Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 30, 2014 By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Mark 13:33
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Although we don't know the day and time of corporate or individual judgment, today we give thanks that because of the Savior's sacrifice we can be ready, watching, and waiting. Dear Lord, grant such faithfulness to us all. Amen.
For those of you who don't know, and I imagine many of you don't, this Sunday is the beginning of the Church Year, the beginning of Advent, the time when pastors, preachers, and priests encourage their people to watch and to be ready for the Savior's coming. Most certainly we ought to be ready to remember why Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, and we need to be ready to welcome Him when He comes again. Watch and be ready. It sounds like an easy thing to do. It's not. It's not, because it's not human nature to watch and wait for anything.
There is an old story which speaks about the day when the devil called a council of his chief servants. The purpose of the conference was to improve their methods and increase their effectiveness in stealing souls from the Savior. During the course of the discussion, one demon said, "I propose that our representatives go to the earth and tell everyone that the Bible is a myth." Satan smiled and nodded approvingly. He commented, "Not bad. The idea has some merit, but I think we may be able to do better." One of the devil's closest advisers suggested, "Why not be direct. Let's have our associates tell everyone, "Relax, after all, there is no God, no Savior, no hell, and no heaven." "That is a distinct improvement," was the Boss's reaction. The greatest response was given to the comments made by a demonic superstar who had a fine grasp of human nature.
He received a standing ovation when he got up and said, "My friends, my fellow members of the hellish host, we must be more clever than that which I have heard suggested today. Yes, there are some humans who are too busy, or too set against Christ, or too narrow to think about the inevitability of Judgment Day. They are easy and we will get them. But I am afraid the vast majority of people will see through any such proposal."
He continued, "No, I suggest this: let our salesmen canvass their territories and suggest the following to their clients. They should say: 'Yes, the Bible is true, and the Savior is real.' And then... and this part of the plan is absolutely crucial; then let our sales force add, 'These things are true, but there really is no need to hurry. Judgment Day hasn't come for thousands of years and Jesus' return is not about to happen in the next few minutes.' Then, when our sales force has said these things, I would have them whisper this: 'There's no need to rush into repentance and redemption. Take your time; take your time.'"
At that moment the conversation and convention ended. The devils, knew they had heard a plan which would work, That's why today, every time Jesus says, "Repent, be baptized, be saved." Every time the Savior says "Watch and wait..."; Satan's sales force adds, "By all means. Absolutely you should watch and wait for Jesus' return. You should repent of your many misdeeds and feel sorrow for your sins. You should come to the Savior and receive His forgiveness and mercy. You should do all these things and you will do them... tomorrow. As for today, it's highly unlikely that Jesus is coming back today."
The plan has proven incredibly successful. It has worked because it appeals to a few of humanity's most widespread flaws: in religion, as well as in everything else, we hate to watch and we hate to wait. If you doubt me, may I point to the story of the German ship, Danio. The Danio, which set out from Perth, Scotland on March 15th of last year, was carrying a shipment of logs. The Danio had every intention of steaming across the North Sea to its destination in the Belgian city of Antwerp. Things went well enough until the ship reached the Farne Islands. The crew knew they had reached the Farne Islands when their boat crashed into them. Since the Farne Islands are marked by the brilliant beacons of the Longstone Lighthouse, it was an accident which never should have happened. Unfortunately, the Lighthouse beams were not seen because the Danio's Chief Officer, a man who had been up and working for eighteen hours, fell asleep on the bridge. An automatic alarm system should have warned of the impending collision, but the crew had found the device to be annoying and switched it off. The lookout should have called out an alert, but none of the crew were ever scheduled to serve as lookouts. Because the sailors of the Danio didn't like to watch and wait they ended up with their great cargo ship sitting on a reef.
In 2012, another vessel, a passenger vessel, the Costa Concordia sank and snuffed out the lives of 32 people. Did it make a difference that the ship's Captain had turned off the vessel's navigation system... did it make a difference that the captain didn't have his reading glasses and had to keep asking for help seeing the ship's instruments? Did it make a difference that the Concordia sailed far closer to land than any other cruise line? Of course; these things made a difference but mostly the disaster occurred because the people who should have been watching, weren't. No, it's difficult to watch and wait.
Next Sunday, December 7th, America will remember how, on December 7, 1941, 353 Japanese airplanes, in an attempted surprise attack, swarmed over America's fleet at Pearl Harbor. The day was a disaster as, in a few short hours, 2,400 lives were lost, 8 battleships were taken out of commission, 6 major airfields were destroyed as were most of their planes. Now I say it was an attempted surprise attack, because it really wasn't a surprise at all.
The following information I share with you was never made public during the war, It would have caused a terrible reaction among the already demoralized nation. That being said, you should know that at 7 a.m., when the Japanese warplanes were 137 miles and 50 minutes away, two U.S. soldiers, stationed at a small outpost saw their little radar screen fill up with dots. These soldiers notified their lieutenant who decided these planes must be coming in from California. Without another thought he said, "Don't worry about it." If he had sounded the alert, there might have been time to scramble the planes at Pearl Harbor, There might have been time to do something. But this lieutenant, at the most critical moment of his career, didn't keep watch. It's not normal for people to watch and wait.
In ancient China, the people wanted to be protected from the barbarians to the north. To that end they built the Great Wall of China, a defense which is 30-feet high, 18-feet thick, and 1,500 miles long. It was designed so an invading army would find it too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. That being said, during the first 100 years of the wall's existence, China was successfully invaded three times. Please, don't blame the wall. None of the aggressors climbed the wall, went around the wall, broke through it, or tunneled under it. The invaders didn't have to do any of those things. All they did was bribe a guard to leave his post and allow a gate to remain unlocked and unwatched. The Lord knows it's a difficult thing to patiently watch and wait.
But that's enough of history. Let us concentrate our attention on the words of the Savior who wants to warn the world, who wants to warn you and me about the moment of our judgment, that moment when it will be too late for you or me to make changes or plans concerning eternity. In the 13th chapter of Mark, the Lord says, "Be on guard, keep awake for you don't know when the hour will come." As is the case for most of the directions which the Savior gives to humankind, His words are crystal clear. That being said, over the centuries, humankind has still managed to muddy the waters of the Redeemer's words. So, let me share what the Savior wasn't telling you to do.
Although some have misread His directive, you should know Jesus wasn't telling us to quit our jobs or stop planting seeds in our fields. The Lord wasn't urging us to cut our ties to family and friends. He wasn't telling us to pack up a few essential belongings and go to live by ourselves in a cave or out in the desert. He wasn't telling us to gather everybody together and climb to the top of a mountain on a certain, specific day. He wasn't telling us to get out our calculators and try to figure out the day when He comes back in judgment. You can be sure if someone does come up with a such day, they will be wrong. The Lord's words stand: nobody knows the day or hour.
And if you're wondering what you SHOULD do, the answer is simple. Christians should keep busy living each day in readiness for when the Lord will come. He wants us to do the things we have to do, which we ought and should do. Might I suggest that, a few days ago, the grandmother who was basting the turkey in her kitchen and mashing the potatoes and, at the same time, was listening for her children's car in the driveway, was better prepared for Thanksgiving Day than the grandmother who plunked herself down on a chair in the living room, pulled back the curtains, and just waited for her children's unknown arrival. The first Grandma is better prepared because she's working and she's watching and she's really ready for the moment of celebration.
My friends, as you listen to this Lutheran Hour message, there are others who are also tuned in to this broadcast. They are wonderful examples on how a Christian should live waiting for Jesus' return. In that list of listeners I would include the policeman who is watching traffic. He hears Scripture's message and, at the same time, his ear is ready to receive a relay from the dispatcher or to be of assistance to a motorist who has had an accident or a breakdown. There are firefighters who are listening to the Lord's words even as they are ready to respond to the call of the alarm. There are paramedics who wait for the phone to ring, but still hear how God wants their hearts ready for the Savior's 2nd coming.
Understand, this list of folks who live their days in readiness for the Redeemer's return is not limited to those who are emergency responders. Today's message is being heard on golf courses and fishing boats and in ice houses. It is being picked up by families headed for Disney World and couples who are taking a vacation to Europe, South America, Australia, or Asia. All of them are hearing how the Lord, in His love, sent His Son into this world to seek and save the lost. By successfully keeping all the Commandments, by resisting the devil's temptations, by dying the death we deserved and then conquering the grave through His resurrection, Jesus has provided forgiveness, hope, happiness, and heaven for all who are brought to faith in Him. By God's grace, the faith of these Christians, like the rest of their affairs, is in order and they are ready for that unknown hour when they will be judged, that is when they will, because of their faith in Jesus, be found innocent of wrongdoing and be warmly welcomed into the mansions of heaven.
Yes, that is the wonderful way it is for those who know Jesus. But things are not nearly as blessed for those who have shut their eyes to the Day of Judgment. You know, an air traffic controller who doesn't pay close attention to his screen, which lists the coming and going of aircraft, is endangering the lives of hundreds. An inattentive bus driver can cause a high-speed accident which takes the lives of 30 grade school students. The security official at the airport dare not let a package slip by him unexamined. To let any of these things happen could be terribly tragic.
Still, these events caused by negligence and apathy are nothing when they are compared to the soul which neither recognizes, nor believes in, nor waits for Jesus. That is why we ask, "Are you listed among the many souls who have listened to Satan's salesmen and decided your spirituality and your eternity is something which is for someday, but not this day? Have you put eternity on the back burner because you believe Judgment Day is not going to be today, tomorrow, or anytime soon?
If that is the case, I ask you to forgive me for saying "That is dangerous and unwise." Now it is true, Jesus may NOT come to judge the entire world today or tomorrow. But that doesn't mean He isn't coming to judge you. Are you sure, are you absolutely sure that you will see the end of this day or the rising of the sun which may come tomorrow? If this message lasts 20 minutes, from the second I began with: "Christ is risen!" to the moment I say the final "Amen," more than 2,100 people will have breathed their last. Jesus may not have come back to judge the world, but He has judged them. And if, at the moment of their deaths, He was not their Savior when they breathed their last, they were lost for all of eternity.
That is why we ask, "Are you prepared? Is your soul in readiness for the coming of the Son of God? And when He appears, what will be His verdict on your life?" Understand this is not a rhetorical question which calls for no answer. This is not a question which you ought to dismiss. "Is Jesus your Savior and are you ready for eternity" are probably the most important questions you will ever answer. So, once again, I ask, "Are you ready?"
When I was at seminary, they used to teach ministers to take care of the dying, and what to do after someone had died. One rather unorthodox professor even had each student write his own obituary. Then that student had to lie down on a desk top, place a handkerchief over his face, and pretend to be dead. Then the other members of the class, playing the role of family, friends, and guests, came in and spoke about the "dearly departed"... with the "dearly departed" being us. Our classmates talked about us so we could hear. What was said was both revealing and surprising. As I remember it now, some of us heard things which were a bit too revealing. We heard things about ourselves which we never expected to hear.
Of course that was pretend and play. What I'm talking about today is reality and actuality. What, my friends, would they say about you? More importantly, what will God say about you? Will your life and your faith pass inspection? Will He say, "Welcome home. Any person who has been saved by My Son, has a place in heaven," or will He sadly say, "I'm sorry, I don't know you. You have no reservation in the home My Son has built for those who believe in Him as their Redeemer and Rescuer. If you are not sure, today you should know the Lord says, "Be ready. Today is the day; this is the time."
It was in the early 1900s that a young man, with other young men, applied for the position of a telegraph operator. The group talked as they waited in the outer office for the boss to arrive. Nobody paid much attention for the small sounds of dots and dashes which came over a small loudspeaker. Then, without warning, one young man jumped up and rushed into the employer's office. He returned, shouting, "I got the job." When the others doubted him, he said, "I did get the job and you might have to." Those dots and dashes said, 'I'm in my office and I'll hire the first alert man who hears these words correctly." In a similar way the Lord says, "I will save all those who hear My Word, believe in My Son and stay waiting for the time this invitation becomes a reality."
It is my prayer that you have heard and are ready, watching, and waiting. If that is not the case, then know, we stand ready to help. With that in mind, I extend this invitation: please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for November 30, 2014 Topic: God's Protection
ANNOUNCER: Stay with us now for some thoughts concerning God's protection and blessing. I'm Mark Eischer, here once again with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus.
KLAUS: Hi, Mark. What's our question for today?
ANNOUNCER: Our listener's question comes about as a result of her reading Psalm 91.
KLAUS: Can you acquaint us a little bit with what that Psalm says.
ANNOUNCER: Right. The Psalm is written from God's perspective, describing someone-a believer-someone who trusts in God. The Lord says, "Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." I'm sure we would agree those are meant to be comforting words, but they struck our listener much differently.
KLAUS: How so?
ANNOUNCER: She tells us she had recently attended the funeral of a dear friend, someone who had died and left behind a loving husband and two young daughters. This friend had held fast to the Lord in faith, even as she battled cancer. Even so, it doesn't seem to our listener that God delivered or protected this friend. She certainly wasn't blessed with a long life. So, our listener wants help in understanding what has happened and what kind of comfort there might be for friends and family who find themselves in this situation.
KLAUS: And we thank that listener for sharing her concerns with us. It's a pain-filled question and the answers are not easy.
ANNOUNCER: I agree.
KLAUS: First, as far as I know, nobody can say with absolute certainty who wrote this Psalm. Most experts say King David wrote it but some say Moses is the author. Either way, both men had their share of difficulties in life.
ANNOUNCER: That's right. King David suffered the death of children because of sin and rebellion. He was also a man acquainted with war and his best friend had to die in order for David to become king.
KLAUS: Yeah. Moses was brought up in the court of Pharaoh, but he ended up committing murder, was sent into exile, reluctantly ended up leading the Israelite people to freedom.
ANNOUNCER: During those 40 years of wandering about in the wilderness, Moses had to deal with people who rebelled, griped, complained, argued, and, I suppose, generally thought they could do the job much better than he did.
KLAUS: Yes. So whoever wrote this Psalm, these fellows were no strangers to problems.
ANNOUNCER: Having said that, how could they believe they would be delivered, protected, rescued, and honored?
KLAUS: Mark, I'm going to answer this question in a way which I hope will help our listener and others. First, in this Psalm the Lord talks about giving His angels charge over us to keep us in all we do. It's one of God's promises and it is true. But that does not mean a Christian only experiences good things in this life.
ANNOUNCER: In other words, believing does not vaccinate one against evil.
KLAUS: Yeah. We are sinners living in a sinful world. The results of humankind's disobedience are all around us. We are not immune from them. What the Lord does promise is that He will keep us, help us, lead us through our various problems and pains. We should also note that the devil used this Psalm when he was tempting Jesus. The Savior replied that we shouldn't test the Lord.
ANNOUNCER: Because God will do what is best for His people.
KLAUS: Indeed, He always does what is right and best. Remember how St. Paul had that unidentified "thorn in the flesh." The Lord didn't take away that thorn; He used it to teach Paul to rely on Him.
ANNOUNCER: But how about those last verses... what do you do with those promises? I think that is specifically what our listener wants to know today.
KLAUS: I would agree, and I would answer this way. If we look at those verses again, I think the Lord is speaking about this life AND our eternity with Him. I think you will see that indicated when it says, "Because we hold fast to the Lord in love, He promises to deliver us." Let me ask, Mark-- this lady's friend, this friend who loved the Lord, was she ultimately delivered?
ANNOUNCER: Absolutely. She is now with her Savior in a place where there is no more crying, or cancer, or pain.
KLAUS: Let's continue. The Lord says He will deliver us from this world. Then He adds, "I will be with him; I will answer him; I will rescue and honor him." Were those promises fulfilled when this friend was taken home to heaven?
ANNOUNCER: Indeed they were. And, the Lord is also keeping His other promise because our friend is now in heaven in the very presence of Jesus.
KLAUS: Yeah, that's important. She has it better than us. We are saved but still struggling, she can see her salvation. She is in the presence of Jesus, the Winner of her salvation.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Savior of the Nations, Come" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"O Bride of Christ, Rejoice" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
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