Dear Prayer Warrior
Borrowing from Pastor Jon's sermon:
If ever, because of a unique situation, you feel like you are carrying a burden alone, remember that you are not. God is there every step of the way, helping you carry your cross. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 68, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (v. 19). Even as we daily pick up our crosses, God daily bears them with us. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Friends, we are yoked to Christ. He has taken the heavy burden of our sin and guilt upon himself and carried it to Golgotha. We now have a light cross of obedience and faithfulness to bear. And because we are yoked like oxen along with Christ, he helps us with the load.
Friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ are there to help you carry your crosses. But even if you feel alone, be assured that Jesus has his arm around you, and is giving you the strength to go on. Even as Jesus gives the stern warning, saying “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.,” – Even as he commands that, he assures you that he will be right there by your side. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In need of our prayers:
Health Concerns: Bill Milborn, Debbie Breitenstein, Floyd Riggins, Glenn Blohm, Gerry DeVita, Ron Gray, Roland Pamintuan, Deb Williamson
Recovering from Surgery: Steve Larimore, Inge Richardson, Phillip White, Harry Schultz, Sharon Burden, Rev. Paul Schnelle, Doyle Davis.
Cancer: Jo Lussman, Mary Lou Peterman, Luke Stolarczyk, Bart Green, Simon Jones, LouAnn Thomas, Steven Larimore, Susan Freyer, Peggy Clay, Kiers Rowley, JoAnne Harder, Kim Purdon, Darlene Fields, Tonya Hunter, Kay Valentik
Hospice: Barbara Brown, Liz Miller
Those in Care Centers: Joan Simpson, Elnora Dammerman, Willa Davis
For all who grieve, that they would have peace that passes understanding through Jesus Christ.
For those suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and mental illness.
For the unemployed.
For those who travel.
For rain and the fruitfulness of the earth.
For families experiencing division and strife, that God would bring healing through his grace.
For expectant mothers and their unborn babies, that mothers and babies would be kept safe.
That God would provide all that is needed – the time, talents, and treasures – for BSLC’s growing ministry.
That God would bring many visitors and inactives to worship this Sunday on National Back to Church Sunday.
That God would bless all who teach and all who learn in all of our Christian education classes and Bible studies.
That God would bless our new season of Upward Basketball; that we would receive all the necessary volunteer support, and that God would enable us to share the Gospel with many children and their families.
That God would bless all the discussions and work that will lead up November’s Voters’ Assembly, and that BSLC would glorify God in the process.
Thanksgiving for those enrolled in Abounding Love Preschool and Parents Day Out program for the coming year, and that God would bless this ministry with even more enrollments as the year continues.
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, that God would continue provide all they need.
That God would richly bless local and international mission efforts:
Rev. Bob Malone at Peace Lutheran in Kansas City, Missouri
Rev. Bob Roegner at Peace Lutheran in O’Fallon, and the Ablaze Center in St. Louis.
Rev. Ted Krey and the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission
Father, we pray that You will give us Biblical thoughts and expressions of blessing that we can share with those whom we seek to influence. Not only can we pray for them, but we can also bless them in the name of Jesus. We are instructed to bless even those who curse us, hard as that may be to do. When Jesus instructed His disciples to enter the house where they lodged and place their blessings upon that family saying, "Peace be to this house" Your peace rested upon it. So, we too have power with our prayerful words to make a positive difference in one's life as we speak blessings upon them. Grant us confidence and meaningful expressions of blessings as we reach out in the name of Christ, for it is in His name that we pray. Amen.
By Norma Lee Liles
The very first Christian song most children learn is "Jesus Loves Me." If there were a best-seller hit list among the preschoolers, this very simple but precious song would have to be at the top of the charts. Yet few people know that "Jesus Loves Me" began life not as a song but as a part of one of
1860's best-selling novels.
Anna Warner was well aware of the coming of the war between the states. She lived with her father and sister on Constitution Island. Their home was practically next door to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and from her front porch she constantly heard the rumors of war. Yet even in the face of uncertain times, every Sunday Anna taught Bible classes to the cadets. She realized that if the southern states made good on their threat to withdraw from the Union many of the boys she knew could be killed or wounded in the war that would follow. While it broke her heart to consider
the dismal fate for those too young to have experienced the many blessings of life, she also fully comprehended the importance of leading each of them to Jesus now. With an urgency brought about by a nation on the brink of dividing, sharing Christ's love became her mission in life.
Besides her teaching, the forty-year-old Anna also wrote. With her sister Susan she had written several novels, using the pseudonym Amy Lothrop. In 1860 the sisters' Say and Seal became the country's best-selling work of fiction. Written for the masses and the moment, not fueled by timeless struggles or epic writing, the book would quickly pass from the public's fancy, lost with thousands of other period pieces of the time. Yet, thanks to one very special scene on but a single page, the essence of the book and of Anna's faith would live for decades after Say and Seal and Anna herself
had been forgotten.
In one chapter a child lay dying. Nothing could be done to ease his pain or give him a second chance at life. As his ultimate fate grew nearer, the novel's focal character, Mr. Linden, attempted to comfort the small boy. Looking into the child's eyes, he slowly recited a poem that began, "Jesus
loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
The words of the poem made the boy's last moments of life much easier. These simple lines also moved thousands of readers to tears. Hauntingly beautiful, composed straight from Anna's faithful heart, "Jesus Loves Me" quickly sprang out of her book's pages and became one of the most beloved poems of the era. No one can even begin to calculate how many times it was said on the battlefield, in the homes of children whose fathers were engaged in the Civil War, from pulpits and in Sunday school classes, and even at the White
House itself. Ringing so clear and true, Anna's sixteen short sentences had touched the hearts of millions with verses meant only to calm the soul of a dying fictional character.
One of the scores of readers who memorized the poem was William Bradbury. A teacher of voice and organ, in 1854 Bradbury had formed a piano company with Ferdinand Lighte and Henry Newton. Besides heading up his business, the
noted musician also continued a practice of setting his faith to music by composing his own songs. By the beginning of the Civil War, Bradbury had built his own music company to publish and distribute his works. It was during the time when his music business was taking off that he first read and fell in love with "Jesus Loves Me."
Although an accomplished composer of what many think of as high-church music--he had already lent his talents to such hymns as "Sweet Hour of Prayer, .... He Leadeth Me," and "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand"--Bradbury was moved in a much different fashion when he decided to add a melody to Anna Warner's poem. A lover of children's voices, as well as
a proponent of music education in both school and church, Bradbury allowed the child in his own heart to spring forth when writing the simple musical notes for "Jesus Loves Me." Then, to fully complete the work, he added the following chorus:
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.
The marriage of Waner's words and Bradbury's music was one of the most beautiful gospel efforts of all time. Yet the song "Jesus Loves Me" might have been as quickly forgotten as the novel Say and Seal if Bradbury's music company hadn't published it. Through the publisher's established distribution network, the new children's song quickly worked its way across the North and South. In the face of the most horrible fighting this nation had ever known, both sides were singing about a Savior who died, yet had risen and still watched over everyone with equal love and compassion. It was an ironic message for a very ironic time.
Almost a hundred and forty years after this song was first published, few know of the writings of Anna Warner or recognize the name of William Bradbury. But even though the writer and the composer have been forgotten, everyone knows their song. Children and adults of all races and even
millions outside the Christian faith can sing "Jesus Loves Me." How many millions have clung to this message on lonely nights or rocked babies to sleep while singing this song is unknown. But what can be most assuredly stated is that "Jesus Loves Me" is the foundation on which many children not only first come to know Christian music but also come to know the love and sacrifice of the Lord who inspired it. And this message is what keeps them singing the gospel throughout their lives.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
Jesus loves me! This I know,
Jesus loves me still today,
Jesus loves me! He who died
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Many today claim that all religions are just different ways to find God, different roads that arrive at the same destination. Yet not all ‘roads’ lead to the same destination. Jesus, in fact, says there is only one ‘Road’ to heaven—through Him.
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life,” said Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Those are strong words. The Bible says that Jesus Christ will be a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Rom. 9:33). Today, especially, people stumble over and find deeply offensive the Christian teaching that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
We live in a pluralistic culture. Our neighbors, co-workers, and friends come from many different religious backgrounds. They seem just as moral and religious as we are, if not more so. It seems the height of arrogance to think that we Christians alone have the right religion and that everyone else is lost forever.
We also live in a climate of relativism. Because of our pluralism and the dominating worldview of postmodernism, people tend to assume that truth, morality, and religion are relative. According to this way of thinking, cultures and individuals construct ways of thinking and acting that give meaning to their lives, but meaning is strictly subjective. There is no objective truth—with perhaps the exception of scientifically determined facts—that is valid for everyone.
“That may be true for you,” we hear, “but it isn’t true for me.” Truth is seen not as a discovery but as aconstruction. Morality is a matter of “values”—that is, behavior that particular individuals or cultures value—rather than a matter of transcendent objective absolutes. Religion has to do with subjective choices and experiences that give meaning to a person’s life. Religion is perfectly acceptable—as long as it is kept private, experiential, and interior. But religious truth-claims, doctrines, and absolutes are out of line. Since religion is seen as purely personal, “no one has the right to impose his or her religion on anyone else.”
This mindset is obviously a huge obstacle to Christian evangelism. The very claim that faith in Jesus Christ is the one way to salvation seems preposterous on its face. Even Christians often find that teaching hard to accept.
Part of the problem is the way the issue is framed, even in our own minds. We need to make clear to people we are witnessing to—and to ourselves—exactly why and how the Gospel is such radically “good news” to people of every culture and religion. This will involve clearing up some misconceptions.
Don’t all roads lead to the same destination?
In John 14:6—one of the passages that causes so much trouble—Jesus says, “I am the Way.” Literally, that means, “I am the Road.” This is countered by the oft-heard assertion that all of the different religions are different ways to find God: “There are different roads, but they all arrive at the same destination.”
But different roads do not always go to the same destination. If you are trying to get to, say, the Grand Canyon, if you head north on I-35, you will never get there. It will not matter how sincere you are in your drive. I-35, though passing through many interesting parts of the country, just does not go to the Grand Canyon.
Similarly, the world’s different religions do not even claim to arrive at the same destination that Christianity does. To say that all religions are paths to heaven is to fail to respect what the different religions themselves teach.
The very concept of “heaven,” referring to a realm of eternal life in which the individual person survives after death in a state of perfect joy, is a distinctly Christian belief. Supplemented with the belief in the resurrection of the body, the Christian teaching about the afterlife means that you yourself, in all of your personality and memories and relationships, will live forever, purged of all your sins and weaknesses, and that you will know your loved ones and be in communion with Christ Himself.
In contrast, most Eastern religions—such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Westernized New Age versions—reject the survival of individuals altogether. In Hinduism, souls are reincarnated into other individuals until they are purged of their distinctions and ultimately merge all together into a vast cosmic oneness. But, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, using one of Hinduism’s own metaphors, when a drop of water falls into the ocean, the individual drop ceases to exist.
The destination of Buddhism is “Nirvana,” meaning, literally, “nothingness.” When, after much meditation and reincarnation, the soul finally loses all of its desires and finds enlightenment, it will escape the bounds of the material world—the realm of things—and experience “the void” of “nothingness.”
In the classical pagan religions—and in other pagan religions today—all of the dead go to the same place. The ancient Greeks believed that all souls, good or bad, cross over into Hades, the word used in the Greek New Testament that is translated into English as “hell.” Here the desperately wicked are tormented, while the rest wander in melancholy darkness.
The ancient Germanic tribes had much the same belief, with the added notion that warriors would spend their eternity fighting every day, with their wounds healing each night, so they could fight again the next morning. The Germans’ name for the place of the dead was “Hel.”
In the days of the early church, Greek and Germanic pagans had no difficulty with the idea that everyone when they died went to hell. That was what they themselves already believed. When Christian missionaries taught them that, through Christ, they could enter into a realm of eternal joy, that was good news indeed.
Monotheistic religions often teach something similar to what Christians believe about the afterlife, but the similarity tends to be superficial. Mormons teach that when you die, you will get to be the god of your own solar system, begetting with your wife spirit children to be born as inhabitants of the planets you will rule. Muslims teach the existence of a paradise in which the inhabitants get to enjoy sensual pleasures, including those the religion forbids on earth. Some of the most orthodox of the Jewish sects believe in some kind of afterlife, along the lines of the hints in the Old Testament, but many Jews believe this life is final, with no survival beyond the grave.
Those who want to go to heaven would do well to embrace the religion that teaches that there is such a place and that, through Christ, offers a Way to get there.
Isn’t it unfair for God to condemn non-Christians?
But even so, it does not seem fair that God would condemn people to hell just because they do not know Jesus. Many people throughout the world have never heard of Jesus. It would be unjust for God to condemn them. And surely, whatever his religion teaches, a good, moral, saintly person who follows another religion should not go to hell, but should receive an eternal reward.
We, as well as the people we are witnessing to, need to realize that no one is condemned for not believing in Jesus. People are condemned for their sins.
At the end of time, the Bible tells us, everyone will be judged by their works.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. . . . If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:12, 15 NIV)
Everyone’s deeds are recorded in the books. It is on this basis that judgment comes. But there is “another book,” the book of life, which records the names of those saved by Christ (Phil. 4:3). They and they alone, through the work of Christ, can escape the punishment due to their sins.
It is, however, true that God would never condemn a good, moral, saintly person, someone with no faults and with abundant virtues. A person without sin has no need to fear God’s judgment. Christianity, though, is skeptical that there is anyone who is sinless, denying that there isanyone so virtuous as to deserve eternal life in heaven. “None is righteous, no, not one . . . . All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 23).
The Bible does teach that nonbelievers can demonstrate exemplary virtue (Rom. 2:12–16). We may indeed know of a holy man from another religion who exhibits the highest moral qualities. Again, if he actually is holy and moral and sinless, then he would have no need of Christ’s forgiveness. But, though we might see external signs of goodness, God sees also his heart. And, if you talk to the holy man, he himself may well admit to the sins and imperfections that rage in his inner life.
As for those who have never heard of Christ, they are not condemned for that omission, but for their sins. In Romans, which we have been citing, St. Paul explains that every human being has enough of an innate knowledge of God and of His moral law to render everyone “without excuse” (1:18–20).
We can be confident that God is fair. That is to say, He is just. And that is why we should all, if we are honest, tremble. But God, in His love, has satisfied His justice. By becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ and atoning for our sins on the cross, God offers us His grace. To those with faith in Jesus, God is not fair, giving us mercy rather than the punishment we deserve, and for that, we can only praise and obey Him.
Christianity is precisely for sinners. People who think they are righteous, whether through their own virtues or their religious observances, can never understand Christianity. They must be broken by God’s Law, made to realize how sinful they really are. While Christ, our Great Substitute, taught both Law and Gospel, He must not be presented as Law, in the sense of representing something else people have to do or face divine punishment. Rather, Christ is a lifeline, a means of rescue. He must always be proclaimed as Gospel, as Good News.
Aren’t all religions about just being good?
It has been said that there are only two religions in the world: Those that teach that we are saved by our own efforts, and the one thatteaches that we are saved by God’s effort. Those that teach how to ascend to God, and the one that teaches how God descended to us.
Though the world’s religions differ about what salvation is and what God is, they do tend to agree on the centrality of human merit. Somehow, we must do things—rituals, meditation, good works—to reap the spiritual benefits of that religion.
Christianity really is the only religion in which God, through Christ, does it all: He reveals Himself to us through His Word, forgives our transgressions, and empowers us to live as we should. Faith itself is His gift, which He creates in our hearts through His Word and Sacraments.
Belief in a religion of works, however construed, may be the “natural religion” so many people look for. Even ostensibly Christian theologies sometimes devolve into religions of works.
If religion just has to do with works, then all of the religions of the world really are pretty much the same. All religions can produce their holy men and women and examples of moral heroism. And Christians, since we too believe in the moral law, can appreciate them.
But for those who crave not just good works but forgiveness for bad works, for people who feel guilty for violating the tenets of their own religion, for those who feel that they merit condemnation, then Christ comes as a blessed relief.
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