Thursday, January 29, 2015

LHF Reaches Out With God's Word

Please pray for Okach Opiew and his family...
Okach Omot Opiew lives with his wife and young children in the Dadaab Refugee Camp, located in Kenya near the Somalia border. Dadaab recently made U.S. headlines when members of Al Shabaab (al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia) opened fire on non-Muslims living in the camp.

“Life here is very dangerous, especially for Christians, because Dadaab is dominated by Muslims,” he says. “Christians are not allowed to live as Christians."

Yet it is in this setting that Okach perseveres in his work of translating Luther’s Small Catechism into the Anyuak language. Click here to read more about life in the camp and Okach's translation work.

Please pray for Sunday school teachers in Southeast Asia...
In Buddhist Southeast Asia, most Christians are first-generation. They know that teaching children and youth about Jesus is important, but many teachers simply don't know how, because they've never experienced Sunday school themselves.

Now, LHF has developed a Sunday school curriculum to help. Read more.

Please pray for families in Somalia...
Somalia is often called “the country most hostile to the Gospel” – a seemingly impossible mission. In the militantly Muslim country of Somalia, threats to physical safety are so great that only 0.01% of the population dare to call themselves Christian.

Now, American children are helping to share the Good News with their Somali brothers and sisters in Christ. Read how.


Please pray for future pastors in Sudan and South Sudan...
The vicars have returned for their final year of studies at the Concordia Lutheran Institute for the Holy Ministry! Please keep the students, their families, and their teachers in your prayers, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan/South Sudan may grow!  Related story

Christian brothers and sisters need our help.

Every day, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation receives more requests for good Lutheran books and materials than we can possibly answer. Can you help?

Just $5 - that's all it takes to provide a book like Luther's Small Catechism or A Child's Garden of Bible Stories to someone waiting to learn more about their Savior and ours, Jesus Christ. Click here to direct your support to Lutherans like Okach in Kenya, Peter in South Sudan, or Boom in Thailand.

Worship Notes for Epiphany 4, 2015

Thursday after Epiphany 3
January 29, 2015

Blessed Epiphany season

This coming Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, or simply Epiphany 4. While there are no Feasts, Festivals, or even Commemorations, on our liturgical calendar for February 1, nonetheless many in our country will be feasting because the NFL will be playing their Super Bowl. Isn’t it interesting how much joy (or sorrow) a game between people we’ve never met, for a championship which is largely meaningless, can generate in us? What that says about us I’m really sure. But, I hope you have a good time if you go to a Super Bowl gathering, Well, back to the “first half” (ha) of our Sunday celebration.

For our liturgy we will be using the Service of Prayer and Preaching (260). This service uses the appointed Psalm for the Day instead of the Introit. We will use the common options. Our lections are Psalm 111 (antiphon verse 3), Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Mark 1:21-28. As we are returning to the regular Epiphany lessons (remember, no Feasts or Festivals) we return to the regular Epiphany question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ This week we will hear of his authority in the spiritual realms in the sermon titled, “Jesus, Lord over the Devils.” The text will be Mark 1:27.

Our opening hymn will be “O Savior of Our Fallen Race” (LSB 403). Our sermon hymn will be “Away from Us! The Demon Cried” (LSB 541). Our closing hymn will be “O Savior, Precious Savior” (LSB 527).

Our closing hymn is “O Savior, Precious Savior.” The video below is of the “Lutheran Warbler” playing and singing the hymn.

What follows is a synopsis of the OT, Epistle and Gospel lessons, provided by the synod. What then follows are the readings themselves, including the Psalm.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, True God in the Flesh, Cleanses Our Consciences from Sin
As He promised, the Lord our God has raised up a prophet like Moses, namely Jesus, our brother in the flesh. To him you shall listen,” because the Word of the Lord is in his mouth (Deut. 18:15–18). Indeed, He is more than a prophet and more than a scribe of the Scriptures; He is the incarnate Word, and He speaks a new teaching with authority (Mark 1:22, 27). He enters the synagogue of His Church and provides true Sabbath rest, using His authority to silence and cast out even the unclean spirits (Mark 1:21–27). By His Word of the cross, He removes the accusations of the Law and of the devil, and He cleanses our consciences before God the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” Hence, we are now set free from bondage and commended to God by the one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Cor. 8:6). Therefore, use your freedom to care for your brothers and sisters, neither causing them to stumble nor wounding their consciences (1 Cor. 8:9–12), but cleansing and strengthening them with the Gospel.

Psalm 111
1:1         Praise the Lord!
            I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
                        in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2           Great are the works of the Lord,
                        studied by all who delight in them.
3           Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
                        and his righteousness endures forever.
4           He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
                        the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5           He provides food for those who fear him;
                        he remembers his covenant forever.
6           He has shown his people the power of his works,
                        in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7           The works of his hands are faithful and just;
                        all his precepts are trustworthy;
8           they are established forever and ever,
                        to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9           He sent redemption to his people;
                        he has commanded his covenant forever.
                        Holy and awesome is his name!
10          The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
                        all those who practice it have a good understanding.
                        His praise endures forever!

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
15          “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—16just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

1 Corinthians 8:1-13
8:1         Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
4           Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7           However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Mark 1:21-28
21          And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Some Additional Notes

·         No additional activities are planned for Sunday. I guess we all want to get to our Super Bowl parties.

·         Remember, we have pledged to pray for our neighbors. You can get a list of your 100 closest neighbors from Pastor has signed up the congregation and is waiting for confirmation, but you can sign-up as an individual.

·         You can read the February newsletter by clicking on the newsletter page on this blog. All print copies have already been scooped up.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Take a Look at Your Neighborhood

Take a Look at Your Neighborhood
Thoughts from Rev. Mark Schudde,
Concordia, Conover NC

Have you ever noticed your neighbor's house? Maybe it's the one that is always neatly decorated for Christmas. Perhaps it's the one with the yard that hasn't been raked free of leaves. Could it be the one where there is a basketball hoop on the driveway, or the one where the newspapers pile up, indicating that they aren't home or can't make the walk down the driveway?

The Christmas season, (and truthfully, every moment afterward) is a time to take notice of your neighbors. The Shepherds did just that on the first Christmas. How many doors did they bang on, or how many stables did they peer into before finding baby Jesus? While we don't know the answer, we do know that when they left the stable, they made known to all what they had heard and seen concerning this child (Luke 2:17). Did they bang on a few doors with the Good News?

People seem more accepting of that occasional knock at the door during the month of December. Maybe it's carolers? Could it be a friend or neighbor bringing by the famous Fruit Cake? All of these moments provide the opportunity to practice what is called the Art of Neighboring. Can we find opportunities like this to visit a neighbor in other seasons?

It's not about becoming more "neighborly" to one another, but rather that each one might become more aware of the neighbors that God has placed around you. See what Acts 17 says about your neighbors, and why God has you living where you do. He (God) determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. (Acts 17:26-27)

God has placed you in your neighborhood. He determined the specific location on your street. He chose those who would be your neighbors. So take notice of your neighbors!

Make an opportunity to drop off a little treat or note. Practice a random act of neighboring. Go out of your way to say hello and remember them, always, in prayer.

At, you will find resources to encourage you learn the "art of neighboring." Check them out and share your stories!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Worship Notes for the Festival of the Conversion of St. Paul, 2015

Friday after Epiphany 2
January 23, 2015

Blessed Epiphany season

As we follow the liturgical calendar at Lamb of God, this coming Sunday may be recognized in one of two ways. The first is as the Third Sunday after Epiphany. The second is as the Festival of the Conversion of St. Paul. We will use the Festival option. As this is a fourth Sunday, we will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper. For our liturgy we will use the first setting of the Divine Service (page 151). Our hymn of praise will be “This Is the Feast” and our post-communion canticle will be “Thank the Lord.” Our opening hymn will be “Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens” (LSB 589). Our sermon hymn will be “By All Your Saints in Warfare” (LSB 517:1, 12, 3). Our closing hymn will be “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast” (LSB 577). Our distribution hymns will be “I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table” (LSB 618), “Hail, O Source of Every Blessing” (LSB 409), and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (LSB 524).

The appointed lessons for this Sunday, not surprisingly, accent the conversion of Paul. They are Acts 9:1-22, Galatians 1:11-24, and Matthew 19:27-30. Of course the Matthew reading does not directly refer to the conversion of Paul, but it does reference those who leave everything for Christ, which certainly describes Paul.

The sermon text will be Acts 9:4. The sermon is titled “God’s Voice.” We will be considering how people like Ananias, Paul, and others in the Bible hear God’s voice. Exactly what does that mean? Then how do we hear God’s voice.

Our opening hymn is “Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens.” The video below is of Bethany Woelmer playing one verse on her harp.

Once again the Synod does not provide summaries of the lessons for Feasts and Festivals, so below are our lessons, without a summary.

Acts 9:1-22
9:1         But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10          Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19and taking food, he was strengthened.
            For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

Galatians 1:11-24
11          For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18          Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they glorified God because of me.

Matthew 19:27-30
27          Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Some Additional Notes

  • The February newsletter will be posted on this blog before Sunday. For those who do not have internet access, print copies will be available Sunday.

  • Remember, we have pledged to pray for our neighbors. You can get a list of your 100 closest neighbors from Pastor has signed up the congregation and is waiting for confirmation, but you can sign-up as an individual.

  • New sign-up sheets for 2015 have been posted in the narthex.

  • Women’s Bible Fellowship meets Monday, January 26.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Rickert

Thursday, January 22, 2015

More than Words

(God said) "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." Matthew 15:8
My grandfather used to say, "Any job worth doing is worth doing well," which takes us to the sad story of Mr. A.K. Verma.
For decades Mr. Verma had boasted that he held a job as executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department in India. Yes, Mr. Verma had had a job, but you could hardly say that he had done that job well.
Actually, he had done his job very badly. This is why, against the protests of India's labor unions, Mr. Verma has been terminated. And if you're wondering why he no longer serves as an executive engineer of the Public Works, well, I can tell you.
Mr. Verma was canned because he hadn't bothered to show up for work since December ... that's December of 1990. It's true. Mr. Verma hadn't punched in at work for almost two and a half decades.
When an inquiry found him "guilty of willful absence from duty," it didn't bother him. When he was ordered back to work, he didn't go. Mr. Verma was proud to boast about his job, but his heart just wasn't in it.
This, according to Jesus, pretty much describes the Pharisees of His time and age. The Savior points out how those ultra-religious guys went through the motions of honoring the Lord; they made the sacrifices; they were proud to say the prayers at the proper time, but their hearts just weren't in their worship or their thankfulness. And, unless they changed, they ended up being eternally terminated.
Now so far this devo has spoken of an engineer in India and Pharisees from long-ago Israel. Maybe it's time to address the people we know who bear a resemblance to Mr. A.K. Verma.
You probably do know some folks like him, don't you? They claim to be Christian, but
* long ago, when they were confirmed, they promised
they would be faithful until death, but they haven't kept that promise;
* long ago, when they were married, they said Jesus would be the unseen Guest in their home, but they've moved a few times since then, and never invited Him to come with;
* long ago, at Baptism they promised a Christian education for their children, but the little ones don't know their pastor's name, and he doesn't know theirs.
Yes, we all know and love these people. This is why I suggest we all might want to speak to our Mr. Vermas and invite them back to church and the Savior. By the Holy Spirit's power, let's get their hearts engaged in praise of Him who gave His life for their forgiveness and salvation.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks You have called me to faith in my Savior. Now I pray for those who are close to me, but may have wandered from You. Send the Holy Spirit upon us so that we may worship You with our tongues and hearts. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
[today's Lutheran Hour Ministries online daily devotions]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Civil War - The Musical Review

We just returned home from seeing a production by the Spartanburg Little Theatre titled "Civil War: The Musical." We weren't so sure we wanted to see it (sounds a bit odd, doesn't it?), but were given tickets, so off we went the the Chapman Cultural Center here in Spartanburg, SC.
I have to say it the most moving performance I have every seen the Little Theatre do! I cried; clapped; and considered throughout the play. They displayed photos from the civil war, listing the actual numbers lost by both the Blue & the Gray in the wars, plus pictures of slaves, Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, and so many blacks who made it bid once the union of the United States of America allowed it. The nurse's first song was a real tear-jerker; most songs were gut-wrenching, but there were the toe-tappers and stomps, so there were so many emotions being drawn from the people in the seats - a real success in my book. If you live in or plan to be in the Upstate (northern SC), this is a "must see" production. Here is a link:

Arise and Shine in Splendor - Bible Study

Arise and Shine in Splendor
Isaiah 60:1–6; Colossians 1:13; Isaiah 9:2; Acts 26:17–18
Text: Martin Opitz (1597-1639)
(Lutheran Service Book 396)

Arise and shine in splendor;
Let night to day surrender.
            Your light is drawing near.
Above, the day is beaming,
In matchless beauty gleaming;
            The glory of the Lord is here.

See earth in darkness lying,
The heathen nations dying
            In hopeless gloom and night.
To you the Lord of heaven—
Your life, your hope—has given
            Great glory, honor, and delight.

The world’s remotest races,
Upon whose weary faces
            The sun looks from the sky,
Shall run with zeal untiring,
With joy Your light desiring
            That breaks upon them from on high.

Lift up your eyes in wonder—
See, nations gather yonder
            From sin to be set free.
The world has heard Your story;
Her sons come to Your glory;
            Her daughters haste Your light to see.

Your heart will leap for gladness
When from the realms of sadness
            They come from near and far.
Your eyes will wake from slumber
As people without number
            Rejoice to see the Morning Star.
© 1941 Concordia Publishing House
Martin Opitz
“Arise and Shine in Splendor” was composed by Martin Opitz who is widely considered as the most influential German poet of his generation. One of his key achievements was to establish the German language as a fit language for poetry. Before Opitz, when Germans wrote poetry, they would imitate poets from other languages. “Opitz's poems, written during the Thirty Years War, reflect shifting religious and worldly loyalties.” I can find no direct reference to his religious leanings however, based on the places he worked, it seems likely he was Roman Catholic. He died of the plague. This hymn first appeared in our hymnals with The Lutheran Hymnal. The original has six verses. Our hymnals have always published five of them.

Light and darkness is a traditional Epiphany theme, and Opitz picks up on it. Light represents God, gospel, Christ, life and the like. Darkness represents the devil, law, sin, death, and the like. This is a use of the light/dark metaphor that was established in Scriptures.

Through His Old Testament prophets, God promised that the Messiah was not just for Jews, but for all. The hymn starts by drawing inspiration from one of those prophecies, Isaiah 60:1-6.

60:1        Arise, shine, for your light has come,
                        and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2           For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
                        and thick darkness the peoples;
            but the Lord will arise upon you,
                        and his glory will be seen upon you.
3           And nations shall come to your light,
                        and kings to the brightness of your rising.

4           Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
                        they all gather together, they come to you;
            your sons shall come from afar,
                        and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
5           Then you shall see and be radiant;
                        your heart shall thrill and exult,
            because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
                        the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6           A multitude of camels shall cover you,
                        the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
                        all those from Sheba shall come.
            They shall bring gold and frankincense,
                        and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
(Isaiah 60:1-6)

The light/darkness metaphor is easily seen in Isaiah. Isaiah speaks of nations and kings coming to the brightness of the Messiah in verse 3. In verse 6 he speaks of camels arriving carrying gold and frankincense. The fulfillment of this verse can easily been seen in the Magi who visited the Christ-child.

In the hymn we sing of the world’s “remotest races” and the “heathen nations dying” as they lye in darkness seeing the light of the gospel. This again reflects the reading from Isaiah for, while Isaiah’s words can certainly be applied to the Magi, they are not limited to those visitors to Bethlehem. Wherever the Gospel goes it brings the saving light into a sin-darkened world.

Isaiah saw what would happen when the Messiah came and wrote about it in chapter 9.

             The people who walked in darkness
                        have seen a great light;
            those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
                        on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2)

Again we find the light/darkness metaphor used also in our hymn. This great light comes from Galilee (Isaiah 9:1), pointing us to Jesus. Jesus himself picks up on this light imagery when he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus identifies himself as the Light of which Isaiah spoke and of which we sing in the hymn.

Saul, a former Pharisee and scholar of the Old Testament, was a persecutor of Christians. He became the great Christian missionary to the Gentiles and faced the same persecution he once dealt out. At one time he was arrested and appeared before King Agrippa. At that time Saul/Paul told the king how the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.

17“… delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’” (Acts 26:17-18).

Jesus told Saul that He had appointed him to be His servant and witness, specifically to the Gentiles. Again the Gospel light is not to be restricted to any one race or nation. Again our hymn reflects the global reach of the Gospel over and over again.

Paul was to “open the eyes” of those to whom he was sent. He was to proclaim Jesus’ teachings, which includes both Law and Gospel. The “Law” part might not jump out right away, but every reference to “darkness” is Law. To remove the metaphor a bit, we are sinners who need to “see” our sins and our need for a Savior. The Gospel is all that Jesus has done and does to earn and deliver to us our forgiveness and salvation. The Holy Spirit works through these truths and opens the eyes of sinners to see and know their Savior. Through faith in Him, their sins would be forgiven and they would be sanctified.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit made it possible for believers to speak in foreign languages—opening the way to reach the Gentiles. In less than thirty years, the Gospel was being proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire. Paul wrote about this advancement of the Gospel to the Colossians:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13)

Notice that Paul uses the word “us” when speaking of being delivered from darkness and being brought into the kingdom of “His beloved Son.” The nations for whom the Gospel is intended includes the descendants of Abraham. However Paul is writing to Gentiles, and includes them in the word “us.” We have been delivered, all of us, both Jew and Gentile, all who have come to faith in Christ. To put that another way, all baptized believers in the Triune God, who have faith in Jesus as the Savior, are included in the word “us.” So, as we sing of the nations in the hymn, we are singing about Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, China, France, Puerto Rico, Russia, the Philippines, and the USA, to name a few. We are singing about “us.”