"What God Says"#84-43
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 25, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Isaiah 43:1-3
Christ is risen. He's risen indeed. Dear Lord, grant that we may hear you rather than being swept away by what the world says. In every difficulty, keep us safe, secure, and trusting in our Savior. Lord, grant such grace to us all. Amen.
Lutheran Hour listeners, let me ask, have you heard what they're saying? I can't think of anything which will get people's attention faster than somebody whispering, "Did you hear what they said?" As long as what they've been saying isn't about us, we all want to know the latest juicy dirt, be told about the most salacious scandal, be brought up to date on someone's embarrassing humiliation. Mark Twain once said something like a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Me, I prefer to think the things they say are like a prairie fire racing along without mind and purpose, but destroying everything in its path.
Can you remember back to last year when we saw the two prime candidates for the presidency trying to snuff out the false rumors and stamp out the fabricated lies which critics were saying about them? The candidates and their advisors could stomp out one fire and two more would be lit. Millions of receptive minds were eager to believe the worst and pass the worst on as if it were the Gospel truth. Of course, in the scheme of things, these were little fires and in a decade or two, they will soon be forgotten. The same cannot be said about the out-of-control prairie fires which are sweeping across the globe and changing people's beliefs in regard to God, guilt, forgiveness, salvation, eternity, morality.
It wasn't so many years ago when only the most alert of Christians could see the ominous orange-red glow on the horizon, indicating approaching spiritual trouble. Today, all can see this fire, which desires to consume a man's faith in his Redeemer and destroy a woman's trust in her Lord. It is a fire which feeds on the doubt and disbelief which comes when humanity tries to rip God out of heaven and away from human hearts. It is a fire fueled by folks shutting their ears to God and listening instead to what they say, all of which may have you wondering just what are some of the things they are saying?
They said that if we would throw out the Bible's concept of family and morality, people would be able to forget their guilt, and sexual problems would be a thing of the past. We listened to what they said, and soon we're shocked to see the family being redefined by divorce, fatherless children, and the constantly changing definitions of mother and fatherhood. Far too many educators agreed with what they said, and they taught their young charges sex education, but they did so without offering any moral framework or value system. And the result of listening to what they said? Venereal disease and illegitimacy are increasing at an epidemic rate. That's what happens when people listen to what they say.
I wonder what will it take for people to listen once again to the Lord. Those who look carefully and with eyes of faith will be able to see the approaching fire which comes from faulty and flawed human wisdom, from a blind faith which accepts what they say. And what is it they have said? They said that it was unconstitutional to have a Bible placed in a state school classroom. They said children should be allowed to shape their own beliefs.
I could offer a reply to what is happening to our young people, but I prefer to refer you to Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Seeing the direction Western nations have been going, he has voiced this plea: "In our country, we have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, stop!"
The patriarch's shout should be heard. Recent history has shown that a child who is given no values is like an untended and uncared-for field, the field which quickly fills up with weeds. They have said so many things. They said parents should never discipline their children. They said doing so would scar the little ones emotionally. They said the youngsters would become bullies and grow up to hate their parents, and since no parent wishes to be hated, many moms and dads forgot about the woodshed and the time-outs and the sincere parent-child conversations. The result, too many children grew up without any concept of respect, responsibility, or reverence.
True, most children didn't hate their parents. They were indifferent to their parents, and indifference, my friends, is far, far worse. Those with eyes of faith can see the approaching glow from the fire of spiritual destruction coming from the things they say. What is it they have said? They said all religions are alike, all heavens are alike, and all gods, if there is a God, are alike. All religions alike? Other than Christianity, what other faith says a loving Lord sent His Son into the world to become one of us? What faith, other than the Christian, maintains Jesus was sacrificed to save us from sin, death, and devil? When I say us, I include all people, including the untouchable and the misbehaving child, who may find rejection somewhere else.
Yes, they have said all kinds of things. They said Jesus' miracles were nothing more than sleight-of-hand magic tricks, which had managed to bamboozle the superstitious bunch of ignorant and none-too-bright Galilean fishermen. They said the virgin birth was unprovable, Jesus' third-day resurrection from the dead a glorious mistake, and the church has been built on lies created by the disciples' overactive imaginations.
They said the church showed its ignorance by its condemnation of the astronomer Galileo, but they never say that in making her judgment, the church had first consulted with the most respected scientists of that era. They say that Christianity only appeals to those who are slow and stupid, dumb and dependent, irrational and ignorant, but they always neglect to say how many times the absolutely factual truths they taught us when we were young have been overthrown, overturned, overhauled, and set caddywumpus.
If you need proof, the wisdom of the world ain't so wise. I can only tell you I remember when experts said we couldn't go swimming until an hour after we had eaten. I remember when you would ruin your eyes if you sat near the TV. Goodness, I even remember the TV commercial which said more doctors smoked and recommended Camels than any other cigarette.
These are just some of the amusing mistakes which the world has made. For the most part, they are innocuous. They're certainly far different than the damnable untruth and half-truths which are being promoted by Satan. He is experienced in telling his lies, and millions have found his falsehoods to be more palatable, more agreeable, and more acceptable than the truth of God, which is contained in Holy Scripture.
It is rejection of the Lord's Word, His promises, and His Son which have caused the spiritually-destructive fire we see on the horizon. Like a prairie fire, it seems to advance unchecked, consuming everything in its path. No Bible-believing Christian seems safe from the approaching inferno, and it seems as if everybody will fall victim to this burning blaze of unbelief brought about by people accepting the false things the world says.
Indeed, there are many people, many Christians, who feel they are helpless in a hopeless situation. I'm not one of them. That is because rather than listening to what they say, I prefer to listen to what the Lord says. For most of this message, I have quoted what the world has in its duplicity proclaimed as the truth. Now hear the truth of the Lord. He told the prophet Isaiah to say this, "But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, who formed you, He says, 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'"
Isaiah lived in what is present-day Israel. Israel doesn't have tornadoes or hurricanes, but it does have floods and fires. Floods and fires were just about the most powerful natural calamities Isaiah's original readers could understand. Using those catastrophes, the loving Lord offers His assurance that when great calamity comes, He will be there to protect His people. Now you, like others, may wonder can He take care of us in a flood? If that is your question, I would refer you to Noah, yes, Noah. The Lord gave Noah directions, and in doing so, saved humanity through the ark, which the patriarch and his family built.
Can the Lord rescue us from fire? I urge you to visit with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Because of their faith in God, they were sentenced to die by being burned alive in a super-heated furnace. Those three will tell you how that day the Redeemer stood by their side and saved them from an agonizing ending.
Yes, the Lord has both the power and the inclination to rescue us. His is a longstanding commitment. It is a commitment which began before we were ever born. Indeed, before we drew our first breath or uttered our first cry, He knew us, loved us, and was committed to saving us. When we obeyed His commands and worshiped Him, He loved us with a glad love. When we wandered in sin, what then? He continued to love us but, at such times, it was with a sad love. No matter what, the Lord's love has been unmovable and unquenchable.
If you need proof, then look to His Son. There the intensity of the Father's love can be most clearly seen in how His Son came and fulfilled the Law for us, rejected temptation for us, and died for us. Jesus knew my name and yours when He hung on that cross. Yes, he knew us because He was carrying our sins and when He died sin's stranglehold on us was broken. The grave no longer could say it had the last word in our lives, and the devil's deed on the souls of believers was found to be invalid. Yes, by God's grace, Jesus' followers will withstand flood and fire. With His help we will be forgiven, and some day we will be taken to a safe, eternal home.
Of course, the terrifying prairie fire of doubt and disbelief is still bearing down on us. It is possible you are wondering if there is anything you can do to minimize that danger, to counter the destruction, which has had such a negative impact on so many others. Recently, I read a book written by Addison Erwin Sheldon, which was published in 1905. In that book, Sheldon reminisced of a time when much of the Midwest was a field of native grasses-grasses which were good for feeding the stock but dangerous in the fall when the warm winds killed them off and they grew dry like tinder.
The early settlers were fully aware of the danger which could come upon them if those grasses were to ignite. They knew the danger and did more than wring their hands and tremble in fear at the prospect. Yes, they did two things to protect themselves. The first thing every farmer did was plow a fireguard. The term fireguard may be new to you, so let me tell you how it was made.
On a good fall day, the conscientious farmer would take his plow and make a circle about 60 feet away from his home. Then, he would go 20 feet further out and plow a second furrow. Then, one evening when the wind was calm, he and his family would go out and burn the grasses between those two circular furrows. That burned-out area was the fireguard, and it would keep most everyday fires from his home and family, but a full-fledged prairie fire was hardly an everyday fire.
A prairie fire was a cataclysmic event, which gave considerable warning of its coming. The first indication of the danger would have been seen at night. Days before its arrival, a prairie fire gave warning to anyone who faced into the wind and looked at the reddish cast on the horizon. The next days were marked by a smoky haze, and the night's glow would get progressively brighter. The farmer knew his fireguard would be easily breached by the sparks which would rain from the sky and the flaming tumbleweeds which, pushed by the wind, would shed embers in advance of the main blaze. Knowing what was coming, the farmer would ride out a fair distance from his place and begin a backfire. If all went well, the backfire would stop the prairie fire by robbing it of fuel.
My friends, a spiritual prairie fire is headed our way. You've seen the glow of its coming, college professors who mock the Redeemer and penalize students who are committed to the Christ. Courts seem inclined to believe the Founding Fathers' freedom of religion should actually be freedom from religion. Many churches no longer speak of sin or the forgiveness of it, which the Savior won. The list goes on. The fire is coming. So what will you do?
I encourage you: build a fireguard around your family. Find and be faithful and worship at a church which shares the Savior's story. Protect your home. Talk with your children and friends about your Redeemer. Pray with each other. Strengthen the spirituality of your family altar. Then, having done your best at home, go out and take your public stand. Be public in your witness to the Savior who has called you by name. Let the world know whose side you are on by setting a backfire of witness to the Savior and the Lord. And if, only now, the Lord is speaking to your heart and informing your mind of the danger; if just this moment you see the value of hearing what the Lord says rather than what they say, I give thanks to God.
Today, we at The Lutheran Hour Ministries are ready to help you enjoy the Savior. To that end, I send this invitation: call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Action in Ministry for June 25, 2017
Guest: Dr. Steve Hokana
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and this is Action in Ministry. Today, we're going to be talking about a serious problem that is ravaging individuals and their families. We should warn that this is a very sensitive topic, and it may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Greg Seltz: Yeah, thanks, Mark. We're talking today about pornography, and it has left a destructive path of addiction in our society, but what we want to talk about today is that there is also hope, a real hope of freedom.
Mark Eischer: Dr. Steve Hokana is a retired U.S. Army chaplain with 30 years of experience. He's also the author of a resource titled Strength and Honor: The Spiritual Warfare Against Pornography.
Gregory Seltz: Chaplain Hokana, thanks for joining us.
Chaplain Hokana: Hey, it's great to be here, guys. Thank you for having me.
Gregory Seltz: Now this can be a difficult topic to talk about and address, but why must we?
Chaplain Hokana: Pornography has absolutely worked its way into all elements of our culture. It's something we need to be aware of. And there are ways that we can overcome pornography through the power of God's Word and his love in Christ Jesus.
Gregory Seltz: One of the very sad parts of this addiction then is how it perverts what God has created to be beautiful and wonderful. So how is God's view of sex different from how it's abused then in pornography?
Chaplain Hokana: I think there are four things that God wants for us as His children of God in Christ Jesus concerning sex. First of all, it establishes what we call that one union that we have. Second, it provides for sexual intimacy within the bond of marriage, and marriage only. It's interesting in the Scripture that when it talks about sexual union with man and wife, husband and wife, it talks about the word, "know," to know that person. Third, sexual intercourse is for mutual pleasure of husband and wife. We find that throughout Scripture. Finally, sexual intercourse is for creation, for making babies.
Mark Eischer: Now the question is this: nowadays, how can you avoid pornography?
Gregory Seltz: Yeah, pervasive.
Mark Eischer: It's a tool that's used to sell products, and with the internet, it's now become pervasive and even more available, all the time.
Chaplain Hokana: Yeah, there's a phrase they've used when they've studied pornography called the "pornification of America," and it is absolutely pervasive. It is everywhere. It reminds me of the first and second century of the Roman Empire where I think that the Romans were just sexually tired. They were so over-sexualized. They had street names that were named after various sexual positions and sexual body parts. I think they were just so hungry for the Gospel. The Gospel brings peace, true peace.
Gregory Seltz: Yeah. You've talked about this as a war. If it's a war, then how do we defeat the enemy?
Chaplain Hokana: One of the things, too, is we always have to listen to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief and to understand that sex is for and intended for marriage, to build up each other. I read an article the other day on if you want to destroy your marriage quickly, the best thing to do is be selfish. Pornography is selfish. Also, there's a sense, a deep sense of love that we have to have for people that are addicted to pornography, too.
The amount of self-loathing that they have is really, really high. When they talk to you as a Christian, they already assume that you hate them, that they're ugly and terrible. One thing that we can do is when someone sits down and talks to us about their pornographic addiction, you find something in them that's lovable, because they're projecting to you that they're loathed. Nice hair, nice shirt-just start somewhere with them to tell them that they are not the trash of the world. They need help.
Gregory Seltz: We're here with you.
Chaplain Hokana: We are here with you.
Mark Eischer: Let's go back to the title of the booklet for a moment: Strength and Honor. Now tell us what that means and how those who are struggling with pornography can also adopt a new perspective with respect to that.
Chaplain Hokana: Yeah, it is interesting because one of the combat signs that a Roman would give, one to the other, prior to entering battles, they would turn to each other and, in Latin, it means "strength and honor." It means that everything you are, everything you do-your family, your total being-is now put to the test in battle.
Pornography, if you are addicted to pornography, you must use every tool you have at your disposal to break free of it. It is a horrific addiction. There is no silver lining; there is no sunshine at the end of being addicted to pornography.
Gregory Seltz: Chaplain Hokana, this is a great resource, and that's why we wanted to have you on here. Pornography has become so common we may forget its destructive power, but as you write, "In Christ's Name, we can conquer strongholds, including those built around the deception and slavery of pornography." That's why this booklet is good for anyone who is struggling with that, so thank you so much for joining us today and being a part of this with us.
Chaplain Hokana: Thank you. It is a privilege.
Gregory Seltz: That's our Action in Ministry segment today, to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
To view or download this resource for free, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry, or call 1-855-John-316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 25, 2017
Topic: What is a good citizen?
Mark Eischer: Once again, it's time for questions and answers with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
Pastor Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark.
Mark Eischer: Last month we discussed why a person might choose to remain part of a church in which there are disagreements and conflicts. One of the reasons we gave was that sinners who've been forgiven by their Savior express their gratitude for that by forgiving and supporting their fellow believers, and we try to get along and stand together as one people.
Pastor Ken Klaus: It was an accurate statement that came right to the point.
Mark Eischer: We thought that was the end of the discussion. Apparently, it wasn't. Some of what we said, including that part about standing together as one, it really touched some people, although in a somewhat different way.
Pastor Ken Klaus: How did they apply that line?
Mark Eischer: They took what we said about people being good members of a church and applied it to people being good citizens of their country.
Pastor Ken Klaus: Yeah, it seems to be on people's minds.
Mark Eischer: A listener writes, "I'm a 56-year-old man who recently had the privilege of going to a basketball tournament to watch my fifth-grade granddaughter play. Her team didn't win, but my granddaughter's group had spirit, and they did their best."
Pastor Ken Klaus: That's great. Good sportsmanship.
Mark Eischer: "But," he continues, "throughout the game, some of the parents in the stands challenged the ref on every call. They questioned his eyesight, his judgment, even his ancestry. Some booed him during the game, during halftime, and even after the final buzzer. And more than one wife had to restrain their husbands from following the ref out to the parking lot."
Pastor Ken Klaus: That's bad.
Mark Eischer: Our listener then went home and turned on the TV, and there he saw protesters beating up someone who had voted for someone they didn't like. Some carried signs that read, "Not my president." Help me understand what's going on here.
Pastor Ken Klaus: You know, Mark, there are a number of Bible verses that speak to this man's question. The first is pertinent to folks who live in the land of liberty. 1 Corinthians 6 says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful." Applying that thought to what our listener described, people have the freedom to say what they want, but what they say might not always be helpful. Folks have a right to dislike and even disagree with a referee or a political leader, but the ways in which they express their disagreement can be harmful rather than helpful. Of course, nobody has the right to physically abuse someone who disagrees with them.
Mark Eischer: It sets a terrible example.
Pastor Ken Klaus: Mark, the pendulum of history swings back and forth. Today, one party may be in power, but before too long the other party may be given the reins of government. Protesters need to remember the tactics that they employ right now may someday be used against them.
Mark Eischer: Or the rule of law that protects us all might devolve into further violence.
Pastor Ken Klaus: Which would make the idea of one nation under God, indivisible, lose all meaning. As people insist that things go their way, or else.
Mark Eischer: I'm thinking here of that famous quote by John Adams, who said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Pastor Ken Klaus: For a Christian perspective, we turn to St. Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. In the second chapter, the apostle wrote, "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus."
Mark Eischer: He's talking to believers there, and he's saying they should follow the Savior and think of others more than they think of themselves.
Pastor Ken Klaus: In another week, our listeners in the U.S. will celebrate their Independence Day. Christ has freed us not to live only for ourselves but to serve others as He lived and died to serve us. If that could be done, think of how it would change the nation and the world.
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran House Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord of Our Life and God of Our Salvation" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Where Charity and Love Prevail" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)