"Never Alone"

#84-41
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 11, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 28:16-20

"Then the 11 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go, --and when they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end, the very end of the age.'"

Christ has risen. He has risen indeed. Alleluia.

Have you ever really been stumped? Has life ever completely confused you? Have you experienced an event that left you saying, "Dear Lord, I have no idea what to make of this? Show me the way on this one"? A countless number of tragic events, one after another, they can cause confusion. Already this year, barely halfway over, we've seen people die in storms in California, Mississippi, Texas and a number of other places. One was a teenage girl who was a senior in high school. She loved her music. Her bubbly personality lifted up everyone around her. This 18 year old girl lost control of her car during a storm and was killed in a tragic accident. Everyone close to her was devastated. There are all kinds of crazy things that happen in people's lives and some of them cause us to ask, "What is going on, Lord? What is going on?"

Have you ever asked that question in your life? I know I have. You might ask it about a tragedy in your life. You might ask it because your job is torturous or you don't have a job at all. You may ask it about illness, world events, and hurt-filled relationships. "What's going on, Lord? What is going on?" If you ask that question and you have a desire to be or to continue to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we are in a strange, yet wonderful position in this life, aren't we? We are in the position of trusting God, even being His public witnesses of making disciples as Jesus commands in Matthew 28 when we, ourselves, don't have all of life figured out.

We're in a position of having Christ's certainty, even though we often carry a load of doubt like everyone else. Now this is not unique to being a follower of Jesus. In fact, all of life operates with this dynamic of certainty and doubt, and yet you and I carry on business, raise children, plan our days and hope for the future without having all that figured out. You observe life's events and face important decisions with the possibility of all kinds of doubt. How do you do anything then, let alone communicate God and His work to other people when you always have some doubt? Again, let's look to the Bible then because it handles difficult questions like this by talking straight.

Look in this lesson, for instance. People standing in the presence of Jesus who had risen from the dead, and what does it say? Some doubted. Incredible! Are you kidding me? Some doubted? That's what it says. Let me say it again. Some doubted. The 11 disciples were asking the question, "What's going on, Lord?" But Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus was saying, "Even with your doubt, you are called to go out." All throughout the Bible the point is this. There is no power, no strength, no certainty in us as sinners.

We are full of sin, doubt, discouragement, even despair, but the Bible says even more boldly, Christ's strength, His power and grace can work with people just like us, just like that. We can be people even with doubt who are called to go out with the certainty of the love of Jesus even in the midst of our own struggles. Now how does that work? How is it possible to be a light for Jesus Christ from day to day while you carry doubt with you? The answer is this. Be clear about what you don't know and be clear about what you do know. What don't you know? Probably the same thing the disciples didn't have much of a clue about.

First, the disciples doubted the miraculous. They wondered how the resurrection of Jesus could have taken place. They were stumped about how Jesus was defying earthly science and sense. They scratched their heads as they pondered whether or not they should believe all of this was really even happening. You and I go through the same thing. Whether it is pondering the remarkable and mighty acts of God in the Bible or witnessing the wonderful and miraculous actions of God today, you can easily be filled with questions. Did God really answer your prayer? Did His word really change the heart of the person you love? Is Jesus really dwelling in you as you eat and drink the bread and wine of Holy Communion? You can see a miracle today and question it tomorrow. The miraculous work of God is hard to fully get our minds around.

Second, the disciples, they doubted the meaning. Now I'm referring to the meaning of what God was doing, His divine plan, His progression of events. Think about what the disciples witnessed. They saw their teacher suffer and die. Then Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared to them a number of times. What was happening? Why was it happening in this way? What was God's big picture? You may go through the same thing when you try to make sense of everything that is happening in your life and in this world. The events can stump you. The way the world unfolds can be very puzzling. The meaning of life is often hard to understand.

Third, the disciples doubted the method. They may have wondered why God was working in this particular way. Why was this His plan? Why did He choose this timing? As you reflect on life, the world and God's involvement in all of this, there may be times when you thought you would do things differently than God. Perhaps you would tone down the mysterious aspects of God. You know, like being triune, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Maybe you would give more details about the creation of the world in six days. Perhaps you wouldn't wait so long to put an end to sin, chaos, pain and brokenness in this world. With the disciples, we too can doubt God's method of working. It's not easy to understand. That's what you don't know. That's what you can't completely explain. The miraculous, the ultimate meaning of all things and even God's method. It's good to be clear about that. There are things you and I can't figure out.

The Bible even says, "Oh, the depths of the riches, and the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways," but you also need to be clear about what you do know. Yes, there's doubt, but what about certainty? Did you notice that Jesus made sure that the disciples were certain about some things? First, the disciples were certain about the place. They knew where to meet Jesus. He showed them where it was and He directed them there. The disciples were certain about the location. They knew where to meet Him. You can know that too. You can be certain about the place. Jesus said, "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me."

You meet Jesus in the Bible, the living Word. Wherever you find the name of Jesus proclaimed, there He is to meet you with His grace. Jesus said, "Take and eat. This is my body. Take and drink. This is my blood for the forgiveness of sins." You meet Jesus in Holy Communion, and Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you." You meet Jesus in prayer, in worship. You can be certain about the place. Wherever His name is at, there is Christ for you. You know where you and the people in your life can meet Jesus to receive His grace, to be transformed by Him and be encouraged with His eternal hope. There is no doubt about where to find Christ. Jesus locates himself in known and accessible places so you can be saved and so that you can connect others to Him. You can be certain about the place.

Second, the disciples were certain about the program. Jesus said, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Jesus is here to save people, to wash away their sins and give them new life. Do you know God's great and gracious program? Actually, it's a proclamation of how things are in Jesus Christ, and an offer to live in that grace and mercy now and forever, so have you heard about to outstretched arm of Jesus Christ for you today? God's focus is not to build an organization or to complicate your life with rules and regulations. God's program is to seek and to save the lost, to restore the broken and the wounded, to give hope to the hopeless, to forgive sins and to defeat the enemy of death. That is what He accomplished through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

No matter how mysterious God is, the certain fact is that you know Him because He is the savior from sin and death. Through Jesus Christ your sins are washed away. God's program is salvation, rescue, restoration and redemption. His program is focused on your life. You may have questions about timing and events and how God does His work, but you can be certain about His program of life and salvation for you through His son, Jesus Christ. The place to meet Jesus is certain. His program of rescue and relief for you is certain.

Third, the disciples were certain about His presence. I'm talking about the presence of Jesus through it all. You heard what Jesus said. One of the greatest promises He could ever give: "Behold, I am with you always to the very end of the age." There may be a lot that you don't know about your life, this world and the unsearchable ways of God, but you do know one thing because of the promise of Jesus: you know His presence. Jesus is with you right now. You might doing wonderfully in life. Everything might be going very well or your life might be a wreck. You may be struggling and suffering and stressed out, but Jesus is with you and when Jesus is with you, He gives you His strength. He fills you with peace that passes all understanding. He carries you through trials, and He gives you wisdom and humility through successes. He teaches you so you can shine His light and talk to your loved one about the great hope that you have in Him.

I can't even count the number of people who have said to me, "Pastor, as I sat alone in the hospital, waiting for my test in that flimsy gown, wondering what they would find, I knew that I was never alone." Others said to me, "Pastor, even though my heart was broken, I was filled with grief, I had the strength, I really did. It was almost miraculous to make it through. Pastor, when I needed the courage to pray with a friend, Jesus gave me the exact words she needed to hear. Pastor, when the pressure was on and I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I was filled with peace and confidence that Jesus was right by my side." I'm so glad that you're willing to all share those things with me. They cut right to the heart, but they cut right to the promise of Jesus. All this is true for each of you today. God loves you too much to let you walk through a very tough life on your own. You have it in writing. You can be certain about the presence of your savior, so listen up.

You may not be certain about the miraculous or the meaning or God's methods, but you can be certain about the place to meet God, the program of His salvation and His presence with you always. In fact, here's another wrench in our plans in life. Satan will try to jumble those things up for you. He will tempt you to think that life has to totally make sense in order for you to believe and trust in God, and yet he will tempt you to doubt the presence of God with you and God's program of salvation from sin. He will try to get you to doubt the certain solution. Satan will turn everything around and tempt you to trust only lightning bolts and signs from heaven. At the same time, he will try to get you to doubt the places that God has given you to meet Him, His word and sacraments. That's why reading the Bible gets push aside so easily today.

That's why people are intent on looking elsewhere to find God. People are looking for Him in nature, on golf courses, in new age religious fads, but they so easily forget that God meets them in the very present and accessible Word, and in His wonderful gifts of Baptism and Holy Communion. Don't let yourself be tempted to forsake gathering with your fellow believers around the reading and learning of God's Word, the encouraging fellowship the church provides. Satan will tempt you to get into complex theological arguments about puzzling Biblical truths, and yet make you hesitant to teach and proclaim and live out the clear truths that Jesus gives so generously, so what do you do? What do you do? Be clear about what you don't know and be clear about what you do.

You can talk about your faith even when you ask the question, "What's going on, Lord?" All you have to say is, "There's a lot I don't know, but what I do know is this." In fact, that's not just a message. That's a joyous way to live life. Amidst the questions of today and tomorrow, you can meet them head on because you know the place to meet your savior in repentance and in worship and be filled. You live by the power of His program for salvation in life. That's everlasting life that He gives and you know the joy of His presence with you always. Even in doubt, you go out. Even in doubt, you know plenty. You know what is most important. Stick with it. Keep reading and hearing Jesus' good news for you and know this. You are never, never alone and that's good news to have and good news to share. God be with you always in the name of our risen and ascended Lord Jesus. Amen.




Action in Ministry for June 11, 2017
Guest: Rich Cohrs and Marc Debrick

Mark Eischer: You're listening to the Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry, your call to action in response to all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Gregory Seltz: Mark, can you imagine walking and talking with Jesus as the disciples did, seeing firsthand the miracles He performed, hearing Him preach to the crowds, seeing Him show mercy to the despised? And yet, here it comes, they too had many questions about this person that they were following.

Mark Eischer: That's right. Even the disciples had to be told who this Jesus really was. Like us, they also had their times of doubt and uncertainty.

Gregory Seltz: Right.

Mark Eischer: This week we're offering a resource for you that's titled Do You Know Who Jesus Is? It's a booklet designed for children, and joining us today is Rich Cohrs along with Marc Debrick. Mark is the principal at Zion Lutheran School in Harvester, Missouri. Rich and Mark, it's great to have you with us.

Marc Debrick: You bet.

Rich Cohrs: Thank you. Thank you.

Mark Eischer: Rich Cohrs, this booklet was your idea. Tell us how it came about and what is it.

Rich Cohrs: There was a time when I was tasked to present the Easter story to children at the Easter egg hunt. That was really hard for me to come up with, so I came to the coworkers at Lutheran Hour and said, "Let's put a booklet into their hands." From that, developed this series of booklets. It is the booklet that tells the story of Christ from the time of the promise to Adam and Eve.

Mark Eischer: Wow.

Rich Cohrs: All the way through the Ascension. It's written in four line rhyme with illustrations. It is great for little children.

Mark Eischer: I mean, when you rhyme, it sticks inside too. You can hear it and you remember it, right?

Rich Cohrs: Yeah. All the time.

Mark Eischer: Why is it important to put this booklet into the hands of children then?

Rich Cohrs: You know, it's said that Christianity is one generation away from extinction and even if one child doesn't hear about Christ, that means that all the seceding generations will not hear about Him. Children today need to know the saving love of Jesus. What's interesting is if we can reach the children, sometimes we can reach the parents and sometimes we can reach the grandparents with it too.

Greg Seltz: Yeah, it's amazing what the word of a child who really does know Jesus Christ can do.

Mark Eischer: Marc, as the principal of a Lutheran school, how have you been able to use this booklet and how does it appeal to different ages?

Marc Debrick: It's a great booklet because the story of Jesus' love and the Gospel and His forgiveness for us is a great story, and it can be a simple story too especially to kids. That simple story kids can use to tell others and especially to go home and tell their parents or their grandparents, whoever might be there, so they have that chance to go home and spread that great news. Sometimes it's the first time these parents have heard that story. Those parents then, they know their kids are loving school and enjoying that, learning so many things. They want to become a part of that too, so many times at our youngest grades, we go all the way up through eighth grade, but our youngest grades is where we have the unchurch families and they're going to hear that story. They become members of our church then too.

Greg Seltz: Yeah. There's nobody like Jesus and when people meet Him, even from the mouth of young children, it's like, "Wow. Who is that person? Who is he?" Rich, there are some other ways that this booklet has been used too.

Rich Cohrs: There's an organization that runs a food bank and they include this booklet into each bag of food that they hand out. That way, the mothers can read it to their children, but if the mothers have struggles with English, then the children might be able to read it to their parents too.

Greg Seltz: Okay. Well, double blessing.

Mark Eischer: Rich, what did you find most challenging about telling the story of Jesus in this way and making it both simple, rhyming and true to scripture?

Rich Cohrs: That's the answer to the question. Simple and rhyming and true to the scriptures. It's very difficult. When you look at the complexity of the scripture and the simple message of Jesus loves you, but then to add to it the dimensions of the rhymes, that will capture the children's imagination, to use the vocabulary that the children will understand and then to have the wonderful illustrations.

Mark Eischer: Yeah. What rhymes with kerygma?

Greg Seltz: What a great way to share the love of Jesus Christ. You guys have been talking about this simple non-threatening, easy to understand. A great idea, well-used. Thank you both for coming in and sharing this great resource, and folks, you need to get this. Thanks for coming in.

Marc Debrick: You bet. Thank you.

Rich Cohrs: Thank you.

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

Mark Eischer: Once again, the title of this booklet is Do You Know Who Jesus Is? For your free copy of this resource, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry, or call 1-855-John 316. That's 1-855-564-6316.




LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 11, 2017
Topic: Why am I still exhausted after my vacation?

Announcer: We are back with Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer, and today's question is, "Why am I still exhausted after my vacation?"

Gregory Seltz: I can relate to that question. How about you, Mark?

Mark Eischer: Well, I've been there, I think.

Gregory Seltz: Yeah. Here we're approaching vacation time for many of our listeners. Summer is swinging into play as soon as the kids get out of school, so let me just say at the outset that planning a vacation, it may or may not be restful. Even vacation time can make you tired. Sometimes you come home from a trip and you need a vacation from your vacation.

Mark Eischer: What do you think is the key to real rest?

Gregory Seltz: Let's start where rest, where real rest begins. Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are laboring and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, learn from me and you will find rest for your souls." Now please understand I'm not trying to give you a simplistic Jesus answer to the question. Jesus' words actually dig deeply into what true rest is. Sometimes I think we mistake escape for rest.

Mark Eischer: Well, tell me more about that. You know, what is the difference between them?

Gregory Seltz: We can escape in any number of ways, but escape typically results in added restlessness and stress. For example, you can become very stressed or experience terrible difficulty and heartbreak, but instead of seeking rest, you may try to escape the pain and discomfort by drowning your sorrows in alcohol or seeking temporary refuge in drugs. You may veer into buying things that give you a short term boost of satisfaction or even take risks that make you forget your troubles, but these are escape mechanisms. In fact, they'll leave you feeling worse in the long term and they'll eventually complicate your life.

Mark Eischer: But I can understand how the idea of escaping from fatigue and stress might be tempting.

Gregory Seltz: Well, it is tempting. I mean, many times escape is the easy path, but Jesus doesn't want you to hurt yourself or others by escaping. He provides for us real rest.

Mark Eischer: What does look like?

Gregory Seltz: It starts then with God being your refuge and strength in times of trouble. It begins with being filled with His encouraging word, going to the Lord in prayer and receiving His presence and communion. It continues by following the pattern He established in creation. God rested on the seventh day. He invites us into that rhythm of rest.

Mark Eischer: Here God is getting very practical with us.

Gregory Seltz: He does. We're not made to go at break-neck speed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we are not created for constant absorption of everything the world throws at us. We need stillness, God's stillness. We need to be refueled with God's grace and truth.

Mark Eischer: Here we think of Psalm 23 where it says that our Good Shepherd restores our souls.

Gregory Seltz: Exactly. This calls for healthy practices of rest in our lives. God's rest on the seventh day is where we get our word Sabbath from. It means seventh, so I'll ask our listeners, do you have a day or time when you unplug from your phone, texting and email, when you turn off the TV news blitz and when you plug into stillness with God in His restoring word of life? Do you have a rhythm of conversation and fellowship with a friend who can listen to you and speak that word into your life? That's why God created the Church. It's not for the purpose of making us more busy. It's for the purpose of remaking our souls and hearts as they get tired and battered.

Mark Eischer: A big issue today is establishing healthy boundaries and patterns that allow for rest and replenishment.

Gregory Seltz: To that point, Jesus was tenacious about a rhythm of rest and replenishment, so it's important that the commotion stops in our life at times to hear God's voice and receive His restoration.

Mark Eischer: It also sounds to me like you're advocating control over whether to be connected or not.

Gregory Seltz: Most definitely, Mark. I mean, we can lose ourselves to the control of technology. We do need to disconnect and not feel guilty. We can lift up the value then of Sabbath, a time of stillness, a recouping of relationships and personal identity. We do need to unplug regularly and be plugged into the things of God, to be still and know that God is our savior, friend and hope each day.

Mark Eischer: To sum this all up, God is calling us to find rest in His word and there to find new strength for when we go back to our regular routine after the vacation is over.

Gregory Seltz: Indeed.

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





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

"Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"O Day of Rest and Gladness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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