Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: August 30, 2015 "The Truth"

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Date: 08/29/2015 9:15 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: August 30, 2015 "The Truth"

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"The Truth" #82-52

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 30, 2015
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today-The Message?)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: 1 John 1:1-3

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us- 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! In a world populated with false messiahs and differing realities, the truth of the Triune God shines brightly. By God's grace may you be brought to and cling fast to Jesus, your Savior, your Lord, God's great Truth who gives eternal life. God grant such a saving faith be given to us all. Amen. 

Here's a Mark Twain quote for you. The great Christian skeptic and American humorist, Mark Twain, once said, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." That was the way I was going to begin today's message. Just to be sure of my facts, I double checked my book of quotes and sure enough, those words have been attributed to Mark Twain. Thinking I had better have a reference for the quote, you know, when and where did Twain say or write it, I went back and dug deeper. In retrospect, I almost wished I hadn't. 

I found out this adage was first attributed to Mark Twain in 1919. That date causes a difficulty. It's a difficulty because Mark Twain died in 1910; which all goes to prove, in our internet age of tweets, peeps, email, and Facebook, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Lies, we're surrounded by lies. Look at the beautiful girl on the cover of a supermarket magazine. The photo is striking and she is the envy of all. In part that may be because the photographer has doctored her photo. He has taken ten pounds off her frame, erased the bags under her eyes, took away her facial blemishes, removed a birthmark, two tattoos, and a small scar on her chin. He tamed down her hair and evened out the tone of her skin. By the time the photographer was done any resemblance between the model and her picture was purely coincidental.

Lies. We're surrounded by lies. How many political candidates have promised us one thing when they were running for office, but after they were elected, their tune and their tone were changed and the promises which they had made were forgotten. Watch two different news channels and you will hear two different versions of what the reporters consider to be the truth. No wonder people have come to the conclusion that truth, 100% real and accurate-for-everybody-all-the-time truth, seems to be as common as unicorn horns. Now, I admit there's a great many places where truth doesn't have to be a prime priority. There are many times when your opinion and preference are far more important than any manufacturer's claims. 

On the other hand, when it comes to religion, truth is of paramount importance. When you're talking about where your soul is going to be spending eternity, you want to be sure you are believing God's own truth. But how is a person to know which faith is right and whose truth can be trusted? Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity all make their claims of being the proud possessors of ultimate truth. Can they all be right or are they all just different ways of saying the same thing? 

A quick review of what each of these religions believes compels me to say: "Impossible! The doctrines of these faiths are not just different, they are contradictory." Without being able to make an intelligent and trustworthy decision, many folks have simply given up on finding the truth. Some of these folks have concluded all religions are lies, while others say, "My religion is right," but they're not exactly sure why. Go ahead, ask them, "How do you know what you believe is right?" More often than not they will hem and haw and say, "Well, because." Because? Folks, I'm not ready to stake my eternity on a personal opinion or "because." You shouldn't be either. Which should lead us to ask, "When it comes to salvation, is there any way to discover the truth?"

To that question most folks would say, "No." Years ago I had a friend, an instructor, who spent a month asking questions of people from different faiths. He asked a Christian man, "How do you know that Jesus really existed and that He is the world's Savior?" In reply the man said, "I know the Triune God is God because my son was in the hospital. I prayed to the Lord and my son was made well. Because my son was healed I know the Triune God is the right one." To many that sounds like a reasonable answer, but does it hold water? Is a hospital healing the ultimate proof that Jesus is the Savior? What would have been the man's answer if his son had died? Would that mean Christianity was wrong? Would that mean Jesus ought to be demoted from being the world's Redeemer? From firsthand experience I can tell you that is exactly what it means to many people when their prayers seem to have gone unanswered. 

Of course my friend did not confine his questions to Christians. He spoke to a native of India; asked him how he knew that Hanuman, the monkey god, was real. Do you know what the man said? He replied, "My son was sick, I prayed to the monkey god, my son was healed, therefore I know the monkey god is real." My friend asked me, "If the Triune God heals a child and the monkey god heals a child, does that mean there are two very powerful gods out there?" Well, I didn't think so and you shouldn't think so, either. 

Eventually my friend ran into an atheist and asked him, "How do you know there is no Deity, no Savior, no Redeemer?" His reply was one which, by now, ought to be familiar. The man said, "My son was sick and in the hospital, I never prayed.... Not once. Still my son was made well, but it was the doctors, not any god who did that healing. That's how I'm sure there is no God... and even if there was... who needs Him?"

It ought to be obvious: these personal experiences, while personally comforting, don't prove the reality of God, the truth as to which faith is right. These experiences are too uncertain and too unsure. Now if this message were to stop here, it would leave every listener in a quicksand of doubt and a bog of insecurity; which is why I give thanks that this message doesn't end with uncertainty. That's because the Christian faith is not based on personal experiences. Consider: Abraham was a liar; Jacob stole from his brother and showed favoritism to his boys. Moses and David were murderers, and Samson was always ignoring God's commands. Anybody who knew these Old Testament heroes of faith would quickly, and subjectively, conclude that their religion was a humbug and anyone waiting for the Messiah was making a mistake. 

No matter what you may have been heard; no matter how many times somebody has told you differently, Christianity is based on real facts and solid evidence. Do you need an example? Of course you do. Well, here's one. What would be your answer if I were to ask you, "How do you know there was a ruler in Germany by the name of Adolf Hitler?" What would you say? Would you reply: "I've seen movies of Hitler"? My friends that would be a dangerous answer. I say that because you've also seen movies of King Kong, Godzilla, and Dorothy's house being dropped on one of the wicked witches of Oz.

Maybe you would say, "There are eyewitnesses, some of whom are still living. There are people who met Hitler. I trust their word." Now that's a better answer. Eyewitnesses are good. But how about if I change the question a bit? Suppose I asked, "How do you know there was a Cleopatra, a Julius Caesar, an Alexander the Great, or a Napoleon?" Would you not say, "While none of them are alive today, there were people who saw and wrote about these historical leaders? I trust what they wrote. Besides those witnesses, these were people who shook the world. By the time they died, they had changed the world... changed it enough that we see the results of their presence even today." 

Good answer! Well done! Now how about Jesus? How do you know Jesus was real? Is that question a little bit different? Some would have you think so... but it's not. John, the apostle who had been with Jesus throughout His ministry, wrote: "That...which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands... was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was ...made manifest to us... that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us and (remember) indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." 

But it is not only the apostle John who attests to the reality of the Redeemer. There is the physician Luke who begins his narrative of Jesus' life by saying: (Luke 1:2-4 ESV - excerpts) "Just as those who...were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me... having followed all things closely... to write an orderly account for you,...that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught." Did you hear that? Luke interviewed the eyewitnesses so believers might be certain concerning the Christ. Do you really want to be certain? If so, listen to St. Paul, who, in 1 Corinthians 15:6 (ESV) says that the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time... and most of those 500 were still alive and kicking. Folks, that's 500 eyewitnesses. 

Before, when I asked how you knew any of the greats of history had actually lived, you mentioned the historical record and people who had personally known those famous personages. But you also said. "I know these greats existed because the results of their lives are still visible. That's most certainly the case for Jesus. God's Son's life made a greater impact on this world than any other person who has ever lived. That impact was immediate and the centuries have shown it has been long-lasting. You know, when the Word of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection reached Thessalonica, those who were impacted said, "Those men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (Acts 17:6). But it was not the men, it was their message which toppled the gods of Olympus and silenced the deities of Egypt. 

In city after city, province after province, the Word of the Lord was proclaimed and the result was consistent and constant. When people heard the facts about the grace and love of God which had been shown in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Savior, they were transformed. They were filled with the knowledge of God's will. They had a new understanding of who they were and what their purpose in life was to be. They knew, by the cleansing blood of the Lamb shed on Calvary's cross, they had been rescued from the dominion of darkness and had been brought into the kingdom of light. 

They knew, as all Christians still know, that they had been redeemed; they had been rescued from the false gods of their neighbors, and were now privileged to have been adopted into the Triune God's kingdom of light. They did not just hope these things, they did not just desire them, they did not just long for this truth; they knew, with Jesus' third-day resurrection from the dead, they had been given the truth of God which saves. 

They had the truth of God which saves. You know many people would find that statement to be a bit pushy. No, most would find it a lot pushy. In this age of everybody-is-right-and-nobody-is-wrong, it's politically incorrect and unfashionable to say, "I have the truth." You may say that you have a truth. You may say that you have found your truth. But to say that you have found the ultimate truth, the only truth, the truth which makes everything else a wrong, well, that is a pretty bold statement. 

It is bold, and we stand by its boldness. We have the truth. Ours is the truth of God which has been placed within us by the Holy Spirit. We have the truth because we have believed the Word of God when it simply says, 'Jesus is our Savior and Lord.' Yes, God's saving truth is a simple truth. The Triune God has not demanded you cross an ocean or climb a mountain where you can spend decades trying to understand the mysticism of a guru. He asks only that you hear and believe in the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior. 

God does not ask you to spend your lifetime trying to break some heaven-encrypted code so you might be able to comprehend the story of salvation. No, He speaks to you in whatever language is natural or native to your ear. He does not ask you to unravel the cryptic; sort through tons of trivia, or look for hidden meanings. All He wants is that you believe that He loved the world so much; that He wanted to save us so much, He sent His only Son into this world. The truth of God is this: Jesus has carried our sins, resisted temptation, defeated death so all who believe on Him are freed from condemnation, damnation, and are awarded eternal life. 

We began this message talking about the lies which are all around us. It's not surprising it would be that way when a USA Today poll found out that only 56% of American parents teach honesty to their children; when a Louis Harris poll found 65% of high school students admitted they would cheat on an important exam; when a noted physician can go on TV and say, "Lying is an important part of social life, and children who are unable to do it are children who may have developmental problems." The physician is not alone in his opinion... not when a third of all adults hold that "the way things are these days, lying is sometimes necessary." 

We live in a world which thinks lies are necessary. I wonder how many of you have been hurt by the wagging, lying tongues of the neighborhood gossip; how many young people have been destroyed by school bullies; how many reputations sullied beyond reclaim? I have little doubt that you have been hurt by some of these lies. If so, then listen as I present to you the Savior who says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Jesus is the Truth and He asks that His followers live in His truth. Today, in the Name of the risen Redeemer I extend His invitation to you. Today you have heard of God's love and His Son's sacrifice. I invite you to His side. Why? John said it better than I ever could: I have proclaimed salvation to you so that, you too may have fellowship with us; ...fellowship (which) is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. If this is an invitation which touches you, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen. 

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for AUGUST 30, 2015
Topic: Why Is It So Hard to Share Our Faith in Jesus Today-The Message?

ANNOUNCER: Why is it so hard to share our faith in Christ? Could it be the message itself? I'm Mark Eischer here once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz. 

SELTZ: Mark, today I want take up one of those challenges that is often leveled at the church....here it goes, "I could love Jesus, I just hate the church." Have you heard that statement before?

ANNOUNCER: I have. People reject the message because they say it doesn't change the people who believe it. You know, the church is full of hypocrites; the church is just about people who think they're better than everyone else; you've heard it.

SELTZ: That's right, and now I've tried to deal with that honestly in our discussion last week. So if you want to hear about that, "How we get in the way of the Gospel of Jesus and how we can get out of its way," then you are going to have to go back to our archives. 


SELTZ: Today, I want to tell people, "No, you might have a problem with Jesus too; at least right up to the time when you put your faith in Him."

ANNOUNCER: That's something to think about. It might be Jesus Himself who bugs us.

SELTZ: If you look in the Bible, people were getting mad at Him all the time. That's especially true of people who felt that they weren't sinful, that they didn't need to repent of any sin. They were often angry at Jesus because He pulled no punches with them. Without forgiveness there would be only eternal judgment with God.

ANNOUNCER: And that makes people today mad as well.

SELTZ: It does, but that's not the church talking, that's not we Christian's talking, that's Jesus talking. The people that were open to Him, the ones that He was gentle with, they were sinners too, but they knew it, they were ashamed of it, they were seeking forgiveness for it. He was the One who was incredibly loving to the unlovable, to the ones in need who knew their need.

ANNOUNCER: But, there's more to what makes Him so challenging, isn't there?

SELTZ: There is, and this might be the one thing that irritates people most of all; and that is Jesus Himself when He claims that He is the only way to salvation, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He says He is the Savior of the world, not merely a good example or a loving teacher. In a world of self-help, self-made, self-focused pseudo saviors; that kind of talk would probably get you hung on a cross today too.

ANNOUNCER: So, what can we do to help us share our faith in Him? 

SELTZ: Again, there's no secret to it. We have got to get to know Jesus and His Word even better today. Because, the only way that people overcome their skepticism of those kinds of claims is when they, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they get to know the uniqueness of the Jesus of the Bible. So, I'm just going to say it this way, friend, if you are skeptical of the claims of Jesus, I just ask you will you get to know Him first? Let Him have His say in your life because there is really nobody like Him!

ANNOUNCER: And as it's been said, "It's really not bragging if you can do it."

SELTZ: Even better, it's not bragging when you can really do it, and you did it all for others so that they might have the benefits of your work as a gift. Think about what the Bible says, Jesus is God in the Flesh who didn't use His power and status for Himself, He used it so that you and I, rebellious people by nature, could be reconciled to God eternally! Think about that. I know that His uniqueness can offend at first; but as witnesses, our job is just to keep "boasting about Him." 

ANNOUNCER: Which can cut through the skepticism and the unbelief.

SELTZ: That's how it always works, Mark, because of our sin, our hearts are as hard as stones. It's the power of Christ, His Word, His Spirit that turns us from self-centered sinners to forgiven, sharers of His grace to others. Only He can do that!

ANNOUNCER: And He does it over and over again! 

SELTZ: And folks, that's what we're inviting people to see when they come to church. They should see a lot of people just like them, with all kinds of struggles and problems, but with one difference. We see all of our life in the grace of God that comes in and through Jesus Christ Alone. So even worship is about coming into His presence, receiving His gift, His Word, and then venturing out into the world to be His people so that others might see Him too! 

ANNOUNCER: So then, as witnesses sharing our faith in Christ, the challenge, really, is to learn how to boast even better about Jesus.

SELTZ: Right, and don't be surprised if people even get mad at Him at first. The message of Jesus, it shakes all of our lives to our shakable foundation so that He can build our new lives in Him, on Him forever.

ANNOUNCER: We've talked about the challenges to sharing our faith in Christ; challenges that come from the culture, from our own personal struggles and from Jesus Himself. 

SELTZ: I hope this helps.

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

Action in Ministry for AUGUST 30, 2015
Guest: Dr. Steve Hokana 

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action In Ministry. And Pastor Gregory Seltz now joins us. Jesus said, "If you abide in My Word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." One of the main truths of Christianity is that we receive God's gift of forgiveness through faith in Christ.

SELTZ: And, Mark, a key component to understanding truth is understanding forgiveness. 

ANNOUNCER: And we invite you to keep listening to hear about a free resource that can help you realize this gift in your life. 

SELTZ: One of the most important truths anyone can know is the truth of forgiveness. It's not illusive or exclusive; it's completely available. And to be honest, completely life-changing. I want to welcome to our conversation today, Dr. Steve Hokana. He's an active duty military chaplain with more than 30 years' experience and he's written a booklet titled, Forgiveness Is A Choice. He joins us live via Skype from Kuwait. Dr. Hokana, thanks for joining us.

HOKANA: Well, thank you for having me. It's awesome to talk to you guys. You're 7,000 miles away, but you're right here in my heart. 

SELTZ: Unbelievable, and you're with us too. We're glad that you're part of this with us. Dr. Hokana, I love your booklet because forgiveness, it can be tough. And as you say in your booklet, forgiveness is really about relationships and we know how all that goes. 

HOKANA: Forgiveness is such a powerful tool that we can use. It is something that helps us in communication, in our faith walk, it helps us in relationship with one another. It also helps us in civil society as we deal with our co-workers, people that we work with, family members. It's a multi-faceted tool that helps us not only to heal immediately, but also points us to the cross where Jesus, God's Son, gave Himself for us. 

ANNOUNCER: What would you say is so good about forgiveness? What are its benefits?

HOKANA: In the world of psychology, they are starting to write about forgiveness a lot more as a tool of healing, and I think what we know as Christians, the psychological community is beginning to study and research. And that is that it sets us free. It allows us to take the pain that we shoulder and to remove that and put it somewhere else. In our case, at the foot of the cross. 

SELTZ: I like the sound of that. Considering so many things in our world only seem to fuel anger and the desire for revenge, forgiveness is often challenging, if not seemingly impossible. So, forgiveness. What is it? What is it not?

HOKANA: It's absolutely powerful. It's healing. Forgiveness is a tool of restoration. It brings us back into unity again with God through our faith, through our belief in our Lord Jesus. And also forgiveness sets us free from guilt and to continue on with the life plan that God has in store for us. And also just a couple of other things too. Forgiveness allows us to stop hurting others. You know, when you've been hurt really badly, man, I tell you what, sometimes you just want to reach out and just bite somebody. And forgiveness allows us to say, "Hey, look, I don't need to do that. There's something better for me." Now, what I'd like to do too is that I like to tell people what forgiveness is not. It's like a big misunderstanding. I don't know if you all go to movies, there is a movie that was just recently released, famous Marvel comic; and in it they talk about forgiveness.


HOKANA: And what they do is say, "Hey, let's not forgive, basically, let's build on our anger. Let's be grateful for evil wrongs that this person does." That's not forgiveness. Forgiveness is also not a position of weakness. Forgiveness takes an incredible amount of intestinal fortitude and strength. Forgiveness is not a tool of manipulation. When you forgive someone, you're letting them go. You're saying, "Look, this is beyond me. This is not about me. This is about the activity of God's One and Only Son, Jesus Christ." 

ANNOUNCER: And, Dr. Hokana, you provide a four-step plan for forgiveness with the initials CCAA, what does that stand for?

HOKANA: What I like with this one is the CCAA-it stands for Contrition, Confession, Absolution, and Amendment. In order to get that strong sense of forgiveness, you have to feel contrite. You have to feel that broken spirit, as David wrote about in the Psalms. And then there is the next step which is to confess it. It's so important that you somehow get that out of the inner part of your head and you express it in some way. So, contrition and confession; and then absolution-to hear the words of your pastor, to hear the words of Scripture-"though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow," as the Prophet says. It's so important that we get an understanding that we are hearing absolution. But then here's the final piece that we tend to forget about or might be seen as being too difficult-that's amendment. That is you have to do some type of change. Change is now required. And so, Contrition, Confession, Absolution, and Amendment-to change what you've done. 

ANNOUNCER: We've been talking with Chaplain Steve Hokana about his booklet, Forgiveness Is A Choice; and if you'd like to hear more of our conversation, we invite you to go to our website, lutheranhour.org.

SELTZ: Dr. Hokana, thank you so much again for talking with us. Once again, the title of the booklet, Forgiveness Is A Choice. Thanks so much for being with us.

HOKANA: God bless you guys. Thank you very much.

ANNOUNCER: For your free copy of Forgiveness Is A Choice, call The Lutheran Hour toll free, 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Or click here. Our email address is: info@lhm.org.

Music Selections for this program:

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

"By Grace I'm Saved, Grace Free and Boundless" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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