cloaks and palm branches before Jesus?
  5. Hosanna” is a Hebrew word that means, “save us now.” They are singing the words from Psalm 118:25-26. What expectation did the crowds have of Jesus? What were they thinking He would save them from? What did Jesus actually come to save us from?
  6. Palm Sunday began the week on a triumphant note, but how did the week end on Good Friday? The following Sunday?
  7. In Matthew 21:5 the prophecy says, “Behold, your king is coming to you”. Why is it so wonderful that God came down to us, rather than requiring the reverse? (somehow?) What does this teach us about grace?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, for Thanksgiving Eve, "Living Generously"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. On Sunday we spoke of how we are members of Jesus’ Kingdom as fruitful branches growing from His Vine. Joined to Jesus we are green, alive, and bearing fruit. Today in 2 Corinthians 9, Paul zeroes in on one particular spiritual fruit: generosity. The well-known phrase, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Immediately upon hearing this phrase, our minds go to money, and our hands go to protect our wallet. Or they might, anyhow, if we think this passage is only about how generous our offering will be in the plate. But while Paul certainly appealed to the Corinthians for financial support for the Christians in poverty in Jerusalem—the Biblical picture of generosity is bigger than cash. It’s a stock phrase in churches, but true nevertheless, that stewardship can be described as giving of our time, talents, and treasure. That’s simply to recognize that there are more ways to give, than just your wallet.  And so also, generosity, as our passage teaches, is a heart attitude shaped by God—not a dollar value attached to the offering plate. And generosity creates thanksgiving to God—twice our reading says that, in vs. 11-12.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. This is an obvious principle, but if you just consider the relation of planting seeds, say grains of wheat, to the harvesting of the mature wheat—it’s obvious that a farmer won’t gather a big harvest if he is reluctant to plant his seed generously. If he tries to sow only a minimal amount of seed, his harvest will then be small. But if he plants generously, as Jesus says in another parable, the seed will be multiplied thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. But the lesson from Jesus and Paul is not just agricultural, but the greater spiritual message is that the same principle applies to our giving and generosity. If we are stingy and plant small, we will reap small. If we are generous in sowing, the return will be exponentially greater. The word bountifully for “whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” is the word for “blessing.” If we sow from blessing, we will reap blessing. And every Sunday, where do we sing all blessings come from? Ho’onani i ka Makua Mau…Praise God from whom all blessings flow. God pours out the blessing, and when we sow bountifully from that blessing, we harvest bountifully with new blessing. God has so ordered creation that He makes fruitfulness pour out of the generous use of His gifts.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Let’s work backwards from the fact that there is a genuine joy to be discovered in generosity and giving. That joy of generosity can be discovered by any person—Christian or not. Many popular versions of the folk story “Stone Soup”, show how people can discover the joy of generosity, sharing, and the community that it builds. I’m even sure there are some great Hallmark movies showing around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, that show a generous and giving spirit is a blessing to any person. This is simply recognizing that it’s one of God’s good “First Article gifts”—by which I mean, the gifts of creation—that God has given to all humanity. These gifts, however, point us back to and remind us that God is ultimately the Giver.
Generosity is not the unique possession of Christians, nor the joy that comes with it—but Christians have a unique reason to be generous, and God’s good directions on the how and why. We can be generous because we know the constant gracious overflow of God’s gifts to us. The reading ends, Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! Mindful that God is always giving and supplying all we need, we can take a special delight in giving. But what violates this spirit of giving and generosity? Giving reluctantly or under compulsion. Being forced or driven to give, in such a way that we feel guilty or coerced, is not the right spirit in which to give. Then it becomes a lot more like taxation or extortion, and less like giving!
But God wants giving to flow from a free, cheerful heart. How? Give as he has decided in his heart. Giving is a voluntary detachment from our possessions. I set aside whatever I have decided in my heart, and become detached from it. I can freely give it away, because I’m trusting in God. Giving in this way is both an expression of our thankfulness to God, for the blessings He has poured out, but also an expression of trust in God, that we can live on what remains, and that God will faithfully continue to provide, as He always has. Giving reluctantly or out of compulsion means that we haven’t detached from what we are giving. Either selfishness still clings to it; or fear thinks that the gift might not be used well, or would be wasted; or lack of trust worries that God will still provide. In any case, these spoil the spirit of giving. God doesn’t need our gifts on these terms—He loves a cheerful giver. And cheerful giving does often take some practice to learn. By experiencing the joy of giving, or resolving in our heart what to give, God begins to overwrite our fearful, selfish, and mistrustful attitudes, with one of cheerful generosity.
In verse 10, it says: 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. Here I just can’t resist a little sidelight: that is to mention the technological marvel of the seed. God supplies seed to the sower. But what a gift we take for granted! Living on Maui with our limited resources and growing population, or almost anywhere in the world, you often hear the buzzwords of “sustainability” or “renewable resources” or “self-sufficiency.” Humans are trying to battle our growing needs and consumption with clean and renewable supplies of food or energy. But what a technological marvel God has already given us, that already does all that! A humble seed is the basis of a self-replicating organism. Every seed is a massive DNA bank, but microscopic in size, loaded with all the genetic information needed to make a new plant. Seeds are a renewable resource that have feed thousands and thousands of generations, as long as we’ve lived on earth—grains, rice, taro—staples of the human diet for millennia. God’s amazing bioengineering marvel, that we all take for granted, but God supplies seed to the sower and bread for our food.
But if God is so generous with the physical world He has created, Paul shows us that even more God’s grace will abound and increase in us in every way. He will increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. The Word of God is sown like a seed in our heart, and as miraculous and more than a seed of wheat, it contains all the marvelous information of God’s Word and Spirit to create in us fruitful, living branches of Christ our Vine. God’s Word increases righteousness in us as we mature and grow through His guidance and direction. This produces generosity in every way. Generosity is shown in our attitudes. Jealousy or envy of what others have or the successes they achieve, is the opposite of a spirit of generosity. A true spirit of generosity rejoices in the welfare and wellbeing of others, as Luther explained in the 7th commandment, it is to “help [our neighbor] to improve and protect his possessions and income.” Or in the 9th commandment, to “help and be of service to him in keeping it.” Generosity gives thanks when others give thanks, rather than being jealous. Generosity also recognizes when others are in need, and feels compassion to help.
Our reading also praises the righteous man, described in Psalm 112 and quoted in our reading: “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” The Bible often praises the righteous man who is generous and helps the poor and his neighbor, and doesn’t expect interest or repayment. We’re instructed that generosity and sharing with those who need it, are a sure way of storing up true treasure (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Again God has ordered things so that when His good gifts are given out and used generously, that it produces a great return, especially in the spiritual realm. Generosity is taking part in God’s helping of those who need it, so that we act as God’s hands and feet with love for the poor. Generosity has open eyes to see the need of others, and a kind heart that is moved to show compassion.
And this generosity overflows in many thanksgivings to God. People will thank God when they see, receive, or participate in giving. This is because living generously in heart, spirit, word, thought and action, is to live like God, who is the ultimate Giver. They will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the Gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.  Praise goes to God when we live and act in the generosity of God. It flows from the confession of the Gospel of Christ. To believe and know Jesus is to know the ultimate giver, the one who was rich, but for our sakes became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). When Jesus gave up the treasure and rule of His heavenly throne, and became poor and low, as a human being on earth, He sacrificed and gave everything up, not even sparing His own life, so that we might have true spiritual riches and treasure. And He has not stopped giving, but continues to forgive our sins and prepare for us the eternal home that He has made for the righteous in the heavens. He saw our need, was generously moved on our behalf, and filled and supplied our need as only He could. He paid the debts of our sin, filled our accounts with the overflow of His righteousness and innocence, and He makes His grace to abound to us, to abound in every good work (9:10).
This Thanksgiving, may you be blessed by God’s every good gift, and may it abound and overflow in you to pour out in a life of generosity lived after His pattern—in love, service, and help to our friends, neighbors, enemies, and to everyone in need. And may each act of kindness and generosity inspire us to glorify God and say: Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.