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“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:14-15 (Read v. 14-30)

We do not know when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. That day could be very soon, or it may be many years from now. What are we to be doing while we await the return of our Lord and Savior who died upon the cross to redeem us from sin, death and the power of the devil?

With the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches us that we are to be faithfully serving Him and carrying on the work of His kingdom until He returns. All of us, as Christians, have been given talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, as well as resources, to use in carrying on the Lord’s work until He returns on the Last Day (1 Peter 4:10f.; Romans 12:4ff.; 1 Corinthians 12-14). Whatever our gifts, talents and abilities are, we are to faithfully use them for the Lord and for the upbuilding of His kingdom and Church.

We have also been entrusted with the Word of God, which we are to faithfully use and proclaim (Mark 16:15; Hebrews 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 4:1ff.). Since Christ Jesus suffered and died upon the cross to redeem us and make us children of God, He expects us to respond to His gracious gift of salvation by living our lives for Him. And, as a fruit of our faith, we also desire to do this (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19ff.).

When Jesus returns on the Last Day to take to heaven all who trust in Him for salvation, He will examine our faithfulness. We are His stewards, having been entrusted with His Word and with His gifts, abilities and resources to use for the work of His kingdom. The Bible tells us: “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

If, as a result of our faith in Christ as Savior, we faithfully serve Him, we will be graciously rewarded with greater opportunity for service when we enter the joy of our Lord in heaven.

But if, on the other hand, we are found to be unfaithful servants who cared to do nothing for our Lord but were afraid and hid our talents away, we will lose not only what has been entrusted to us, but eternal life as well; for such unfaithfulness is a denial of true faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior (cf. John 15:1-6).

O God of mercy, God of might, in love and pity infinite, teach us, as ever in Thy sight, to live our life to Thee … And may Thy Holy Spirit move all those who live to live in love till Thou shalt greet in heaven above all those who live to Thee. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #439, Verses 1,6)

[SCRIPTURE TAKEN FROM THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION®. COPYRIGHT © 1982 BY THOMAS NELSON. USED BY PERMISSION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

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And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

This parable of Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a man who sows his seed in the soil and waits until the seed of itself springs up and grows, maturing until the harvest. Then the farmer puts in the sickle for the harvest. The farmer can only sow good seed, cultivate the crops, and wait for the fruit to mature. He cannot himself make the seed grow and produce fruit.

The kingdom of God is like this in that all we as Christians can do is sow the pure Word of God. We cannot make it grow or produce fruit. The power to create spiritual life and produce fruit lies in God’s Word and His Spirit and not in us as the sowers.

It is our task to sow the Word of God; but the results must be left up to the Holy Spirit, who brings people to saving faith in Jesus Christ and also sanctifies them through God’s Word. We cannot see how faith is created in the heart, nor should we expect to harvest immediately after the seed is sown. Our crucified and risen Lord Jesus has given us the simple task of sowing the good seed of God’s Word. The rest is up to Him!

Let us then diligently sow the Word! By means of God’s Law, the Holy Spirit will convict men of their sins and show them their guilt before the Almighty God. By means of the Gospel, He will comfort them with the assurance that their sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death in their stead.

If we only sow the Word, we need not worry about the results. They remain in God’s hands, and He has promised that His Word will not return unto Him void (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). Let us sow the Word and await the harvest!

On what has now been sown Thy blessing, Lord, bestow; the pow’r is Thine alone to make it spring and grow. Do Thou in grace the harvest raise, and Thou alone shalt have the praise. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #46, Verse 1)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” Hebrews 11:4 (Read Genesis 4)

Both Cain and Abel offered gifts to the Lord God, Abel from his flocks and herds, and Cain from the fruits of the ground. Why was it that God accepted Abel and his sacrifice but rejected Cain? Hebrews 11:4 tells us the answer: ”By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”

Abel offered his sacrifice in faith. He trusted in the Lord God to accept him and his sacrifice for the sake of the promised Seed of the woman, that promised Messiah and Savior who would redeem him and all mankind from sin and the just condemnation of God’s law.

Cain, on the other hand, though he too offered up a sacrifice to the Lord God, did not offer it up in the confidence of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Rather, he went through the outward motions of serving his Maker, but his heart was far from the Lord (cf. Matthew 15:8; Isaiah 29:13). Cain’s works are described as evil in 1 John 3:12 and Jude 11. Even though he brought an offering, he was not walking with the Lord by faith; and his gift was unacceptable since the Lord looks upon the heart.

Of course, when we read Genesis 4, we learn not only that Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable; he hated his brother Abel and killed him because Abel was counted righteous. Those who do not follow after the Lord God continue to this day to hate those who walk by faith in the Lord because the witness of the righteous pricks the guilt-ridden consciences of those who go their own way.

Does this mean that Abel was of himself without sin? Not at all! Rather he was counted righteous in God’s eyes through faith in God’s promise to send a Savior to bear his punishment and redeem him from sin’s condemnation (Cf. Genesis 3:15). The lambs sacrificed in Old Testament times pointed ahead to the Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29).

What about you? Do you walk with the Lord God by faith in His Son, as did Abel, trusting that God accepts and forgives you for the sake of that Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Or do you walk as Cain walked, serving the Lord outwardly with gifts and lip-service while inwardly you are far from the Lord and go another way?

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God who has atoned for my sins and for the sins of the whole world by Your innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, forgive me, cleanse me and lead me. By Your Spirit, move me to walk with You by faith unto life everlasting. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

With fatherhood comes great responsibility to God, who creates and gives life to children in their mothers’ wombs (cf. Psalm 139:13-16). Fathers are not to provoke their children to anger by being overly harsh and cruel, but they are to lead and teach their children to know the Lord and to hear and believe His Word. And fathers will be held accountable to God for the upbringing of their children.

Jesus commands that infants and children, too, be brought to Him and made His disciples through Baptism and the hearing of His Word because only through faith in Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross can anyone be saved. Though they may appear to be more innocent than adults, children too are sinners from conception and birth onward and are under the condemnation of God’s law (cf. Psalm 51:5; Galatians 3:10-11; Romans 5:12ff.).

And Jesus would have little children — even infants — brought to Him in Baptism. In Luke 18:15-17, we read: “They also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it’” (cf. John 3:3-6).

In regard to his admonition to the people to repent and be baptized, Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 3:38-39).

Certainly, children are a part of all nations and included in Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

And God specifically commands fathers to bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). That includes bringing them to be baptized, but it also includes teaching them all that the Bible teaches and being an example to them in living in accord with God’s Word.

Yes, that means teaching them Bible stories at home, teaching them how to pray, talking to them about their sinfulness and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, and teaching them how God would have them live. It means going to church and Bible study and also taking them to church and Bible study. It means saying no to those things which are sinful and harmful and encouraging one’s children to live their lives in obedience to God’s Word, trusting in Christ to forgive them wherever and whenever they come short. Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4ff.

Fathers are to lead by teaching and by example. And, sometimes, fathers must use discipline to correct their children and teach them the right way. The Bible says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6; cf. Proverbs 13:24).

Not to teach and correct causes these little ones to sin, or stumble, in regard to their faith in Christ Jesus. It leads them to turn away from Christ and to suffer the greatest harm ever – to be condemned and forsaken of the Lord in the final judgment. And, as God held Eli responsible for his failures to teach and correct his sons (1 Samuel 3:11-14), so God still holds fathers responsible today if they do not bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7).

This warning of God’s judgment upon those who cause children who believe to sin and fall away from their faith in Christ Jesus ought to make fathers and mothers all the more diligent to bring up their children to know and trust in Jesus as their Savior.

Bringing up their children to know the Lord and to believe His Word truly is the most important thing fathers and mothers can do for them. And, for our failures, we are called to repent and to look to Christ Jesus and His cross for forgiveness and for the help and strength to amend our ways and live for Him, teaching and admonishing our children in the truth. Christ did die for all our sins and rise again. Through faith in Him, there is forgiveness and eternal salvation.

And His Holy Spirit, not only moves us to repent and trust in Christ; He moves and empowers us to bring up our children in the ways of the Lord. We look to Him for help and strength to bring up our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

O merciful Father, I thank You for so loving me that You gave Your Son to die in my stead and redeem me from the condemnation and death I deserve on account of my sin. Give me the help and strength to bring up my children to know You and the salvation You have provided in the death and resurrection of Your Son, Christ Jesus, the Savior. In His name, I pray. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19

This passage of the Bible is one which few accept. Why? Because it speaks of the curse brought upon all mankind by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden; and who wants to acquiesce to a life filled with pain, sorrow, hard work, trouble, hardship and, finally, death and decay?

To the woman God said, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” How many women are willing to accept this truth and submit themselves to such a life of sorrow and pain?

To Adam God said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

One doesn’t have to be a farmer to know that the ground brings forth thorns and thistles, but the curse includes the fact that we will have to labor and work hard to earn and produce our daily bread; yet we so often forget this and seek an easier way. We grumble and complain about the need to labor and work long and hard hours, but we shouldn’t expect things to be easy in this sinful world.

We also will all die and return to the dust of the ground. We try to put this truth far from our minds, as well, and we live as though death will not overtake us; but it will! We will return to the dust of the ground from which we were formed and created. Some go to great lengths to avoid the inevitable, but they too die.

And why all this suffering, sorrow, toil, pain and death? It is because of sin – because Adam and Eve doubted and disobeyed God’s word to them and because we are born in sin and disobedience to the perfect will and design of our Creator. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and these words are true. We die because we are sinners, and there is nothing we can do about it

Yet God has provided a solution to our self-inflicted dilemma. He sent His only-begotten Son into the world a true man to fulfill all righteousness for us, living in perfect obedience to the holy will and commandments of the LORD, and then to bear in Himself the full punishment for the sins of the world, by suffering and dying upon the cross, that we might be pardoned and acceptable in God’s eyes.

This Jesus has done. He lived a holy life in our stead and then suffered and died upon the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. In Christ Jesus, God offers and gives to us sinners forgiveness for all our sins and everlasting life with Him in heaven. As the Scriptures say, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Yes, as sinners, we suffer the heartaches, pains and sorrows of this world. We have to spend our days here laboring for our daily bread. And, finally, when our days here are done, we die and our bodies return to the dust (cf. Psalm 90). But as believers in Christ Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again in victory, we are assured that we too shall be raised up on the last day to life eternal. We are assured and take comfort in the fact that Jesus is right now preparing a place for us and will come again to take us to be with Him forever in the mansions of His Father’s house (cf. John 14:1ff.). For us, “to die” is “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better”! (Philippians 1:21,23).

Indeed, we live by faith in the Son of God who died for us, rose again and is coming to take us to be with Him forever! We endure the pain and suffering of this world in eager anticipation of the life which is to come for Jesus’ sake!

O dearest Jesus, You lived the holy and sinless life which I should have lived, and You took the punishment I should have suffered when you were condemned and forsaken of the Father upon the cross. Thank You for paying the price for my sin and opening up for me the way of eternal life. Graciously receive me into Your everlasting kingdom and give me never-ending life with You in heaven. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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