Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 25, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Group Prayer)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: 1 Timothy 1:15-16
1 Timothy 1:15-16 -- The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus 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.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Those words proclaiming Jesus' victory over death, devil, and grave assure us that the doors of heaven are opened to all who are called to faith. Today let those who are saved give thanks and those who remain lost rejoice that the Lord is still patiently reaching out for them. God grant it be so. Amen.
In the 16th century, Oliver Cromwell ordered that an English soldier be shot for the crime of desertion. The execution was to take place the following day when the evening bell at the local church struck six o'clock. As the hour approached, everything was properly prepared. The condemned had been delivered to the place of execution and was blindfolded and bound. The firing squad with its captain stood at the ready. The appointed time came... and it went. It came and went because no sound came from the church's clock tower. The captain dispatched one of his men to investigate. The soldier returned with a young girl who had been pledged to be married to the deserter. She confessed to having climbed into the bell tower and clung onto the bell's clapper to prevent it from ringing. Proof of her story was given by her hands which had been bruised and bloodied by the bell she had silenced. As for her fiancé, he was reprieved as the time had come and gone for his execution.
A grand story out of history, absolutely! But, for those who have been given eyes of faith it is more than a tale from a place long ago and far away. You see, my friends, this soldier's story is also ours. Like the condemned, we, sinners all, were under the sentence of death for the many wrongs we have committed. But Christ, motivated by an undeserved love for us, acted to change our fate. Look at His bruised and bleeding hands which were nailed to a Roman cross. Those wounds, coupled with the gashes in His feet and the rip in His side, are the final proofs that Jesus' life was given to save us from eternal death. Since the day the risen Redeemer emerged from His borrowed tomb, the Lord has patiently shared that story of salvation and has patiently waited for lost souls to be brought to faith.
Patience. In the first chapter of first Timothy, the Apostle Paul confesses that even though he had been a blasphemer, a persecutor of early Christians, an obnoxious opponent to the Gospel message, the Lord had still shown him "perfect patience." When I read that, I thought, "What an unusual turn of phrase." I know what patience is. Patience is my dog watching me eat a steak. Every movement of the fork is intently followed as Fido patiently waits for a bit to fall, hit the floor, and become hers. That's patience, but PERFECT patience, that's another matter.
Patience is the story of David Thomas and his girl friend Rachel Jones. They were 32 when, having had a lover's quarrel, they broke up. Wishing to apologize and make amends, David slipped a love letter under Rachel's door. Rachel burned the letter. The next week, David wrote a second letter and Rachel burned that letter too. Weeks passed, months, years, decades. For 42 years David patiently wrote a weekly love note and for 42 years Rachel took those love notes and burned them. Finally, when David was 74 years old, having reached the end of his patience, he knocked on Rachel's door and asked her to marry hm. Apparently Rachel had also reached the end of her patience. I say that because she accepted and at the age of 74, they were married. Did David and Rachel have patience? Absolutely! But perfect patience; that they did not have.
We don't often think about it, but patience is one of God's greatest attributes. We, who can't stomach waiting in line at the bank, or the food store, or the fast food joint; we who grow restless in the doctor's waiting room; we who get frustrated when the government is late with our tax refund check or upset with the driver who pilots his vehicle at the posted speed limit, do not have the gift of patience. No, we don't have patience, and we certainly don't have the perfect patience as it is shown by the Lord in Scripture.
Consider, in the Old Testament God is patient with the Children of Israel. As soon as He had brought them out of Egypt, those people started to complain. The 15th chapter of Exodus says: "So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" The 16th chapter says, "The whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron." In the 17th chapter, they said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" Grumble, grumble, grumble. Along with that they forgot their Lord Who had delivered them and they fashioned a golden calf to be the object of their devotion. Not surprisingly God tells Moses He's pretty much ready to find a new chosen people. But God is patient and 40 years later it is the descendants of Abraham who are brought into the land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord, in spite of His people's complaints and criticisms, had shown His perfect patience and kept the promises He had made to Abraham.
There were about 1,500 years between Moses and the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem. During that time, on numerous occasions, the Hebrews forgot what God had done for them; they repeatedly went chasing after the false gods of the Canaanites; and selected kings who worked hard at being more egocentric and disobedient than their predecessors. For their disregard of their Lord, the Jews were often punished, they were occasionally conquered, and eventually most were carried off into slavery. That should have been the end of their story; it would have been the end of their story if it were not for the perfect patience of the Lord. Because of God's patience, when Jesus was born, it was some shepherds, descendants of Abraham, who were first to hear the angelic announcement of God's Good News; who were the first to pay the world's Savior a worshipful visit.
Look at our New Testament and you will continue to see God's patience in action. Jesus was born, but it didn't take too long for King Herod to falsely conclude that Jesus wanted to usurp the monarch's earthly throne. It was only by the Lord's intervention that Jesus managed to escape Herod's murdering henchmen. After the Savior began His earthly ministry the crowds thought of Him as a Person Who could change water into wine and turn a few fish and loaves of bread into a feast for thousands. The sick saw Him as a heaven-sent Healer and the disciples looked upon Him as the Fellow Who would restore David's earthly kingdom, with themselves placed in enviable positions of honor.
The Pharisees, the pillars of the community, regarded Him as a disrespectful Upstart, a dangerous Man Whose greatest joy was undermining ancient, albeit man-made, laws. Jesus' hometown tried to kill Him and His Own family thought of Him as being deranged. Seeing what He had to endure and knowing that His work would end with Him hanging on a cross, it is a wonder that Jesus didn't wash His hands of the whole mess. With a wave, with a gesture, He could have turned His opponents into dust and His critics into braying donkeys. That He did not do so shows the perfect patience of God's Son, the world's Savior.
Yes, look at Jesus' perfect patience. See Him patiently endure the betrayal of a friend and the desertion of His hand-picked buddies. It was perfect patience which allowed Him to suffer the lies made up about Him, the blows rained down upon Him, the calls for His crucifixion by a mob which had once honored Him as the 'Son of David'. Jesus was patient as He carried His cross to Calvary and patient when they hammered nails into His hands and feet. Jesus showed His perfect patience as He forgave those who had orchestrated His death and promised heaven to a criminal who died by His side.
Contrary to expectations, that perfect patience did not end when a Roman spear pierced His heart and guaranteed He truly had finished the work of saving the world. With Jesus' resurrection and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit to place forgiveness, faith, and salvation in the hearts of humankind, God's perfect patience entered a new era; the age wherein every man, woman, and child can be brought to faith and rescued from the flames and fires of damnation.
In this present era God's perfect patience is still being showered upon the world with abandon. That is good because it is desperately needed. It is needed because, right now there are governments who are doing all they can to keep their citizenry from knowing the Name of the Christ; from placing their hope and trust in the living Lord. It is needed because right now there are segments within certain religions who think it a privilege, a duty, to blow up Jesus' followers as they worship; to murder the men, rape the children, and turn Christian mothers into slaves. God's patience is needed because, right now there are many intellectuals who scoff at the Savior, who make fun of the Christ, and degrade anyone who places their faith and hope in the risen Redeemer. It makes no difference to them that Jesus has comforted hundreds-of-millions of mourners and brought peace to troubled souls and guilty consciences. It matters not a whit to them that they offer no alternative plan or program that can provide similar results. Today Jesus and His followers are still hated, still driven from their homes, still persecuted and punished. But in spite of all this Jesus' perfect patience is still reaching out, still calling out, still trying to rescue and reclaim; recycle and restore the lost souls of humankind.
You have heard His call, haven't you? Listen, do you have a sin you committed that nags and wears at you, which worries and tears at you? Jesus' nail-pierced hands can remove that sin. It doesn't matter how large that sin is, how often it was committed, or to whom you did injury; that sin can be forgiven; completely, totally, absolutely. It is possible that you have left good deeds undone, kind words unsaid, gentle gestures never made. There is forgiveness for these things, too. Are you caught up in a never-ending spiral into darkness? Jesus can be your Light. As you look at the days of your life stretching out before you, do you see only bleakness, darkness, and despair? Jesus can give you hope and a peace for which the world can only wish.
Not so long ago, I heard a fellow on TV attacking God and the Savior. Updating a speech given by an unbeliever over 150 years ago, this fellow took out his Smartphone and set the alarm. As he did that, he said "I'll give God a chance to prove that He exists. I challenge God to strike me dead within 5 minutes!" While he and the show's host talked a second camera watched the phone's countdown. When the alarm went off, the skeptic said, "See, there is no God. I am still alive!" I thought to myself, "Mister, you haven't proved there is no God. You have only shown sinners can't override God's perfect patience. God's patience continues because He still desires to show His love rather than His wrath."
Throughout this message, I have said that God has perfect patience. That is true. But it is necessary for us to remember that God's perfect patience is confined to this life. In this life, His perfect patience, coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit, is constantly calling people to salvation. But, for all of us there will come a time when God's perfect patience will come to an end. When death comes, souls without the Savior will be confronted by a Judge motivated not by patience, but by justice and fairness. On that day, God will say to those who believe in the Savior, "Come into heaven," and to those who have rejected the Son, He will impatiently say, "Get away, I don't know you."
But that need not happen. You never need to hear those words. Paul, self-confessed chief of sinners, was touched by God's patient love and responded. We, as saved sinners, have experienced God's patience with us and His ongoing love, are also pleased, with thanksgiving and joy, to share the Good News of salvation with those who remain lost. Now, when I say we are to share the story of salvation, many Christians start to shake and shiver. Please don't. Witnessing doesn't have to be painful.
Years ago, a drunkard husband, spending the evening with his companions, boasted that if he took his friends home, even at midnight, and asked his Christian wife to get up and cook supper for them, she would gladly do it. They went to the man's house and he made their request about dinner. Well, the lady did get up; she prepared a supper and served it as cheerfully as her drunkard husband had claimed she would.
After supper, one of the fellows, who had not been as drunk as the others, asked why she had been so patient when they had been so unreasonable. She said, and you need to pay attention to this, she said, "Sir, when my husband and I were married, we were both unsaved, but now God has called me to Jesus. My husband continues without the Savior. If he dies as he is, he will be miserable forever. I believe it is my duty to make his present life as comfortable as possible while I can." Her patient reply changed the lives of all those men, including her husband's.
Many years ago 17-year-old Len Patching asked the father of Madge Coomber for her hand in marriage. The father said, "Nope." Len went to Australia, spent his life working as an instructor in New South Wales. After retirement, he returned to England and with the help of a local radio station, located Madge and received permission from her 89-year-old father to marry her. He said, "Madge was the only girl I ever loved. I always knew that one day I would come back and find her." I admire Len. I admire him because he reminds me that even his patience is nothing compared to the Lord Who, because of His Son, says, "These sinners are the only ones I ever loved. That's why I came to find them."
And if you, my friends, find yourself among those who have been found today, let me extend this invitation. If you wish to know more about the perfectly patient Redeemer, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Action in Ministry for September 25, 2016
Guest: Chris Myers
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action In Ministry and Pastor Gregory Seltz joins us now.
SELTZ: It's great to be here, Mark. Something I love about The Lutheran Hour is how we're part of sharing the message all over the world; not just with our staff but with countless volunteers who put their passports to good use.
ANNOUNCER: And here to tell us more about that today is our colleague, Chris Myers. She works with these ministry centers all around the world and she also helps volunteers get to experience that work as well.
SELTZ: Chris, thanks for joining us.
MYERS: I'm very glad to be here. Thank you.
SELTZ: Chris, people may not realize that Lutheran Hour Ministries and the work that we do; we've got a presence all over the world. So, give us a little background on that first.
MYERS: Lutheran Hour Ministries has ministry centers in over 35 countries around the world. In each ministry center we use a variety of culturally appropriate venues to proclaim the Gospel in those areas.
SELTZ: So people can hear it for themselves on their own terms, right?
MYERS: Yes. Yes.
ANNOUNCER: All right. And it's not just radio programs like this one. You have other things going on in each of these countries. Could you give us kind of a description of some of the different ways that we tell people about Jesus?
MYERS: Sure. Some of the programs; a puppet ministry for children engages them into visually seeing some of the Bible stories and touches their heart that way. We have film shows for all ages which engages them as well to actually see the message of Christ.
SELTZ: See it right there. The Bible comes alive.
SELTZ: Now, we do a Bible correspondence course too, right? People actually can sit in the Scripture, learn of the Scripture, and be confirmed in it with their own ministry center leaders and things like that, right?
MYERS: Correct. Yes. The Bible correspondence course is something they can do in the privacy of their own home where they are comfortable.
SELTZ: To be a part of these ministries and these trips like that you don't have to be an LHM employee, right? So tell us more about these volunteer trips.
MYERS: They are all based on the need of the ministry center and it can be through a variety of outreach programs, evangelism training, VBS, construction; just a variety of outreach efforts that is all based on the need of what the ministry center thinks the community needs.
SELTZ: Well, that's important because there are a lot of mission trips that I hear about; the people go and do what they want to do. This is coming from the needs of the people as our ministers on the ground and workers on the ground are telling us, right?
MYERS: Yes. That's correct.
SELTZ: Well, traveling internationally and being a part of a lot of these things; I know how difficult that is, and going to different cultures can be a bit daunting. How do we help our volunteers prepare for this?
MYERS: So, we provide training materials for the teams. There are six video-based sessions prior to their departing and one debriefing when they return. We also provide, it's called "Equip for the Trip" and those are 30-minute webinars that we provide throughout the year that engage in different topics to also enhance the volunteer trip training material.
ANNOUNCER: And what kind of people are you looking for?
MYERS: The volunteer trips typically will last anywhere from 7 to 14 days, depending on location, and we are looking for groups from congregations, youth groups, college groups, and individuals that are a group of friends...
MYERS: ...on that order.
SELTZ: Okay, I want to go on the volunteer trip but what if I can't make that? What if I can't actually be there? Are there other ways that I can participate in all of this great stuff?
MYERS: Absolutely! Online: we have some online curriculum for our countries and it talks about the culture, some of the religion that they're faced with in those cultures, and we also have blogs for our ministry center that update on current ministry outreach that they are doing in those places and other parts of the world.
SELTZ: So, if I'm sitting on my couch right now and I'm thinking "Wow, what's this all about," I could actually take a journey just by making a click and seeing what's going on, seeing how Christ is at work in these different places, and maybe learning about other places that I never knew even existed. Wow!
ANNOUNCER: Well, Chris, it's exciting to hear how the Gospel is being taken to all corners of the world...
SELTZ: It is.
ANNOUNCER: And if someone is interested in learning more about these volunteer trips, they can go to our website: lhm.org and look under Global Ministries for Volunteer Trips; and there you'll find all sorts of information.
SELTZ: Chris Myers, thank you for making these opportunities possible and also for sharing them with us today.
MYERS: Thank you for having me.
SELTZ: It's a pleasure. That's our Action In Ministry segment today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: For more information on Volunteer Mission Trips, call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our email address is email@example.com.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for September 25, 2016
Topic: Group Prayer
ANNOUNCER: Why ask others to pray for us? That's today's question for our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: Hi, Mark.
ANNOUNCER: A listener close to the program would like to know if prayer is something like a petition drive. You know, the more signatures you get the better?
KLAUS: One day I called on an old friend who was in the hospital. We visited for about half an hour. As I got up to leave, I told my friend I would pray for him. At that, his face lit up; he was really pleased to know I would continue to plead his case before the Lord, as it were. And then he told me he had hundreds of people already praying for him, including a group in Alaska, a Bible class in Florida, a parochial school in Illinois, and a whole bunch of the other churches in our town.
ANNOUNCER: Sounds like he had quite a network going!
KLAUS: I was impressed he could remember so many who were mentioning him in their prayers when they talked with their Lord.
ANNOUNCER: Certainly a great blessing. It brings up some questions about prayer, especially those that are being offered up by many people in a common cause.
KLAUS: And what would some of those questions be?
ANNOUNCER: For example, why should we ask others to pray for us? Is God more likely to be persuaded when a whole bunch of people pray for something? What benefit would there be for a lot of people to be praying in the same way? And finally, maybe this is kind of silly, how about posting prayer requests on Facebook?
KLAUS: Fair questions all. Let's deal with them in the order you presented. And we'll try to get through them all before our time is up.
ANNOUNCER: All right. We'll assume these prayers are being offered up in Christ's Name and through faith in Him.
KLAUS: Okay. Why should we ask others to pray for us? Some might say it's because "misery loves company". Actually, we ask others to pray for us because the Savior did so. Remember how, three times, He asked the disciples to pray with Him in Gethsemane. There are times when we need the fellowship; times when our problems overwhelm us; times when we wish to have our thanks amplified. And the church has been doing that since day #1.
ANNOUNCER: Acts 2:42 says the early Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer."
KLAUS: The next question was: is God more likely to be moved by the prayers of many people. That's a yes and no answer. First, we are told that the prayers of a righteous individual accomplish much. Be assured, God can hear one person just fine. But the Lord implies that the prayers of many are a good thing. In 2 Chronicles (7:14) the Lord says, "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
ANNOUNCER: I think that's especially important for us as believers today.
KLAUS: I would also like to quote what St. Paul asked of the Church in Corinth. He said in 2 Corinthians 1:11, "You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many."
ANNOUNCER: It would seem that a group's God-pleasing prayers for a good purpose are never bad and can actually be the right thing to do. Pastor, the next question, "What are the benefits of praying for others?"
KLAUS: Mark, the friend I mentioned earlier experienced one of those benefits-he knew he was not facing his problem alone. Our prayers can also give witness to the world. St. Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus to "be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints," and by that he meant all the fellow believers who together make up the church.
ANNOUNCER: That he would continue to proclaim the message of Christ as he should.
KLAUS: That's right. Now, if I remember correctly, the last question was...
ANNOUNCER: Concerning Facebook. Prayer meets technology. How do you think God feels about prayer requests posted on Facebook?
KLAUS: If a Facebook post can prompt even more people to pray, I don't suppose it bothers the Lord one bit. But I can tell you one thing about prayer which does upset the Lord.
ANNOUNCER: And what's that?
KLAUS: It's when people dictate to God the time and manner in which He is supposed to reply.
ANNOUNCER: Instead of seeing Him as our gracious Father who wants to give good gifts to His children.
KLAUS: Exactly so.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Come, My Soul, with Every Care" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)