-------- Original message -------- From: Lutheran Hour Ministries <email@example.com> Date: 09/21/2013 9:15 PM (GMT-06:00) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: The Lutheran Hour: September 22, 2013
Sermon Text for September 22, 2013
"Keep Calm and Pray On" #81-03 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 22, 2013 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (The Redeemer or Rationalization?) Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-15
The peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen.
It felt as if he had been dropped into the set of a Hollywood action thriller, but Pastor Javier Lozano was not in a movie. Pastor Lozano is a Lutheran pastor in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and also works as a teacher in the public school system there. In 2008, as cartel violence afflicted Mexico, he like many other public school teachers had to face what no person anywhere wants to face: extortionists had come into his school and demanded he pay them money "or face the consequences." There was no question as to what the consequences would be if he did not cooperate: they would kill him and his family. Pastor Lozano went to the police with the problem and they assigned him to a special team created by Mexico's federal government to stop extortionists. They gave him a phone number to call at the slightest sign of trouble. Then one day as he drove his car to work, he stopped at a red light and was filled with dismay as he saw two black SUVs with tinted windows (the signature vehicles of the drug cartels) pull up beside him and his car. Javier pulled out the phone number that had been given to him and began to dial. At the same time, he began to pray.
God answered his prayer quickly. Before Pastor Lozano had even finished dialing for help from the police, a military vehicle filled with soldiers pulled up at his very intersection. Now, the soldiers, who had been sent to Juarez by the Mexican government, didn't know anything was afoot, but their surprising presence at the intersection caused the suspicious SUVs to immediately drive away. Pastor Lozano was saved! He prayed again to God, saying, "Gracias! Thank you!" In the coming months the federal government of Mexico would succeed in apprehending the group of extortionists that had threatened his life and the lives of his fellow school teachers. Pastor Lozano was free to keep teaching at the public school in peace and he continued to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Lutheran churches of Juarez, Mexico.
God answered Pastor Lozano's prayers with miraculous timing and the tremendous courage bestowed upon the police, soldiers, and governors of Mexico. Romans, chapter 13 declares that governments are ordained by God to be terrors to bad conduct and to bring approval to what is good. God commissions governments to be His servants for our good, to provide protection and peace for its citizens, so that the things of God may have free course to be shared and received through the lives of ordinary citizens who embody the good news for others in love and service. One of those ways of serving is to pray for others in His Name.
Paul challenges believers, then, in 1 Timothy chapter two, when he says, "I urge supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
When we are in the crosshairs of life's ugliness and sadness, Scripture reminds us especially then to pray to God; for God is the God of hope in the middle of trial; peace in the middle of turbulence and trouble; and life in the middle of death itself.
You see, when the Bible says that Jesus ransomed us, it is painting us a picture. It's as if we were kidnapped by Satan, taken away from our loving Father, and even in our fear we disobediently made ourselves slaves to Satan's ways of sin and eternal death. Pastor Lozano saw a lot of that in his ministry. But he knew what we know today; that the Bible's message of hope is exactly for that time and that even though we all are completely unable to pay our way out, to pay our way forward, to ransom ourselves from our sinful captivity, there was One who could, God in the flesh, God come to bring sinners home to Himself. He went to the cross to pay the eternal price for all, to set us free. He is now the One and the only One who can be that mediator bringing lost sons and daughters back home to the Father restoring the family forever!
So, when in the midst of this life's destruction and degradation, pray to the Lord of Life, the Lord of Hope, the Lord of Grace. When life is impossible and terrifying, bring your fears, your hurts, and your needs to God. Because God, the One who loved the world and sent His Son to ransom us, He is faithful to listen and bring His strength to bear on our situations. Paul reminds all who believe in Jesus: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God makes it clear through His Word, the Bible, that He hears the prayers of believers and that we can trust Him in any circumstance. Even in the earliest stories of the Bible, God is a God who answers the prayers of those who trust Him. Abraham prayed and Lot was saved, Sarah prayed and was granted a son. David prayed and received a forgiveness he neither earned nor deserved. Daniel prayed and was protected from the lions. We pray to the same God who fulfilled His promise to them, to us as He always has done.
But prayer often is needed at the most difficult of times in our lives, isn't it? Have you ever felt panic when circumstances in your life start getting out of control? In those moments do you wonder what you should do, what you can do, whether you should fight or flee, stand firm or give ground? Are there troubles so great that you feel your only option is to just curl up and let life sweep you away?
Extortionists might not be holding your life ransom, but there are plenty of equally terrifying problems that threaten to hold our lives hostage to fear, helplessness, and frustration. Are you a worker today who is finding yourself in line for being laid off during the next round of corporate restructuring? Have you just received a painful diagnosis or prognosis from the doctor? Are you watching your family's or your church's financial resources dwindle as the world economies and values change. Turbulent and unexpectedly difficult circumstances, they come in every shape and size, from the bully at school to the raging winds of nature or the merciless plans of terrorists. Even our own actions and words can work against us. Captive to our own sins and selfishness we argue and fight and tempt others to leave us alone to wallow in the consequences of our mistakes. When things turn for the worse, we might wonder just who can gain control of our lives for our good. Pray? Can prayer actually be a blessing at such times as these?
Yes, absolutely yes! But not because of the strength of our prayer or the power of our prayer, such prayer works because of the One who hears our prayers. When doubts and fears take hold, God's promise rings hope into our hearts that Jesus won victory over life and death and that nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8). When our strength to even pray seems gone, the Spirit of God Himself intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8). Even when we have nothing we can do but pray, that is enough because the Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus, is exalted over all things and has "left nothing outside of His control" (Hebrews 2:8).
The Bible tells us, "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him." (Nahum 1:7)
Remember how Martin Luther captured that kind of confidence in the hymn we hold so dear, "A Mighty Fortress is our God." In that melodic reflection of Psalm 47, Luther taught believers to sing of God's strength and victory over evil and its worldly threats: He says: "A mighty fortress is our God, A sword and shield victorious. He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod and wins salvation glorious. The old satanic foe has sworn to work us woe. With craft and dreadful might he arms himself to fight. On earth he has no equal. No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost, rejected. But now a champion comes to fight, whom God himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is he! Christ Jesus, mighty Lord! God's only son, adored! He holds the field victorious. "
God is with you and He is working good for you even when life seems to be turning upside down. He brings victory through Christ on the cross over the worst life might inflict. God assures us that even if we lose everything and everyone, even our lives; nothing can separate us from His love in Jesus Christ (Romans 8). Even the messes we make of our lives by our mistakes, our sins, our failures that would threaten to hold us captive and far from God's help, even these are taken to the cross of Christ and left impotent in the light of God's love. God's action and word to us in Jesus Christ gives us calm amid conflict and carries us forward to a new tomorrow.
In the buildup to war with Germany in 1939, the British government considered the toll war would take on its citizens. Wishing to inspire courage and assurance, the government created three posters that would be posted throughout the country. The third poster was kept in reserve, only to be issued if the war turned bad and people were in the depths of despair.
Poster one read: Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might. Poster two read: Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your resolution will bring us victory. Poster three was to read: Keep Calm and Carry On! That poster has become very popular today. It reveals a persevering spirit that was needed to win the war. But that poster remained hidden for many years. Why? Well thankfully, it never got so bad that it had to be issued for the people's moral.
So, at the time, it went largely unseen by the masses until a copy was discovered in 2000 folded in a book that was purchased by a used book store in England. The new owners liked the poster; they framed it, hung it on their wall, and soon began to sell prints to the many customers who liked it also. In fact, as I said, it has become very popular today. The simple message still seems to resonate with people who are searching for some inspiration to stay calm during life's storms and to push through the rigors of their day.
But, what happens when the hellishness of this life does overwhelm? What happens when the life in which we find ourselves is crushing our hopes and dashing our dreams? What happens when that poster is needed, when we all yearn for a word of peace amidst our troubles and conflicts, but the poster isn't enough? Well, the Bible is clear; there is going to come a time in your life and mine when our most inspirational words are not enough, when our best efforts leave us spiritually, emotionally dazed and confused.
That's why it is so important that you hear what the Bible is saying to you and me, my friend. God gives us more than just words to inspire us; He gives us the Word in the flesh, His Word and salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus is God's ransoming Word in action. Jesus is God's living promise to you and to me played out through a cross on Calvary and an empty tomb on Easter morning. He entered into our world's troubles, into our rejections, our own illnesses, even our own deaths. When He gave His perfect, sinless life up on the cross, He paid the price of our sin in full and His resurrection on Easter morning means that the worst around us, even the worst that comes from our own sinful, fearful souls is no match for His might. Christ's victorious resurrection means victory for every person whose lives are entrusted to His strong hands.
Faith in Jesus is the source and the strength of our prayer. Trust in Christ is the hope that empowers our prayers. When we couldn't carry on, Jesus carried us in His saving arms. When we can't carry on, Jesus stands with us, walks with us, and will see us through to life eternal with Him. In Jesus, the disquiet of our hearts is stilled and He carries us forward in life and even beyond death with His salvation and hope.
God's word to us amid life's fears and troubles gives us calm knowing that our lives and our futures are united to Jesus' sufferings, death, and resurrection. Do you remember those posters from World War II? Well, people have not only fallen in love with that third poster, they have made its message their own. Maybe you've heard of some of their modifications. If you look around, you'll see some of these adapted phrases on posters, T-shirts, and coffee mugs. Some read: "Keep Calm and Drink Tea" or "Keep Calm and Love Penguins" Now if we were to get into the spirit of adapting that poster's message to our lives as Christians, if we were to join in the Keep Calm poster craze, perhaps we could post a word of God's truth as a banner to hold high during times of anxiety, dispute, hopelessness: because of Jesus Christ and all that He has done and is doing for us: "Keep Calm and Pray On."
God's people can keep calm and pray on. In the most impossible circumstances, we can do just that because it is one of God's gifts to us that flows from faith in Christ! God wants us all to know the freedom of life in Christ and to trust in Him to carry us on. When calamity strikes, we can rest in the enduring hope and healing of God's kingdom. When trouble and strife threaten even to silence our prayers, we rely on Jesus to quiet our hearts and lift our eyes to God whose victory assures us of freedom from fear and futility. He has ransomed us from the tyranny of this broken world and our broken hearts and gives us liberty to love and rejoice even amidst life's disappointments.
When life is most difficult, whether at work or at home or even at church, Jesus' gift to you is calm in the storm. His assurance of love and salvation holds your future secure and carries you forward in His strong arms. Now, "May the God of hope fill you with all love and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13).
Why, because there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all. In His Name, keep calm, pray on. Amen!
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for September 22, 2013 Topic: What Are Parables?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, Jesus often spoke in parables, but what exactly is a parable?
SELTZ: Mark, maybe a simple definition of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It's an earthly story so that people can identify with it. But it has a heavenly meaning so that people can see beyond their earthly situation; see something bigger and better - namely the Kingdom of God.
ANNOUNCER: Does that mean a parable helps us to better understand the reality of heaven?
SELTZ: Certainly the Kingdom of God includes the notion of heaven. But, parables tend to focus on the Kingdom of God on earth. There is something really big right here, right now, among us. God's grace and His gift of life are among us now - not just off in the future in heaven.
ANNOUNCER: All right. Let me try this then. A parable uses something familiar in order to help us see something bigger and better and maybe even see something new.
SELTZ: Exactly. Notice in Luke 15 Jesus tells two stories: one about a sheep and the other about a coin. Everyone in the audience was familiar with sheep and coins. But, not everyone was familiar with the grace of God which seeks and finds that which is lost. They may have been familiar with what it's like to be lost. That's a rather common human experience. They may have even been familiar with finding something. But, to be found - that may be a radically new experience, and a rather radically joyful one at that! It's almost like a mystery was solved.
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean by mystery?
SELTZ: The mystery that's unearthed in Jesus' parables; well, it's about the Kingdom of God. It's the mystery of the Gospel - the mystery of God's redemptive plan - the mystery of how God finds us in our lost condition and keeps us safe in His grace.
ANNOUNCER: What's so mysterious about that?
SELTZ: Well, first of all, the motivation for God's plan of salvation. Why would the Almighty Creator of the universe even care about part of His creation - especially when that part (humanity) doesn't even, by nature, like God very much? You know how tough it is to like someone who doesn't like you. Imagine how tough it is to understand why God would even love His creation which has turned against Him in hate and rebellion. But, the Bible says He did and He does!
ANNOUNCER: That is good news for us!
SELTZ: It gets even better though! God put His loving attitude into action. He didn't just love us. He loved us to death - literally!
ANNOUNCER: That sounds like another mystery.
SELTZ: It is, but a mystery we can know and understand. God put His love for us into action by becoming one of us and becoming among us. He did that on Christmas. The Almighty Creator became part of His creation in Jesus Christ. That's certainly a mystery! How can someone be both creator and creation - both God and man? It sounds like something only God could do.
ANNOUNCER: Which baffles many. It's hard to comprehend how God did that. It's even harder to understand why He did that.
SELTZ: That's also another mystery. That's where parables can help. The shepherd not only owned the sheep, but he loved the sheep. He left the 99 (who were safe with His undershepherds) to find that one lost sheep. That's a lot of love.
ANNOUNCER: And how did the Good Shepherd, Jesus, find us?
SELTZ: Yet another mystery. He found us in the deepest, darkest pit of lostness by going into that pit, that dark pit Himself. He found us by going to the cross. It doesn't get any deeper and darker than that. In fact, if you think about it, you can't even imagine that. Not only does God's love for us prompt Him to become one of us in Jesus, but it also prompted Him to die for us in Jesus Christ. Mystery beyond our imagination, but true and clear according to His Word. He died so that we can live in Him.
ANNOUNCER: Now, that sounds like one of those classic fairy tales, where everyone lived happily ever after.
SELTZ: Now, that's the goal! So, I do hope that those who hear these parables in our text realize how much God loves us - even enough to send His Son as a Shepherd to find us lost sheep. Now, no fairy tale talks like that. But He does do all that to bring us back into the safety of the sheepfold where we really will live happily ever after.
ANNOUNCER: And Jesus is challenging us in heart and mind to look closely at Him and place our trust in Him alone. Thank you Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord, Support Us All Day Long" by Stephen P. Starke & Joseph D. Jones, arr. Walter
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