Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: December 6, 2015 "The Voice"

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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: December 6, 2015 "The Voice"

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"The Voice" #83-14

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on December 6, 2015
By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Luke 3:1-20

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar....the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God'" (Luke 3:1-6).

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Amen!

It was a small and innocent voice. In the middle of a busy shopping mall at the heart of the Christmas rush, a little girl sang "Joy to the World" as the crowds rushed by. Many people kept going, but some stopped to listen. The lyrics created such a contrast to the frantic activity all around her:

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.

A voice, a message, and suddenly grace and truth broke through the stress and strain of a harried holiday season. It was beautiful. It was a needed voice, proclaiming the wonder of God's love through Jesus Christ. 

But for Maria, Maria, it was more than a nice voice or a beautiful song; it was a lifesaving voice and a powerful redeeming message. She was at that mall discouraged because of her inability to fund Christmas shopping, disheartened because of another job loss, and depressed by the crushing heartbreak of a broken marriage. Maria had planned to end her life. She had the pills. She was ready to say goodbye, but then she heard the voice. She stopped to listen to the little girl. Tears filled her eyes. Shaken from the darkness of her pain, she heard that the loving Savior God was in control; yes, still in control even of her life. His truth and grace were still for her; even when she had lost hope. His righteousness and love embraced her. Maria went home changed, renewed because of the voice. Sometimes it can be that simple!

I don't know if today you're feeling like Maria did. If you're being pressed and held captive by darkness, please hear the voice of grace and truth for you. God loves you and He cares about you. He will never leave you. He will not forsake you. He is your help and refuge during all times of trouble. Take heart today in the wonder of His love for you. Wait and watch for His rescue. 

Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will, I will give you rest." He can rescue you from a life that is out of control. Hear His voice today. 

The Bible tells us today about another voice that God sent to the world. Today you are introduced to John the Baptizer. He was the 'someone with authority' who came along and gave a course correction to life that was getting out of control. He baptized people in the wilderness and, by that baptism, changed their lives. The voice of John the Baptizer was bringing clarity and new life to complicated lives. The Gospel of Luke tells it to us this way: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 

Do you know what all those names mean to you? Well, they mean that this voice was real, in history, at a specific time, a real place, with a compelling message too. Luke goes on and says: And [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God'" (Luke 3:1-6).

John the Baptizer was a real man, rooted in real history, appearing at a very complicated and turbulent time. Sound familiar? He had a simple message: know yourself honestly before God and know your Savior, God's gift for you. And that's the message I want to bring to you today in the form of one question and one statement. Ready? The question should be easy because the one question is about you. 

Luke, chapter three, says, "As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, 'I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie" (Luke 3:15-17).

Church officials came out to John to question him. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to come. They wanted to know if John was the Messiah. I think it's remarkable to hear how clear John the Baptist was about his identity.

The Jews believed that the Prophet Elijah would come back before the Messiah. Malachi 4:5 says it this way, "See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes." Could John be the return of Elijah? Or was he the promised Messiah?

But John knew who he was. He could give an honest, forthright answer. And today John leads you to ask the same question, "Who are you?"

Who are you during this season? Are you a Christmas superhero-faster than a shopping mall shuttle bus, more powerful than a Visa Platinum card, able to bake mounds of cookies in a single afternoon? Do you think you're a "messiah"-taking on everyone's problems, handling all the difficulties, loading yourself up with single-handed responsibility and never faltering? Do you keep your life in control and together? Are you strong and talented, efficient and impressive? After all, you work hard. You're strong. Can you answer the question accurately? Who are you?

A few months ago, I got another glimpse of who I am at this time in my life. I was in the dentist's chair. You are right in thinking that this is probably not going to be a happy story. There I was, in the chair, and pardon the dreaded dental phrase, but I was being drilled on for about a half an hour. My back molar had broken in two. Suddenly, I realized, "Hey, I'm not as young as I used to be." 
Today, John the Baptizer puts us all in the dentist's chair of repentance-we who are proud, self-righteous, self-centered, overconfident. And he says, "You are not the Messiah. You are not a Christmas superhero. You are not even in control of your teeth breaking. You, my friend, are a broken, flawed, and fragile human being. You are a sinner; just like me."

Those are difficult words. John even got more pointed in his words to a certain group who came to him.....he said, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And don't say to yourself, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham" (Luke 3:7-9). 

Friends, I want to ask you to look at yourself today, at your faults and failings. Who are you? What bad attitudes do you love to hang on to? What criticism do you enjoy leveling? What foul thoughts fill your mind? What ugly words come out of your mouth? What is your weakness that can so easily control you? How do you mishandle your anger? Who are you? John leads you to know yourself. It's the truth that Satan and the world want to hide. It's the truth that hurts so much, but opens the door to healing. You and I, we're sinners, broken, in need of real help. 

But don't stop with the question and don't stop listening to what God has to say to you just as you are. Don't give up. John the Baptizer says, "O sinner, arise! Get up! Feel the touch of the Almighty God! See the outstretched arm of your Savior! There's more to you than sin!" 

Remember, John was the voice! He was the voice saying that every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall be made low, the crooked places shall become straight and the rough places shall become level. All flesh shall see the salvation of God. 

Who are you? By faith you are what the voice of God ultimately says you are in Jesus. You are God's redeemed and rescued child. You are the one for whom Jesus was born and for whom Jesus died to take away your sin. You are the one your Savior draws near with the voice of grace and truth. That's what John's voice declares. John the Baptizer was the voice steering Christ into people's lives and steering people's lives into the pathway of Christ the Savior. 

John, he could have had an inflated ego. Remember, Luke tells us that John was a miracle baby! His mother, Elizabeth, was too old to have children. But an angel Gabriel appeared to John's father, Zechariah, to tell them that they would have a child who would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Crowds witnessed how Zechariah lost his voice in the temple. Everyone heard about the miracle child! Luke 1:65 says, "Wonder fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and said, 'I wonder what this child will turn out to be? For the hand of the Lord is surely upon him in a special way.'" John could have hung on to all of his followers. He could have started an Internet prophecy business with an IPO that smashed all records. But he knew his calling! He was a voice for Jesus Christ in the wilderness of the world--in the wilderness of your world and mine.

Who are you? Well, as the voice of The Lutheran Hour, let me echo the voice of John. You are a sinner saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ--with a purpose in life in Him. That's who you are, that reality is how you get to live life now and forever. 

Don't give in to the manic pace of the world's view of this time, this season. That will only leave you exhausted and still searching. Today is the day to hear the voice and stop pretending everything is A-okay and reach out for God's help. Today's the day to realize that you have a life of grace to purposefully live not just at Christmas, but each and every day.

Perhaps, this is the time in your life, to begin to fulfill your purpose in being a faithful husband or wife or a caring mother or dad. Sure, you can go off alone and conquer the world! But at this time, it might be that God wants you to put personal ambition aside, to serve, to sacrifice, and love as He does for you. Perhaps, this is the time of your life where your purpose is to be a kid, or a teen, or a young adult. You've got energy and imagination to burn! But at this time in your life God wants you to build a good relationship with your parents and with Him. He wants you to live in kindness with your friends. He wants you to pursue sexual purity. Or, perhaps, this is the time in your life where your unique purpose is to be a single person. You can worry about meeting someone or you can forget about all that and live for yourself! But at this time in your life God wants you to serve Him, to live in integrity, to be His witness, His leader. Now's the time in Him, to be a faithful worker, a loving and prayerful grandma or grandpa, a neighbor to the one next door. That's what makes life in Christ so exciting. There's always something to do as God positions you, steers people towards you, towards Him.

So the question was "Who are you," but the statement for you today is even more vital that that because it is a statement about who Christ is for you and who you are in Him!

The voice had one major thing to share to all. John said, "He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie" (Luke 3:16).

That brings us to the statement of the sermon. Life, your life, all life; it's about Jesus. And John illustrates that by pointing to his sandals. 

That should give you pause just on the face of it. Did you ever notice that the Messiah, the Anointed One sent by God, the everlasting Word of power and grace, Who came for us, He wore shoes! Jesus, your Savior, wore shoes, in fact; the shoes proclaim what He had come to do.

Let me explain. This is a shoe crazy society, isn't it? More than any other time in history shoes have meaning! You have certain shoes to run, to walk, to work, to hike, to bike, to skateboard, to cross train, to play basketball, play soccer, go to church, attend a party, and impress a friend. The shoes show the task at hand.

And Jesus wore shoes! God put shoes on for the task of walking in your footsteps, in your sin, hurt, and even death. They were Savior shoes, to be with you, to die for you, to forgive your sins, to raise you up in His resurrection and new life, to make you a new creation, to give you the gift of heaven, give you peace and hope. Jesus wore shoes. What a Savior!

God Himself in the flesh came to be with you to understand what life is like in your shoes. He stands with you and understands all that you're going through. Jesus wore shoes. 

If you've ever been to a Chuck-e-Cheese's or a McDonald's Playland, you know things can get pretty wild there for the kids. A friend of mine had a son who refused to take part in the indoor playground chaos. The play areas looked really nice. It could be a lot of fun, but he wouldn't go in there. So the dad figured out a way to help his son. He went in with him. Through the tubes, in the ball pits, up the stairs; he stuck with his son. 

In this chaotic world during this chaotic season, you're that little child. Jesus is like that Dad. He's right there in the middle of it all with you. Whether it's in a dentist's chair, or through the holiday party preparations, or with strings of lights that burn out right after you put them in the spot that's the hardest to reach, or through too much homework, aggravating computer crashes, colds and flu, depression or serious illness, even death and chaos, Jesus stands right there with you! Right in the middle of all of your life is your Redeemer, your Savior, the miracle of God with you, the Word made flesh. He stands with you. He wears shoes. He's in your shoes.

Today John the Baptizer is that voice that asks you who are you. You're a rescued and restored child of God with an important and irreplaceable purpose in life. Today John the Baptizer is the voice that gives you the good news about Jesus: Jesus wears shoes. He is with you here and now. I pray that this Jesus is walking into your life again today-right where you need Him because that truth will make this Christmas a Christmas you'll never ever forget. God bless you.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for December 6, 2015 
Topic: What Does Jeremiah 29 Mean Today? 

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor Seltz, there is a very popular verse in the Bible; it's Jeremiah 29:11, which says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you future and a hope." One of our listeners asks, "Does this mean God promises that our lives will be successful and prosperous?" 

SELTZ: People love to quote this verse in order to encourage themselves or others. But this verse does not promise temporal success and prosperity here on earth necessarily. It actually promises something more important. 

ANNOUNCER: Oh, what then does it really teach?

SELTZ: Well, in order to understand the verse, it is important to know what was going on at the time of Jeremiah the prophet. At that time when Jeremiah prophesied, the people of Judah were conquered by the nation called Babylon. As a result, the people were taken into exile as prisoners, removed from their houses, forced to live in a foreign land, their houses, farms, all their possessions were destroyed. And, even worse, it seemed like the true God had been defeated by the Babylonian gods. 

ANNOUNCER: Now why would the people of Israel think that?

SELTZ: Remember from the Old Testament, God promised to dwell in Jerusalem with His people. His temple was there. Jerusalem was the city of God. So when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and conquered Israel, many thought of that time that meant that God had been defeated by the Babylonian gods. 

ANNOUNCER: And if you identify yourself as the people of God that would be especially devastating. 

SELTZ: Exactly, Your country defeated, even God seemingly not able to help, "Who are we now," would seem to be the ultimate question!

ANNOUNCER: Is that what Jeremiah is addressing?

SELTZ: Yes, I would say so. Jeremiah spoke for God - the Living and All-Powerful God - who promised that even though Israel's exile would last 70 years; God would remain faithful to His promises to His people. Even then, He still had great plans for them - plans to bring them home, give them a hope and a future. 

ANNOUNCER: So God was not defeated by the Babylonians, even though Israel had been taken captive?

SELTZ: Right. In fact, God was using Babylon to chastise Israel and He still had great plans for those who trusted in Him. You see, Israel had started to worship false gods. And those gods couldn't help them. False gods can't save them, so God had to get their attention and turn their hearts back to Him. He did this through the Babylonians. 

ANNOUNCER: So this verse is really about Israel being saved from exile?

SELTZ: That's exactly right. This verse is not to any individual person and not about America in the 21st century. This verse is part of a letter written by Jeremiah in order to assure God's people that He is still with them even though they are in exile. This verse was written in order to give God's people, who are still awaiting the Messiah, give them hope even when the situation looks totally desperate. 

ANNOUCER: Having said all that now, does this verse apply to us today at all?

SELTZ: Absolutely! But maybe not the way that most people think.

ANNOUNCER: Okay. What do you mean?

SELTZ: Think about it with me, Mark; God's promises are always true, and the greatest promise God made, He kept when He sent His Son to die for our sin. So, while we might not be in exile in Babylon, we are born into an even greater exile, the exile of sin. 

ANNOUNCER: That's the ultimate exile, to be separated from God and His blessings all because of our sin. 

SELTZ: Right, and when we live our lives in sin, we continue to separate ourselves from Him. But Jesus came in order to rescue us from that exile, that's the ultimate future and hope.

ANNOUNCER: In other words, you are saying that Jesus is the plan. He is the fulfillment of the plan that God had for us. 

SELTZ: Right and God's will for you is that you are loved and forgiven in Jesus alone. That's God's ultimate plan. The Bible teaches us the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ. That is the plan He has for His people, for them to live through the gift of Christ's rescuing grace. 

ANNOUNCER: So, Christ died and rose again to free us from the ultimate exile of our sin and death, to give us real hope and a future; so for whom is this verse written?

SELTZ: It is intended for God's people, those specifically at the time still awaiting the Messiah; those who would be physically and spiritually rescued from their exile. And also for God's people now who believe in Jesus who has come and that they're rescued from their exile and captivity due to sin, reconciled to God by grace through faith in Jesus. 

ANNOUNCER: And for all who trust in those promises of God, fulfilled in Jesus, they do have a hope and a future that is eternal. 

SELTZ: Exactly.

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

Action in Ministry for December 6, 2015 
Guest: Suzie Sallee

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to the Lutheran Hour and this is Action in Ministry. And today we heard once again how God used John the Baptist and others to prepare the way for Christ.

SELTZ: Yeah, Mark, it's a story that never gets old. It's one that we should pass along to the next generation.

ANNOUNCER: And with that thought in mind, Lutheran Hour Ministries has prepared a new booklet that can help us do that. It's called Do You Know Who Jesus Is? It's a small, kid-friendly storybook that helps us share Christ with the little ones in our lives. And joining us is the author, Suzie Sallee.

SALLEE: Thanks for having me.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks for coming back.

SELTZ: Suzie, many people don't even know that we have all these booklets here. A wonderful series of them to help people through this thing we call life. And some are serious topics from depression, to marriage, to money, to prayer, to forgiveness. However, this booklet... it's a little different, isn't it? It's for kids.

SALLEE: Yeah it was designed specifically for kids in mind.

SELTZ: Great.

SALLEE: Easy for the kids to read or their parents or grandparents to read to them.

ANNOUNCER: And how would you say this booklet is different from other resources that Lutheran Hour Ministries produces?

SALLEE: Well, in the past we've done movies and booklets and websites. We love to do things specifically for kids though, and this booklet is different because it really gives the full story; Christ from creation, through His birth, crucifixion, and resurrection and His return to heaven.

ANNOUNCER: And it's all in rhyme, isn't it?

SALLEE: It most certainly is. 

SELTZ: We need to hear a sample of that. Do you have one for us?

SALLEE: I absolutely do. Let me read a couple versed for you.

SELTZ: Okay. Great.

SALLEE: This part says, "Jesus traveled to the river. He walked from Galilee. There He found a man named John who baptized Him, you see. The Holy Spirit came down on Him, looked just like a dove. God the Father said then, 'This is My Son Whom I love.'"

SELTZ: Not only do the words paint a picture but the illustrations in the booklet, as I can see, are sure to attract kid's attention. Tell us about the artist and about how you designed the graphics for this. 

SALLEE: Back when we had a website for children, I would look for graphics online, stock photos, illustrations, pictures, and whatnot. And I ran across some of these illustrations and I really liked them a lot, so I purchased a couple of them and I saw that he had a portfolio and I thought I'm just going to go ahead and contact him. And through talking back and forth with him, his name is Masaru Horie. I'm sorry. That's hard for me to pronounce sometimes as my name is hard for him to pronounce as well. He's actually from Japan and he lives in Canada. He was so excited that I got in touch with him, he said, "I have been praying for years that my talents and skills would be used to glorify God and not just put graphics and illustrations out there just to sell and just generic ones. So he has been so excited and he has drawn for all six of the booklets. 

ANNOUNCER: That's wonderful. We're talking about the booklet called, Do You Know Who Jesus Is? I think parents and grandparents would enjoy this.

SALLEE: The story of Christ is just simply given with wonderful illustrations. And it's not only enjoyable for those of all ages but it's also popular in nursing homes because people take them in and they read them to the elderly; and it just brings back their childlike faith and they really enjoy it. 

SELTZ: Wow, and what a perfect time to grab a sample for yourself. Mark, I heard that 75,000 of these have already gone out and I'm thinking grab some for yourself. Grab some for your family. I'm thinking because it's Christmas, Suzie.

SALLEE: You can put these with a plate of Christmas cookies for friends or neighbors. You can give them out in a drive-thru or leave one for your mailman. There's lots of different ways that you can use these. I just think they're going to be a blessing for many people.

SELTZ: And they're here for you. I've got some little people in my life, Mark, who would love this. And Suzie, just thanks for writing this wonderful resource to help pass along the story of Christ to the next generation.

SALLEE: Absolutely. 

SELTZ: Thanks for being here.

SALLEE: Get them out there and thanks for having me. 

ANNOUNCER: The name of this booklet is Do You Know Who Jesus Is? For a free copy, call The Lutheran Hour toll free, 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Or go online, www.lutheranhour.org and look for the tab that says Action In Ministry. Our email address is info@lhm.org. 

Music Selections for this program:

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

"On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"O Bride of Christ, Rejoice" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)




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