The Lutheran Hour: December 8, 2013

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Sermon Text for December 8, 2013

"Daily Bread for Eternal Life" #81-14
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on December 8, 2013
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Is God's Kingdom On The Way?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 6:31-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the Name of Jesus, who is exactly who He says He is for you, the Bread of Life for eternal life. Amen.

Wait a minute, Pastor Seltz. You didn't mean to say that, did you? What's this talk about Jesus and Him being the "Bread of Life for eternal life"? I thought the focus for today was how to pray about earthly things. Isn't that what Jesus means here in the Lord's Prayer when He says..... "daily bread?" You know, the things that we need for this body for this life; food, clothes, job, transportation, heat, electricity, televisions, and iPads, and Smart phones? (Oops, sounds like the necessities list just got a little longer, don't you think?) 

And Pastor, I was hoping for a sermon on this stuff, because when I pray, I tend to focus on these things. I pray about family needs, relationship needs, food, clothes, jobs? I want Jesus to know what I'm struggling with, I really want His help, His guidance, to show me how to deal with things in the world in which I live!

So, why did you have to mention this Jesus being the "Bread of Life" thing as well? Aren't we talking about two different things?

Good point. This part of the Lord's Prayer does focus on our temporal needs. And, there is nothing wrong with making our needs and desires known to God. For God wants us to pray about such things.

But, even praying about our physical, daily needs is not about getting some magic formula right so that God will be coerced into giving us our daily needs, our daily bread. He doesn't need us to cajole or to persuade Him to physically care about us. 

In fact, the opposite is true. He cares about us, provides for us even before we ask. Remember, the Lord's Prayer is to be faith communication with the Father who loves you.

So, before we go any further, let's step back a bit and get the big picture of this powerful prayer. In this prayer, Jesus is teaching us what is vital to our life of faith with Him, now and forever. In this short prayer of seven petitions notice that six of the seven have to do with our spiritual needs, our spiritual protection. Six out of seven. What do you think Jesus is trying to get across to all of us? If you said, "He wants us to know that our relationship to God is the key for all of life," you're right.

In fact, without a faith relationship to God, even the greatest accomplishments of humanity, feats of leadership and rule that have amassed daily bread for more than a 1000 lifetimes, without a life of faith with God, they merely fade into history and will soon be forgotten. 

The 19th-century Bible scholar G. S. Bowes pointed out the ultimate futility of ambition that isn't accompanied by dedication to God. He wrote: Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery. Julius Caesar, 'staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,' conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years, in banishment. 

Futility; sinful, human futility. But, thankfully, Jesus does not come to focus on humanity's futility, no, no salvation in that. He came to reveal fully God's gracious provision and care, for life now and life forever! He says, just look around, "Look at the birds of the air...your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Consider the lilies of the field, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?"

Daily bread, money to pay the bills, work to make a living, house, home, food and drink, all these matter, but their importance is relative to what makes all of life worth living, our relationship to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the One who says of Himself in John 6 "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never go thirsty."

So, in all things, in the daily grind of life, in the face of reality on the street corners of our world, will you receive with me this Word from Jesus about our lives? Will you say, in your heart, with me, "Lord, I now realize that Your love for me is an everyday thing, one I can count on?" Will you take up with me the challenge of this petition to receive what God gives for this body and life so as to serve as His conduit of grace and life to others?

Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." 
Even more, He says, "When you pray, pray this way, 'Father, Give us this day our daily bread!'"

Now, as I thought about this petition, I realized more and more that this part of the Lord's Prayer isn't us saying to God, "Okay, God, I know you've got all this stuff that I need. What do I have to do to get you to give it to me?" 

So, this petition is more than merely asking God to give us what we need; it seems to be even more a petition which calls us to thankfully focus our attention on gifts our Heavenly Father has already given or made available in our lives. Give us, or, better, give what is given us, with help to receive all things with thanksgiving and praise.

Now, grammatically, I know that it says, "Give us," but the whole spirit of this text, even of the Bible itself is that God has already given us what we need. There is abundance not only with His gracious love; there is even abundance in this world. He even gives us what we need before we ask!

It's as if God is saying, I want you to have my abundant life, so focus your ultimate attention on our relationship and all these other things will fall into place. Ask so as to be a receiver of my provision and not a taker only!

But, this challenges our pride. You might be protesting already, saying, "God, I appreciate the thought, but I provide for myself, I earn the check, I do the work, I, I, I, ..."

The "I'm in control" attitude starts earlier and earlier in our world today it would seem. And there are movements out there to exploit such attitudes rather than temper them. It reminds me of the struggles that parents have more and more with their kids today in our TV laden, consumer driven, me-first culture.

Maybe you've had a day like Sonya. Sonya was facing a problem that seemed to be getting worse, not better. On this day, she had trouble holding back her tears, tears of anger, tears of desperation as her son cried and wailed in an all-out tantrum at the store again. She had tried reasoning with him, she had tried disciplining, but these public displays were getting worse and worse.

It seemed like every birthday party for her son and his friends was a competition for stuff, more stuff; every holiday another marketing-induced effort by toy companies, electronic companies, computer companies, phone companies to create the demand for things that her son really didn't need, but now seemed to want more than life itself.

Her son had asked, again, for another toy and she, again, had to say no. He had plenty of toys, games, movies, and puzzles... more than he could ever use in a month, maybe even a year, yet he wanted more, more, more. She thought of the thousands of children who had nothing, who lived on one meal a day. But she couldn't get her son to just be happy with the plenty he already had.

Have you ever felt like Sonya? At least she was trying to temper such desires, to discipline her son, to get him to see what really matters in life. But what happens when, not just the children, but even the parents think this way....that life is about me, me, me, I, I, I. What then? And the Bible is clear, this problem is not an economic thing, or a governmental thing, it's a soul thing, not a daily bread problem. And that's why we pray, "Give us today our daily bread, Lord," and help us to trust in You for tomorrow.

Give us or given us? Jesus is teaching us how to receive God's abundant provisions in repentance and faith. We're not in this world merely to amass stuff for our lives, but to work, to labor to glorify God and to serve others with the talents He provides. God answers this prayer more often through all the many vocations that humanity is free to enjoy. In this petition, we're praying, Lord, meet my needs; yes, but also let me see more clearly my role in this life as a receiver of your bounty and a conduit of Your abundant grace. Open my eyes by faith to see how things really are!

I recently heard this story. 

There was once a man who very adamantly believed in living by faith. 

Well, one night he prayed very fervently for God to send him some food, because he was beginning to get hungry. The next morning he walked outside, expecting to find food, but none was there. Figuring that he didn't pray fervently enough, he dedicated the whole day to praying for God to provide food for the next day. The next morning came, still no food. That day he prayed even more fervently for God to provide nourishment, for by now he was growing ravenously hungry. "God, you must provide me with food or I will die out here," he prayed over and over again. 
The next morning he walked outside, and still no food. After 4 days, when he had prayed all he could pray and was exhausted, he fell back on the bed and he stared at the wall. Defeated!

In the silence, he heard a small voice calling out his name. "Bill!" "I'm here, Lord," he cried. "Are you finally answering my prayer?" "I've been answering your prayers," the voice replied. "You've just been looking in the wrong direction."
"What do you mean Lord? I don't understand," he exclaimed, exasperated.
"Walk outside," said the voice.

Bill walked outside, looked around, but still found no food. "There's nothing here, Lord. I don't see any food." "Look up."

Bill looked up, and there right above his head, pasted on the building next to him, was a huge billboard with big black print saying, "Day Laborers Wanted! Lunch Provided."

Look around. Look around. God has given us our bodies and souls, our eyes, and ears, and all our members, our reason and all of our senses, the world that provides for our basic needs, the power in the electrons, the energy in the molecules, the nutrients in the soil and air, the sun to empower the growth, and on, and on, and on. When you pray, pray that you receive all these things in this life as a gift from God. Let each day be an exercise of faith and thanksgiving, working and giving and see what abundance awaits.

When Jesus tells us to pray, Father, Give us today, what we need for today! He's not focusing on the stuff so much, but the trust that you can have with the Father who knows what you need, who sent His Son so that you can have abundant, joy-filled life in Him, even being conduits of His abundance for others!

So, Lord, give us our daily bread with a faith that all things necessary are given us by grace. What if we prayed, give us what we need, Lord, and teach us daily to trust You and not our own ingenuity; or give us what we need and teach us not to become content with this world as our home; or give us what we need, and teach us the power of sharing what we have received, especially the excess. 

What if we all looked at our daily stuff that way? What if we looked at it as gifts from God to be used to give Him glory and to serve one another? Would such a life of prayer work?

George Muller was born in Prussia on September 27, 1805. His father was a collector of taxes and George seemed to inherit his father's ability with figures. 

When Muller came to faith in Christ, he was impressed by the many recurring statements of Jesus for us to ask. At this point in Muller's life he and his wife launched into a daring experiment. First, they gave away all of their household goods. The next step was even more daring. He refused all regular salary from the small mission he had been serving. He then set out to establish an orphan home to care for the homeless children of England.

The first home was dedicated in a rented building on April 21, 1836. Within a matter of days, 43 orphans were being cared for. Muller and his co-workers decided that their experiment would be set up with the following guidelines: guidelines that honored the Lord as the Provider through the gifts and abilities He would make available to them. So: 
1- No funds would ever be solicited.
2- No debts were ever to be incurred.
3- No money contributed for a specific purpose would ever be used for any other purpose.
4- All accounts would be audited annually.
5- No ego-pandering by the publication of donor's names.
6- No names of prominent people would be sought for the board or to advertise the institution.
7- The success of the orphanage would be measured not by the numbers served or by the amount of money taken in, but by God's blessing on the work, which Muller expected to be in direct proportion to the time spent in prayer.

When the first building was constructed, Muller and his friends remained true to their convictions. Six months later another building went up. They kept concentrating on prayer and eventually there were five new buildings, 110 workers, 2,050 orphans being cared for.

Muller not only counted on God to provide, but he believed that God would provide abundantly. Over 60 years Muller recorded every specific prayer request and the results. He was responsible for the care of over 9,500 orphans during his life. These children never went without a meal. Muller never asked for help from anyone but God and the gifts He would provide through the people that served and were served. $7,500,000 came to him over the course of his life and he vows it was all in answer to believing prayer. 

So, was it the power of Muller's prayer, or was it merely that He prayed, knowing that God would provide, like God always does? 

Maybe that's why Jesus held off on this petition until the middle of the prayer. He taught us about how God is our Father, who already met our greatest need in sending His Son for our salvation. He taught us about the power of His Name, the uniqueness of His kingdom, the certainty of His will. So, to the God who wants you to know Him and His grace through faith; pray, "Give us today what we need for today," and strengthen our faith, freed from the tyranny of possessions, to trust you for tomorrow, free to receive whatever the Father gives so that we might be better distributors of His grace, whatever the day brings!

The One who is the Bread of Life says, "When you pray, pray, Father, give us this day our daily bread;" by your grace, dear Jesus, we will.


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for December 8, 2013
Topic: Is God's Kingdom On The Way?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, it's Advent, a time when the church prepares for Jesus to return again even as we celebrate the time He came at Christmas 2000 years ago. 

SELTZ: Right, Mark, last week Jesus Himself gave us an Advent lesson when He taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done!"

ANNOUNCER: Now, is there any way to know when that Kingdom is going to come?

SELTZ: Wow, that's a big question. Even the disciples asked that question right before Jesus ascended into heaven. They said, "Lord, will you at this time, restore the Kingdom?"

ANNOUNCER: An amazing question in light of all that Jesus had already done among them.

SELTZ: They were confused for sure; but, they, like our listener might have just wanted to know when that return would come so that they could experience the glorious joy of living in His Kingdom right now. But, many have wanted to know that fact merely to satisfy other curiosities. 

ANNOUNCER: Those "predictors" are all batting .000, aren't they?

SELTZ: They sure are, but Jesus told us they would. He said in Matthew 24:36, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows." 

ANNOUNCER: But Jesus did tell us to pray, "Thy Kingdom Come." Are there some clues that tell us when that might be? Or does Jesus want to leave us in the dark?

SELTZ: Well, God isn't the One leaving people in the dark, that's for sure. He has given us the clear light of His Salvation and the promise of His continued care. No darkness there at all. But let's imagine that our listener is asking if there are "clues" to help us prepare and to get the most out of life as we wait.

ANNOUNCER: Sort of like reading a good mystery novel, knowing how the story will end.

SELTZ: Right, and Jesus does talk about signs, wars, rumors of wars, that will come during the end times. In Matthew 24, He calls them "birth pains" of anticipation of His eternal Kingdom.

ANNOUNCER: But about the Book of Revelation? That speaks of a coming Kingdom where Jesus returns to earth and rules for 1000 years culminating in the final judgment. Is that part of praying, "Thy Kingdom Come?"

SELTZ: That's what's often called the millennium. Different Christian traditions have interpreted the 1000 years of Revelation in different ways. There is something called pre-millennialism. Here it is suggested that Christ will return a first time and usher in a literal 1000 years of peace. Then return a second time ushering in the final judgment.

ANNOUNCER: That sounds like Christ returns twice. Does the Bible say that's how it is?

SELTZ: No. The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming again like a thief in the night, and then the judgment. So, there's biblical evidence for the "2nd coming of Jesus," but not the "2nd 2nd coming."

ANNOUNCER: Okay and are their other views concerning this 1000 year reign?

SELTZ: Some churches teach what's called postmillennialism, suggesting that the 1000 years refers to a time on earth when things will just get better and better and all people will live in peace. After this 1000 years, Christ will then return. But the wars of the last century have kind of debunked that, for sure.

ANNOUNCER: Are there other ways to interpret this 1000 years, besides literally?

SELTZ: There is. In fact the majority of Christians subscribe to what is called amillenialism. Here the 1000 years refers to the entire period of time for the Christian Church between Christ's Ascension and His second coming on the last day. Jesus said, "It is finished," on the cross and He ascended. He now reigns over all things. After the season of the Church, He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. 

ANNOUNCER: So the number 1000, that's figurative?

SELTZ: Yes, the numbers in Revelation are often figurative in their significance as they relate the truth of Christ's return. For example, the number 10 is considered a complete number in the Bible. So, 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000, is the perfect time! So, that's the reign of Christ through His church till He comes again in power. 

ANNOUNCER: And, what are we to do in the meantime?

SELTZ: Well, be prepared, not scared. The certainty and victory of Christ's first coming should give us a confidence to live today and the promise of His second coming, gives us hope to face the future, no matter what it brings. Keep our eyes fixed on His Word and when the time is right, we'll be ready for that day, even if it is today.

ANNOUNCER: And that's the joy of Christmas and of Advent and the certainty we can embrace every time we say "For Thine is the Kingdom" as we pray the Lord's Prayer. 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 Jesus Christ, Life-Giving Bread" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.

"O Living Bread from Heaven" 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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Prayer Request

Please pray for MICHAEL BAKER, former Sherriff of Warren County, who has received some bad medical news this past week and will be doing a biopsy and other tests this week.