The Lutheran Hour: January 5, 2014

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Sermon Text for January 5, 2014

"Pray, Praise and Give Thanks" #81-18
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 5, 2014
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Did Wise Men Really Visit Jesus?)
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Psalm 150

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you in the Name of Jesus who invites you to a life of prayer and thanksgiving that will never end. Amen.

What a way to end the prayer that Jesus has taught us, right? He has taught us to pray to God as our Father and not just a majestic force in the universe; He has taught us to use His Name as our source for life and salvation; He has taught us to put the power of His forgiveness and Spiritual protection to work in our lives. And He has even taught us to ask for our daily needs in a way that unleashes the power of thanksgiving in our prayerful petitions. Lord Jesus, you have indeed taught us how to pray!

So, what better way to end this prayer than with a doxology, a word of praise! The whole prayer has been building towards such an end, hasn't it? Indeed, the very Good News of grace in Jesus Christ, the proclamation of salvation in His Name, it invites us to pray praisefully; in full confidence that all power, honor, and glory are His, forever and ever.

What a way to end the prayer, right? Well, there is some question as to whether this doxology was actually in the Bible's accounts of the Lord's Prayer. It seems likely that this praise ending was inserted into Matthew, chapter 6 because it had become a common ending to the prayer in the worship of the early church. If so, the thought was appropriately drawn from elsewhere in the Scriptures, probably from 1 Chronicles 29. But, whether Jesus closed the prayer with these words or not, He instructed the people to pray with just this way of pray to the Father who eagerly desires to give good gifts to His children, to pray to the Father who has the power and authority to give those gifts as well. So, when believers in the early church prayed this prayer in worship when they burst forth in doxological praise at the end of the Lord's Prayer, they were merely saying, "Yes, Lord, we will pray your way, with your confidence, with your promises as our focus, our strength, and our guide."

Doxology, praise, not only is it a fitting end to the Lord's Prayer, but it's also a challenge from the Lord's Prayer to all who pray it. The point of the doxology calls us to pray His prayer and live our lives especially in the coming year of 2014 in faith. And the question to you, my friend, after all these weeks of learning to pray Jesus' way, is "How will you receive this prayer; how will you use this prayer; how will you put this prayer to work in your lives?"

So, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, even if this doxology isn't in this section of the Bible right here in Matthew 6, there's no better way to end this prayer than to pray, "for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen."

For such a doxology ends the prayer well, focusing our prayerful attention where it belongs, on the things of God, on God Himself.

Such a doxology ends the prayer well; for praise is a word of the believer, the one who knows who God is, who knows what God has done, and trusts in Him and entrusts his or her life to the Father who loves them with an everlasting love. Doxologies are not only words of praise; they're prayerful words of praise-filled faith!

And that's exactly how Jesus wants us to pray His prayer to live our lives in the year of our Lord 2014; in faith, with praise and thanksgiving.

So, the church has always received the gifts of Jesus Christ with doxology, with praise and thanksgiving.

When early church believers worshipped and prayed, surely they were reminded of David's doxology in his final prayer as King in 1 Chronicles 29. He prayed, "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power, and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom."

The doxology of King David surely is a great way to close the prayer of the King of Kings.

When believers worshipped and prayed, they were reminded of John's vision of the coming of the kingdom of heaven in Revelation 5, where he heard the angels singing in a mighty chorus: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor, glory and blessing."
And when believers prayed the prayer and the songbook of the Old Testament, the Psalms, the book itself ended with a doxology, a psalm of praise, saying, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

That's just how God's people have always received His gifts of grace; they revel in them, rejoice in them, and receive them with praise. So, it doesn't shock us that the church responded to the teaching of the Lord's Prayer the same way, with praise!

And that's the opportunity that we have today and in the New Year too; if we trust in the Lord Jesus, we also get to receive this prayer in praise, and in faith, and put it to work in our life, inviting God's gracious hand to be over all that we say and do. So, what else can we say but "Thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever, Amen!"

But this doxology is not merely a state of mind or a state of our hearts; it's a way of life. Indeed, our praise ending of this prayer reminds us that this prayer changes things because this prayer changes people!

When we say this doxology, our full, final attention is drawn to the things that really matter in our lives. And, when our attention is drawn to God, who He is, what He has done, and what He is yet doing in the world and in our lives, that changes things!

Prayer with praise, praise in prayer; that way of life it changes hearts.

Just think about it; doxology, praise, it reminds us to whom we're praying....Our Father is the Creator of the universe. He has the power to answer your prayer. The Prophet Isaiah says it best, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary...He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak...those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Think about it; doxology, praise, it reminds us of what God has done for us and for all. God the Father sent His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to redeem and to restore you to Himself, now and forever. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, the kingdom of God is here, now, available to all by faith in Jesus Christ. And He promises that nothing in this world can separate us from His love!

Prayer prayed in such faith, focused on the God of the Bible who has made and kept all of His promises, such prayer changes people because God is the One who saves, who redeems, and gives you and me life. Connected to Christ, His work, His promises; prayer in such faith makes a difference in our lives all year round!

It was Easter morning, 1799, the people of Feldkirch, Austria, were terrified. Indeed, they believed that this Easter would probably be the worst day of their lives. Outside the gates stood the army of Napoleon and he wanted in. The citizens were ready to raise the white flag of surrender.

But the bishop of the church had another agenda. In a voice trembling with emotion, he said to the townspeople, "This is Easter Day. This is the day of our King's resurrection. We must have one moment of triumph. Let us even now prayerfully ring all the bells of Easter." The people agreed. Soon the sound of church bells ringing filled the air with sounds of victory.

Napoleon's army was astounded. What could it mean? It didn't take long for the generals to conclude that only one possible explanation could account for such celebration: the Austrian army had arrived during the night to help defend the town. The bells had not yet stopped ringing when the French army broke ranks and fled.

Prayer prayed in the confidence of the resurrected Lord can truly change things, can't it? But, praying the Lord's Prayer in faith, in confidence, and trust; now that truly is ringing resurrection bells of hope, bells of eternal victory in the struggles and challenges of our lives now even more.

But, you know when I say that, you say, "Well, Pastor, I know this prayer can change people, but do you really think it can change our communities, our world?" Well, remember the promise of what is yet to come. The Apostle John gives us a glimpse of that in Revelation 7. He says, "After these things I looked, and behold, I saw a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"

Even now, this very year, God is at work bringing such a promise to fruition. Even now, as God's Word goes forth, it is penetrating each culture, each tribe, each nation and language, person by person, life by life. When we pray, "Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory," we can see John's vision of heaven by faith, but someday we shall see it with our eyes. But even more, such prayerful participation in the majesty of God's mission is to bring all people, from all tribes and nations, to faith in Jesus Christ by the power of His Spirit.
That's the dream. That's the prayerful vision of God and His people. That's the joy of being a Lord's Prayer praying member of Christ's church, now and forever!

The Lord's Prayer is challenging all of us not to be shocked by what you see; keep on praying, keep on serving. And the Lord's Prayer is also preparing us for the amazing reality of what is yet to come. For the Lord is protecting and blessing His people right now and what is yet to come we can't even imagine. But, in all things, as John reminds us, as the believing church reminds us, the kingdom, the power, the glory are His, now, this New Year and forever!

So, to pray the "Kingdom, power, and glory are yours Lord," is to be bold in our praise and testimony about Jesus in the midst of the world; just as it is. This prayer marks us as God's people in this world, for the world. This Lord's Prayer orients all of our life to the things of God. When we pray this prayer, God establishes us as pillars of prayer in the world, for the world. His majesty is seen in our prayerful mission to share the Gospel with others in His Name.

We are called to be prayer pillars of His hope in a world devoid of hope. We are called to be pillars of that grace in a world that is anything but gracious and loving. We are called to be pillars of His truth in a world that has dispensed with truth for temporary pleasures of a world passing away. Thine is the kingdom and we, yes, we are followers of the King Jesus. Thine is the power, yes, and we preach Christ crucified, the power of God for salvation. Thine is the glory, yes, and we are privileged to be part of His glorious mission of preaching the Good News of life and salvation in Him for all!

In the middle of one of the most powerful political centers of the modern world, Washington D.C., stands a monument-The United States National Monument, the Washington Monument.

It's the tallest building in D.C. by law! And at its highest peak, on the aluminum cap on the east top portion of the monument, are displayed these two words: Laus Deo. These two words were placed on the top the monument facing skyward to God. They are placed in the highest position of one of the most powerful cities in the world.

What do those two Latin words mean? Laus Deo? Well, you know what it means; "Praise Be to God!"

That's right. Praise be to God! It's a pillar of praise in the midst of the power of Washington D.C. Within the monument itself there are also memorial stones with scriptures and prayers from the nations. Prayer and praise!

And, deposited in the cornerstone of the Monument, on July 4th, 1848, was deposited the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society, with thanks and praise!

So, there it is; the Washington Monument, a pillar of praise in the midst of the nation, built on a foundation filled with the Word of God; now that's something that someone didn't want you to miss.

Well, here's something God doesn't want you to miss. God wants the world to see in 2014 and beyond, pillars of praise and prayer, as well; and we get to be the Lord's Prayer practitioners alive in faith, active in prayer, established by Him in this world for the sake of the world in hopes that they might come to faith in Him too!

The doxology is a vital part of our discipleship and prayer because it focuses our prayerful attention where it belongs, on God. And Jesus, throughout the Gospels, He's inviting His followers to pray with a much larger view about life and salvation. He wants His people to start seeing things the way He sees things, the way the Father sees things. The Lord's Prayer is ultimately about reorienting our life toward the things of God, the future as God sees it, the priorities that He has about things. And there is no greater truth than the fact that the kingdom, the power, and the glory are God's forever and ever and we pray that His kingdom, power, and glory might indeed be ours as we strive to reflect Him in this New Year and throughout our days on this earth!

And that's the point, my friend; God's glory is not merely that His kingdom will finally be realized in all of its fullness. That's a given. The majesty is best seen not in God's raw power, but in His power to save; as people still come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior too.

The mission is the majesty. God wants all to be saved! So, if you are struggling a bit today because you wish things looked better in your life or in this world in the year ahead, you are not alone. But, don't wait hopelessly; rather wait prayerfully in word and deed, like a bride or a bridegroom waits for that day when they become husband and wife; as parents wait for the day to come when their child enters the world; wait as people who wish the days of waiting would pass quickly, but know for certain that the best is yet to come!

That's doxology in action, in faith, in praise, in service to others in His Name, the One who is worthy of our praise and eager for our prayers!

I love the song "Wedding Day," by Casting Crowns. It speaks of that kind of joyful expectation of waiting with Him, for Him. The bride in the song is the church, and the bridegroom is Christ. The first stanza says it this way,
There's a stirring in the throne room, And all creation holds its breath
Waiting now to see the bride groom, Wondering how the bride will dress
And she wears white, And she knows that's undeserving
She bears the shame of history
But this worn and weary maiden, Is not the bride that he sees
And she wears white, head to toe, But only he could make it so

For when someone dries your tears, When someone wins your heart
And says you're beautiful, When you don't know you are
And all you've longed to see, Is written on his face
When love has come and finally set you free
On that wedding day
On that wedding day.

Well, we pray with that kind of expectation, of the final day when the Lord, the eternal Bridegroom, will come to bring us all to Himself forever and ever.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever and ever.

God's mission is the majesty; His prayer focuses us on His power, His provision, and His purpose for us in this world.

So, pray on, dear friend, pray on! Pray this prayer in your life throughout this New Year; pray it with me each Sunday on the Lutheran Hour, and may God empower you to a life of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving in His Name, forever and ever. Amen!

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 5, 2014
Topic: Did Wise Men Really Visit Jesus?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Nativity scenes often depict three Wise Men who came to visit the Baby Jesus. What do we really know about them?

SELTZ: That's a great question, Mark. It reminds us again of the celebration of Epiphany, which means "appearing." Epiphany is a day celebrated as a kind of a presentation to the public of Jesus as Wise Men, or Magi, from the east visit Jesus and His family.

ANNOUNCER: So the Wise Men did pay a visit?
SELTZ: Well, that's what the Bible tells us, Mark. It's recorded in Matthew chapter two. We're told that Magi from the east came to Jerusalem to visit the "One who had been born king of the Jews." They went there, the Bible says, because they "saw His star in the east" and they came "to worship Him."

ANNOUNCER: That account from the Bible has become very popular in depictions of the manger scene. We also think of songs like "We Three Kings." Even sayings like "Wise men still seek Him," but what was it really all about?

SELTZ: We believe these Wise Men or Magi were from Babylon or Persia, located east of the Holy land. The word "magi" is an Aramaic word for eastern spiritual men who looked for signs in the stars and tried to discern God's wisdom. These particular Magi may have descended from people who learned about the promised "King of the Jews," One who would literally change the world as they knew it. Their relatives may have learned such things from the people of Israel who were exiled in Babylon. Their relatives may have met people like Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego--believers who were forcibly settled in the east during captivity. So, we're not sure how many Magi came, but we do know that a group of them visited Jesus.

ANNOUNCER: Why then does the song indicate there were three Wise Men?

SELTZ: Most likely the number three came about because of the three gifts offered to Jesus.

ANNOUNCER: All right; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

SELTZ: Exactly. With these three precious gifts offered, history began to talk about three Magi. But, as I said, we don't really know how many there were. The significance of the visit is what's most intriguing. Throughout the Bible, God emphasized that His Messiah and also His own people were to be a light to all nations.

ANNOUNCER: Because God's salvation is for the whole world.

SELTZ: Absolutely. God wanted to reach everyone through the people of Israel. The message of salvation in the true God wasn't just for one group of people on earth. It was for the whole world. So God worked throughout history to make certain the Good News of salvation, that it was shared with everyone. The fact that the Magi, non-Jewish people, came to visit Jesus and worship Him, that underscores God's plan that the Savior was for the redemption and rescue of the whole world.

ANNOUNCER: As predicted in Isaiah chapter 60.

SELTZ: Exactly. Think about that. It's even more remarkable. If you were to try to predict who might visit the newborn Messiah, there is no way that anyone would ever guess that a contingent of foreign spiritual men would stop by. But 700 years before it ever happened, the prophet Isaiah foretold this amazing event--even down to the gifts they give the Christ child.

ANNOUNCER: Now, did they see Jesus lying in the manger?

SELTZ: The Bible says that the Magi came to a house in the Bethlehem area. Some scholars think that Jesus may have been two years old when the Magi visited. So, we're not certain about the timeframe, but we do know that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in a house at the time.

ANNOUNCER: What's the significance of the gifts?

SELTZ: People have speculated about what the gifts meant. Some have said that the gold symbolized the kingship of Christ; frankincense symbolized the prophetic work of Jesus as He made the Word of God known; and myrrh, a spice used for embalming a body, pointed to the priestly work of Jesus as He was to become the sacrifice for our sins. Those are wonderful symbols, but the Magi probably brought these gifts because they were valuable items suitable to be presented to a king. What is most remarkable and encouraging is that the Magi believed. They openly demonstrated that the newborn Jesus was the King sent by God, the promised Messiah, as they bowed down and worshipped.

ANNOUNCER: Which brings to mind the verses in the book of Philippians, "that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord."

SELTZ: "To the Glory of God and the salvation of all who believe!"

ANNOUNCER: Certainly a Savior worthy of gifts as well as faith, theirs and ours. 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.

"Have You Not Known?" by K. Lee Scott. From The Wind of Heaven by K. Lee Scott (© 1991 K. Lee Scott / VQR Digital) Concordia Publishing House

"Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" 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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St. Louis, MO 63141

Great night tonight at church

I was very proud and excited to see a full basement to start The Story and to see an almost full church for worship! Way to bring it to God's house tonight church! It was fantastic.  

For those who didn't make it tonight we will still have worship tomorrow morning at 8:30 for those who can make it. And we will have The Story study after worship at 9:45.  No kid's Sunday school though.

I'm proud of you church! Let's keep this thing going and growing!


1. Don't forget about "Saturday" school and Adult Bible Class at 4pm today followed by worship at 5pm!!  All of our Sunday school teachers are ready and raring to go and want to see lots of kids here for it!!!
2. Details about tomorrow:
        a. As of right now we will still have 8:30am worship for anyone who wants to show up. 
         b. We will still have Bible Study after worship at 9:45.  There will be no children's Sunday school tomorrow.
         c. We will cancel our 11am service as it sounds as though the weather is going to get worse as the day goes along.  Winds are going to pick up and it is going to get colder and colder. 
          d.  High School Study will be rescheduled for this coming Thursday  at 7pm.
3.  Details for reschedule of confirmation and parents meeting on Monday:
     a.  Confirmation will be rescheduled for this coming Thursday at 5pm.
     b. Youth and parents meeting will also be rescheduled for Thursday at 6:30pm.