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New Year’s Eve 2015

2 Timothy 3:12-17; Joshua 1:8; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Matthew 26:26-29 – Make More Use of the Means of Grace

Earlier this week my family and I were in the Cities visiting family. I spent a little time with my brother Adam there and I helped him change the brakes on his car. My brother doesn’t have that many mechanic tools, so we spent quite a bit of time searching for the right sockets and wrenches to get the job done. And in the process we broke a couple of tools because they weren’t of the right quality to get the rusted bolts off. As we were working in his cold garage I was reminded of an important truth: In order to get a job done, you need to have the right tools.

Well, the truth is, each one of us is a broken project needing to be worked on by God. We have broken thoughts that are so often selfishly directed on ourselves and attempt to justify our sinful behavior, we have broken words that are horribly lacking in building up and encouraging others or praising God, but are filled with the opposite, we have broken actions that give in to temptation. Each of us is in desperate need of God’s repair.

And the truth is, God can do anything. However, when it comes to working on us, God has chosen to work through His tools: the means of grace. Why do we call them “the means of grace”? Because God could have left us on our own, but He graciously chooses to use beautiful ways to bring His grace to us over and over again.

First, God’s Word. God has chosen to speak to us not through premonitions, not through visions in the night, not through whispering in our ears, but through His own inspired Word. Do you want to hear what God has to say to you? He speaks to you through the Bible. And what message do we hear from God in the Bible? In thousands of different ways God tells us about His grace and love for you and me that found a way to rescue us from our brokenness with His Son Jesus who was born to die on a cross to forgive our sins. There on the cross God restored the broken relationship that we had with Him.

Yet, that’s not all! God then brings us everything that Jesus has won for us through the waters of baptism. In baptism God saves you. He saves you by connecting you personally to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through baptism God works faith in your heart. There are times in life when you can feel your sins most severely and Satan is right there pointing his bony finger at you, “How do you know you’re saved? How do you know God loves you? How do you know you’re going to heaven?” There’s one thing that no one can take from you and that’s your baptism. It’s part of your own personal history. In it, as we’re told, God saved you!

And that’s not all! God uses another tool: the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper time and again you receive not just bread and wine, but Jesus’ own body and blood. And for what purpose? The forgiveness of sins. What assurance! What peace! What joy! To receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Through the Lord’s Supper God assures you of His love for you and repairs your relationship with Him!

So, do you want more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control in the New Year? We all need those things because we all need to be repaired by God. How about this resolution for the New Year: Make More Use of the Means of Grace. Amen.

Psalm 63:2-8; Philippians 4:6 – Persistently Practice Praise and Prayer

Attitude makes all the difference, doesn’t it? In my past jobs I’ve worked with quite a few people who ended up being fired. And some of them, it wasn’t because they weren’t hard workers –some were very hard workers, it wasn’t because they weren’t dedicated to our company, it wasn’t because they lost the company money, they were fired because of their bad attitude.

And you know what that’s like. I’m sure you’ve seen it in other people, I’m sure you’ve seen it in yourself. You can wake up in the morning grumpy, angry, sullen, expecting everything to go poorly in the day. And how does the day go for you? Not only is the day miserable for you, you also end up making the day miserable for everyone around you.

Is that right? Is that good? Is that really who we are? Are we really people who have reason to be upset, angry, grumpy and grouchy? No way! If we are, what are we really saying about the gospel? Are we saying it doesn’t affect us? Are we saying it only matters on Sunday morning? Are we saying it doesn’t really change our lives?

You see, we have every reason to praise God…all the time! You have a God who doesn’t treat you like your sins deserve! You have a God who tells you that as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for you! You have a God who reminds you that in Christ Jesus He has cast your sins into the depths of the see where they will never ever be found! You have a God who has won you eternal life! That’s just scratching the surface!

Now, yes, bad stuff happens in our lives. And we can choose to react angrily or we can choose to react to it in view of the gospel. God has restored the relationship between you and Him that means you can go to Him, approach Him, talk to Him in prayer- even when you’re confused, anxious, or troubled and leave it in His hands.

So, looking for another New Year’s resolution? How about this: Praise Him. Wake up in the morning praising your God and Savior who’s rescued you and blessed you in incredible ways and pray to Him. Pray to Him in everything.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Live in Light of the Last Day

New Year’s Eve. We’re closing out 2015, another year done and another year lies ahead of us. One thing that we can say is that although we don’t know when Jesus will return, we do know that His return is nearer than it was yesterday. Might Jesus return in 2016? He could, we don’t know. And why don’t we know? So we’re constantly ready. And how are we ready? We’re ready as we believe in Jesus as our Savior and live each day like Jesus could return at any moment.

As you notice in your bulletin, this isn’t the only place where the Apostle Paul wrote about the Last Day. It was something that was constantly on His mind and something He was constantly reminding people about. So, what’s the lesson for us? The Last Day puts our lives in the proper perspective.

Jesus could return at any moment. And it’s going to be great! It’s nothing to fear, it’s something to look forward to. Jesus is coming to take us to our real home, our heavenly home –that’s great!

Here’s a  New Year’s resolution for you: Live in Light of the Last Day. Live like Jesus is returning tomorrow and this is your Last Day. If you do that, your relationships with others will be stronger- you’ll be more willing to repair any wrongs and express your love to your loved ones, you’ll have less stress – God might just take care of everything tomorrow by returning, and you’ll have more joy and probably more energy – Jesus is coming! What could possibly be better than that? Amen.