"It's Best to Be with Jesus "

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 7, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after saying these things [Jesus] took with him Peter and John and James and went up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothes became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"-not knowing what he had just said (Luke 9:28-33).

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

Have you tackled a do-it-yourself project lately? These days it's known as DIY, and DIY projects have taken our culture by storm. Just turn on HGTV and you'll find ways to rehab your house, re-do your garage, and transform your backyard. If you want to tile your bathroom, repair your washing machine, or get your mascara professionally perfect, all you have to do is go to YouTube to find expert tips and a detailed demo of how to get it done right.

People love a good do-it-yourself project. You may be one of them. It saves money, provides personal satisfaction, and lets you be creative. It also taps into the fierce sense of independence we have as human beings. We like to do things ourselves. We like to make things happen on our own.

Okay, let's get more personal. Think about it, why do husbands not like to ask for directions? Why do we insist on carrying as many groceries as possible into the house on each trip? Speaking for myself, we want to do it ourselves! Think about it, right from the beginning, why do toddlers not want to hold on to you while they're learning to walk? Why do we hesitate before asking for help with almost anything? Because we're fiercely independent. We want to do it ourselves.

We even have a saying that pays homage to our DIY spirit: "God helps those..." finish the line... "...who help themselves." Right?

But, actually, God never said that. That saying is not in the Bible. It started in Aesop's Fables and it found its way into Ben Franklin's writings.

God's Word has a different take on our do-it-yourself tendency. Instead of "God helps those who help themselves," God tells us that He is with us to help the helpless. That's right; our do-it-yourself ability is really overrated, especially when it comes to what really matters.

You may have discovered that in a number of ways. A woman in Spain decided to try a DIY project at her church. After a beautiful 100-year-old painting of Christ in her church began to deteriorate, she thought she would try her hand at art restoration. She scrubbed excess paint off the masterpiece and proceeded to fill in the gaps with shades of brown. The result was a disaster. The fine strokes of the master artist were replaced with blotches of paint that looked like a preschool art project. The elderly woman said she had "good intentions," but the damage was done.

We may think we're weekend warrior DIY masters, but in reality we can be pretty unskilled and helpless. God understands that reality more than you know. That's why He came to the rescue-your rescue. The Apostle Paul said in Romans, chapter five: "You see, just at the right time, when you were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6 NIV). Powerless. How often have you felt powerless; powerless in relationships, powerless over addiction, powerless when you've made a mistake, powerless in illness?

God understands that we're powerless. Even the poetry of the Bible reinforces our helplessness. Psalm 46 begins, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalms 46:1). In other words, we get into trouble and we need help, so God graciously steps in. Psalm 121 states it this way: "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth" (Psalms 121:1-2). Like you and me, the writer looked up to heaven when everything was falling apart. Where could he find help? From the Lord. God is in the help business because our DIY business is fragile and flawed.

I remember hearing about a powerful, strong guy who got a glimpse of that in his life. He was self-sufficient, give him a challenge, he'd tackle it. But then he broke his arm; and now, with a broken arm, everything changed. The pain was always there, for a long while he couldn't even put his pants on by himself. He couldn't tie his shoes or drive his stick-shift car. He was helpless, virtually powerless. He needed a helper.

Are there things in your life that are trying to teach you this invaluable lesson today? Do you see your ultimate need in your life today? You may be trying to resist the notion. Perhaps you're doing everything you can to make it on your own. You're trying to handle life yourself. But there are some things you just can't do on your own.

I think that's what Jesus' disciple, Peter, was feeling when he made a desperate offer to Jesus one amazing day on a mountain. The Gospel writer Luke tells us what he said when he saw the miracle of Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus.

"Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-not knowing what he had just said (Luke 9:28-33).

This event is called the Transfiguration of Jesus. It means that Peter, James, and John saw Jesus' appearance changed. They could see the bright glory of His godliness. It was a vision of heaven that included Moses and Elijah, the renowned prophets from long ago. These servants of God from of old spoke with Jesus about the divine plan of salvation which Jesus would accomplish on the cross by taking our punishment for our sin.

This was an absolutely miraculous and remarkable moment. Now, some people criticize Peter for making the offer to build some tents for the trio so they could stay there in that glorious moment. But, honestly, who wouldn't want that? Peter's offer shows that he was tired of the DIY lifestyle. He was tired of slogging through the day-to-day grind trying to take care of things all by himself. He was ready for help.

When you're trying to pay bills, cope with pain, fight temptation, juggle your responsibilities, handle heartache, stay healthy, and get a little bit of rest in between, the prospect of soaking in some heavenly peace and completeness is very appealing. It's good not to be alone. It's good to be with Jesus.

And that's exactly what Peter felt. Here he was in the presence of something much bigger than himself. Here he was with the true Son of God and in the company of heaven-able, strong, unfazed, and unfatiguing. Peter yearned to stay there with Jesus and these men in glory who have finished the race. He didn't want to handle life alone anymore. Peter was caught in an honest moment. He had the need to be with Jesus. He craved the goodness of being with His Savior. Do you realize how good it is to be with Jesus? Do you know that that is His will for you?

In spite of all our do-it-yourself talk, it's just not always good to be alone. There are some things we can't do by ourselves. In the first book of the Bible, as God created human beings, He surveyed the situation after the man was created and said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). So God created woman. This world would not be a do-it-yourself world. After sin and death entered the world God knew that we needed help even more desperately. 

That's why He sent us men and women His only Son to save us. Broken and helpless in our failures, fumbles, and faults, God had mercy on us. Instead of brushing us off as lost causes, He loved us and sent Jesus to forgive our sins through His own death and to give us new life through His resurrection from the dead. For every inadequacy and sin in your life, for every point of helplessness you encounter, you and I have help. You have a Savior in Jesus Christ. He came to be with you and to save you.

As a matter of fact, let me get right to the point. You are Jesus' do-it-yourself project-the one He cherishes. Only He could be the perfect sacrifice for your sins. Only His blood could pay the price to free you from eternal lostness and imprisonment. God loves you so much, He is joyful to rescue you-to do His divine rehab of your life. That's why Jesus came into the world. So, as Peter realized, it's good not to be alone. It's very good to be in the company of the Savior. It's good to be with Jesus.

Erik and Stacey Rees learned the power of not being alone. Their sweet little daughter Jessica Joy was diagnosed with inoperable and incurable cancer in March of 2011. Two weeks after her treatment started, Jessie asked her dad, "When do all the other kids come home," she asked. Erik said to her, "Honey, there are lots of kids who have a different treatment plan and they spend days and months and unfortunately some spend years of their treatment there."

Jessie said to her parents in the car, "Then how can we help them?"

Her parents couldn't believe what they just heard from their twelve-year-old daughter. She knew that no one should tackle illness alone. No one should feel like cancer was a do-it-yourself effort. Somehow, in some way, every one of those children needed to know they were not alone.

So when they got home, Jessie gathered up some brown paper bags and started to put toys in them for the kids at the hospital. After their first delivery, they were asked to use jars instead of paper bags. Suddenly, using Jessie's middle name, "Joy Jars" was born. Word started to get around quickly. It turns out, like the disciple Peter; people didn't want to be alone in the difficult journey of life. They needed the brightness of God's love. Requests for Joy Jars started to overflow. In the first year, Jessie stuffed more than 3,000 jars personally.

The family formed a foundation to keep up with the demand. Jessie crafted the motto for Joy Jars. It was, "Never, ever give up"-NEGU for short. Thousands of children were blessed with Joy Jars. Jessie's rules were simple: Number 1, no air. The jars needed to be stuffed so full that the lids popped off. Number 2, no cheesy toys; only the best for kids who needed joy. Number 3, ship it fast. The jars get to each child as soon as possible. Feeling alone needs to be remedied right away.

But only nine months after her diagnosis, Jessica Joy Rees quietly took her last breath. Nine thousand people attended her funeral. So many lives were blessed by Jessie's faith and love. And because life should never be do-it-yourself, the family vowed to continue Jessie's work. (You can find out more, if you'd like, at NEGU.org.)

The point for all of us, though, is this, trying to handle your life alone is no way to handle your life. You need God's help, God's strength, and, yes, His joy.

And as I mentioned, this is God's specialty. When the prophet Elijah collapsed in exhaustion and fear, God showed up to strengthen him. And when our world groaned in the exhaustion of chaos, fear, and pain, God sent Jesus into our world to save us from hopelessness and death.

That's the miracle of Jesus. You are not on your own to handle things yourself. And even death can't stop the joy of God's help and strength. We see that in Luke, chapter nine. Even when the cloud went away and Moses and Elijah were gone, Jesus remained. Then He went forward to die alone, to be left alone by God the Father--separated from Him, so that you and I would never have to go through life on our own. Yours is not a do-it-yourself life. You have been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And the risen Savior is with you now. It's good to be with Jesus.

I want to be honest with you, dear friend. This is in stark contrast to what the world tells you. This is the opposite of the way your ego and pride urge you on. It's against the grain of our fierce independence and self-centeredness. But it's what you and I need. Do-it-yourself can be fun for a time, but it's no way to live life to its eternal fullest. You need Jesus. You need His love. You need His wisdom. You need His Word. On the Mount of Transfiguration God the Father spoke to the disciples saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him" (Luke 9:35).

That's why God created the church, the community of people rescued from a DIY life. The church exists in contrast to the solitary life. It's not a building-although sometimes it meets in a building. The church is people-people connected to Jesus who then connect to each other so that no one will get lost in life without Jesus. Being a part of the church doesn't mean you have to be an extrovert or a social butterfly. It means someone has your back, brothers and sisters in Christ are there to help pick up the pieces when life is crumbling; those who are fellow redeemed and rescued can bring the presence of Jesus to help along the way. It means that you too can be a part of that healing community for others.

There are people all around you who are trying to do life themselves, who are alone, who need to know the power and beauty of Jesus' presence. You may be the one who can show them how good it is to be with Jesus.

I know this is a pretty big weekend for people. The weekend is about that big football game, right? I don't know who's going to win the game, but I do know one thing about both teams. Neither is going to send only one man out of the tunnel onto the field. The quarterbacks will not face the opposing defensive line alone. Each team will win or lose together.

If you are a DIY person, let me ask you one final question. Are you trying to stand on the field of life alone? Are you facing the challenging journey of this existence with your own plans and strategies? Are you planning to face your own end-your own death-in your strength and with your accomplishments alone?

Listen to the wisdom of Peter standing in the awesome presence of Jesus. Life is not do-it-yourself. Life is possible only when you're with Jesus, the One who saves and restores, the One who conquered death and the grave. And one day, we'll all receive the eternal relief that Peter sampled that day. One day, the struggle will be over. One day our grief will be gone and our lives will be fully restored. One day all will be made well. One day, through faith in Him, we will say together, "It is good to be with Jesus now and forever." So say it with me now by faith.


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for February 07, 2016
Topic: Why Was Jesus Fully God And Fully Human?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer; and today a listener asks, "Why was Jesus fully God and fully human?"

SELTZ: Mark, that's a huge question and the answer is vital to one's faith in Jesus.

ANNOUNCER: This question that deals with the two natures of Jesus Christ.

SELTZ: Yes, because in the Bible, on the one hand, Jesus could be sleeping on the back of a boat, but then, minutes later, He could command the sea to be still. We see Jesus bleeding and dying on a cross. Then, three days later, He has risen from the grave and He's appearing miraculously to many.

ANNOUNCER: The Bible also tells of an event where the disciples witnessed both of these natures of Jesus. It took place on the Mount of Transfiguration. They walked up this dusty road together, and then suddenly Jesus began to shine with a light brighter than the sun even.

SELTZ: Exactly, so it's very clear in the Bible that Jesus, the Son of God, is fully God, fully Human, one Person. Born of a virgin in Bethlehem, but also, according to the Bible, existed before the creation of the world. That's the mystery of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: Our listener is also asking about the significance of this truth concerning the nature of Christ. Why was He both God and human?

SELTZ: Let's make sure our listeners are clear about the fact that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human. Sometimes we try to rationalize the miraculous nature of God. Teachers in the past tried to figure this out by saying that Jesus only resembled God or that He wasn't completely human. These false teachings were corrected by the early Church with statements like the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. Remember, we're dealing with a miracle here, a wonderful miracle for our help, our hope, and our salvation.

ANNOUNCER: We can never be too clear about that.

SELTZ: We can't.

ANNOUNCER: We think of the Apostle Paul's words in Galatians, chapter four, when he writes: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV).

SELTZ: Mark, if you're looking for the "why" of Jesus' nature, there it is. You just said it. Jesus was born fully human in order to redeem us from our sin. I'm reminded of the book of Hebrews where it says, "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself partook of those same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14 ESV). Jesus became like you and me to walk in our shoes, to completely experience what we experience, but to live in perfect obedience before God the Father in our place. In Hebrews, chapter four, also says, "He was tempted in every way, just like us-yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).

ANNOUNCER: So, Jesus not only understands our struggles, our temptations; He overcame them for us.

SELTZ: And then He did even more. The Apostle Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians, chapter five. He said: "God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

ANNOUNCER: Jesus was fully human and on the cross He embodied all of our sin and He took God's punishment in our place, for us.

SELTZ: Yes He did. Jesus was the perfect Sacrifice in our place, an acceptable Sacrifice for us. And remember, Mark, God sent His Son ultimately because He loves us.

ANNOUNCER: That's a plan we could never invent on our own.

SELTZ: That's true. Over the centuries, humans have tried to figure out ways to achieve perfect peace, attain eternal life. They've tried to please God with sacrifices, upright actions, by cultivating good thoughts and engaging in honorable philanthropy. But even the best of what we offer doesn't add up to perfection before God. And so the Bible is clear, we need eternal, divine help from the outside, so God sent a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

ANNOUNCER: And that's where the divinity of Christ comes in.

SELTZ: That's right, only God could save us. Only the perfect and true God could step in and stop our downward spiral of sinfulness unto eternal death. Only the death of the Son of God could accomplish all of that for all people.

ANNOUNCER: So, in His mercy, He entered into our world?

SELTZ: And the true God, who became Man for us, conquered sin and death. He rose from the grave to take us with Him to eternity.

ANNOUNCER: Jesus, fully God, fully human; God's gift of salvation for all who believe. As you so often say, wow!

SELTZ: Wow, indeed. Mark, there's nobody like Jesus. And we are so blessed that He has drawn near to be our Savior and our Friend.

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

Action in Ministry for February 07, 2016
Guest: Maggie Hilmer and Lorri Hackett

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is our Action in Ministry segment. Pastor Seltz, today you talked about all these do-it-yourself projects. Hey, I'm all for that but I draw the line when it comes to plumbing, let's say.

SELTZ: Me too. There are some things you can do for yourself, Mark, but sometimes you know you just need to get help and that's especially true in the case of life as well.

ANNOUNCER: And today we're talking about that as we delve into the subject of caregiving. Caring for a family member can be full of both joy and sorrow; and the same goes for the one who is receiving that care. Here to talk with us about that are two ladies who are now in the midst of that caregiving journey. Maggie Hilmer, has co-written a resource titled Speaking of Care, along with her husband, Pastor Ron Hilmer; and with Maggie is Ron's daughter, Lorri Hackett.

SELTZ: It's great to have you ladies with us.

HILMER: Thank you.

HACKETT: Thank you so much.

SELTZ: Now, Maggie, you and your husband Ron wrote this together. As you introduce yourself in the booklet, though, you explain that you've actually been on both sides of caregiving. Give us a little background on that.

HILMER: Okay. Ron and I actually met when he was Chaplain at the Altenheim. He's been in the ministry for many years and he was Chaplain in long-term care in hospitals for many years. I was a physical therapy director at the same nursing home; so we have been married for almost twenty-three years and four of those years he has been in a long-term care facility. He has Parkinson's Disease, which is progressive. He was diagnosed about six months after we were married. I had a heart attack six months after we were married. So, yes we have both taken care of each other. Now the role is that I take care of him.

ANNOUNCER: With your background as a therapist, did you feel prepared should this sort of thing be put on your plate down the road?

HILMER: I felt very prepared and I felt very guilty when I finally decided that I could not do it any longer because I had to realize that nobody can do it 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Inch by inch I started bringing other people in to help care for him, but it was just hard to give up on that.

SELTZ: Maggie, you mentioned that there were times when you were the recipient of your husband's care but Ron's health has changed and so you're talking about that. How are your roles changing now?

HILMER: It's hard to be the wife sometimes. It's much easier to be the caregiver. I sometimes miss having someone to take care of me. Lorri does a good job of that.

SELTZ: Lorri, Pastor Ron is your father. You've been an integral part of this as well. Tell us a bit. What's been your role and what's been most difficult for you?

HACKETT: I think a lot of my role has been helping from an outsider's perspective, if you will, even though he is my father. I am able to see a lot of the guilt that Maggie has on her side of it with being the caregiver and a lot of the anger that he deals with regularly with being and needing the care constantly and consistently. So, I try to remind Maggie, as much as I can, that it's okay to take breaks; that you need to be able to take care of yourself as the caregiver, as the person who is actually extending themselves continually for the care of someone else. And then I also take the time to sit and visit with my father and really talk about the issues that he's facing and the challenges and anger that he has with being limited in this time because mentally he's completely sharp and he gets angry, naturally, human nature, because he can't do the things he used to be able to do. I, kind of, am the mediator between the guilt on behalf of the caregiver and the anger with the care receiver.

SELTZ: God has already granted you strength but you're a tremendous example to a lot of folks. You'll be a tremendous help to a lot of folks because that way they know there are answers. There is support and there is a Lord Who loves us through all of this as well, too. Thanks for being a part of this with us today.

HACKETT: Absolutely. Thank you.

HILMER: Thank you.

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

ANNOUNCER: For your free copy of the booklet Speaking of Care, call The Lutheran Hour toll free 1-855-john 316. That's 1-855-564-6316.

Music Selections for this program:

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

"O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Alleluia, Song of Gladness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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