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Date: 11/09/2013 9:16 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: November 10, 2013

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Sermon Text for November 10, 2013

"Dear Father, Hear My Prayer" #81-10
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 10, 2013
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Who Is Martin Luther?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 7:7-12

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed and prayer to God the Father in His Name still changes things. Amen.

On April 14th, 1912, just before midnight, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and began to take on water. You probably know the story of the Titanic. The "unsinkable" ship on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean ran into grave trouble and became helpless, foundering at sea. Twenty-five minutes after water began pouring into the wounded vessel, it sent out its first distress signal by Morse code. 

Another ship, the SS Californian was only five miles away. But it never heard the distress signal. Its wireless radio was turned off for the night. The Titanic crew desperately tried to signal the Californian. A Morse Lamp was also used to signal for help. Distress rockets were sent into the sky. But there was no answer. No response. In full view of the Californian's lookout crew, the Titanic sank. 

Sometimes when we pray, it sure doesn't seem like anyone is listening, does it? Sometimes when you feel most like you're sinking in life, you wonder if anyone really cares. Does anyone hear you in distress? Does God hear you?

It would be tempting to answer that question, "No." After all, why would He listen to people like us: imperfect, broken, even annoying? Why would God be open to listening to sinful people who have disappointed Him and, perhaps, even caused Him to be frustrated and angry? 

Why would the Almighty God pay any attention to children whose lives leave so much to be desired?

Incredibly, Jesus, in full view of such a reality invites us to pray to God just that way. We get to call Him our Father because Jesus has made a personal relationship with God possible again. 

The Lord's Prayer is unique in all religious literature because it teaches that in Jesus Christ, God is indeed our loving Father, One whom we can trust, One in whom we can believe, One who really listens and cares. The power of prayer ultimately has nothing to do with our forms or our postures. And it sure doesn't depend on who we are, or what we have done. 

So, we need to be careful here because some think that Jesus is merely teaching us to call God Father because we can. That's not true. Sin has broken our relationship with our heavenly Father. Our sins, our rebellious thoughts and actions have cut off communication lines with the One who created us and redeemed us. 

If you are having trouble praying, know that all sin, yours and mine, is the root cause of communication stagnation with God. When you sin against your wife, your husband, your family, your neighbors, you ultimately sin against God. You break off communication lines with Him and them. Without grace and forgiveness, prayer is impossible. And even healthy earthly communication is outside of our reach as well.

Praying to God as Father on your terms alone is a good way to get disconnected again from God and from others. 

You get prayer wrong if you believe that you have a special in on the Creator of the universe because of who you are, what you've done, or what position you hold in this world. You better not call Him Daddy that way. You have no right and neither do I. 

Jesus Himself reiterates that point when He told the story about two people who came to God in prayer. One was a very religious, even somewhat righteous, Pharisee, the other, a lowly, despised tax collector. The Pharisee approached God on his own self-righteous terms; the tax collector came in humility, repentance, and faith. Jesus said, the tax collector's prayer was heard. And it was heard, not because of His deeds, but because of His reliance on the grace of God that makes prayer to our heavenly Father possible again in Jesus Christ.

God's mercy, God's forgiveness makes praying to God as our Father possible again. That's why the good news of Jesus is so sweet. That's why Jesus' invitation to pray to our dear Father is so wonderful. Not only does Jesus Christ earn forgiveness to cover our sins, He makes communication, prayer, faith talk with the loving Father possible again. 

The cross of Jesus was not merely a tragic event in Roman-Jewish history; it was an event where God made the Our Father Prayer possible again. The Bible says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world back to Himself, not counting sins against us (but against Him.)" On the cross, Jesus bridges the gap. On the cross, Jesus pays the eternal price for sin and rebellion, on the cross, Jesus makes heavenly communication with the Father possible again for people just like you and me. That's why only He, of all religious leaders who've ever been, He can tell you to call the God of heaven Father. And because of Him you can, and that's why thanksgiving for what He has done is the true motivation and power for prayer. 

But there's even more. There's even more. The Bible teaches that the Father is not just Someone who is appeased, He's Someone who wants what is best for you.

He cares for you more than you care for yourself. He loves you with an eternal love, and He's calling you back home to a life that is not only full, it is eternal. He's involved in your life right now, calling you, making your response possible, caring for the world in which you live, telling you straight how things are, and how they still can be if you put your faith again in Him!

He was willing to give up His Son so that you and I might become adopted sons and daughters of Him. He was willing to have His heart broken so that our hearts might again be renewed and restored. 

The Son's work on the cross and the Father's loving, broken heart, it makes your prayers possible and meaningful. Talk to Him. He knows how you feel. He knows what you are going through. He made a way possible to come home to Him again, in faith, with prayer, with a love that is almost beyond comprehension. And what is that love really like?

The Son's work on the cross and the Father's loving, broken heart makes your prayers possible and meaningful. Talk to Him. He knows how you feel. He knows what you're going through. He made a way possible to come home to Him again in faith; with prayer, with a love that is almost beyond comprehension. But you know what is that love really like.

A Union sergeant, a loving father, was killed on the first day of fighting in Gettysburg. When his body was found later in the week, lying in a secluded spot in Gettysburg, he was holding a photograph -- and on it were the faces of his three children: 8-year-old Frank, 6-year-old Alice, and 4-year-old Freddie. Somehow, this unknown soldier had managed to drag himself to this patch of ground after he had been wounded, and he was looking at his children's faces when he died.

His name might have forever been lost, since there was nothing on his body to identify him except the pictures of his children clutched in his hands. But, somehow, that photograph of his children ended up in the possession of Dr. John Francis Bourns, a Philadelphia physician who helped care for the wounded at Gettysburg. Months after wrapping up his volunteer work there, he decided to try and find out the identity of the children's father.

His efforts produced a wave of publicity that swept the North and became the People Magazine cover of its day. Oct. 19, 1863, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story under the headline: "Whose Father Was He?" Back then, they couldn't print the picture, so the article described the children in detail along with this published plea.

It read, "After the battle of Gettysburg, a Union soldier was found in a secluded spot on the battlefield, where, wounded, he had laid himself down to die. In his hands, tightly clasped, was a picture containing the portraits of three small children ... as he silently gazed upon them his soul passed away. It is earnestly desired that all papers in the country will draw attention to the discovery of this picture, so that, if possible, the family of the dead hero may come into possession of it. Of what value will it be to these children, proving, as it does, that the last thought of their dying father was for them, and them only."

One of the reprints appeared in the American Presbyterian, a church magazine where Philinda Humiston first saw word of the picture and the dead soldier. She hadn't heard from her husband since weeks before Gettysburg. When she saw the description of the children, she feared the worst but she couldn't be sure. She contacted Bourns through a letter. When she received Bourns' reply, she knew her husband, Amos Humiston, had indeed given his life for the nation in battle, yes, but with a love that even then was focused on his family.

In his last letter to Philinda, two months before his death, Amos expressed those feelings. He said, "I received the likeness of the children and it pleased me more than anything you could have sent me. How I want to see them and their mother is more than I can tell you. I hope that we may all live to see each other again if this war does not last too long."

A love; a love that thinks of you in the midst of the battle, a love that longs for you to be home with Him, a love that desires not just for your picture to be in His Hands, but for your life to be wrapped in His loving arms; that's just a glimpse of the heavenly Father's love for you. And His love, a love that came looking for us to save us, that love makes the Our Father Prayer possible.

With faith in Jesus Christ we can pray to God the Father as our own dear, loving Father; One who hears, forgives, and blesses.

That's exactly what Jesus emphasized in Matthew chapter seven when He said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus doesn't just invite you to pray to God as your loving Father; He challenges you to do it. He wants you to seek the Father's blessing with the attitude of "Ask, Seek, and Knock."The combination of those words: "Ask, seek, and knock" create a crescendo of invitation and revelation that redefines the purpose and the power of prayer for us. 

To ask is to make your request filled with passion to a Father who passionately loves you.

To seek invites all people everywhere to search for the Father who is already lovingly searching for each one of us.

To knock is to pray in the power of the One who "stands at the door and knocks" for you, who opens doors that no one can shut (Rev. 3:7).

Christ's invitation for us to pray "Our Father," is an invitation to a graced life of love, resourced by Him, directed by Him and even blessed by Him. Jesus says it even more matter-of-factly, He says, "Just look at your own dads, even the bad ones give good gifts to their children. How much more does God your heavenly Father desire to give good things to you; those who ask?"

Prayer's bottom line: even bad dads can give good gifts. Abba Father, our dear Father in Heaven, blesses His children in even greater ways, even better than the best of earthly fathers. His is a giving saturated with grace--culminating in the ultimate gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ. When you have a Father like that, prayer is a welcomed blessing, isn't it?

Patrick Henry Hughes had a dad a lot like that. You see, On March 10, 1988, Patrick Henry was born without eyes and without the ability to straighten his arms or legs. But Patrick's father, another Patrick--Patrick John Hughes--believed in his son. Patrick John introduced his son to the piano when he was only nine months old. Patrick Henry Hughes showed amazing aptitude. As he grew, he mastered both piano and trumpet. Music became a blessing, a passion. It was a gift from a father who loved him. After Patrick Henry Hughes graduated from high school, he attended the University of Louisville. At the urging of the university's marching band director, Patrick Henry joined the University of Louisville marching band. How was that possible? As Patrick Henry Hughes played his trumpet, his father, Patrick John, pushed his wheelchair through all the marching formations. Every practice, every game, every performance, Patrick Henry Hughes had his father with him--giving, blessing, encouraging, guiding. When you have a father's love like that, prayerful conversation sure is a welcomed blessing, isn't it?

Now, Jesus teaches us that we have that kind of Fatherly love and more! You may have been born blind and weak in sin. Life's adversities may have immobilized you. But your Father believes in you, loves you, has saved you, and now is the grace and power for you as you march through life. Jesus summed this all up as He invites us to approach God boldly and confidently in prayer, praying "Our Father who art in heaven!"

And you can pray this boldly today, even if you are struggling with the image of a loving, listening, caring Father. I know the world in which we live today has its absentee fathers, its uncaring mothers, its broken families, there is no doubt about that. But, that makes Jesus' invitation even more compelling, because God the Father is the Father who can always be counted on for all sons and daughters out there today. Pray to your heavenly Father with great confidence that He loves you even more than you can know. If you want to see that love in action, look to the cross and resurrection of Jesus, as God's love in action for you making prayer not only possible, but the power of God available in your life to change things.

Veteran's Day is approaching. It's a day when we honor all those men and women who have made great sacrifices to keep us safe. And, if you are looking for some good examples of fathers in action, you can find them here for sure. I love the movie "We Were Soldiers" written by Randall Wallace and its portrayal of such a man, Lt. Col. Hal Moore. Mel Gibson plays the Colonel in the movie and has one of the great speeches in cinematic history. As they are preparing to go into battle, he says this, "But this I swear, before you and Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. So help me God."

As powerful as that is, it's merely another glimpse of God the Father's love and commitment to you, my friend. He sent the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, into harm's way--to the cross--to make certain that you are not left on the battlefield of this broken world. He seeks you. He listens to you. He loves you. His desire is that no one be left outside of His love and grace. And He wants you to pray to Him confidently and boldly.

What an incredible opening to a prayer that not only deepens our trust in God, but it gives us a glimpse of that kind of intimacy and love that our God in heaven has for those who pray in faith to Him. So this very night, this very night, why not pray in that confidence? Why not pray as a believer in Jesus Christ, the One who makes the "Our Father" Prayer possible again for you and for me? You have an amazing Father in heaven. Call upon Him. Seek refuge in Him. Learn each day what kind of life He has in store for you and for all those who seek Him. Ask, seek, knock, your Father not only invites you to pray but to an eternal life of prayer in Him, by grace, through faith forever. 


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for November 10, 2013
Topic: Who Is Martin Luther?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Today a listener asks, "Who is Martin Luther?" 

SELTZ: What a great question today, Mark, because November 10th is Martin Luther's birthday. Today is the 530th anniversary of the day of his birth. 

ANNOUNCER: Back in the year 2000, Time Magazine listed Luther as one of the most significant people of the last 1000 years.

SELTZ: He clearly has had a powerful impact on history. But let's make sure people know who we're talking about. These days, some people confuse him with Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights activist and pioneer. People may not realize, but the civil rights reformer was named after Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation.

ANNOUNCER: And the Reformation began back in the year 1517.

SELTZ: It sure did; on October 31st of that year, to be exact. At that time, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, posted his "95 Theses" on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These statements were a response to indulgences being sold to people in Germany.

ANNOUNCER: And the church at that time was "selling" those indulgences as if they could forgive sin.

SELTZ: Yes. And people were told that purchasing an indulgence, a kind of special note from the Pope, was counted as a good work that helped provide the benefits of being forgiven, even justified before God for their sin. 

ANNOUNCER: And Luther was opposed to that teaching. 

SELTZ: He sure was and for good reason. You see, Martin Luther discovered, or rediscovered, through his reading of the Bible that we are justified, not by our works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. So, Jesus was the reason we were forgiven, not our works or traditions. And Martin Luther rediscovered the Biblical teachings of grace alone, faith alone, through Scripture alone.

ANNOUNCER: And that teaching was well received in Germany, but by the church authorities, not so much.

SELTZ: No it wasn't, in fact it got Luther into big trouble. When commanded to recant his teachings, Luther stood before the Emperor himself at the gathering in Worms, Germany and said, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God." Then he said it this way, "I cannot and will not recant." And so, Martin Luther's refusal to compromise the Word of God, it changed history. 

ANNOUNCER: But it also meant that his life was in danger and he could have been killed on sight.

SELTZ: But God protected Martin Luther even there. In fact, He rose up Frederick the Third, had him whisked away to Wartburg Castle under the cover of darkness. I was privileged to walk through that castle for myself 2 years ago. I saw the place where Luther hid for nearly a year. I even saw the place where He translated the Bible into German. 

ANNOUNCER: We could mention, also, that in 2014, you'll be leading a tour to Germany to experience those sites first hand.

SELTZ: We're going back again, that's for sure. We'll get to see what God has birthed again almost 500 years ago. We'll see our spiritual heritage. Back then Luther's preaching and teaching helped shepherd a newly developing church. He wrote the Small and Large Catechisms, composed hymns, and tried to temper even more radical reformers. Luther really was a man of God's peace and grace. And that "good news," in many ways, has blessed millions of lives; it could be argued that it helped change the world.

ANNOUNCER: And his writings also shaped the teaching that gave birth to the Lutheran Church. 

SELTZ: That's true, but people need to know that Martin Luther did not want the church to bear his name. He felt that the word "evangelical" was more appropriate. That's a word derived from the Greek word meaning "Gospel" or "Good News." He hoped that the Gospel would reform the Catholic Church of his day. 

ANNOUNCER: Now, why do you suppose Time Magazine recognized his influence?

SELTZ: I think in many ways, it's because Luther changed the course of not only church history but of history itself. So, his translation of the Bible, literally helped create the German culture by unifying its language. But most importantly, God used him to bless the whole Western World, freeing people from the corruption in the church and redirecting their attention to the clear teaching of the Bible--especially that central teaching that all who believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized into His Name receive the gift of life. The Bible became an open book under Luther. Because of him, many received the blessing of life and salvation, and that, Mark, is the legacy of Luther. We don't celebrate the man as much as we do his message. We don't hold on to his cultural heritage as much as we do his Christ-centered focus. 

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.

"The Our Father" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.

"In Holy Conversation" 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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