Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: October 13, 2013

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From: Lutheran Hour Ministries <lh_min@lhm.org>
Date: 10/12/2013 9:16 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: October 13, 2013

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Sermon Text for October 13, 2013

"The Reason to Go" #81-06
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 13, 2013
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Why Pray Specifically If God Already Knows Our Needs?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Luke 17:11-19

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, and He calls you to a life of faith to follow Him for life now and forever. Amen. 

Years ago I learned a rhyme for this time of the year. It goes like this: "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Perhaps you learned that little ditty, too. Tomorrow is when the United States commemorates Columbus Day. Back on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew spotted land on their voyage from Spain. You probably remember the reason this explorer set sail. Columbus believed he could reach Asia by sailing west from Spain instead of traveling east. That was his reason to go.

Today I want to talk about another voyage as well; a life of faith in Jesus Christ the risen Savior of the world. You may know His Name, but have never heard of Him or responded to His call to follow Him. Or, you may be following Him, but are overwhelmed by challenges, pain, grief, and confusion. Or, you may be at a point in life when you are wondering if the future holds anything for you. Is there any reason to trust God? Is there any reason to keep walking in faith on the hard road of life? Why go on this journey with Jesus?

Back to the Columbus story. Concerning his journey, his calculations weren't exactly on target and some of his motives weren't completely pure, but he was adamant about taking this journey across the ocean. He first proposed the idea in 1485. At that time, European nations were looking for a better way to China and India, a journey less dangerous than the route they were taking. Columbus felt he could make it by going west.

Nation after nation refused to fund his trip, but finally, in 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain offered to pay half of the expenses. Columbus eagerly raised the other half from private investors. So, as you may remember from grade school, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria left Spain in August of 1492. Five weeks later they encountered what we now know as the Bahamas. By March of 1493, Columbus had returned to Spain with stories of the new land. Christopher Columbus would go on to complete four round-trip journeys between Spain and the New World.
Why do you think Christopher Columbus was so determined to try his plan? I think he forged ahead on this journey for two reasons: desperation and hope.

Traders were desperate to find a new route to the East. There had to be a better way. In addition, Columbus had heard hopeful indications about what lay to the west across the ocean. He read some stories. He studied the science of the day. He understood the trade winds. He had learned how to navigate the ocean. There were reasons to believe. There were things in which to place one's hope.

Desperation and hope. You may have both desperation and hope in your heart today. What need is causing you great pain? What obstacles seem to be shutting your life down? What is making you desperate for a solution?

So, as you listen to this message today, what hope has God put into your heart? What inkling of new life do you carry with you? What work of the Holy Spirit is leading you to look to Jesus today to His promises for an answer, for the answer in your life? 

Desperation and hope. Like Christopher Columbus, you may be running into obstacles in your life, problems with your plans. You may feel as if no one understands and no one is listening. You may even feel like your own worst enemy sometimes; filled with doubt, criticizing yourself, stumbling into sinful failures. Life can make us all desperate, can't it? But then there is hope. Jesus rose from the dead. He has changed people's lives. Maybe He can change your life too.
That was the hope of ten men one day; ten who lived with leprosy and its death sentence. But this day they called out in hope to Jesus. Luke 17 says: 
On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (Luke 17:11-14).

Lepers; desperation, yet hope. Societal rules defined their desperation. These men had to stay at least one hundred paces away from any other human being. You've probably heard how leprosy was feared in the first century. No one wanted to come in contact with someone who had this disfiguring disease. People who had the illness banded into groups to help each other survive. But every time another person came into sight they had to cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" They were isolated, frightened, lonely, heartbroken. They were desperate.

But, somehow, they had heard of Jesus. They heard of His miracles and healing. They heard He was unlike any other person who had ever walked the earth. They knew His Name. They knew His authority, and they sensed hope in Him. So they called out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

Ten men with leprosy, boldly calling out. Like Christopher Columbus persevering in face of so many obstacles: they too were all pretty gutsy, weren't they? You see, when you're pressed against the wall in desperation and when you feel like you don't have many options, the world would rather that you resign yourself to your fate. Forget your crazy ideas! Deal with your reality of leprosy! Your life can't change! You're in too deep a hole! You can never be happy. It's all downhill from here.

This broken and sinful world and our dark sinful nature always lean toward the negative. Have you ever noticed that in your own life? We find the cloud in every silver lining. We discover the bad news in every new development. We find the down side of every blessing. We're really good at burying every reason for hope!

But Jesus changes everything just like He changed everything for those lepers that day. He healed impossible illnesses. He had authority over dominating demons. He calmed the stormy seas. He raised the dead just as He would rise from the dead Himself for you and me. 

There's a reason for you to embark on a voyage of faith today; to look to Jesus as Savior, Rescuer, Comforter, and Friend. It's because He is the true source of hope in the middle of your desperation. For us and for the ten men with leprosy it's a reason to go to Him. You can put your faith in Him in His promises in all things. Just listen to what He said to those lepers one day:
So, when Jesus heard their cries and saw the men from a distance, He said to them, "Go and show yourself to the priests" (Luke 17:14). The priests were the only ones who could certify that they were truly cleansed. 

But wait a minute. Jesus didn't say, "Behold, I heal you!" He didn't lay His hand on them or tell them to go wash in a river. He just told them to go to the priests. Why would any man with leprosy follow that instruction? After all the years of suffering and rejection, why would any of the ten take the risk to go to the priest? Why would they go? Why would they embark on this journey of faith?

I think they took Jesus at His word. I think they trusted His promise of new life and a new future.

Promises. Promises, shmomises, you may be thinking. "How can you trust what anybody says these days?" How could they trust Him?

Well, to a degree, you're right. It gets tiring hearing all the empty promises in life. Politicians make lots of promises that never come to fruition. Sometimes people close to you make promises that are broken--along with your heart. And this public and personal disappointment can easily make you feel like never trusting anyone again. "Why even walk with Jesus," you may wonder, "when so many promises have been broken in my life?"

That kind of pain makes you tired. It makes you want to stay put. And that could be a big mistake.

Have you ever heard of Pete Shotton? He learned the lesson of missing the journey the hard way! He and his friend John played in a band called the Quarrymen. Pete played, of all things, the washboard! It was the late 1950s in London. The band was picking up some momentum, especially with some talented new band mates, but Pete was tired. He didn't enjoy playing anymore. He didn't really believe there was a future in sticking with his band mates. The group was sad to hear this, especially his friend John. They had grown up together, gotten in mischief together, and had become an inseparable pair. But, now Pete wanted to stay put. He just didn't think the promise of a future together as a band had any merit. So Pete quit.

John and his new band mates forged ahead on their journey. By the way, John's last name was Lennon and the new band became known as "The Beatles."

Could there be a glorious future waiting for you based on the Word and the promise of Jesus Christ alone? The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus changed the world more than that British invasion did! And the Savior who told the ten leprous men to go show themselves to the priests packs your life with powerful promises!

He says: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). He says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is the one that bears much fruit" (John 15:5). He says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). And then He says these great words, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10-11).

This is the promise of life, of a new beginning through the blood of Jesus shed for you, of the forgiveness of sins paid at the cross and delivered to you through the living Word, in baptism and in the Lord's Supper. This is His promise of life for you! 

Another reason for you to embark on a voyage of faith with Christ today is because He who promised you new life, He's faithful. For those ten men with leprosy, He who promised was faithful. And as they went, the Bible tells us, they were cleansed.

Will you walk in faith today, dear friend? Will your desperation open your eyes to hope? Will you hear the promise of your Savior? Will you go to Him in prayer, trusting that He will have mercy on you? Hebrews 4:16 calls you today as it says: "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

By God's grace and the Holy Spirit's power, you can embark on your walk of faith with confidence today, dear friend, trusting the promise of Jesus Christ who conquered even death. You will find His mercy; you'll find His grace in your time of need.

So get going. Get going with Jesus. Let your life be a life of faith in His hands in all things. Why walk with the Lord in your blessings and challenges? Why trust in Him in your sadness and pain? Why depend on Him when your life is uncertain? Why even go with Him on this voyage called faith? Dear friend, you can go because of His grace, His overflowing and unending love for you.

That's what happened to one of the men who was cleansed from leprosy that day. Luke tells it this way:
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:15-19).

The Samaritan was bowled over by God's grace. He was healed! He had a new lease on life! And if it could happen to him--a foreigner who wasn't in the religious in-crowd, it could happen to anyone! How did this happen to him? Jesus told him, "Your faith has made you well." 

Faith isn't something you conjure up. Faith is not a quality you develop in life. Faith is not a characteristic of really well-behaved religious people. Faith is a gift of God. It is God doing His remarkable work of salvation in your life, pouring His grace freely upon you, and taking you on a journey that allows hope in Him to overflow in your life.

The Samaritan not only found out that he was healed from leprosy; he found out that he had saving faith from Jesus. Thanksgiving for gracious life received; that's why he returned to glorify God.

Now, you know I love my Michigan Wolverines, so that's why I enjoy telling you the journey of one of Michigan's great heroes, Tyrone Wheatley. You remember him, don't you? Wheatley was one of the most outstanding football players for the University of Michigan. In fact, he was one of the most successful athletes in high school and college from the Detroit Metropolitan area. He was part of state championship teams in track and in football. He was the MVP of the Rose Bowl in college. He was also on the All Big Ten teams for both track and football. That's incredible! Tyrone Wheatley was a sports rock star! Following his college career, you remember, he was drafted in the first round by the NFL and he went on to have a successful career in the National Football League; finishing up with the Oakland Raiders. So, here's what gets me. What did Tyrone Wheatley do after he retired from football? Did he live the high life in California? Did he bask in his fame? No way. Tyrone Wheatley came back to the Detroit area and became the football coach of his high school team. He came home to help a bunch of high school kids. And he helped them get to the playoffs for the first time in years. 

Why go back to your hometown? Why bother to mess with high school kids? He went back because he was grateful, and gratefulness moves you to want to give back in this life.

Well, success like Wheatley's is nothing compared to the righteousness and peace that Christ makes available to you today because of His work on the cross and in the resurrection. That kind of blessing magnifies successes and helps us overcome all adversities and empowers our journeys of service even back to our families, our hometowns, or maybe like Columbus, bravely into a new world for you, all because God has promised to finish the job of bringing eternal life back into our lives! 

God has a journey of faith for you today. And even if you have been far away from Him, God's grace is calling you back to Him. That's what's happening today as you hear this word from God. Whether you're going through good times or bad times, God calls you back to the voyage of faith with Him. He gives you reason to go on this journey--to thank Him, to give Him praise, and go your way as a person of faith in Jesus who shares His love with the world.

So let me ask you directly today, "Will you face your life with faith in Jesus today? Will you embark on this voyage of grace?"

Please know that you're not going where no one has gone before. No, you're following a faithful leader. You're walking in the steps of the Trailblazer. Jesus carved out the path through sin and death with His death and resurrection. Because He lives, you will live also! You are raised with Christ in your baptism! You are not leading the way; you are following the Risen One! 

So, will you go with Him today? Will you cry to Him for help today? Will you walk in His promises, and come back to give Him thanks and praise? What will your voyage through life be like? May it be one of faith, dear friend--faith in Jesus Christ your Savior like that Samaritan who was healed not just for the day, but for eternity. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for October 13, 2013
Topic: Why Pray Specifically If God Already Knows Our Needs?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz answers more questions about prayer. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, why should we pray to God when He already knows what we're going to say and He knows what we need?

SELTZ: Wow, Mark, that's a great question! It's a question that especially arises on those days when our minds are racing with lists of things to do. Who has time for prayer, right? And, God does know our thoughts, our needs, and our hopes whether we speak them to Him or not. 
ANNOUNCER: So, we might be tempted to think; hey, it's really not necessary that we stop and pray or ask others to pray for us?

SELTZ: Right, so let's keep it simple. Let's look to Jesus' example as our first answer to the question. If anyone had reason to skip praying each day, it was Jesus. He had a lot of things to do and huge responsibilities, and you can't ignore the fact that He already had a very close relationship with the Father, a oneness with Him.

ANNOUNCER: And yet we see in Scripture how Jesus took time to pray and he also taught His disciples and us how to pray.

SELTZ: Yeah, that's exactly right. So, remember in the months of November and December on the Lutheran Hour, we're going to examine that specific prayer that He taught them to pray the Lord's Prayer. 
But, listen, there is a wonderful quote from Martin Luther that speaks to the very practical, day to day reasons for petitions to God, for prayer....he said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done."
He took more time to pray when he had more to do....I love that quote, because it reminds us of how big of a part of our life God is and that even on those most successful of days in human terms, they could also be the most misguided of days if we are pushing agendas that are outside of God's will for us as we neglect time in study and prayer with Him. So, without praying, we might be spinning our wheels in busy-ness and burning ourselves out while God has other plans for us.

ANNOUNCER: But, again, why should we concern God with specifics if He already knows everything? 

SELTZ: Besides Jesus' example, God's Word tells us to pray about what's on our hearts and minds. God wants us to bring our concerns to Him, like He says in Matthew 7:7 and Philippians 4:6-7. To really understand the power of prayer to the Father in Christ's Name, it's important to think of it in terms of our relationship to God and the life of freedom that faith brings. 

ANNOUNCER: Okay. How so?

SELTZ: Well, prayer is not some mechanistic incantation to control God for our purposes, neither is it an exercise in fatalistic futility due to God being all knowing and all powerful. It's faith communication with God who created and redeemed us to be in a loving relationship of communication with Him; of freedom, freedom to do what is right in Him for others. 

ANNOUNCER: Incredibly, God wants to be in relationship us, so faith becomes a faith dialogue with Him.

SELTZ: Right, I had a good friend who spoke of prayer in the freedom of faith this way, he said, "God answers, yes, no, wait, or "you decide."" In other words, we can pray about many things, about jobs, career paths, about whom to marry; about whom we might wish to serve as our neighbor; God isn't in the business of dictating those answers. There are times then when we get to use the wisdom He has deposited in us through His Word, in the guidance and power of His Spirit, to use our hearts and minds to prayerfully "decide" what we should do to give Him glory and to serve our neighbor, with Him being eager to bless our prayerful decisions.

ANNOUNCER: So then, praying to God is part of our growing, maturing relationship with Him, and He uses our study of His Word and even the very petitions of our prayers to grow us more into reflections of Jesus to others.

SELTZ: That's right. And He desires our growing in Him so much that even at those times when we don't know even what to say or ask. Romans 8 says that the Holy Spirit is even then lifting up our prayers on our behalf to the Father. So, relationship, freedom, faith, uncoerced obedience; that's all part of an exciting life of prayer.

ANNOUNCER: It would seem that prayer also builds thanksgiving into our lives.

SELTZ: It sure does, with specific prayers and petitions, with God's answers of "Yes, No, Wait," or "you decide because I given you several good choices," that freedom of faith and confidence in the God who loves us always, builds a thanksgiving certainty and praise in our lives, that's for sure.

ANNOUNCER: 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.

"Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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