Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Complacency and Confidence

Hebrews 3
12 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.' 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief."

            Despite what some Christians believe, it is possible for Christians to fall away from the faith.  This should come as no surprise.  Jesus Himself warns us about this in the parable of the sower.  Some faith will be choked out by the worries of the world.  Some faith will be burned up by persecution.  The Author of the letter to the Hebrews warns that some may fall because of evil, unbelieving heart.

          This is a warning against complacency, against a flippant attitude toward sin and righteousness.  We cannot save ourselves from the punishments our sin deserves any more than a dead man can bring Himself back to life.  We need Jesus to forgive our sins and raise us to new life in Him.  But we can throw away our faith just as surely as a living man can commit suicide.

                And as the Author points out this has already happened to the people of Israel.  For one, it obviously happened to Adam and Eve.  Our first ancestors, our father and mother in the human race, were created in perfect harmony with God.  They had a flawless faith in their Creator. 

                Yet they yielded to the serpent’s lies.  Rather than exhorting one another to be faithful, they both ate the forbidden fruit, and they fell from grace.  They fell into sin, into death, into punishment.

                A similar thing happens when God rescues the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  The Lord answers the cries of His people and with an almost unfathomable display of power and might He delivers them from the bonds of oppression.  He parts the waters of the Red Sea to bring them safely to His holy mountain. 

                They even received a covenant promise from God, that He would be their God and they would be His people.  He showed them how to live with the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. 

                And what did they do?  They worshipped a golden calf, even as the Lord delivered the commandments to Moses.  The people rose up, not to worship, not to praise, but to play, to waste the new freedom they had received in the pursuit of idle pleasure.  They rebelled against their God, their Lord, their Deliverer and Savior.

                And many—many—were punished.  Those that rebelled did not enter into the Promised Land, but rather died in the desert.  They fell in the wilderness.

                This vicious cycle repeated itself many times in the history of God’s people.  Nowhere was it more pronounced than in the lives of the Kings of Judah.  These men were the descendants of King David, the man who was said to be fashioned after the heart of God.  He was not perfect, not by a long shot, but he was repentant.  His faith rested fully in the God who anointed him as king. 
                
                   Yet his sons and grandsons did not hold fast to the God who established their dynasty.  The kings of Judah worshipped idols, mistreated and over taxed the people, and refused to repent.  One after another seemed determined to outdo the depravity of their fathers.  They made a shipwreck of the kingdom, and so they fell.

                The Lord sent Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, to tear down Jerusalem’s walls, their temple, and to lead their best and brightest off into exile.  They had fallen away from the living God.
 
                Adam and Eve, Israel, and the kings of Judah, they had all heard the Word of God.  They had received the favor of God, life and salvation.  They had heard, but they did not obey.  They had received, but then they rebelled.

                There is only one, of course, who hears and obeys.  Only one man receives from God and refuses to rebel.  That is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

                Jesus hears the Word of God and conforms His life, His every thought and desire, to that Word.  He refuses the temptations of the serpent.  He worships only His Heavenly Father.  He lives in perfect harmony with the heart of God, even more so than His ancestor David. 

                Yet what God gave to Jesus was not simply gracious promises, as He had given to His people of old.  No, of Jesus God asked that He live without sin, yet suffer for all sin.  He hears from God that He is to suffer and die on a cross, taking on the punishment that we all deserve.  Jesus hears and He obeys.  More than that, He obeyed joyfully.

                Jesus heeds the Word of God and joyfully goes to the cross to accomplish the greatest act of salvation that the world will ever see.  For we are not merely saved from slavery.  We are saved from death.  Because Jesus died, we shall be resurrected.  We are forgiven to live forever and ever.

                For we have come to share in Christ.  By the power of the Holy Spirit our hard pagan hearts have been softened through the Word of God.  We have heard His voice loud and clear in the waters of Baptism: You are mine.  We have heard His voice in the absolution: You are forgiven.  We have heard His voice in the Supper: This body and blood is given for you.  Today you have heard His voice. 

Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.  Rather, exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”.  We have heard His voice, and so we know the power of temptation.  We know the pitfalls of sin, that it only leads to death.  Therefore we rebel against the ways of the world and hold fast to our original confidence.

I mentioned this a few years ago during an Easter sermon, but Martin Luther compared the preaching of the Gospel to the coming of a rain shower in the desert.  The rains pour out of the sky, we know not how long.  It would be unwise to leave soaking up the rain for tomorrow.  The clouds will soon move along the wind to the next dry place. 

The shower of the Gospel is pouring down on us right now.  God is raining down forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He is granting faith, hope, and love.  Do not think that this will last forever.  The Gospel will soon move on; it has already begun.  Already the Church grows in South America, Africa, and Asia.  It wanes in Europe and North America. 

But it has not left us yet.  The Spirit still pours out the gifts of God.  How then shall we live?  We hold to our original confidence by the power of the Spirit.  We hold it fast.   

You see, confidence is not the problem.  Confidence is not the enemy.  Complacency is.  Complacency happens when our confidence is misplaced, when we are confident in ourselves, our own works, our own self-worth.

But our original confidence is not in ourselves.  It is in Jesus Christ.  We are confident that Jesus Christ is sufficient.  For if He is not, then no one ever will be.  

Because we share in Christ, we can confidently repent of our sins.  We do not need to be right all the time.  We don’t have to hide our sin.  We can admit it, confess it, and receive abundant forgiveness.

Because we share in Christ, we can confidently follow Jesus where He leads.  Set free from sin we can do the works that God has prepared for us, loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving God above all. 

Because we share in Christ, we live from a confident hope, one that is sure God works all things for our good, one sure Christ is returning to raise the dead and right every wrong.  We live from a good believing heart that holds fast to the living God, that hears the voice of Jesus Christ, believes, and obeys.  

"Fear Born of Forgiveness"


In the forgiving Word of God the incomprehensible greatness of God, the intolerable glory of His Godhead, the glory of His grace, has appeared, has appeared to eyes that cannot comprehend it even as they gaze upon it.  It has been manifested to hearts that stand in trembling awe of it even as they believe in it.  This grace of which the psalmist sings is no cheap, easy grace, no easy commodity which complacency can casually appropriate.  We can be sure of it, surer of it than of ourselves, than of our own righteousness or our sins or our life or our death.  But we cannot be complacent about it.  Our souls still wait for the Lord, more than watchmen that wait for the morning.  They know the morning will come; they are sure that it will come, and yet they wait for it, and they hail its first graying as a new and wondrous thing. So we wait for the Lord and know that He is Lord and will forgive.  But forgiveness remains the perpetual miracle still.  God as Forgiver is the object of our fear.

--Martin Franzmann, "Fear Born of Forgiveness," Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Shout Your Abortion--Silence Your Conscience



#shoutyourabortion

Go ahead.  You can shout.  Scream until your lungs give out.  But it won't work, because it is not the silence that is your problem.  It is the whisper.

The case against abortion is becoming more solid.  The videos are piling up.  It is clear that abortionists are not only killing babies, they are harvesting their organs and selling them, padding their bottom line.  

And that means you have been dead wrong about abortion.

If you have been privately scandalized by the fleecing of the unborn but have not spoken publicly, or even failed to share your views and convictions with your close friends, then these videos leave you without defense.  You should have been speaking out long ago.  You should have stood up for the defenseless.  You should have shown compassion for hurting and confused mothers.  And shouting now will not silence the whisper.

If you have supported abortion rights, if you have been proudly pro-choice, then shame on you.  These videos eviscerate your position.  "Pro-choice" is, beyond any doubt, an immoral, irrational stance.  And shouting will not save you from the whisper.

If you have had an abortion, I am sorry.  I am sorry that there was no father there to offer his life and love for you to make the life of your child lighter to bear.  I am sorry that there were not enough clinics, churches, and living rooms for you to go to when you were in crisis.

Most of all, I am sorry to have to say what I am about to, because although I have never had an abortion, I have done terrible things to people I am supposed to love, and someone had to call me to see it.  I know what that feels like.  I know the guilt and shame and anger and embarrassment and denial.  I don't want to say this, but it is true, and I am bound to the truth.


You murdered your baby.


You did.  You have a million excuses.  The defenses are all well rehearsed.  But all the shouting you do about your abortion will not stop the whisper.

The whisper is not God talking, but it is a voice that God put in your heart.  It is your conscience, that part of your soul that tells you whether you have done right or wrong.  And it whispers to your inner being day and night the truth of what you have done.

You should have spoken up louder, sooner.  You should have known better than supporting and defending a culture of death.  You should have protected your baby.

God planted that whisper in your heart to call you back.  He gave you a conscience to give you pause before doing evil, to grate against your sin, and to show you your desperate need for something (Someone!) else.

You see, God too has a Son.  He came as a baby, a tiny heartbeat in His mother's womb.  And His unwed mother carried Him to term only to watch the boy she birthed carry His own death sentence upon His back to the crown of a hill where He would shed every last drop of His blood so that you could be forgiven for your abortion, your hurtful support, your silence.

Only the blood of Jesus can soothe your guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, and denial.  Only the clarion call of the Gospel will calm the constant resonance of the whisper.    

Jesus has so much mercy, so much compassion, to offer you.  Please don't ignore that whispering voice in your soul.  Don't shout yourself deaf to its pleadings.  Turn to the one Man who will not only silence it, but turn it around.  Jesus can make your conscience, not defiant, but confident before God.

"I come, O Savior, to Thy table, for weak and weary is my soul; Thou, Bread of Life, alone art able to satisfy and make me whole."  "Who can condemn me now?  For surely Te Lord is nigh, who justifies.  No hell I fear, and thus securely with Jesus I to heaven rise."*

I would that this could be yours.  It is there for you in Jesus Christ.  Right here, right now He calls and forgives even you--even me.


* Quoted from "I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table" and "Thy Body, Given for Me, O Savior", hymn numbers 618 & 619 in Lutheran Service Book
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

The End of Abortion



On August 19, 2015 the Center for Medical Progress released yet another video detailing the closed room practices of Planned Parenthood and their partner StemExpress in procuring fetal body parts.  These groups have been harvesting the organs of aborted babies, exchanging money, and using the flesh for scientific experimentation.  It is sickening.  The videos are not for the faint of heart, but if you desire to watch you can find them here.

In the most recent video a former procurement technician for StemExpress, Holly, relates the story of how she came to know she could no longer work for this agency.  She tells of how another technician called her into a room where she was cleaning a newly aborted baby (so newly aborted that the heart would still beat when pricked by an instrument) to prepare it for organ harvesting.

Holly was told that day she would be harvesting the baby's brain.  The other technician began the process by making an incision under the baby's jaw and through the bottom lip with scissors.  She then handed the fetus and scissors to Holly and instructed her to finish cutting through the baby's face in order to remove the brain.

This is brutal and disgusting.  The treatment of this baby, a precious creation of God, is indefensible.  It should move us all to revulsion.  Yet there is more than just the treatment of the baby here.  There is also the intended indoctrination of Holly.

Hearing Holly retell of her experience I was reminded of C.S. Lewis' novel That Hideous Strength.  Toward the end of the novel a character named Mark is taken to the so-called "Objective Room" where he is instructed to stomp upon the face of Christ as depicted upon a life size crucifix.

Until that moment Mark had always dismissed Christ and Christianity as superstition and nonsense.  Now, being asked to show great disrespect to an artistic depiction of Jesus, he begins to reconsider.  "Well, if so, what is there objective about stamping on the face?  Isn't it just as subjective to spit on a thing like this as to worship it?  I mean--damn it all--if it's only a bit of wood, why do anything about it?"

It is explained to Mark that he is being asked to stomp upon and insult the crucifix because he was raised in a Christian culture.  This is part of his initiation into a secret society.  He must first renounce all other sources of authority before he can move further toward the inner circle.  And the crucifix is the supreme example of other authority.

Holly, the ex-StemExpress technician, was made to cut through a dead baby's face in order to harvest its brain.  Why the face?  Why not the side, or back, of the head?  Why was Holly made to do it when the other technician was far more comfortable with it?

Well that is just it, isn't it?  This was part of Holly's indoctrination, her initiation.  A baby is not really a baby.  It is only tissue, only a fetus, and she is shown this by being forced to cut through the baby's face.  She must reject what her eyes plainly tell her, that this is an innocent life, and become callous to the reality of her new occupation.  

Mark finally refuses to stomp on the crucifix, even though he still rejects the Christian faith.  He runs from the Objective Room and eventually ends up safe with his estranged wife.

Holly went through with the procurement.  She finished the cutting, extracted the brain, and disposed of the rest of the baby's body.  But she was done after that day.  She knew, she says, that she could no longer work in that industry.

When we come face to face with true evil our conscience goes one of two directions.  It grows callous and dead to the evil, accepting it as the new normal.  Or, the conscience screams and howls for us to flee.

Flee like Holly from sin and evil.  Flee like Mark to Christ, even if we are not sure about Him.

I am not sure where Holly stands today.  The videos are not much interested in her spiritual journey.  But I pray that she has been called by the Gospel to the Christ who became a fetal human being for her.  I hope that she has received consolation for her blood-stained conscience in the blood of Jesus.

And I hope the same will be true for all of the technicians, doctors, mothers, and fathers, who have participated in the murder of these children.  I pray those of us who have been silent far too often (myself included) repent of our laziness, receive forgiveness, and continue to strive to a day when abortion will be unthinkable.

The thing is, even if Planned Parenthood is de-funded, there is still much work to do.  Even if abortion is made illegal by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, our task will not be fully accomplished.

There will always be pregnant teens who will need the forgiveness of their sins and the support of their churches to make healthy decisions for the sake of their babies.  There will always be men who need training in and reminding of their responsibilities as fathers.  Children need to be uplifted as precious gifts of God, as arrows in the quiver of a warrior.  

This is a long road.  It requires endurance.

First the conscience is pricked.  These videos have done that for us just as Holly's experience did it for her.  Then comes repentance and forgiveness in Christ.  And the fight continues.  The Spirit motivates us to take up the banner of those who are innocent, those who are broken, those who are hurting, and to do all that we can for them.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everything, especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:9-10)                            

Monday, July 6, 2015

What Made Sex So Boring?


Is sex becoming boring?

My mind pondered this idea a few days ago on my way into Saint Louis.  Before you cross the Mississippi River into Missouri there is a certain strip club one must pass on the interstate.  Said strip club always has a billboard advertising the latest special feature. 

As you might guess these billboards do not vary greatly.  The billboard is usually a photograph of a woman from the shoulders up looking rather seductive and inviting any travelers to stop in. 
This time, however, was different.  As I passed the billboard there were no women.  Rather than advertising the club’s newest dancer, they were advertising “wrestling midgets”.  So the naked dancing women were replaced by short, clothed, male wrestlers. 

I don’t get it.  Has sex really gotten that boring? 

A more serious example stuck in my mind comes from a PBS documentary I caught just a few minutes of several months ago.  A fertility doctor was being interviewed about the advances in his field of study and he proudly asserted that in the near future people will no longer have sex to conceive children. 

Hold on a minute.  I knew we could have sex without conception, but now you are telling me that people are going to be having conception without sex?  How boring is that?!  As it is, conceiving a child is just about the best thing in this world.  It provides intense physical pleasure and brings many of us as close to playing God as we are likely to ever get.  That is not something to be lightly cast aside.

Then there are all of those sex-starved women (http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/30/polyamory-is-next-and-im-one-reason-why/) who cannot seem to be able to convince their husbands to come to bed with them.  Seriously, what is the world coming to when a grown man has to have his arm twisted to make love to his wife?

Why is it that we are always being told our sex lives need to be spiced up?  Since when did sex become the pea soup of life?

Have you ever eaten plain pea soup?  No?  I don’t blame you.  It isn’t all that great.  In fact, it is downright bland.  If you are going to attempt its consumption I suggest spicing it up, a lot.
But when, exactly, did we start to think about sex in this way?  Sex is not supposed to be bland and boring.  It is not the pea soup of life.  It is the bacon.

I suggest that sex becomes boring precisely at the point where we try to spice it up.  It is simply too much, and our minds cannot handle it.  Strip clubs, pornography, erotic literature, lingerie, birth control, and more all add up to try and make sex more sexy.  And the result has been pure boredom.  Where men used to get excited about seeing the shoulders of Marilyn Monroe, now they barely blink at the sight of Miley Cyrus twerking on television.

Yawn…What channel are the wrestling midgets on?

So what can we do?  Get back to basics.  I would argue that there is simply nothing more exciting, nothing more physically pleasurable, in this created universe than raw sex between married opposites. 

By “raw” I do no mean to imply anything kinky or violent.  I mean sex as it was created in the beginning: no latex, no pills, no toys, no clothes, just two bodies, male and female, doing what God created them to do.

You might think that I have missed the mark.  Married sex is synonymous with boring, isn’t it?  I suppose it could be, but it certainly does not have to be.  It is only there, in the context the marriage bed, that naked vulnerability and bold trust come together in perfect harmony.  Husband and wife are free to be far better lovers than one-night-stands or even live-in-partners.

Christians, of course, understand this to be the result of a divine mystery.  Marriage is a picture of the love of Jesus Christ for His bride, the Church.  When a man and women are joined in matrimony, not only are they given the most intimate of human bonds, but they become an image of God to the world.  That is all the spice that marriage (and sex) will ever need.


Can sex become boring?  Sure, but only if we try too hard to spice it up.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Reflections on the Fall of a Pastor



Tullian Tchividjian, the well known pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has resigned his position.  According to his own statement both he and his wife committed adultery.  This disqualifies him from the pastoral office.  He has willingly acknowledged his affair and peacefully stepped aside.

It is a sad day when a pastor must resign his call for any reason, but especially for living an immoral life.  Tchividjian's case gives a great deal of pause for Lutherans in particular since he was highly influenced by Luther's writings and those of contemporary Lutheran scholars such as Robert Kolb.  Tullian, in recent years, has sought to clarify the proper distinction of Law and Gospel in his own preaching as well as to spread that teaching to a wider audience.

As Lutherans we have a high view of God's Word in general and of the Gospel in particular.  When a Lutheran pastor falls into temptation does he really need to resign?  Can he not simply be forgiven and reinstated?

Yes, it is proper for pastors in this situation to resign.  The reason for this, though, may not be what you think.

Tullian broke the 6th commandment.  He committed adultery.  He failed to live up to the expectation that an overseer (pastor) would be "above reproach, the husband of one wife". (I Timothy 3:2)

His sin, on the one hand, is no different than any other.  It is just as damning as murder, theft, and idolatry.  It is just as forgivable as well.  The blood of Jesus atones for all sins.  Tullian has expressed his regret over this sin and, as far as I am concerned, stands forgiven for the sake of Christ Jesus.

One the other hand, his sin is worse than others because it places a stumbling block before the people of God's church.  Not only is he a megachurch pastor, but he is a well known author and conference speaker.  His sin has a ripple effect that spreads through the people of God and causes damaging shock waves.  People's faith will be shaken.  They will be hurt by what he has done.

(Please do not take my words here to be harsh criticism of this fallen pastor.  My heart breaks for his family and his congregation.  I am awakened by this scandal knowing that this could easily be me.  I am not a perfect man, not by a long shot.  It is only by God's grace that I have not scandalized His Church yet.  So I am not, in any way, suggesting my own moral or spiritual superiority.)

So what is a pastor to do when he has scandalized not only his congregation, but a large piece of the body of Christ?

He should resign.

And then what?

He should keep silent.  He should simply fade into the background, joyfully participating in the body of Christ and serving as an average layman.  No comeback, no book deals, no speaking tours, no theological blogs.

But wait.  Isn't that a bit extreme?  Surely he could take some time off and then be reinstated, or called to a different congregation.  At the very least he could go around speaking and writing for the church, using his God-given gifts as a communicator.

There is, of course, a certain appeal for fallen pastors in the idea of becoming a popular layman, speaking and writing without the checks and balances of a congregation to hold you back.  He has all manner of credentials that would look impressive on a book jacket: former pastor and seminary chancellor, grandson of Billy Graham, etc.

Someday in the near future Tullian my find himself teaching Speech 101 at a southern Florida community college.  He will be under the radar, attending church, hopefully with his family still in tact.  And no one will be asking him theological questions. No one will be coming to hear him preach this Sunday.  He will sit in the pew, receive the Word of God, and then head back into the world just like everyone else.

He may begin to feel obscure, lost, unused.  And he will be tempted to jump back in, to start a new church, to write a new theological treatise, to reopen his blog and make a contribution to the spiritual lives of God's people.  A noble goal indeed.

Yet Tullian should resist that urge, that temptation.  For he has scandalized the church, and his coming back to the lime light only runs the risk of placing more and bigger stumbling blocks along an already treacherous path.

We do not ask fallen pastors to remain quiet because their sin was too great to forgive.  We ask for their silence out of true thankfulness for God's grace in Christ and deep love for His Church.

The real test for Tullian's faith in the days ahead, in the days of teaching community college or building homes or plunging toilets, will be this: Is God's grace sufficient for you, even in obscurity?  Can you accept that God does not need your talents and gifts, that He is simply happy to keep you in His fold?  I pray so.

Obscurity will be your cross to bear.

It is to the doctrine of vocation that the fallen pastor must turn to for comfort.  The plumber, carpenter, or teacher is no less precious in the sight of God than is the pastor, author, and speaker.  To feel that we must run back to the office from which we have been removed is to deny this truth.

Tullian Tchividjian, you will likely never read this.  But I pray that you never seek to re-enter the pastoral ministry.  I pray that God gives you peace beyond that office, that you may be assured of His great love for you for the sake of Jesus.  Go home.  Call to your wife.  Forgive her.  Confess to her.  Rebuild your family.  Joyfully receive God's gifts.  Teach those college freshmen how to give a dynamite speech.  Be at peace.  

        

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This Is What We Do


What did you do last Sunday?

We...

          ...watched an old man drown in a puddle of water.



          ...witnessed a fresh man's resurrection.



          ...heard the Almighty Voice.



          ...experienced the power of the Divine.



          ...received healing for our souls.



          ...petitioned the Ultimate Power.



          ...sang with the archangels.



          ...feasted on the flesh and blood of God.



If your church did anything less it's time to think about trading up.


Friday, April 17, 2015

AMEN!




Amen!  That is the word of the day.  Jesus has taught us, in the Lord’s Prayer, to pray as sons.  Not as slaves.  Not as beggars.  Not as strangers.  But as sons, “Our Father in heaven.”

                In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for some rather lofty things.  These are no mere trifles and trinkets.  This is the stuff of necessity.  And it is costly, worth a king’s ransom and more. 

                We pray that God’s name would be kept holy, that we would live according to His Word.  We pray that His kingdom would come, that the Church would grow in faith and love and that Christ would return to raise the dead.  We pray that God’s will would be done, that His gracious desires would be fulfilled for our good.

                Jesus has taught us to pray that God would give all that we need to support this body and life, that He would give our daily bread.  We pray for the forgiveness of our sins, strength against temptation, and deliverance from evil.  

                And when we are done, to all of this we add our “Amen!”  When the prayer is concluded, when we are finished asking for God to restore the universe and our meager lives too, then we say, “Yes, Yes, it shall be so!

                That is, after all, how Martin Luther explains the meaning of “amen” in the Small Catechism.  The Greek word “amen” means, “Yes, indeed!”  It is a statement of strong affirmation and agreement.  It is the statement of faith, a firm conviction that this prayer will be heard and answered by God Himself.

                Perhaps the fault with our modern prayers is not a lack of humility, but a lack of confidence, a lack of faith.  “Well, God, if you have time, maybe you could…”  “Lord, if you feel like it, might you possibly…”  We pray like pansies, like wimps.  Hear Luther:

                “It is therefore a hurtful delusion when people so pray that they dare not wholeheartedly add their ‘Yes, it shall be so’ nor conclude with certainty that God hears their prayer, but instead remain doubtful and say, ‘How dare I have the audacity to boast that God heard my prayer?  After all, I am only a poor sinner,’ etc.  This shows that they are fastening their gaze not on God’s promise but on their own works and their own worthiness, thus despising God and calling Him a Liar.”  

                There is a certain audacity to this prayer.  We are to come before God with confidence, with faith.  We pray as dear children to their dear father.

                If we are going to pray based upon our own works and merits, then of course we should be timid.  If we are going to approach God based upon our own worthiness then humility is an understatement.  We would not dare to speak to God a single word.

                Or perhaps the problem is just the opposite.  It is not that we are too timid to pray, but we are too afraid that God might actually answer.  And so we either don’t pray at all, or we pray half-heartedly.  

It would drastically change my life if God’s name, kingdom, and will were first and foremost in my life.  God might actually take away my addiction, and then what?  He might really let me grow in faith and love.  Then what would I do?    

But I know what many of you are thinking: “I have prayed.  I have fallen on my knees, on my face, and bleed my heart out to God begging for deliverance, begging for healing.  You know what He said?  He said, ‘No.’”  

We have stopped praying, or prayed with less confidence, because we fear that one little word: no.

                This is a day to repent of false humility in our prayers.  It is a day to acknowledge that we have prayed, not with faith, but with uncertainty.  We have prayed timidly, based on our own worthiness, uncertain because of our own sin.  It is the day to repent that we have prayed in fear of getting what we ask for, of the upheaval it might bring into our lives.  It is a day to repent of failing to believe that all of God’s promises are “yes” in Jesus Christ.

                Repent and believe, because today is the day that Jesus is validated.  This is when Christ proves that all of God’s promises are “YES!”  This is when God reveals that His plan for this world—for you—is not death and destruction, but resurrection and life!  Today God gives His “Amen” to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. 

                Easter is God’s guarantee.  It is His promise of grace and favor.  God is for us.  He will never be against us.

                It is Jesus’ resurrection that gives us confidence to pray.  But it is not just about prayer.  It is about life lived under God’s grace.  

                When you walk out the door each morning you can do that with faith in God’s care for you.  When you set your hand to the plow or begin a new task, you can be certain that your work is favored by God.  As you care for your family, assist your neighbors, volunteer in the community, do so with firm trust that Jesus is with you.  Have the audacity to believe that God is for you.

                Has God really atoned for my sin with the death and resurrection of Jesus?  Yes He has.  Amen!

                Has God truly adopted me through the waters of baptism to be His child?  Certainly, yes.  Amen!

                Does He really feed me with the sacrifice of Christ, giving me His very body and blood?  He does.  Amen!

                Does God still speak words of Law and Gospel, words to drive out sin and strengthen faith, words to call to repentance and to forgive?  Yes.  Amen! 

                We pray boldly, confidently, as sons, “Our Father in heaven…”  Will God answer this prayer?  Yes!  He has done it and He will always do it.  Amen! 

                Let’s take one specific look at how we use this word, “Amen,” in our worship services.  On page 214 in your hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, I say, “Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

And you say, “Amen.”  Like, “Yeah, ok, whatever.”

No, not “ok.”  No, not “whatever.”

“Yes, yes, it shall be so!”

Your sins are forgiven, removed as far as the east is from the west.  Do you believe that?  Amen! 
 
Christ is risen!  Do you believe that?  Amen!

You are granted eternal, everlasting, never-ending life.  Do you believe that?  Amen! 

Then let it be so for you just as you believe.  

[Read the other sermons here: Our Father;   Hallowed Be Thy Name;   Thy Kingdom Come;   Thy Will Be Done;   Give Us Our Daily Bread;   Forgive Us;   Lead Us not into Temptation;   Deliver Us from Evil;   AMEN!]

Deliver Us from All Evil



 

Jesus teaches us to pray, finally, “Our Father…deliver us from evil.”  

                What is the evil from which we are to pray to be delivered?  We have already prayed for deliverance from evils that plague and attack the body.  This happens when we pray for daily bread.  So that is included here.  We pray that God would take away all sickness, poverty, and hardship that harms our human flesh. 

                Theft, war, bad leaders, angry neighbors, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, heat, and more.  There are so many bodily dangers in this world that it is impossible to name them all.  That is why Jesus summarizes them under the heading of daily bread.  These are evils from which we need to be delivered.

                We have also prayed for deliverance from evils that attack and assault the spirit.  Forgive us our trespasses.  Lead us not into temptation.  Your greatest spiritual need, contrary to popular wisdom, is forgiveness.  We are sinful through and through, and because of it God should completely ignore us. 

                It is this fact—that God will not hold our sins against us—which enables us to pray.  All our evil deeds, our trespasses and transgressions, are forgiven for the sake of Jesus and His cross.  If they were not we would not dare to pray.  But because there is forgiveness, we dare to pray as sons.  We need to be delivered from our own evil.   

                Perhaps, following on the heels of yesterday’s sermon, it is obvious that we need to be delivered from the “evil one” who brings temptations.  Peter describes the devil as a roaring lion ready to devour us.  He is ready and willing to drag us from the hand of God and down into the pits of hell.  We certainly need to be delivered from his evil power.

                Jesus enacts all of this during His earthly ministry.  Jesus never encounters a physical evil that He cannot heal.  Disease, paralysis, hunger, even death.  Jesus heals it, fixes it, raises it.  There is no earthly, physical evil that He cannot overcome.

                Jesus also overcomes all manner of spiritual evils.  Obviously He forgives sins.  He says those words all the time and backs them up with miracles.  He combats false faith with right teaching.  He strengthens faith and love with His Word and presence.

                And He drives back the power of the devil.  Demons cower in fear at the feet of Jesus.  He resists the devil in the wilderness.  Devils and demons are no match for the Son of God.

                Yet all of this would have had very little impact if it were not for what happened on Good Friday.  Think about it.  

                All those who were healed of their physical ailments would eventually get sick again, from something.  Those whom Jesus fed with miracles will grow hungry again in a few hours.  Those raised from the dead will die again.  These are not permanent.

                Those who were forgiven will sin again.  Those whose faith is strengthened will struggle with trust.  Those who have been taught will forget.

                Demons and the devil will continue to operate in the world.  You could be exorcised of your demons only to have them return.  The devil can be turned down today only to poke his head back up tomorrow.

                These solutions that Jesus offers, these miracles that He graciously performs, will all eventually be undone if He does not do something far greater, something much more drastic.  Think of it this way.  With His miracles Jesus is putting a bucket under a leak in the roof.  That may take care of the immediate problem, but a larger issue remains.  The roof must be fixed.

                Humanity, this sinful fallen world, must be fixed.  The miracles were a kind and loving gesture, but the real solution is much more significant, much more drastic.

                Jesus must die.  

                To deliver us from the evils that plague the body, Jesus must submit to those evils and suffer greatly.  To deliver us from the power of sin and temptation, Jesus must submit to the punishment for them.  To deliver us from the devil, Jesus must make it look like the devil won.

                It is only here, at the cross, that ultimate deliverance is possible.  This is the cure for all our physical needs, because everyone who looks to the cross of Christ will have eternal life.  

This is the total solution for the needs of the spirit because here the forgiveness of sins is purchased and won.  The cross opens a flowing fountain of forgiveness that will never run dry.  It strips the devil of all his power, exposing him for the liar he truly is.

The death of Jesus is God’s cure for the ills of the entire universe.  And it exposes the ministry of Jesus, not as a temporary failure, but as a foretaste of the glory to come.  One day there will be total healing and no more disease.  One day there will be no more temptation and no more need for forgiveness.  And all because Jesus died to pay for it.

When we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we can have complete confidence that not only will this petition be answered, it is already answered.  God has delivered us from all wickedness in the death of Jesus.  The cross has purchased for us a destiny free from all evil.  We pray knowing that even if evil things happen now, they will not happen then.

So we pray, confidently as sons, “Father in heaven…deliver us from evil.”  He has.  And He will.