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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: April 17, 2016 "Confidence for Life"

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Email Us button greenSermon Text for April 17, 2016 

"Confidence for Life" #83-33

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 17, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: John 10:22-30

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Have you ever experienced the embarrassing moment in your life when you are in a grocery store looking desperately for an item on the shelf, but not finding it? And, if you are like me, you aren't about to ask anyone for help, no way. You should be able to find this yourself. But, after looking down several aisles, wasting precious time, you finally swallow your pride, find one of the workers there, and say, "Excuse me, but could you help me find this item? I've looked and I've looked and I can't see it anywhere." But then it gets even more embarrassing. Even before you finish asking the question, the person points to the place on the shelf right in front of you! And there it is!

Don't ask me how it happens, but it happens. Maybe the item is overlooked because of the confusion of the items all around it. Or, maybe it's just because you didn't know where to look because of some faulty information or store item rearrangement; but, for whatever reason, even though it was staring you right in the face, you completely missed it.

Well, that's what is happening in our lesson for today. The religious leaders in our text had cornered Jesus and demanded that He explain Himself. Was He the Messiah or not? The Messiah was standing right before their eyes saying, "Believe in Me!" And they totally missed Him, completely discounted Him. Little did they know that believing in Him, our loving Shepherd, faith in Jesus was the only way to be secure in the Father's hands!

In our lesson for today, it's winter time. The religious leaders of the day approached Jesus, but not for dialogue, not to learn and discuss, but to entrap Him, even diminish Him. The Greek words John uses in the Gospel to describe the way these leaders approached Jesus are words that mean "to close in on somebody, to surround them." They were encircling Jesus so that He could not escape. They demanded that He give them a clear answer for their question, of course on their terms alone.

Even the phrase they use in their question is difficult but telling. It reads, "How long will You keep us in suspense?" Or another way of translating it would be, "How long will You keep getting our hopes up?"

You see, they refused to see Jesus on His terms. They approached everything from their perspective, their vantage point. They've got hopes and dreams up about what they think God should be doing in their lives, in their world, and they want to know if Jesus is going to finally make it all happen!

The people in the text are just like us, aren't they? How often do we pray trying to corner God the same way? How often do we ask Him questions from our own vantage point alone? It's as if Jesus Himself somehow must prove Himself to us. "Jesus, give me some money, take care of a problem for me, heal some of my sickness, right now, that's what I need. I know that You died on the cross and You suffered hell and damnation for me, but what I really need is this!"

Well, if you are struggling with such questions in your life. If you want to know just whether there is a God, but more, whether He really loves you or cares about you; if you are looking for real security and protection in a dangerous world; looking for real confidence even when you are afraid or overwhelmed; keep asking Jesus, "Who are you, Jesus?" because the answer to that question will change your life!

So the Jews gathered around him and said, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, but you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me."

Jesus tells them straight. "I've already told you" and "My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me!" Why, because I am the Good Shepherd and My sheep are safe in My hands eternally. 

Now that doesn't sound like an answer, but it really is telling. Jesus brings a very famous metaphor about God into the discussion, that God is a faithful Good Shepherd for all those who trust in Him. He's trying to broaden their perspective so that they can not only see clearly Who He is, but Who He is for them too; not just their Lord, not just the Messiah, but the Lord and Savior for them and for all!

Perspective; having the right perspective makes all the difference in the world. Perspective is an interesting thing. It can change how a person thinks about things. It can change one's emotions about facing challenges. Making sure that you have the right perspective on things can make all the difference in the world. Wouldn't you agree?

For instance, a few weeks ago, one of the biggest news stories in St. Louis was a man kayaking. Yes, kayaking. Now that's not typically a newsworthy event. So why was this video of a person kayaking the lead story on the news, worthy of front-page focus? Let's get some perspective, ready? First a key point was where was he kayaking? He was paddling his boat down the middle of the interstate highway. That's right, the place where cars and trucks usually were speeding down the road at 65 or 70 mph; now there was several feet of water and he was out for a weekend ride.

Also, the timing was unique. It had been decades since waters like this had been seen in the area. Rain had caused a massive flood. Many of the roads were closed. Towns were evacuated. People were volunteering to fill sandbags in order to save people's houses and businesses. Many lost their homes and their possessions. Some even lost their lives. But there he went. Kayaking. Out for a paddle.

So who was this guy and what was he doing? Why kayaking at this very moment; a good thing or a bad thing? Was his adventure for pleasure, necessity, or was he on a mission? You really don't know until you get the whole picture. That whole picture will give you perspective, clarity, even confidence in what you see because you see it for all its worth.

He might have been paddling to safety; yay! He might have been paddling to rescue someone who is trapped or in trouble; get going! He might be risking his life for a whole host of reasons, but you really won't know until you get the whole picture, the right perspective!
In our lesson today Jesus wants you to get the whole perspective about Him, the whole picture because everything is riding on it for you and for me too. 

When Jesus starts talking about believers as His sheep, and earlier in this discussion when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd, He's bringing the whole history of God at work in the world to bear on this discussion. The God of the Bible is a Shepherd who brings life and rescue and protection to the sheep under His care.

All you've got to do is read the Old Testament and see how God acted on behalf of His people. He fed them when they were hungry. He guided them when they were lost. He rescued them when they were enslaved in Egypt. He blessed them with a place to live, to love, to worship as His people. 

When Jesus tells these people, "If you really want to know who I am and what I am doing, just look at what I'm doing in your midst even now." And for us He's telling us to read all about Him for ourselves!

The people in the text had seen Jesus heal a man who was born blind. Such a healing was a Messianic sign of God's kingdom breaking into our sinful world, bringing not just physical sight, but real, lasting, eternal sight to those who are spiritually blind in their sin.

Jesus says, "Take a look!" But with a limited, faulty perspective, the religious leaders of that day saw only Jesus as the One Who had broken their man-made Sabbath laws when He healed this man in body and soul.

Later they would hear of Jesus literally raising Lazarus from the dead. Such actions too were another sign of God's kingdom unleashed in the world.

But that's not what they saw. They saw One Who was a threat to their position and livelihood. Instead of believing in Him, putting their faith in Him, following Him, they were even more determined to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. Same event, faulty, even false perspectives; they missed the whole point of Who Jesus is! 

The people in the text are just like us, though, aren't they? Anyone can read the Bible. Anyone can plainly see who Jesus is and what He is all about for them, and yet we too can miss Him and everything that He means for us even when He is talking to us clearly through His Word, even when He is clearly calling us to faith in Him.

So I'm challenging you today. If you really want to know who this Jesus is for you, keep asking the question, yes, but even more importantly, keep looking at Him in the Bible, keep listening to Him speak to you.

Maybe a better way for me to ask for you to broaden your perspective is to say it this way; what has God done that you know that He loves you? What has God done that you can look to and know without a doubt that He really loves you? 

The people of those days were looking at Jesus and He said, "Take a look at what I'm doing." Well, let's do that too! Let's give Jesus an honest look for ourselves, in the quietness of our own rooms today, listening on our radios or on our phones, in the solitude of our own hearts. How about it? 

And let's put our demands on God aside for a moment, okay? Let's know the limit of our perspective on all that God has done and is doing for us just because we don't see the whole picture at the moment.

I know that it's hard sometimes. Our own personal struggles cause us to look only at what is going on around us. It causes us to look at our own resources alone. For many, God just isn't in the picture, because our picture of things is way too small. But that's just how it is, isn't it?

Well, no, Jesus Himself would say no. Look at Who He is and what He has done, He would say. Maybe floods haven't affected you at the moment or maybe you haven't faced a life-threatening issue; but all of us have had times in our lives when we feel like God has failed to help us in the way that we want or need. 

Our sin encourages us to measure God and His love by our lives and the way we feel about things alone. But Jesus says, "Have you really looked at all that I have done to love you, to care for you, forgive you, and give you hope and a future?" If you haven't, He would say, "Look at Me again!" 

Jesus said, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness about me.... My sheep hear my voice. I know them. They follow me."

When you look at Jesus through the Bible, you'll see that His life fulfilled thousands of years of prophecy! His Words and deeds had real power to change lives and that is still true today for you and for me!

But most of all, He said what only a Savior from the Father can say, namely, "I have come to bring life, and to bring it abundantly to you." Christ Jesus came to reconcile the world to God the Father, to forgive people's sin eternally, to grant life forever, to do it through the cross and the resurrection where He alone is the world's sacrifice for salvation; yes, your Savior for your life and your salvation too. Can you see it? Do you know what that means for your life right now and forever? 

Jesus is calling for you to trust Him right now, to entrust your life to Him right now, and to know that all is well in Him with you forever. We can be blind to Him, deaf to His Word I know. We all are like that at times. But oh the difference in life when you see Him as your Savior, when you know Him through His Word, and are comforted and strengthened and even guided by the eternal perspective of One Who literally went to hell and back so that you and I might have life and salvation in Him! 

Are you having a kayak-in-the-flood moment today or are you having a sitting-on-the-roof-of-my-house-with-waters-rising moment emotionally today? Whatever the moment, the text says God has come for you and He's coming for you right now in Jesus!

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the voice of Jesus. He says:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them! You matter to Jesus always.
* He says, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish! There's no more abundant life than knowing Him by faith no matter what you're facing at the moment.
* He says, No one will snatch them out of my hand. His grip on your life will never slip even when yours does at times!

Listen to the voice of Jesus. Look at His deeds. In the midst of the joy of this life, it is His death and resurrection that gives us true joy and peace. He gives eternal life. God gives. That's who He is. He comes. Yes, He even comes for you with grace, mercy, and peace in His hands. What an answer when Jesus says, "I told you. I am the Good Shepherd."

The religious leaders keep asking, "Who are you nonetheless?" They weren't listening. But, if you believe in Jesus, you already know the answer and you know what it means for you. For believers, our Shepherd speaks and we listen! Jesus comforts us with His Word.

For believers, our Shepherd gives life. He's worth following because He knows where He is going, not just for Himself, but for us as well. And if Jesus is your Shepherd, He makes an even bolder promise. "If you are Mine, I who won't let anything snatch My sheep from My hands." Wow!

Isn't that an amazing kind of Shepherd that we have willing to live for us, to die for us, even when others won't? He did that on the cross! He gives, we live! He protects us as only God can do! We are secure in the hands of the Shepherd, in the hands of God because of Jesus. Today, tomorrow, and every day; then there is no need to doubt or question, but believe and be comforted, and rest in the secure hands of the Shepherd Who loves you. In His Name.


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 17, 2016 
Topic: When Anxious, Pray? 

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions about prayer. I'm Mark Eischer. Let's look at this passage, Philippians 4:6, it says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Let's unpack that verse. It seems to be about prayer but also about being anxious. 

SELTZ: Mark, what a powerful Scripture and again we're looking at some of people's favorite Scriptures in these Q&A. Philippians 4:6 it one of them. It helps us when we are anxious or nervous about things. Here, Paul reminds the Church to replace their anxiety with trust in God. 

ANNOUNCER: Doesn't it sound like the verse also teaches us to trust in prayer? Is that the same thing as trusting in God?

SELTZ: Many people think that trusting in prayer is the same thing as trusting in God, but it really isn't. As a matter of fact, a lot of people think that prayer is their opportunity to manipulate God. 

ANNOUNCER: Manipulate God? How does that work?

SELTZ: A lot of times we view prayer as our time to tell God what to do. And then if He doesn't do what we want, we become indignant and we question His love, His forgiveness, even His existence.

ANNOUNCER: I think I know what you are getting at there. Many people would say they prayed about something, God didn't do what they wanted, and now they are upset with God or, even worse, they no longer pray because they think it doesn't do me any good. 

SELTZ: Exactly. A lot of times when people pray, they feel like God has to act because they prayed. But that isn't the point of prayer. Prayer is not intended for us to boss God around. 

ANNOUNCER: That involves a different way to look at prayer. If prayer isn't intended to make God act though, why then do we pray? 

SELTZ: It's really quite simple, Mark. We pray because God has invited us to. As a Father loves to hear from His children, so our Heavenly Father rejoices when we, His children, talk to Him. 

ANNOUNCER: All right, but tell me this, if we pray because God wants to hear from us but it doesn't really change anything, how does that help us when we are anxious? 

SELTZ: Prayer helps us to trust in God. It reminds us that God is God. He is in charge. And He is our Father. Not only is God almighty and in charge, He also loves us and He takes care of us as the Bible says, a loving Father. 

ANNOUNCER: So, in other words, we pray to remind ourselves that God is in control and also that He loves us? 

SELTZ: Yes. We pray because it reminds us to trust in Him above all things; the One Who loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die and rise to forgive our sins and to give us eternal, abundant life. 

ANNOUNCER: I believe that God loves me and Jesus died and rose again for me, but how does that help me not to be anxious? 

SELTZ: Well, let me quote another verse that Paul also wrote. This one from Romans 8:32; it says. "He (God) who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" What Paul is saying is God's love for us in Jesus isn't limited to just forgiveness of sins and going to heaven. God's love for us means that He is involved in our lives. He cares what you and I are going through. 

ANNOUNCER: Getting back to that verse again, when it says not to be anxious about anything, this means that prayerfully we are to trust God to care for us and our needs because He has already sent Jesus to die and rise for us?

SELTZ: Well said. If God does all that, you can surely count on Him to care for your individual needs too! But there is one word that is also important, still in that passage; it says that we should pray and ask with thanksgiving. So, we pray because it reminds us that God loves us and we pray thankfully because we know that He will do all things well for us out of His love!

ANNOUNCER: When we are anxious then, praying with thanksgiving also moves our focus away from the problem at hand and it puts our minds and hearts on God and what He's already done for us. 

SELTZ: And there you have it! Anxiety is caused by me worrying about my problems or problems in other peoples' lives. The solution to anxiety is not my work or effort, but to trust in God in all things. To see our lives in light of His love and to give thanks for all that He has done and continues to do for us; with that perspective, we can live this life thankfully for His love and also seek to serve others without anxiety. 

ANNOUNCER: In closing then, the next time we find ourselves anxious, we pray and ask God to help us, and trust that He loves us, and we thank Him for all that He has already done for us in Jesus Christ.

SELTZ: What a wonderful thing.

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

Action in Ministry for April 17, 2016
Guest: Karen Tripp 

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is Action in Ministry. Pastor Seltz, if it were up to us, we'd have no illnesses. We'd always have enough money...

SELTZ: That's right.

ANNOUNCER: ...and there'd be easy solutions to any problem.

SELTZ: Right. And then if life doesn't go our way, we wonder where God is and if He really loves us; but the key is to look for Christ at work in the midst of life and all of its problems. 

ANNOUNCER: Karen Tripp knows something about hardship. Her passion and career meet as President of Cancer Companions. It's an organization that provides support in every aspect of that cancer journey. She's also the author of a resource for us titled, Cancer: Courage Through Christ

SELTZ: Karen, thanks for joining us to share some hope on a very difficult topic. 

TRIPP: I'm happy to be here. Thanks.

SELTZ: Your life is dedicated to helping those who have heard their doctor say those dreaded words: "It's cancer." How did this come about and why?

TRIPP: Well, really it started from being a marriage and family therapist. I ended up doing a Christian cancer support group for Lutheran Foundation, here in St. Louis, for a number of years. I would do nine weeks in this church, and nine weeks in the next one. It was wonderful. I learned a lot. I wrote a lot. But when I got to the end of it, I felt as though nine weeks wasn't enough and that I needed to find a way to train the people in the churches to be able to lift people up and carry them through their cancer journey. So that was me starting my ministry, Cancer Companions. 

ANNOUNCER: Now, cancer is one of the most challenging journeys someone can undertake. After a diagnosis, life is going to change dramatically. So, what is in this booklet and how can it help the reader?

TRIPP: Well, let's think a little bit about diagnosis for just a second. When you get to that day of diagnosis, what happens is that you may not understand it. You are healthier on that day than you are probably going to be for the next 12 months of your life. 


TRIPP: And maybe you're only in treatment for six months. But as that begins to go along, you start to become sicker and sicker because the treatments and the things they give you. Even if you're doing great, even if the doctor says, "Wow! Look the tumor is shrinking and your counts are wonderful," your body begins to be able to slowly decline. But on that day that they come to you, that you're diagnosed, you don't know that so you kind of tell everybody, "I'm fine! I got this. I'm not going to let cancer get in the way." That's not a bad attitude to be able to have.


TRIPP: But what we know is that at some point along that line it's going to start to get worse. So, this booklet really is about coming into the person's life right at that place of being able to say, "You know, I know it's getting rough. I know things are hard and so let's look at what Jesus has to say about that. Let's see what the Christian walk is that's there to be able to help you through that."

SELTZ: Yeah, and so they're going to be starting to deal with those God questions; is He really in control. How important is it to deal with those kinds of questions head on? 

TRIPP: I think part of what comes from that is that we're all going to have questions and we're all going to take them somewhere. You can take them to the newspapers, the television, Oprah...there's lots of people with answers for you. So, the question is are you going to take them to Christ. Are you going to take them to Scripture? Are you going to take them in prayer? So, that's part of the focus of the booklet as well.

SELTZ: Well, some of the testimonies that you have in the booklet, one of the things that seems to be a constant is fear. I think we all fear cancer. Even those of us who are sitting here healthy today; but it seems fear can take over every aspect of our life when we're fighting cancer. How does someone then deal with that idea; all of that overwhelming them with fear?

TRIPP: Well, you're right. The fear is inevitable. I don't think there's a way to be able to get about it. I ended up having a pastor one time tell me our mission statement includes James 4:8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." What it says in that is that there's two different words "draw" there; that the way we draw close to God is the way you think of us just walking up next to Him, but what this pastor explained to me is when God draws near to us, He comes right in front of our face and then He doesn't move. What happens with cancer is this gook gets in the way. Between you and God there's that "I'm scared of what the scan's going to say." There's that, "Who's going to take care of my kids if something happens to me? Who's going to take care of me?" There's lots of fears that just get in the way. So the coping has to do with pulling that stuff out of the way and focusing on Christ. I think His promises, honestly, are some of the best ways to be able to do that because those are the things that don't bend. But there's also a sense of knowing Who God is. The day your first child was born and you held them in your arms and God was the most incredible thing you could ever imagine. He's still that; even on the day of your diagnosis. 

ANNOUNCER: And to sum this up, as you say in your booklet, "through faith in Christ there is always hope." 

TRIPP: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's part of what getting that vision of what is Christ up to in the midst of this cancer journey; can just make such a difference in a person's life. 

SELTZ: Incredible words today. The final words of the sermon seem to be a fitting wrap; "Rest secure in the hands of the Shepherd Who loves you through all of it." Karen Tripp, thank you so much for being here and sharing this with all of us. 

TRIPP: Thank you for having me. It was lovely.

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

ANNOUNCER: And for your free copy of the booklet: Cancer: Courage Through Christ, call toll free 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our email address is info@lhm.org. 

Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"The King of Love My Shepherd Is" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Hear Us, Father, When We Pray" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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