The Lutheran Hour: July 12, 2015 "In Him!"

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"In Him!" #82-45

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 12, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Do I Have to Go to Church to Be Saved?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians, chapter one: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he has lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed, hallelujah! Amen.

Did you hear what the Apostle Paul just declared? He said, "In Christ Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins." The plan of God is to unite all things in Him, in Jesus. That's all things, not some things. Every person, not some elite few. In Him, all is accomplished. Outside of Him, all is still broken, dying, or dead! 

You see, in the opening verses of Ephesians, chapter one, Paul speaks of being in Christ more than eleven times. In Christ. But, what does that mean? What significance does that have for you and me? 

Well, more, much more than you may realize. You know, there's a big difference between being in and being out.

Explorer, Keizo Funatsu, knows that very well. Back in 1990, he was with a team completing the International Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The group was only sixteen miles away from the completion of their 3,725-mile journey. But that's when disaster struck.

Funatsu went outside around four-thirty in the afternoon to feed the sled dogs. He was just heading a few feet outside of his tent. He marked his trail with skis and was certain there was no danger. It was minus twenty-five degrees with only a moderate wind. But in the moments after Funatsu left his tent, the wind picked up and visibility vanished. He found his first ski marker stuck upright in the snow, but he couldn't find the second one. Thinking he wouldn't be outside very long, Funatsu hadn't worn his outdoor gear. But in a matter of seconds, he found himself stuck outside in an Antarctic whiteout.

Being inside and being outside suddenly made all the difference in the world. Being inside meant shelter, warmth and life; being outside started to look like a life-threatening situation at best. 

It was vital for his physical life to be in; inside all was well! Well, Paul says being in Christ, that's what is vital for your life, now and forever. The Bible says elsewhere: "for in him we live and move and have our being'" (Acts 17:28). It also says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). Also, in 1 Corinthians it says, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).

You see, in Jesus Christ, there is life. In Him, we have the shelter of forgiveness to save us from eternal death. And, dear listener, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus for you, because of His Word of life proclaimed to you today, you can, by faith, be in Jesus Christ as a gift given and as a gift received! Do you know that? Do you believe that? Or, are you still standing outside in a blizzard of hopelessness? Are you overwhelmed by the stinging winds of hurt or failure in this cold world? Take heart today! To be in means everything!

That's something Funatsu learned, at least in this world. He stayed by his skis for ten minutes, hoping the blizzard would slow down. But it got stronger. He tried to find the first ski closer to his tent, but the wind sent him off course. Suddenly, he couldn't find either ski. He started to shout for help, but the wind muffled his voice. He was so close to camp, but he was lost outside!

Funatsu dug through the icy surface. He fashioned a shallow snow cave in order to stay warm. The blowing snow, though, covered him very quickly. He kept shouting, but as darkness fell, he knew he would be outside overnight. Could he survive? Could he hang in there? It wouldn't take long for the cold to overwhelm him, the elements to overpower him.

But, as dawn came, with his feet freezing, Funatsu heard a faint voice crying his name over and over again. People were looking for him, searching for him, to bring him back inside where there was safety, warmth, medicine, and food to survive. He saw one of his colleagues coming right toward him. He was saved! Funatsu said, "I was very happy to see the people looking for me in the blizzard. I had watering eyes, crying and wet. I cried, yes, I cried too."

When you are overwhelmed by being outside, on your own, failing in your sins, flailing in your efforts, and broken by all that seems so out of your control, isn't it amazing to hear that help is looking for you? In fact, that's the picture that Paul paints about God. He doesn't just tell you to be in Christ, he says Christ comes looking for you and for me to make that happen. Because of our sin, we disconnect ourselves from the God who loves us. We remain trapped outside of joy, outside of peace, outside of strength, outside of help. Yet the Bible proclaims you have Someone seeking you. God says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1). Your Savior is calling your name, coming all the way to you with His grace, and mercy, and peace. He came to seek you and to save you. He rescues you so you can have life in Him! Being in Him changes your life. 

In Christ, God calls you inside His loving arms, offering you forgiveness and strength for life now and forever.

Being in Christ does mean that you are found by your Savior who is seeking you, with forgiveness for your sins and failures. But being in Christ also means having the power that faith in Him brings; to face the rigors and trials of life with strength and power that only being in Him can provide. You might say, "In Christ you have an eternal buoyancy when life is sinking. In Christ you have a life-giving source of oxygen when life is closing in all around you."

Buoyancy, breathing....just another way to describe the power of being in versus out. But, you didn't have to tell John Capes that. Capes was a sailor on a British submarine during World War II. As the submarine recharged its batteries at the surface of the sea off the coast of Greece, it hit a mine. The explosion rocked the submarine, tore it open, and sent it plunging to the bottom of the ocean. More than 250 feet below the surface, John Capes found himself thrown from his bunk and scrambling to survive. In the pitch-darkness he located a flashlight as his compartment filled with seawater. He dragged any surviving sailors he could find to the escape hatch and he placed an emergency breathing and buoyancy device on them. They clamored into the escape chamber. The depth of the submarine was more than twice the maximum tested depth for the equipment, but Capes had no choice. He opened the hatch and the air pulled him upward through the sea. His lungs felt like they would burst, but soon he found himself being tossed at the surface by the waves. None of his comrades survived, but Capes made it through a disaster in a miraculous way.

John Capes survived because he was in a place where there was life-saving oxygen. In a damaged and disabled submarine, Capes had an escape chamber and a breathing device. In a place where everything was sinking, Capes was in a location inside that provided real escape.

Well, for the things that really matter, the eternal things of God, the Bible declares that Jesus is that inside place of grace and life. It says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). 

In fact, nothing else in the world holds, and protects, and saves like faith in Him; or as Paul says, nothing"will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). 

Do you find yourself in the middle of a situation that makes you feel trapped? Do you feel helpless in the face of adversity and suffering? Well, dear friend, God is your Refuge and Strength right now. He is your ever-present Help during times of trouble. He is listening to your prayers. He is responding with peace that is even beyond your understanding and circumstances. Most of all, you are not alone. That's the power of faith in Christ. He is with you and will never leave you nor forsake you. Take heart! He will see you through.

John Capes survived the sinking of the sub but he could have still been lost and alone as he bobbed in the rough seas off the coast of Greece. After making his way to shore, he was found unconscious by two fishermen. Remember, this was a time of war and a British sailor was in grave danger in territory occupied by the enemy. But Capes said, "Always, at the moment of despair, some utterly poor but friendly and patriotic islander would risk the lives of all of his family for my sake." In fact, they not only did that for a moment, they gave him everything he needed for a year and a half, until he was finally rescued by a British ship and taken home!

That's just a glimpse of the persevering, sacrificing love that God has made available to you in His Son Jesus Christ. Your time of trial may last for a while. It may take some time for you to be brought through your grief and hardship, but you have a God who risked everything for your sake. He sent His One and only Son to deliver you from death. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus show you how serious God is about your rescue. You can take heart in all things when your faith is in Christ!

But there is even more. Your life is not merely a struggle to be overcome; it is an adventure in Christ for others. You and I not only get to receive the blessings of our Savior; we get to share them. Saved, even safe in our Savior's arms, we get to be ambassadors of His hope, His forgiveness, and His grace.

One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13. It recounts the story of a successful failure lunar mission that almost killed three astronauts aboard just after Neil Armstrong's historic walk on the moon. You may remember what happened. As the spacecraft made its way towards the moon, an oxygen tank exploded, damaging the main spacecraft. The three astronauts had to use everything at their disposal to return home safely. But, they weren't alone. Not only did the lunar module encase them with needed oxygen, water, and safety, back on earth, there were teams of experts rallying to chart their course and troubleshoot every obstacle that presented itself to bring them home.

The flight team, led by Gene Kranz, had to devise a plan to use the moon's gravity to bring a broken ship back to earth. Astronauts and engineers on the ground developed procedures to power up the spacecraft with the very last ounce of energy that the ship had, so that the exhausted flyers could reenter the earth's atmosphere safely. And all of this was done under the pressure of time constraints. 

In the day and age before computers, the team used slide rules to determine engineering needed for all of that; then they determined the exact pressure needed to provide a safe scenario for the spaceship's return to earth. The three astronauts, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, were in real danger, but even more importantly, they were in very good hands.

Well, today, my friends, so are you. As you make your way through life in this world, you are in good hands in Christ. As you face the challenges of life, no matter what they are, you are in good hands when you put your faith in Him. And, even when you try to share the love of Jesus with your family, or do your best to witness to people at work, or walk in the ways of Christ as you live your life, you don't have to be afraid because He is with you, protecting you, guiding you in all that you do in Him.

God is always working on your behalf and mine. He charted your way home through Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He equips you with His Word and sacraments. He gives you the gift of prayer so that you can cast all your cares upon Him, receiving His consolation and help. Your gracious God gives you everything you need for this adventure we call life. Paul testified to this gracious provision saying, "The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:14).

Even the love you show and the witness you give, they're not your own works. The Bible says, "For we are [God's] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). 

When life is in Christ by faith, success is sweeter, failure is temporary, and trial is something to be overcome for a greater victory forever with Him in heaven. 

Decades after the Apollo 13 incident, former mission control leaders described what could have been viewed as a total failure as NASA's finest hour. A disaster was transformed into a triumph. 

When you are in Christ, even your failures, even the great disasters in your life, can be transformed by God into spiritual triumphs. The Bible says with confidence, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV). You can trust God with your most difficult and devastating experiences. You can depend on God during your most daunting challenges. You can entrust the people you love to God for His mercy and grace. Your Savior God graciously provides you with security for life's adventure as you make your way through it and make His difference in the lives of people around you. 

The cross of Jesus Christ, His brutal death for our sins, at first it looked like a real tragedy; but that was the place of God's finest hour as His Son died to save you and me. The trials we face in this life, the crosses that you and I might bear, can become our finest hour too as God uses your difficulties to bring new life to you and to others. Remember that you are in Him and that changes everything.

What a difference it is to be in Christ. You're not out in the cold. You're not lost and helpless. You're not out on your own, shipwrecked in danger and hopelessness. You're not flying solo in life, out of touch with any help or direction. You are in Jesus Christ. That's God's promise to you today. It's delivered through His living Word proclaimed to you at this very moment. It is poured into your life through His holy baptism. It is made real as the presence of Christ dwells in you through His Supper.

Don't let your sins and straying leave you out in the cold today. Don't let your trials make you believe you are out of God's care. Don't let your weaknesses make you think you're outside of God's plan or purpose. No, dear friend, you have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you! Because of His grace, through faith in Him, you are included in the promise of His forgiveness and His eternal life. You're not on the outside when you put your faith in Him! Listen to God's Word today. Listen and believe it for yourself: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he has lavished upon us." That's the power to live life now and forever. God bless you!


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 12, 2015 
Topic: Do I Have to Go to Church to Be Saved?

ANNOUNCER: Do we have to go to church in order to be saved? That's today's question for Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. People excuse their absence by saying they can find God in nature, while they're fishing or even out on the golf course. 

SELTZ: Now, Mark, I don't know if I can find God on the golf course. Some people see miracles there; I mostly see clear evidence of original sin.

ANNOUNCER: Even so, church attendance isn't necessary for salvation, is it?

SELTZ: It's a great question, but I think it's a bit sad too. Church is something we get to do, not something we have to do. Believers gather to receive Christ's gifts, to encourage one another, to pray. Gathering for worship is not a requirement for salvation; it's a blessing of being saved.

ANNOUNCER: Would you say this question comes from a somewhat wrong understanding of Christianity, as if we need to please God in order to be saved?

SELTZ: That's a great point. For a lot of religions, going to a sanctuary is something you must do to please God. The Bible clearly debunks that saying that "Nothing we do can earn our salvation because we are incapable of even approaching God properly." The Bible says "no one is righteous" (Romans 3:10). "We all sin and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "We are actually dead in our sins and transgressions" (Ephesians 2:1). 

ANNOUNCER: And that's what makes being brought to Christ's church so special, right?

SELTZ: Yes, there you don't just hear about our need, you hear how God graciously solves our greatest problems and offers His salvation and solution as a gift! The Bible says, "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive in Jesus-by grace you have been saved-" (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).

ANNOUNCER: So whether it's going to church--or doing anything else that might be perceived as good or godly-that's not going to earn our salvation.

SELTZ: Exactly. Going to church, living a good life, a godly life, are actually results of being saved by grace. We call them fruits of faith. I love how the Apostle Paul outlined this for early believers. In Ephesians 4 and 5, he said, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." And then I love how he says it this way, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us" (Ephesians 4:31-5:2). You see, a Christian life flows from God's love and Jesus' sacrifice for us. 

ANNOUNCER: In contrast to all other religions, Christianity is not a have-to way of life; it's a get-to way of life. 

SELTZ: And that's another reason we get to gather with fellow believers. We get to encourage one another. We get to receive the gifts of God's Word and sacraments together. 

ANNOUNCER: The book of Hebrews puts it this way: "Let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

SELTZ: That's a great verse. You hear the get-to emphasis in it. We get to make a difference in other people's lives. We get to meet together. It's important--especially as times get difficult and the day of Christ's return gets closer.

ANNOUNCER: It all highlights the value of being part of a faith community.

SELTZ: I'm glad you mentioned that, too. Let's think a little bit about God's wisdom in creating the church. Remember, the church is not a building; it is the saved people of God through Jesus. In a lonely and isolated world, think about the value of a community founded on God's unconditional love, new beginnings through Christ's forgiveness of sins, and constant strengthening through Christ's gifts. 

ANNOUNCER: All of which we need! 

SELTZ: Yes, think about the value of some Sabbath time--time away from our multi-tasking environment, our always-connected lives--to rest, to be refreshed by the hope, peace, and strength that Jesus provides....and even this, time for prayer, for reflection, for gratitude, and generosity. That's church.

ANNOUNCER: Remembering that Christians are, at the same time, both saints and sinners. That means churches won't be perfect.

SELTZ: No. No church is a perfect place, but it's meant to be a community of new lives in Jesus Christ, receiving God's encouragement, encouraging one another, and we're making an eternal difference in the world in which we live. That's huge. 

ANNOUNCER: So, the answer: by God's grace, we get to go to church. 

SELTZ: Absolutely. 

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Action in Ministry for July 12, 2015 
Guest: Dr. Carol Geisler

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and next we're going to talk about a hidden treasure and how God brought it back into the light almost 500 years ago. That's all described in a new resource titled: A Treasure Revealed: Martin Luther and the Events of the Reformation, and joining us today is the author, Dr. Carol Geisler. Carol, thanks for joining us.

GEISLER: Thank you for the opportunity.

SELTZ: It's great to have you with us, Carol.

ANNOUNCER: My wife came up with a great description of this booklet. She says it's Luther in a nutshell.

SELTZ: There you go.

ANNOUNCER: Could you tell us, Carol, what does this book cover?

GEISLER: It covers the basic events of Luther's life; his studies of Scripture, his life in the monastery, his lecturing on the Bible. Then it covers his 95 Theses and then the events that really were set in motion by that as he came into conflict with the leadership of the church. And then it follows all the way through his life and the experiences he had. And then a little bit into the events of the Lutheran church and how it began, how it got started, and also, then, a few of his key teachings. That's how it ends.

ANNOUNCER: Very good. Who did you have in mind when you wrote this? 

GEISLER: I was thinking of readers who might be a little unfamiliar with the story of Luther or not know anything about him at all. I used to be a school principal and we often had parents come to our school who knew that Lutheran education was a good thing, but they weren't at all familiar with Lutheran teachings, or probably not even who Martin Luther really was. And I thought the booklet would help people like that, but I was also hoping that, in the story of Luther looking his search for a merciful God, people reading the booklet, that if they were searching for that merciful God, too, they might see something of their own life in Luther's search; and that they might come to know Jesus Christ through seeing what happened and what transpired in his life.

ANNOUNCER: Excellent.

SELTZ: And that's an incredible thing. In fact, what I was thinking as you were talking there, your title A Treasure Revealed; in some sense we're talking about Luther, but what a message. That message compelled him. Why did you choose that title, A Treasure Revealed? 

GEISLER: Well, it's the idea that the treasure of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, it's always been there. It's always been there in Scripture for us, but it was obscured through some of the teachings of the church at that time, in the 16th century, it wasn't necessarily just that Luther discovered it, it was that God revealed it to him as he studied Holy Scripture. So, in that sense, it was a treasure revealed by the grace of God in his study, in his preparation for his lectures that he came to see that that merciful God had, in fact, found him in Christ Jesus. That's the message that he had to share and the message we have to share. 

SELTZ: That's an incredible thing because even in our work here, we find that people think they're searching for God, they don't realize that God is searching for them with the message that really does hold. 

ANNOUNCER: And it's important to emphasize that the Reformation is not about an innovation in the church, but it's a rediscovery.


SELTZ: Right.

ANNOUNCER: ...finding that hidden treasure and once again God bringing it to life through the efforts of Martin Luther and others.

SELTZ: And that's the next question too, then, obviously this is about something that happened, but it's still relevant today. And, again, you were already hinting at that as well. Talk a little bit more about that. Why do these ideas and events of the 16th century still matter in the 21st century? 

GEISLER: That search for a merciful God; that is still going on in people's lives. They are still looking for answers. They're still hungry for...maybe they're looking for a kind of spirituality. Maybe they don't even know what they are looking for. But, God is still searching for them and so the teachings that Luther discovered that he saw revealed in Holy Scripture are the teachings that people need to hear today...that Jesus is still the Good Shepherd looking for the lost and that He is still the merciful God that people need to know.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Jesus, Priceless Treasure" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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Sign Up for St. John's Little Lambs Golf Tournament - August 8

Welcome Friends and Past Participants.  Thank you for your past participation in our annual golf tournament benefiting Little Lambs Preschool.

This year's outing is coming up fast!  Only a few weeks remain until Saturday, August 8, when we will tee off once again at Country Lake Golf Club in Warrenton, MIssouri.  

In the past, it seems that many folks have had trouble fielding a 4-man team, so this year we will be trying out a 2-man format to make it easier for you.  Of course, we encourage you to recruit as many players as you can - friends, family, spouses -  the more the merrier and support for the cause!  If you wish to be paired up on a tee-box with another team, just let me know and I'll try to arrange it.  We have also lowered the entry fee to ONLY $50 per player and that includes lunch.

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