Transcription details: Audio 06 03 2018.mp3
Input sound file: Audio 06 03 2018.mp3
the Bible says that we are made in the image of God. And there is something about the instant when the world was created, when we were created, that imprints upon us that feeling, that sense of this great, and powerful, and mighty force bringing us all into being. Generically, that’s the faith that all of us have except those who wish to oppose it by choosing to be Atheist. The word for it is Deism. That there is a deity. And classically, what deity means in deism is that there is a God who created the world and then after that, just kind of went on to do other things and left us on our own to do the best that we could. That this God who created the world isn’t that interested in being involved in this world. The closest thing that we come to that today is in the movie Star Wars, there is the force. The force is there. Sometimes it helps you if you pay attention to it. It has a light side and a dark side, but the force is not a person. When Jesus came to this earth, he came to help us to repent. The word repent, as you’ve heard me say many times, is that we need to rethink. Repent gives us a new way of looking, a new perspective. And here is the new way of looking from that concept of deism.
God is a person. Jesus is a person. You cannot have a relationship with a force. As pretty as they are, you can not have a relationship with a sunset. But you can have a relationship with a person. And in essence, the entire ministry of Jesus, he said to Philip, “When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” The entire ministry of Jesus is teaching people what it means to have a relationship with God. And a big part of that is how we do spiritual things, piety, how we pray, and other things that are considered to be spiritual. And so in Matthew 6:1, we are involved in looking at what does it mean to be spiritual? And a few weeks ago, we talked about the first beware. Jesus said, “Don’t give gifts to the temple and have somebody blow a trumpet so as to notice you. Beware of practicing your piety before others, before men, in order to be seen by them.” If that’s your goal, here’s the result. For then, you will have no reward from your Father, who is in Heaven. We need to be aware when we act like spiritual people where other people can see. We need to be aware that sometimes when a football team kneels to pray, that is not showing off. That is a very sincere [pray?] but we need to be aware. We need to be careful. So here’s what Jesus says about prayer. Think about time around the dinner table. The family has gathered. You bow your heads. You pray. I share with you the prayer that we prayed as children in my house. “Come Lord Jesus be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed.” And then the dinner would go on. Conversation would go on. We would learn about each other’s day. And by the end of dinner, we would know more about each other than when we started. When you have a relationship with people there’s conversation. People respond to how you interact with them. I also read this week related to a branch of psychology called, Attachment Theory. Don’t do this. But I read about experiments to where little children, toddlers would be in a room and the psychologist would have the mother have a face that was stony. Without expression at all. The mother would turn away from the child and look away. And no matter what the child did the mother would not show any emotional reaction whatsoever. And every time they did that experiment you know what was the result? A panic-stricken, frightened child. Don’t do this at home.
But when you think about it one of the very sincere ways that you can harm another person is to totally ignore them. To turn your back on them. To pretend as if they do not exist. And it happens all the time. If you ever had somebody do that to avoid you, to shun you, to act as if you did not matter at all. To ignore you while you were right there. Has that ever happened to you? Some of you are laughing at each other, I’ll bet it has happened to you. So think for just a moment. What is it like, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest.” To where you pay attention to God for one minute at the beginning of a meal and then ignore him the entire rest of the time. Is that a relationship? Sadly something we take for granted. We’ve done our duty. We acknowledge God, you’re here. And then we acted as if we did not believe in God for the rest of the meal. Now please understand me. God is not like a toddler who is terribly upset when his children ignore him. In fact, I’ll be honest with you, God’s probably pretty used it. But we don’t realize how little our prayers are actually as if we were speaking with a person. We don’t realize how often it’s as if we’re checking off a box we’ve done our due. Now we can turn away from God to things that are more important like what’s on the plate. “And when you pray,” Jesus says, verse five. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues,”– kind of like me, standing and praying in a synagogue. “They love to stand and pray at the street corners. Why? So that they can be seen by other people. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Why? They’re not talking to God. They’re showing off. That’s all they want. So that’s how God treats them. Their prayer is to be noticed. God answers that prayer. “Okay. Other people have noticed you.” Here’s an example of that from Luke 18. As he stood in the Temple in full view of everyone else and, notice, prayed thus with himself. Pharisee prays out loud so that everyone here can hear, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, other people who are extortioners, and unjust, and adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get. Aren’t I wonderful?” Apparently, in Jesus’ day, there was a lot of prayer just like now.
But here’s what Jesus says. “Instead of that, do this,” verse six. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door.” One translation uses the word closet. This is a little closet that’s been made a place to study. “Go into your room, go into your closet and shut the door. And pray to your Father, who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” You see, the person you are when nobody can see you, that’s who you really are. The person you are when you’re not showing off. The person you are when no one is watching, that’s who you really are. And if that person is a person who prays, God will meet you there. And God will bless you and help you. The Father, who is your spiritual Father and your Father God, who is with you when no one else is there, really, truly is with you, also when everyone else is [inaudible]. Jesus goes on to say this, “And in praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.” In the secular world, they call these affirmations. God loves me. God makes no joke. God loves me. God makes no joke. God loves me. God makes no joke oh, our precious, Heavenly Father, we thank You for this food that has been sent before us and we pray that you will bless us to the comfort and the help of our God. Amen. There’s little phrases. My favorite phrase– and you know why it’s my favorite phrase? It’s my favorite phrase because Lutherans don’t use it. So I’m not accustomed to it. I didn’t grow up with that as the idea of normal prayer. But my family prays like this, when somebody prays, that there will be a hedge of protection around you. Now, that is an actual verse from the old testament. It is right out of the bible. When every time somebody prays for a hedge of protection, I feel like there’s a giant curtain of [inaudible] full of torches passed up all around so nobody can even get in. And honestly, if you pray for a hedge of protection, I apologize to you but I think the thing that we both could agree upon is that God knows what you need when you pray for that. But Jesus said, “Be careful. Don’t heap up phrases as the Gentiles do.” Well, they think that using these fancy phrases impresses God. God has heard them all before. Well, the Gentiles [inaudible] of people, they think that they will be heard for their many words. God is counting how many words and, “Oh, that’s a good long prayer.” And when it reaches a certain number of words, little ding ding ding goes off and now the prayer gets answered because you said enough words. “Don’t be like them,” Jesus said. Why? Because your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Now, that’s true. Honestly, it’s efficient for you to say, “Lord, you know what I need.” But the reason that it’s good for you to tell God what you need is because to strengthen your faith. And sometimes when you’re telling God how much you need that brand new pink Cadillac or whatever it is in your life, brand new pink $6,000-guitar, or whatever it in your life, God can sort of tap you on the shoulder and say, “Isn’t there something else you need more than that?” It does us good to talk to God even if God knows what we’re going to say. It does you good to look at your wife or look at your husband and say, I love you. It’s good for the words to come out of your mouth even if they know what you’re going to say. It’s a good thing for you to put into words what is in your heart. Why? Because when you put into words what is in your heart, it builds, and creates, and strengthens a relationship. I had no fried pickles to give Madeline, but I could aim a smile at her all the way throughout dinner so that she knew that I wanted to have a relationship with her. It’s good to put into words what is in your heart. And when we pray, in essence, that is what we do. Okay. So let’s set your timers and have an hour of prayer well, maybe not right now. But imagine for me, if you will, an hour of prayer. Most of the time, really, if you think about that, literally, you think, “What in the world could I do that would spend an hour in prayer? That’s way too long.” Oh, by the way, when was the last time, after watching an hour of television, you said to yourself, “Well, that was a waste.” But, for some reason, we think that an hour spent in prayer would be so incredibly difficult. The reason that hour in prayer can go by so quickly is because our relationship with God is exactly meant to be that. It’s meant to be a relationship. Have you ever talked to somebody who’s fallen in love? And you listen to them because you’re going to try to figure out, “Is this real? Are they really in love?” Do you know how you can always tell? Two people who have fallen in love will, sooner or later, start talking about the other person. They’ll say to someone else– they’ll say, “You know, we talked for hours.” That’s how you know it’s a relationship. “We lost all track of time. We talked for hours.” Friends, when you strengthen, and deepen, and make more real your relationship with God, the time will pass so fast that you won’t even know it. Now, I’ll be honest with you. This does not make sense to everyone. Ben Franklin was helping his father butcher and put up barrels of salt pork. And he said, “Dad, this barrel holds two weeks’ worth of dinner. Why don’t we pray for it now and save all that time at summer?” This is a true story. Makes sense to him. And the reason you don’t is because it’s a relationship. You have to check in from time to time, and spend some time talking. And it really doesn’t matter if an atheist looks at you and says, “You’re just talking to yourself.” Because the reality is, even if it was just you talking to yourself, it will do you good. If somebody tells you that you’re just talking to yourself when you’re praying, the best thing to say is, “At least, I’m talking to someone who understands me or loves me.” You can spend an hour in prayer because it’s not work. It’s not a duty. It’s a relationship. And so you have to begin right where you are, and let what’s in your heart come out. And you might find yourself doing these things. You might have a certain time of the day to where you go to a certain place. We’ve been calling it your chair. And you sit in that place because that’s the place you go to pray. You feel like praying whenever you go to sit there. In fact, it’s a good thing to start your day that way. Most days, that’s how I start my day within a half an hour of getting up well, I conditioned myself that that first drink of coffee goes along with giving my life to God again. And I love coffee. And perhaps it’s because I love coffee that I love God. But that’s how [it is?]. You can take some time to be still and listen to God. Sometimes, we’re just too distracted to spend time with God. Sometimes, we just have to sit still and let the things in the world [be seen?]. And you can spend time with God praying specifically for yourself and for your neighbor. You’re supposed to love your neighbors yourself. Wouldn’t the most basic way to do that be to pray for your neighbor? I actually have a list on my computer because I don’t want to leave out any of the children, and grandchildren, and relatives. And I just go down the line. And I say, “Lord, help this one. Help this one. Help this one.” And I pray for people that I might miss. I pray for people that maybe I’m not getting along with. But I pray for all of them. That’s my first neighborhood. My family. Then I pray for people who are my friends, the people I do fun things with, the people I play miniature golf with, the people I would cheer for the Cardinals with if I bothered to watch baseball. But the friends you have. Pray for them. That’s your next neighborhood. Go around the circle praying for your neighbors where you work or volunteer. I have a whole lot of neighbors that I know because of where I work. They’re not just neighbors. They’re my friends, too. And I pray for them.
We have every single week a list of their names for your prayer time. Wouldn’t take you an hour to pray for all these people. But it might take a little time. And your other neighborhood, of course, is just the people who live around you geographically. This is where I really need a list because, in this house, this house, this house, this house, this house– I didn’t know the Bryce guy that was my neighbor on the other side of [inaudible]. Now I do. I’m going to have to add him to the list. But if you pray through your neighborhood, if you pray for people that you know, it will take some time. And it will connect you and God with all of them. Love your neighbors, yourself. Easiest way to do that is to pray for your neighbor. Another way to pray is to take your Bible, pick one chapter. For me at the current time, it’s the Book of Matthew. There’s 31 days in May. There’s 28 chapters in Matthew. I can read a chapter a day. And I say, “Lord, is there a verse that I need to pay attention to in this chapter?” And quite often, it will just smack me upside the head. It will look like it’s blinking with glowing lights around it. It will be like, “Dave, it’s this one.” This is how we listen to God. And we ask the soul questions. They’re in the back of your bulletin. “What does this mean?” And we don’t just ask it. We say, “Lord–” we ask God, “Lord, what does this mean? What does this say?” [That’s a yes?]. “What does this say that I need to obey?”
Some parts of the Bible provide you with excellent information. But some parts of the Bible are like an instruction manual. They are things for us to live by, to practice, to do. “What does this say that I need to obey?” And the next question, the W, is, “Who needs to hear this?” Well, I need to hear it. And maybe this verse isn’t for me. Maybe it’s for someone I care about. Maybe they need to hear it. And I’m to carry this meaning to them, to support them, and to help them. Read the Bible and ask questions about what it means. And have a conversation with God about what it means. It would be wonderful if you could read the entire Bible in a day. But you probably benefit more from reading one verse and thinking about what it really means and applying it to your mind. Listen to God. And there comes a point in time in my time of prayer that it’s almost as if God says, “You remember you promised so-and-so that you would do such and such?” And I say, “Oh, I better remember that.” And I write it down. When you go to the grocery store, you always want to have a list. You know why. You’ll come home and have forgotten something that you need. And you’ll have to go back. When you listen to God, what’s important to remember, write that down. We call that Journaling. But really, it just helps to make real that time we’re spending with God. If you do these things, and if God shows up, and if God is real, I think you may find– as long as the coffee doesn’t run out, I think you may find that the time passes very rapidly when we actually have a conversation with God. Let’s include God in our conversations, especially the kind of conversations we have at mealtime. On the night that he was betrayed, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ took bread, and broke it, and said, “Take and eat