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 In God's Hands 
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Joined: Sun Oct 12, 2008 10:55 pm
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Post In God's Hands
Matthew 9-10

In a marvelously complex world, where questions abound as to what needs to be done in life, to find survival, let alone, peace and contentment, Luther describes in a few words one simple, yet Biblically sound principle. In the question of how we react and respond to what threatens our lives, and how we are to live out our discipleship in a world at times hostile, but most likely indifferent to the faith, he says, "I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." Discussion will be on how and why we fear the wrong things, and brazenly risk in the wrong areas.

The passages from Matthew today and next week describe our discipleship tasks in broad, cutting strokes, with great clarity and also great exaggeration. We don't hear so well unless in grand metaphors our Lord with great word pictures, grabs our attention. Our Lord wants us to make sure we get the point of the faith. Obedience to him is of such paramount importance, that NOTHING can get in the way, not even family.

Here he seemingly contradicts the 4th commandment of loving father and mother and His word on the cross to His mother, by saying, "I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother...he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." Surely words to set a very large challenge before the disciples, laying down before them the exacting gauntlet of the faith.

The faith is serious, God is serious about our resoluteness in response to the faith. The demands are great since he has come to bring the sword, not peace, to cause division, yet we are sent into the breach, defenseless as sheep before wolves, and assaulted by the sword, as well as angry and agitated wolves. Here is our stern warning, that the demands of the faith are great, serious and at times seems only a frightening burden. * Too often, that is all we fear.

Though the demands are great, and we are to be cautious, our Lord is with us throughout our attempts at obedience. He tells us in just as broad and absolute words, "fear not, for your father in heaven even knows when a sparrow falls, yet alone one of his own, so do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, yet beware of men, for you will be hated by all, for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end, will be saved. " Eternally, no one can do us any harm. You can have absolute faith in Christ to protect you when you do His will. (436)

In seemingly contradictory terms, our Lord tells us, be keenly aware of the great struggle, yet fear not and face it! You are to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The world will threaten us, but we are not to fear, so much so, we can take up our cross and lay down our lives, let loose our lives to gain it back. ** In terms of priorities, these passages seem to tell us, make sure you know where your life can be threatened, and where it can be protected, and beware, it doesn't make perfect sense!

Our faith seems to be saying, we fear the wrong things in life, we fear our Lord's faith commands which should not frighten us, yet seems to threaten us loudly, and we ignore and are oblivious to what can do us in, when we ignore what jeopardizes our faithfulness to our Lord, or as Luther talked about, we try to hold unto what will not hold, and don't comprehend the power of our God to give us what we need. We are frightened by what cannot harm us eternally, our Lord's enemies, yet blind and oblivious to what really can cause us harm, ignoring our Lord's word.

There is a portrait by Hogarth showing our normal situation is like. There is this boat filled with cheerful party goes, lit brightly on the water, everyone having a good time. But when we look at the whole picture, we see what the boat riders cannot. On the shore awaiting their arrival are ravenous beasts of prey, with such burning eyes they show through the darkness of the night. Those riding the boat, cling to their bright lights that sooth them into thinking that the darkness holds nothing to frighten them. What they should fear, they do not. They float along not knowing the peril that is in store. Here is where they felt they had a strong grip on life, but in reality, are only hiding from it, ignoring what is dangerous.(784)

There is a lot we sense in the faith and in life that should frighten us, and yet does not. We like the bright lights of life to drown out our fears and important tasks that are right in front of us. We pretend the wolves do not exist, using great energy to convince ourselves it means nothing, all because we fear looking at the problems more than fearing the problem itself. The disciples feared our Lord's righteous task to get the gospel out into the lives of the people. They feared the hostile crowds and angry officials, much more than what the world would be like without the gospel.

We turn a blind eye and deaf ear to many things we see and hear and know. Often times a spouse knows their spouse is being unfaithful, yet do not want to catch them in their lies, because THEN something has to be done, and maybe the shadow of the marriage, which is little, will totally dissolve. Maybe a shadow of a marriage is better than none at all, or maybe the fear is having that spouse turn around and accuse them, you made me do it. Life is too unbearable with you."

Or there is the parent who knows their child is in trouble, yet they fear calling attention to it will make it larger, may aggravate their child into complete rebellion-"let's not make a big issue of this! Maybe it will blow over, just growing pains." At times they are afraid by being unable to handle the problem, and it will show them as a poor parent, so they excuse themselves saying, "drinking at least is not as bad as hard drugs."

Then there is the person who keeps calling into work or school for their peer, friend or spouse, each Monday morning after a long wet weekend, "he's just a little under the weather," when really he is under the coverup. "If I make a big deal of this, maybe we will not be friends afterwards. Maybe he only likes me because I cover up for him. Let's not find out! Besides, it will be such a long hard struggle if we start to take away the coverup and really look at what is going on." (1149)

In all of these, there is greater fear of seeing what is out there, rather than trying to deal with the problems we find. Yet there is great energy in closing our eyes again and again to what awaits us, holding our eyelids tighter and tighter. There is a deception that is as difficult to manage as any balancing act of a tight rope walker. What truly threatens us we ignore and walk away from. We have no true fear of what threatens us the most.

Our Lord commands us, "Do not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul." Our fear of facing, looking squarely at our problems, prevents us from dealing with what we should save our fear for, violations of the kingdom. That God's kingdom should not be violated and his people therein, that we should really fear. We turn our backs on and do not fear when we should. *We string up more lights on our boat to hide from those devouring eyes on the shore.

Matthew shows us in the gospel what should not threaten us does, or why else would our Lord have to remind us be not afraid when we do His will. Still, our Lord's injunctions to see, scares us more than the world! We have assurances from our Lord that we can go on, go into the darkness.

Our Lord does warn us that darkness will greet our ventures into the kingdom where people will not appreciate us, that their reaction will be like that of a wounded animal backed into the corner. The kingdom is such that it does put a light on those devouring animals on the shore, it will tell the wife to force her husband to make a choice between running around and loving her. That light will shine on the parent who ignores the child's problems and say, this we will have to tackle for the good of everyone. The cover up of the drug dependent friend or spouse will have to end. Yes, this kingdom does go out into restless seas and dredges up many problems we hope would go away and settle down on their own. This is the sword our lord talks about, that causes us to make decisions and deal with what is out there in life. This sword never ignores the problems of the kingdom.

But this is also that area of life, though entered into with serious reservations, where our Lord is with us and we do not need to fear. Fear is not needed when our Lord's will is done. Fear should only be there when we try to ignore the will of the kingdom and listen to all those who aggravate or ignore the kingdom.(1636)

When we seek our tranquility by avoiding the kingdom, because of fearing the costs that that incurs, we should be afraid. When we seek our tranquility by ignoring the desperate situations in our lives, fear is appropriate. When we seek our tranquility in life by adding more lights to the boat as we sink deeper into the real darkness, we should be apprehensive when the boat stops and it is time to meet what is on the shore. That is when we need fear. The kingdom is our task we cannot avoid.

But when we are called to go out into the kingdom of God, where great obedience is called for, where we make enemies because of the faith, where the wrath of the unfaithful come down upon us, there we need not fear our God. When we struggle to bring God's peace into an unresponsive world, when we call for justice and incur the wrath of the oppressor, when we shed light on our disturbing problems, there God is not to be feared.

Our choice is simple. When we do God's Word we need not fear God, but maybe fear our neighbor and society. *When we bring God's word to our deepest fears in our relationships, fearing that action will destroy the fragile relationship, we need not fear God, but maybe our spouse or friend who might fight the truth. So the question is, do we fear God or fear our neighbor and society? The strength of our faith is seen by trusting in our God to protect us when we do His will. When backed down by God's will and society's will, what happens? How strong do we think our God is? Enough to act on that truth?

We hold Luther as the example today, "whatever I placed in God's hands, that I still possess."

"And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us; We will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For Lo! his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him." Amen

Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:30 am
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