"Dress for Action"#76-41
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 21, 2009
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:Who's an Infidel?)
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Text: Job 38:1-11
Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! Motivated by the Father's love for lost humankind, the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross. Committed to giving His life as our ransom, the Savior bled and died. Then, having done all that was necessary to save us, He rose from the dead. This Father's Day may we give thanks to the Lord Who has valued us so. Heavenly Father, grant such gratitude to us all. Amen.
Glen Adsit was a missionary to China. Accompanied by his family, Glen tried to share the Savior's story of salvation as quietly and secretly as was possible. Apparently he was not quiet or secretive enough. Glen was caught and he, along with his family, were placed under house arrest. After some time, soldiers came to the house and told him he was being deported home to America. The soldiers also informed them they would be allowed to take 200 lbs of stuff with him. 200 lbs of their own choosing.
But how do you pick 200 lbs of stuff? How to decide what would be left behind. Eventually, and not to everyone's satisfaction, they managed to reduce the pile of stuff to 200 lbs. 200 lbs to the ounce. Glen and his family, with their 200 lbs of stuff were ready when the soldiers arrived. "Have you weighed everything", an officer wanted to know. "Yes." "Did you weigh the children?" Weigh the children? Of course they hadn't weighed the children! For Glen and his wife, the children had been a given, the children had been taken for granted. In a split second the officer's question realigned everything. The new typewriter, the valuable vase, the precious picture, instantly became trash and were set aside. Bringing the children with them, making sure the children were safe, became the parent's single priority, their chief concern.
Have you weighed the children? That is the subject of this Father's Day message. Have you weighed the children? More than 1,500 years before Jesus, the world's Savior, was born in Bethlehem, there lived a man named Job. At one time Job had been a great man, a successful man, a rich man, a father of children. Then, for reasons which the Lord initially didn't share with him, everything was tragically and suddenly replaced by sadness and sorrow, mourning and misery, infirmity and illness. Job, his wife, and his friends came together to make some sense of things, to find a rationale for the catastrophe. The thoughts they came up with are standard fair, even today. Someone ventured Job was being punished for having committed a great sin. Not surprisingly, Job disagreed with that. They discussed the possibility that God was being capricious, arbitrary, and His visitations were without rhyme or reason. Another volunteered God had His reasons for what He does, but no one can understand His thinking or His purpose. One of Job's friends hazarded: 'When suffering is sent from God, it is designed to be a blessing for growth, and not just some judgment upon the man's many misdeeds.'
You can understand, Job was not overly pleased with the suggestions of his friends and he was less than satisfied with his wife's curt comment that he 'curse God and die.' (Job 2:9) Adamantly the Old Testament hero of faith defended his innocence; again and again he announced his blamelessness and protested his punishment. After listening to the debate go back and forth, the book of Job reports that God eventually spoke to Job. Beginning with the 38th chapter of that book, the Lord came forward and shared His thoughts. His words are some of the most beautiful, the most powerful, the most poetic, the most humbling verses which have ever been written. The Lord began by asking, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" Then God gave the command: Job, "Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. (you supply Me with the answers, if you are able.)" Then, beginning with creation, God asked Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?"
God began by talking about the world's creation, but He didn't stop there. In rapid fire, God touched upon numerous topics: the greatness of the universe, the mysteries of nature, the wonders of the animal kingdom, the limitlessness of His power and the limitations of human wisdom. God didn't wait for slack-jawed, open-mouthed Job to respond; there was no need for Him to wait. Job didn't have any answers; just as modern man without God's guidance and grace has no answers to the great questions of life like death and salvation. Only after the Lord had finished His overpowering onslaught of inquiries that Job, like the missionary family I talked about, realized his priorities had been wrong and his knowledge was incomplete. With his mind realigned and his heart redirected, Job humbly replied, "(Lord), I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted... I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, (things) which I did not know." (Excerpts Job 42: 1-3)
I have uttered what I did not understand, (spoken about) things which I did not know. Job's declaration is the best description of human misunderstanding I have ever heard. In every age, in every place, on every subject humankind has spoken with absolute authority concerning things it didn't understand and declared it had discovered the answers when it hadn't understood the question. If you doubt me, I offer this challenge: pick a subject, any subject, and see if you can find one where the experts are in agreement. Is global warming a reality? Some will say, "Undoubtedly, Indisputably!", while others will confidently confess the contrary. Is the world's economy in a global recession, or depression? Is it in recovery? Is the cholesterol in eggs good for you, or is it bad for you, or does it make no difference? When can a person be declared dead? The medical profession has one definition; the law has another, and religion yet a third. The truth which everyone knows for certain today becomes the absurd foolishness at which everyone laughs tomorrow. Today it is quite customary for people to laugh at the truth God has revealed in His Holy Word. Never having read that book, this they do on the basis of hearsay alone. How unscientific of them. Similarly, although they are unsure of what Christians believe, they sneer at our narrow-minded doctrines; they scorn the mission and ministry of the Savior; they snicker at His life which was lived so they might live forever; they scorn His suffering and death, they smile slyly at the idea of Jesus' third-day resurrection from the dead, that resurrection which alone can guarantee their forgiveness and salvation.
But it is in regard to the family, the family where pseudo-scientists have done their worst in uttering things they did not understand and speaking factually of that which they did not know. In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock published his book, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. Translated into 30 different languages, more than 50,000,000 copies of that work have been sold. In his well-known volume, Spock encouraged parents to be permissive and grant their children everything their little hearts desired. Less well known is this: shortly before his death, Dr. Spock apologized and confessed he had been wrong; his theories about raising children hadn't worked and healthy, responsible adults hadn't been produced when people followed his advice.
Dr. Spock had uttered things he did not understand and spoke factually about that which he did not know. He was not alone. Regularly, repeatedly, almost religiously society says fathers are, other than for the purpose of procreation (and they're working at that), quite unnecessary. Fathers are informed their children don't need them; they're told that they are incapable of being a positive influence on their little ones; that if they do care for their wife and children, they won't be successful at work or in the marketplace. Christian fathers have to look far afield to find movie makers or television sitcoms which display a Christian father who isn't ignorant, intolerant, and ill-mannered, cold, cruel, and callous, hard-hearted, hard-headed, and hard of hearing. Forgotten is God's establishment of a life-long, dedicated partnership between a man and woman founded on the Divine premise: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him." (Genesis 2:18) Erased from the community consciousness is the Savior's condemnation of easy divorce when He said, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matthew 19:8). Removed from our consideration is St. Paul's Holy Spirit-inspired urging: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25) Think upon it. What home would not be blessed if it had a man who loved completely, consistently, continuously as did the Christ? What wife, what children would not count themselves privileged to know a man who considered it his bounden duty to sacrifice for them; who counted his Christian example to be of the highest consequence, his care for them his greatest concern.
It is impossible for me to say how much pain might be avoided; how many broken homes might be repaired; how many children's lives might be immeasurably bettered if those truths of Scripture were accepted, trusted, and followed. I can say the Christian concept of the family altar can never do worse than the world has, as it utters things it does not understand and speaks factually about what it does not know. An idle boast? I think not. Not when, according to the most recent statistics I could find, 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes; not when 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes; not when 71% of pregnant teens come from fatherless homes; not when 71% of dropouts come from fatherless homes; not when 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes, not when 85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders and 85% of youths sitting in prison come from fatherless homes.
Fathers, no matter what the world may tell you, God says you are important. When it comes to this, as it does to everything else, the Lord who made you, the Christ Who gave His life to save you; the Holy Spirit who calls and empowers you, remains right. The world has spoken about things it did not understand and encouraged its followers toward things which it did not know. And the result? Following the world's advice you have paid the penalty as 83% of arrests made for serious crimes are men; 88% of drunk drivers are men; and you are more likely to have ulcers and die from cancer, pneumonia, liver disease, strokes, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure.
My dear friends, at the beginning of this message I told the story of a Christian missionary who was forced to leave China with that which was most precious to him. Do you remember the question the officer asked of him? He asked, "Have you weighed the children?" You should know that you have a heavenly Father Who always weighed the children. When His first children, Adam and Eve, strayed from His side and followed Satan's suggestions to sin, God weighed the children. He weighed the children and promised to send them a Savior. When the world had become corrupt and unworthy, God weighed the children and saved Noah with his family. After He had miraculously freed His children from slavery, they forgot His compassion and they complained. They complained, rebelled, and rejected Him. Initially the Lord wanted to wipe them out and begin again. But He weighed the children and reclaimed them.
Through the time of the Judges, the Prophets, God always weighed the children. When He found them obedient and grateful, He loved them with a happy love. When He found them obstinate and ungracious, He loved them with a sad love. But always, always in the weighing He loved them. As proof of that love, I encourage you to look into the Bethlehem manger and see infant Jesus, true Man and true God. The Lord looked at sinful humanity, weighed us, weighed the price He was willing to pay so we might be saved, and then He sent His Son to live, to suffer, to die, to rise. Our heavenly Father sent His Son to redeem you, and me, all the lost and condemned children of the world.
God has always weighed the children. If you have always thought of the Savior as Someone Who was weak, fragile, and feeble, you need to look again. Look at the power of His Word as He ordered a storm to be muzzled; look at Him as He, with the voice of God-given authority, stood up and condemned the over proud, the over-inflated and the pompous posers. Look at the commitment He showed as He touched the unclean leper; as He helped the sad and sinful souls who had been deserted by society. Look at Him. Look at His courage as, in the Garden of Gethsemane; He was literally driven to the ground by the sheer weight of humankind's sin. Think. Every sin you have ever committed; every wrong you have ever done; every transgression which has ever been committed was placed upon Him. Even so, He got up, and with that burden resting upon Him; He went forward to His unjust trial and declined to defend Himself. He could have freed Himself, you know. He could have walked away. He didn't. Why? He was lied about so you might know the truth; He was willingly crucified so you might live. His life was given up, not taken away, but given up so you and your family might be saved.
Have you weighed the children? I am unaware of what your life has been like, and I am ignorant of the sins you have committed. I don't know if you have been disreputable in your business; if you have cheated on your spouse; if you have been cruel and inconsistent with your children. I do know that this day, this Lord's day, your Father in heaven, the Father Who has weighed you and sacrificed His Son to save you, invites you to be forgiven, transformed, and restored as one of His family members. I know that those who love you want you, wait for you to see the Savior. By the Holy Spirit's power, today can be a new day, a new dawn, a new life, a new you. Today, by God's grace you can be given a Savior and the Holy Spirit can recycle you into being the man of God the Lord has always wanted you to be. By His power you can be made a Christian husband; a Christian father, a Christian man. As God commanded Job, so He commands you: dress for action like a man.
It was years ago I phoned a house at which I wished to pay a call. The man, a nominal member of my congregation, answered the phone. I identified myself as Pastor Klaus, but before I could go any further, he interrupted by saying: "Just a minute preacher, let me get my wife, she's in charge of religion." He laughed, covered the receiver, and shouted for his spouse to pick up the other phone. I didn't laugh, I still don't. Jesus is not just a Savior for women. The church is not just an organization for the ladies. That's not what God intended long ago; it's not what pleases Him now. Dress for action like a man. Spend some time with your children; pray with them; encourage them. Make sure when you stub your toe on a table that won't be the only time your family hears Jesus' name come out of your mouth. Dress for action like a man....a good man, God's man, a Christian man. Why? Because you, having been weighed by the Savior Who sacrificed Himself to save you, wish to weigh your children and sacrifice yourself for them. Why? Because you wish to love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. To that end, if we can assist, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 21, 2009
Topic: Who's an Infidel?
Mark: Now, Pastor Ken Klaus responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
Ken: Hello, Mark.
Mark: A listener writes, "Islam refers to all non-Muslims as 'infidels'. This makes me feel a little uncomfortable."
Ken: I think that would be true for most folks.
Mark: Our listener continues: "It brings to mind the idea of forced conversions and violent threats. What does it mean to be considered an 'infidel'?"
Ken: Good question.
Mark: First, what is meant by the term "infidel"? Do Christians ever use that term when referring to people of other faiths?
Ken: Mark, the word infidel simply means, "not-believing." For that reason, Christians could use it. Indeed, they have used it rather freely in the past. In recent years, however, that term has fallen into disuse and disfavor among Christians. It seems to be pretty emotionally charged. However, the term "Infidel" still appears fairly often in Islamic conversation and writings. For them it also means someone who "does not believe".
Mark: So, should our listener be concerned about "forced conversions"?
Ken: You know 9-11 and other terrorist acts around the world have convinced some Christians that Muslims believe "the only good infidel is a dead one?" That kind of thinking is probably going too far. It would not apply to most adherents of Islam.
Mark: But Islam does feel it is their job to convert unbelievers?
Ken: Absolutely. That is also true for most religions. It is certainly true for Christians.
Mark: But would you say we have the same practices and views?
Ken: I hope nobody heard me say that. Almost every religion, if it is worth its salt, believes it is right and correct. Almost every religion also holds that people, if they have the sense God gave grass, ought to embrace the doctrines of that faith and believe. That's the similarity.
Mark: So most religions want to convert unbelievers?
Ken: Right. In the case of Christianity and Islam there have been times when both have been guilty of conversion-by-the-sword.
Mark: You're thinking of the Crusades.
Ken: Well, partly. Islam loves to trot out the Crusades and point to all the nasty things that were done during those centuries. And in doing so, they're right. Terrible things were done in the name of the Church and under the banner of the cross. But we dare not forget that the Crusades were a response to the Islamic attack on countries that had been Christian for centuries. It is a double standard for Islam to say conquest is fine for them, but for Christians to reclaim those lands was unacceptable. But, to be fair, Mark, we need to say that most people of Islam have absolutely no desire to murder the 'infidel'. They consider it far better to convert us.
Mark: So, does our listener need to fear them?
Ken: The questions keep getting harder. At the risk of oversimplifying, let me say most Christian countries allow freedom of speech. That freedom flows from the Christian perspective of knowing a Savior Who died for our sins and the freedom He won on the cross. That freedom is not seen in those countries where Islam has taken control.
Mark: Such as?
Ken: In places like the Sudan, Christians have been directly persecuted. Sometimes that persecution is by lynch mobs and the government shuts its eyes to it. Sometimes the persecution is carried out by the government itself. There are nations where Christians have to jump through all sorts of complicated hoops in order to get things done.
Mark: And the Muslims don't have those obstacles?
Ken: No, these speed bumps are designed just to slow Christianity down. The point is, Islam wants Christianity to be tolerant and accepting of them, but they have no desire to do the same for us.
Mark: And is that commanded in their scriptures?
Ken: The answer to that depends, in some part, on who you are talking to. But, generally the answer is, "yes".
Mark: Anything else?
Ken: Just this. Lutheran Hour Ministries' Men's NetWork has a free video Bible study on Islam. It gives a far more detailed explanation of things than we did here. You can find out more about it at lhm-men-dot-com.
Mark: This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music selection for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House/SESAC
"Our Father, by Whose Name" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
"Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me" by John Behnke. From For All Seasons, vol. 1 by John Behnke (© 1996 John Behnke)
"Nun danket alle Gott" by J.S. Bach. From Johann Sebastian Bach Organ Works by Per Fridtjov Bonsaksen (© 1995 Vanguard Classics)