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Date: 2015/12/26 9:16 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: December 27, 2015 "No Regrets"

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"No Regrets" #83-17

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on December 27, 2015
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Christianity's Accomplishments)
Copyright 2015 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: 1 Timothy 1:16 

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! On the cross the Savior carried our sins, our shortcomings, and our wrongful regrets. May the Holy Spirit grant that the New Year allow us to live under the benefits of the risen Redeemer's great grace. May the Lord grant this to us all. Amen. 

The old calendar on the wall says there are only a few days before much of the world will be celebrating the passing of another year, another year since the birth of the Savior; another year closer to His return. Now you don't have to be a Christian to look forward to the arrival of a New Year. Most everybody I know is eager to bid farewell to past unpleasantries and are equally enthusiastic to embrace a year we pray will be packed with prosperity, peace, and potential. Yes, we are ready to begin anew and boldly stride into January one. Indeed, we would do so if it weren't for the painful past many of us are dragging with us; you know the painful past we call, "regret." 

Permit me to tell you a story about the regret of a man named Thomas Carlyle. Although Carlyle lived in the 19th century, he could rightly be called a Renaissance Man. In Carlyle's case, that means he was acclaimed and admired for his accomplishments in mathematics, history, philosophy, and literature. Carlyle also had a well-deserved reputation for being crabby, cantankerous, and confrontational. Although he loved his wife, he treated her more like a servant than a spouse. 

Eventually the day came when Carlyle's wife was struck down by cancer. It was a slow-moving, lethal disease which kept her in bed long before she breathed her last. After her passing, Carlyle returned to his empty house. Confronted by loss and loneliness; he eventually went to her room and sat down in the chair near her sick bed. Sadly he realized his visits had not been overly frequent and he recalled it had been some time since he had last sat near her. 

As the immensity of his loss enveloped him, Carlyle noticed his wife's diary. Carlyle thumbed through the pages. One entry caught his eye. It read: "Yesterday he spent an hour with me. And it was like being in heaven. I love Thomas so much." Carlyle turned a few more pages and that day's diary entry read: "I listened all day to hear his steps in the hallway. And now it's late. I guess he won't come to see me." Carlyle read a few more such entries. Shocked and grieved by the intensity of her words, he left the book on the floor and ran through the rain to the cemetery. He threw himself on her newly-filled grave and repeated, "If only I had known...if only I had known." 

That, my friends, is regret. 40 years experience in the ministry, along with my own finger-pointing conscience, have convinced me that most of you listening to this broadcast are acquainted with regret for something you did wrong or something right left undone. Years ago, on the streets of downtown Chicago, there was a long-haired, roughly-dressed John-the-Baptist sort of fellow doing a strange form of ministry. He would stand in the middle of the block and wait for a person to approach. When the individual got within a few feet, our modern-day-John would raise himself up, fix his gaze on that person, point an unwavering finger at him, and, in a bellowing voice shout one word: "GUILTY!" 

More than once a person was overheard to have muttered, "But how does he know?" Now there is no way this nameless street prophet knew the background of the person he was confronting. But that was okay. The prophet worked under the assumption that everyone was guilty of something; that everyone has a great regret concerning something from the past. 

Now I tell you that story not just to amuse. It is shared because for a few moments I want you on that Chicago street. Imagine that, without warning, some person has blocked your path, put a finger in your face, and shouted the word, "Guilty." Now, stop imagining. Let's get real. Just now, when you heard the word guilty, what action of your past went through your mind? What great regret immediately popped up? No, I don't want you to say anything out loud. You have worked too hard and too long to keep your regret a secret. 

Let us simply say that you have a great regret in your life... maybe you have many regrets. I know I do, I can remember the time when an old high-school classmate unexpectedly came into my office. We reminisced about old times for a while, and then, when we hit a break in the conversation, he lowered his head, and his voice quietly said, "You were cruel to me in high school." Well, I remembered teasing him a bit, but that was all I recalled. His memory was better. From deep within him he pulled out a laundry list of slights and slurs I had made about him. As he spoke, I was filled with regret for what I had done wrong. Then there was the even greater regret for having not remembered my cruelty and the wounds I had created. Today, after having asked for his forgiveness, we are good friends and my errors and subsequent regrets are forgiven. 

Which takes me back to you. Now I don't want you to send me a list of your many regrets, all I want you to do is admit they are there... weighing you down... burdening your soul... darkening your days. Your regret may be a big thing... it may be a little thing. Years ago I was with a Christian man who was dying. From all that I had known or been told about the man, he was a good fellow... one of the best. But now, as the end to his earthly life was coming, he had to get something off his chest. It wasn't a confession, but it most certainly was a sharing. He told me how, when he was young, maybe 75 years earlier, he and a friend had switched the arrows at a country crossroads. 

Switching arrows at a crossroad was his great regret. He had, for almost three-quarters of a century, regretted what he had done and the unknown results of his action. As he said, "I've often wondered, Reverend, how many people went down the wrong road because of me?"

But maybe your regret does not stem from something you have done. Years ago Cornell University researchers did a study on regret. After surveying a cross section of people they found most people's greatest regrets were the things they hadn't done. Like Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens' A Christmas Carol they looked at their past and found themselves regretful. Like Scrooge many of them spent their days wondering how their present might have been changed for the better if they hadn't done the wrong thing or left a good deed undone. Tragically, many folks, and you may be one, identified with the ghost of Jacob Marley and felt they were condemned to wander this earth chained to their wrong choices, sad misdeeds, and selfish actions. 

Has a relationship with a family member or an old friend ended on a harsh note or nasty disagreement? Have you said and done things which are a sin against God or another person? Have you stolen? Cheated? Regrets are real because they darken our days and rob our nights of rest. Regrets are great weights on our hearts and heavy burdens on our souls. Regrets stayed with us through the old year and give every indication they will be with us in the New Year and all the years which follow. 

Pretty depressing, isn't it? It sure takes the oomph out of "Happy New Year!" Well, if you feel that way, I understand. I know you've tried to bury your regrets; you've tried hard. But no matter how hard you tried to plant them six-feet under, they still kicked and clawed their way to the surface where they taunted you for even attempting to get rid of them. And now, before this New Year, the regrets remain; which leaves you with two choices. Either you keep your regrets and let them take a little bit of joy out of each day or you let them go. Believe me, just because up till now you haven't found freedom from the couldas, shouldas, wouldas, and oughtas, that doesn't mean your sins and the subsequent regrets are indestructible. They aren't. 

How do I know? I know because I have seen it and read about it in the Bible. You know, when most people think of Bible stories, they think of all these heroes who have a super faith which does mighty miracles. The truth is, with an exception or two, I can't think of many heroes of faith who have lived their lives regret free. Adam and Eve had it made in the shade, and then they broke the one command God had given them. Theirs was the granddaddy of regrets. Cain murdered his brother. He should have regretted that. Noah's obedience created an ark, but his love of new wine caused some problems. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are patriarchs for God's people, but they also are liars and thieves. I could go through the whole Bible this way. 

Instead, let's just focus on three individuals. The first, from the Old Testament, is King David. God had picked him when he was young. As a young man, David had done his best to live up to the honor. But when he became king, well, you know what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely. King David had a wandering eye and ended up with another man's wife. Fearing he would get caught, David did what any man without a conscience would do: he had the man killed. Eventually the Lord called him to account and David spoke of his regrets in Psalm 130. There he said, "Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?"

Regrets are not the unique property of kings. Fishermen have them too. Look at Jesus' disciple, Peter. The Savior had picked Peter; had taught him, nurtured him, allowed him to hear of God's love, and see many miraculous manifestations of that love. Peter professed undying loyalty, but when things got tough, Peter bailed and ran. The night Jesus was betrayed, when Jesus asked Peter to pray for Him, Peter slept. When Jesus was arrested, Peter ran away; when Jesus was on trial, Peter swore he had never met his Master. When Jesus was dying on the cross to take away the sins of the world; Peter was hiding behind a closed and bolted door. Did Peter have regrets? Matthew 26 tells us that after he had denied his relationship with Jesus, Peter cried his eyes out. 

Let me share one more man who had his regrets. His name was Saul. A Roman citizen, an educated and learned man, he was dedicated to ensuring his religion and way of life wouldn't change. This noble cause inspired him to arrest men and women, to take them to trial, and to have them executed. It was a hard life, but a life he felt was noble and God-pleasing. Saul kept at it until the Lord struck him down; blinded him and told him he was wrong. Big time. Was Paul filled with remorse? Looking back on those times, he confessed, (1 Corinthians 15:9) "For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."

There you have our spiritual rogues' gallery of regret; an adulterer, a traitor, and two murderers. Honestly, how does your regret stack up to them? In all probability, compared to them you're an amateur. Well you've heard about their sins and their regrets; now let me tell you what the loving Lord did with each of them. God sent a prophet to straighten out David. The King repented and was forgiven. You remember his words, "Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!" God heard David's cry, which is why, later on the King could encourage: "O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities." David wanted us to know God can erase our sins and our regrets.

As for Peter... after the Savior's victory over the grave, Jesus forgave a sorrowful apostle and took care of those regrets. On Pentecost, a renewed, restored Peter boldly proclaimed the risen Redeemer and the life-changing faith God's Holy Spirit wishes to bestow. Years later Peter wrote to Christians in every generation and location. He said, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3a). Did you get that? Those who know Jesus are reborn and part of that rebirth is the forgiveness of sins which has given birth to our regret. 

And what about Saul, the ex-murderer? Yes, he called himself the "chief of sinners," but God changed his name. Saul became Paul. And as Paul, he wrote, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." Paul is saying God picked him so he would be an example of how a great God can forgive great sins. 

Now I don't know your sin or your regret, but I do know that Jesus can erase both. The Savior Who has carried our sins and defeated death offers us a new life... a life free from condemnation and damnation. That means, my friends, you can leave those regretful burdens at the foot of His cross. Drop them off and leave them there... and if Satan comes calling and tells you to pick them up again, don't you do it. You tell that weasel, "I won't carry those things because Jesus has already done it for me." And say it with confidence, because it's true.

At the end of December, 1772, an Anglican priest in Olney, England was preaching on the forgiven sinner, King David. As the priest worked, he thought of how the Lord had also forgiven him. He remembered how he had been publicly whipped and kicked out of the British Navy; how he had been involved with mutinies and had been captain of a slave ship. Yes, that priest might have written about his many regrets. Instead John Newton wrote a hymn to be sung in his congregation on New Year's Day, 1773. This is part of what they sang, "Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, His grace will see me home."

This New Year you can sing that hymn, "Amazing Grace," as your own. By God's amazing grace faith in the risen Redeemer can forgive your sins, erase your regrets, and lead you home. If regret-free seems like the right way to enter the New Year, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen. 

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for December 27, 2015
Topic: Christianity's Accomplishments

Announcer: What good is Christianity? As we prepare to ring out the old and ring in the new, that'll be our question today for our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer. 

Klaus: Hi, Mark. An early "Blessed New Year" to you and to our listeners! So, ringing out the old, ringing in the new-an interesting way to begin this Question and Answer segment. What do you have in mind?

Announcer: Today I'd like for us to "wring out" an old falsehood and hopefully sound a note of truth in its place. 

Klaus: So, what is the topic? 

Announcer: It seems nowadays, many people would doubt the value and perhaps even the goodness of Christianity. 

Klaus: That's nothing new... The Church is and always has been comprised of imperfect people who continually need Christ's forgiveness. We all fail to live up to what God expects of us. 

Announcer: Yeah, but this is different.

Klaus: Different? How so? 

Announcer: More and more, we hear critics question the overall impact of the Christian Church in our world. They would assert that the Church has seldom, if ever, done anything good and is instead responsible for doing a lot of bad things. 

Klaus: That's a blanket statement. Anything specific?

Announcer: They might site the Crusades and the Salem witchcraft trials, for example. 

Klaus: Okay, for the record, the Crusades ended almost 800 years ago and the witch trials occurred toward the end of the 17th century. 

Announcer: But it often seems those are the only two bits of history critics know. 

Klaus: Yeah, they have to go a long way back. It's sad. It's almost as if there was a conspiracy to undermine the accomplishments the Lord has achieved through His people. 

Announcer: So, what do we say to critics who parrot these complaints? 

Klaus: It's an interesting question and I'm not entirely sure where to begin. Let's begin with the Crusades. We've said it before with regard to the Crusades: the Church did not make the first move! The Crusades were an attempt to reclaim territory which Islam had conquered. 

Announcer: And also to protect Christians who were told they had to convert or else be taxed or even killed.

Klaus: Yeah. Next, we must confess that Christian armies did some terrible things in the Savior's Name and Christians have invented weapons in the hope that this would make war so horrible nobody would dare to start one.

Announcer: How has that been working?

Klaus: Wars have just gotten bloodier and more ruthless as time's gone by.

Announcer: Okay, but what is the rest of the story? 

Klaus: Even in the midst of war, Christians have sought to alleviate suffering and uphold humane standards of conduct. My father was a Prisoner of War in Germany during World War II. His treatment was atrocious. However, had it not been for the Red Cross, an organization begun by Christians, it would have been far worse.

Announcer: And more than any other group, it is Christians who have worked for peace. Christians have called for nations to come together and work out all their problems around a conference table rather than on the battlefield. 

Klaus: When it comes to literacy, communication, Christianity has caused more spoken languages to become written languages than anybody else. 

Announcer: That was so that people could read the Bible for themselves in their own languages. 

Klaus: Indeed it was. Christianity has built more schools and institutions of higher learning than any other force in history. Christianity has helped people to fight poverty, alleviate suffering, recover from natural disasters; this far more than any other organization in history.

Announcer: We could also look at the Christian groups that respond right away after a tornado, an earthquake, or a hurricane. In fact, Lutheran Hour Ministries also sends out volunteer mission teams to needy places around the world. 

Klaus: If you take a look on TV reports, you'll see the Christians right there being on the front lines of helping out. Understand, we're just touching the surface here, Mark. Christianity has built countless hospitals; created a legal system based on equality under the law. In Christianity, a man's word is not twice as valuable as that of a woman's. Christians spoke against and helped to abolish slavery.

Announcer: And that's something not every religion could say even today.

Klaus: Yeah. And with that, we are still just scratching the surface. In short, Christians have not been perfect. But they have tried... and they have done far more to honor the Savior and benefit their fellow man than any other group.

Announcer: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries. 

Action in Ministry for December 27, 2015
Guest: Wayne Palmer

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action In Ministry. Pastor Gregory Seltz joins us now.

SELTZ: Great to be here.

ANNOUNCER: Today Pastor Klaus talked about living life without regret and I think that's a wonderful and timely way of moving forward into the New Year.

SELTZ: Yeah, and so the question is: are we going to lug these regrets into another year or can we leave them at the doorstep? 

ANNOUNCER: Here to help us do that is our colleague, Pastor Wayne Palmer. He's written a wonderful resource titled, "Regrets, Reality, Restoration". Wayne, thanks for joining us.

PALMER: Thanks, I'm glad to be here.

SELTZ: Wayne, New Year's resolutions will be written down and proclaimed in droves in just a few short days, but one thing, I bet, won't be on that list of resolutions is to make sure that we take a good accounting of all of our regrets. We don't seem to need to make a list of all of our regrets. We remember them quite well. So, here's the question: why do we all seem to hold on to them for dear life? 

PALMER: I think it's because of that shame and the guilt that's attached to the sins we commit and the relationships we shatter. Whenever you see that person again, it all comes flooding back and you just want to disappear.

SELTZ: Right.

ANNOUNCER: Now in your booklet, you mention two people-one of them denied Christ and ran away from Him, the other was an adulterer and a murderer. They had plenty of cause for regret; but you tell us we don't have to be stuck there. 

PALMER: The two I'm talking about are David, who is the king that committed adultery and then had the husband murdered so that he could take over as husband, and then you had Peter who denied Jesus. I always think for Peter that moment that he was in his third denial and the rooster crowed and he turned and he saw Jesus looking at him, that face of Jesus; that had to be haunting. Every morning after that when the rooster crowed, it had to pull his mind right back in that guilt and shame welling back up inside again.

SELTZ: Yeah, but also to the face of Christ, which you talked about as being a blessing to him as well, right? Wow!


SELTZ: So, with that in mind, let's consider our New Year's resolutions. Typically we might focus on our health or perhaps fitness, but let's consider this, if we want to resolve to live with less guilt and regret, where do we start?

PALMER: We start at the same place that Peter did, which is not running away from Jesus, not trying to deal with it himself, but running to Jesus. When you look at Easter afternoon, Peter is the first one Jesus appeared to individually of the 12 Apostles. Then, later, by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus especially restored Peter there in the breakfast or after the breakfast by the sea. It was Jesus' way of saying, "I want you to be the leader, the feeder of My sheep, and the tender of My lambs. I want you to take care of them." And that's what he needed, that ability to be restored because Satan is just trying to break us down and make us feel like we can't do the things that God has put us in our place to do; be a husband or a wife, be parents, be workers. But Jesus is here to restore us. 

ANNOUNCER: Okay, but what about the lingering consequences of sin? How do you cope with those lingering consequences and not let regret come creeping back in with it?

PALMER: I think it's important to remember what Satan is trying to accomplish through that guilt and the shame that we have. He's trying to make us shrink down and not fulfill those roles God has given us in life; to make us lose our confidence and just beat ourselves up. But that's where you have to go to Christ again, because there on the cross Jesus paid the price, and the guilt, and the shame for what we've done so that we can become new creatures empowered by His Holy Spirit, then we can start to live that life God's given us and fill those roles that our society needs and the people in our lives so desperately need.

SELTZ: Yeah, Christ in the midst of it all. He's the face and voice. I've heard it said this way; guilt that drives you away from Christ, that's not godly guilt. Guilt that drives you to Him so that it can be taken away. I think that's your point that Jesus was right there with His presence, with His Word, and that's why the Word is so important to us today too, isn't it?

PALMER: Exactly. That's why we preach it on The Lutheran Hour. That's why you go to church and why you get strengthened through the body and blood of Christ in Communion, through the Word of God, through the baptism that's renewed each week. So we remember that we are God's creatures and He's here with us and for us and together we can move forward in Christ. 

ANNOUNCER: The title of this resource is Regrets, Reality, Restoration and I know it will be a wonderful help for our listeners. Wayne, thank you for being with us.

PALMER: Thank you, my pleasure.

SELTZ: And that's our Action In Ministry segment today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others. 

ANNOUNCER: For your free copy of the booklet, Regrets, Reality, Restoration, call The Lutheran Hour toll-free, 1-800-351-1001. That's 1-800-351-1001. To view or download this material for free, go to 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.

"Let All Together Praise Our God" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)




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