Friday, October 14, 2016

Treat You Better by Shawn Mendes

I just heard this song for the first time yesterday while sitting in a restaurant.

Listening to it, the lyrics reminded me of other songs in which plaintive males try to convince the woman with whom they're in love that they would be better loved by the narrators than by the jerk the women are with. I bet every male on the planet has felt exactly this way. One of the my favorite songs of this ilk is the Beatles' This Boy.

But the video for young Mendes' song takes a far more serious tack, showing us that the object of the narrator's love is being abused by the guy she's seeing. There's even a graphic at the end of the video urging women who are in abusive relationships to seek help to get free.

Through my years as a pastor, I've occasionally counseled with women in abusive relationships or worked with women's shelters to help women who have bravely left such relationships.

So, if you're a woman in a relationship in which you're being abused--physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically--by your husband or boyfriend, get out! Find a women's shelter, if you need to. No human being should be abused.

And don't be afraid to call the police; men who physically abuse women are guilty of assault.

Remember, that you were made in God's image and Christ died and rose to bring all who follow Him wholeness and eternity. No one "deserves" to be abused. No one.




I Won't Let Go of You by Switchfoot

Switchfoot sings a love song to anyone who's ever had hurt in their lives, all from the perspective of the loving God we know in Jesus Christ. So good!

Baby, I Love Your Way by Peter Frampton

Lots of hair here. Nice song. Heard it while out and about today.

Dodgers Clinch: Congratulations, Wince

Tonight I was pulling for the Washington Nationals to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in their National League Divisional Series rubber match. But, congratulations go to LA for taking the game and the series, advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

Congratulating LA sort of sticks in my throat. The Dodgers were my Cincinnati Reds' National League West rivals back in the 1970s. I remember staying up late to listen to radio broadcasts of hotly contested and consequential games the Big Red Machine had with the Dodgers, also a very good team in those days.

A few years back, I went to a Boys and Girls Club regional meeting where the Dodgers first baseman from that era, Steve Garvey, spoke. I admit that I listened intently. After the event, I approached him and said, "I wanted to meet a guy who used to give me fits as a Reds fan." We talked for a bit and Garvey said, "Those were some amazing games!" They were.

We've had some amazing games so far this post-season. The 2016 Dodgers were impressive tonight.

But I wonder of they can handle the Cubs, who, this year, I believe, has been the best team in baseball.

I would love to see a World Series involving the Cubs, a franchise that hasn't won a World Series in nearly a century, and Cleveland, a franchise that last won the Series in 1948. And, of course, it would be great if the Tribe could bring a second major sports championship to Cleveland this year, after the Cavaliers became champions of the NBA in June.

Cleveland will be playing the the Toronto Blue Jays for the American League Championship Series and a chance to go to the World Series.

PS: I loved seeing former Reds player Chris Heisey smash a pinch hit home run for the Nationals tonight, the first player to do that in team history, going back to 1969, when the franchise began as the Montreal Expos.




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature


Bob Dylan is among the greatest wordsmiths of the past 50 years, which is why I think his Nobel Prize for Literature is so well-deserved.

Just consider these lines from his 1974 song, 'Shelter from the Storm':
I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
In just these four lines, he portrays the human condition and the need we all have of one to give us shelter from it all. He portrays love at its most basic and wondrous level.

Those four lines are sheer beauty, part of a lifelong corpus of beautiful, insightful, soul-stirring lyrics.

Dylan's music has always meant so much to me. I'm so happy about this recognition of his work I feel like I got the award myself. I don't know whether to laugh or cry from the joy of it. Probably, if I can get away with it, I'll do a little of both.


3 Books

Recently, I finished reading two books and listening to another.

I'd started reading Nabeel Qureshi's Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Jesus, a while ago, but had set it aside in order to turn my attention to two other books--one that my Navigators coach, Bill Mowry, wanted me to read and another one recommended me to by my son.

The Qureshi book is an important one, especially given the penchant of some in the post-911 US, who erroneously think that all religions are the same and when others, in the name of tolerance, claim that all religions can lead people to God.


Qureshi was raised in a devout Muslim home and was himself an avid believer. But when he went to Old Dominion University, on his way to medical school, he met David, a mate on the school debate team, who was a deeply committed follower of Jesus.

In the context of their friendship, Qureshi became committed to proving the superiority of Islam and the errors of David's Christianity.

To do so, he dug into not just the Qu'ran and Muslim teaching, but also the Bible and Christian teaching. Qureshi chronicles a series of jarring insights that led him, with heart, head, and will to accept that Jesus is the crucified and risen "way,...truth,..and life" (John 14:6) and that Islam isn't a  witness of God. As he writes in the book's introduction: "As I studied Islam more carefully, what I learned shook my world: there is no good reason to believe that either Muhammad or the Quran teaches the truth about God."

It hasn't been an easy road for Qureshi since coming to faith in Christ. But he has remained steadfast in following Christ, even now as he fights stomach cancer.

This book is not a rabid polemic against Islam. Qureshi sensitively and lovingly explains Islamic belief with a love for his own family members and for Muslims alike. In the bargain, he helps Christians and others to more clearly and sensitively understand Islam.

I can't recommend Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus highly enough.

My wife and I (and our kids when they were young) have always made a habit of reading books in the car on jaunts of any distance. I'm the reader, since, as I've explained here before, I'm the only family member who can read while traveling without barfing.

But, a few weeks ago, I found the audio version of Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, a book which was made into an unfortunate and less than faithful to the text movie by producer Angelina Jolie. So, instead of my reading, we listened to the late, great Edward Herman read Hillenbrand's riveting telling of the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic gold medalist and World War II hero and POW.


Much of the book is taken up with Zamperini's wartime experiences, which included a harrowing time on a raft in the Pacific after the bomber on which he was a crew member was shot down and his even more harrowing experiences in Japanese POW camps. He endured almost unimaginable privations, daily beatings, and starvation. His survival is certainly in miracle territory.

After the war, Zamperini met and fell in love with Cynthia Applewhite and they married. But the war hadn't ended for Louis. Like many veterans, he suffered from PTSD, horrible flashbacks, and increasing intervals of sullen hatefulness. He sank into alcoholism.

Eventually, Cynthia filed for divorce and Zamperini's life seemed to spiral ever more out of control. He'd never had much exposure to or interest in religion. In fact, it turned him off completely. And though he'd had what can be described as encounters with God during some of his worst experiences of the war, he never seemed to give God a thought.

Neither really had Cynthia. But not long after she filed for divorce, she attended Billy Graham's famed Los Angeles mission. The year was 1949. Cynthia received Christ by faith for the first time and His presence in her life made an immediate change in her outlook. She announced, to Zamperini's surprise and delight, that she wasn't divorcing him.

But soon his delight was mixed with anger as Cynthia pressed Louis to attend one of Graham's crusade events and meet Christ for himself. He resisted, but finally relented. He attended one night, but left as soon as Graham completed his sermon. Implausibly, he told Cynthia he would attend one more gathering if she would promise to never pester him about it again. It was that night, through Graham's preaching, the God's grace given in Christ, met Zamperini's deepest needs: forgiveness, the ability to let go of his past, freedom from his addiction, a purpose for living, life with God.

He never drank again. He never experienced another horrific dream of the beatings he endured during the war. His desire for vengeance, a desire that had grown so deep that he had been saving money in order to go to Japan in order to kill his primary tormentor.

Eventually, Zamperini became the director of a camp that transformed the lives of troubled kids like he had been and an evangelist who preached around the world about the power Jesus gives to His believers to forgive those who have hurt us so that we can live the life God has in mind for us. He even forgave and called to faith those who had menaced and beaten him when he was a POW.

He died in 2014 at the age of 97. In January, 1998, before the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, he ran a leg of the Olympic torch relay, passing the camp where he had been interned.

Whether you read it or listen to it, Hillenbrand's riveting narrative of this remarkable man's life is moving and inspiring. Like Qureshi, Zamperini found life in Jesus Christ. So can anyone.


The final book I'll mention is pure and delightful brain candy: Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table, a 1937 book that features her famous fictional detective (who she came to detest), Hercule Poirot. I love Christie's books and picked this one up for ten cents at a library book sale in Georgetown, Texas earlier this year. It's a great read.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More on humility

"...all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Peter 5:5-6)

God really spoke to me in these verses during my quiet time with Him today. Praying that God will help me to subordinate my ego and my wants to Him and His will.

Christians: I choose making disciples for Jesus over electioneering

Let's be honest. This election campaign, which began sixteen months ago, has been, no matter what your party or philosophy, depressing.

The ugliness exhibited not just by candidates, but by voters, has made the whole thing a wretched exercise. There have been media reports of a significant number of Americans ending their friendships over this campaign.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds fairly explode with attacks not just on other candidates, but on "friends" who support other candidates. One person I know has decided, because it's all become so hateful, to just stop looking at Facebook until after the election.

I'd like to say just a few things. And they're directed at my fellow Christians.

First, I've personally made it a habit for some years now not to make any comments about my preferred politician or party.* Not even my family knows for sure how I will vote on November 8.

Both as a Christian and as a pastor, I have bigger fish to fry than to tell you who my (probably inadequate) judgment tells me to vote for.

Back in the mid-first century, the apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth: "...I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

The mission of every Christian--not just pastors--is to make disciples of the God Who lived a perfect human life and bore our sins on a cross to set us free from sin, death, and darkness.

Personally, I don't want to dilute or diminish the message of new and everlasting life through Jesus by self-indulgently peppering you with my political opinions.

If I have to choose between electioneering, on the one hand, and making disciples of Jesus Christ, on the other, I will choose discipling every single time. No contest. No second thoughts. Who wins an election is far less important than sharing Jesus so that people can know Him, follow Him, receive His grace, get His power for living, be filled with the hope that only He can give! I'd rather seek to make disciples than get someone to vote for one political candidate or another.

This isn't to say that that's the right course for you. But, I can tell you that it works for me.

Second, no candidate--not Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, not Gary Johnson, not Jill Stein, not Evan McMullin--is worth destroying any Christian's witness for Christ or decimating our friendships.

Candidates, presidents, prime ministers, kings, and dictators will come and go. But God and the life that He offers to all of us through Jesus Christ, endures forever.

With the psalmist, I can say of this God revealed in Jesus: "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:2).

Besides, candidates and presidents are only mortal people like you and me: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:8-9). Princes and other people, generally, will let us down. (I let people down.) To expect people to be some kind of foundation on which we can build our lives is absolute foolishness.

Third, if we feel we have to speak up politically, as I frequently do with members of my family, we who seek to follow Jesus need to do it with civility.

Proverbs 15:1 makes the common sense observation: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

The simple fact of the matter is that if we press our views with harshness, insisting on stereotyping our opponents as "devils" or "deplorables"--to cite terms used by Trump and Clinton, respectively--we aren't going to win anybody over.

Fourth, after this election is over, we will have a new President-Elect. Whether we voted for the winning candidate or not, that person will be the president of all Americans.

Opposing presidents' programs is fine. But the same need for civility that is so apparent during this campaign will be needed after the new president's inauguration on January 20.

So will our prayers. Writing to the young pastor Timothy in the midst of both shunning and persecution of Christians by governmental authorities, the apostle Paul gave this directive: "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior..." (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Of course, there are times when Christians must speak up: when lives are threatened, when injustices are done. But even then, our witness should be civil and loving. I daily pray that God will help me to get out of His way so that I can exhibit these traits, so foreign to my nature.

*What about that post from yesterday? That was about what how a Christian pastor mischaracterized and effectively excused the sinful objectification of women, not about politics. I acknowledged in the post that Donald Trump had apologized for his 2005 comments and that it was up to God and to voters to decide whether it was genuine. I refuse to give a public opinion on that question.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hey, Pat Robertson: It isn't "macho" talk; it's sin

Yesterday, one-time Reagan and Bush aide Peter Wehner, posted this on Twitter:
Through the years, as a Christian pastor, I've often felt like the guy sweeping up the elephant dung after a parade in the wake of comments made by televangelist Pat Robertson.

I feel no differently about Robertson's apparent belief that the lewd commendation of sexual violence in Donald Trump's Access Hollywood outtake is nothing more than "macho" talk, akin to Trump's description of it as "locker room talk."

It's far more serious than that. And so, with broom in hand, I responded to Wehner's tweet with one of my own:
For Christians, the sexual objectification of a woman by a man isn't "macho," it's a sin. Jesus calls it adultery.
That last line references what Jesus says in Matthew 5:28, where Jesus clearly has the objectification of another person for one's own sexual gratification in mind:
"...I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
The Bible is also explicit in its condemnation of rape, the kind of sexual assault that Trump bragged that he could get away with because he was "a star." That too, is sin. 

It's up to God to decide whether Trump's expression of contrition was genuine or whether it was a political expediency to divert attention from his general view of women. And it's up to you as an individual voter to seek God's wisdom in discerning the apology's authenticity and if it isn't authentic, whether that disqualifies him from consideration for the presidency. I won't even venture an opinion on that subject.

But what I feel very confident in saying is that no Christian leader--in fact, no Christian--should try to rationalize, excuse, or explain away the comments about women Trump has apologized for as nothing more than a man trying to impress a bunch of other men with macho talk.

What kind of men are impressed by sexual assault?

What kind of men are impressed when someone speaks, as Trump appears to on the video, of a woman as "it"?

I would say, only men who are indifferent to sin and to the humanity of women who, like them, were created in the image of God.

We are all sinners, of course. And we all need to repent for our sins and receive the grace God gives to all who trust in Christ. But for an ordained Christian pastor like Robertson to excuse sin as harmless macho talk sends a bad message to every boy and man that predatory behavior is acceptable. It tells every girl and woman that sexual assault is acceptable.

Well, it's not.

Instead, we Christians should talk about how this talk is sinful in itself, how apologies and repentance are appropriate, how God wants men to respect women, how the grace God gives only to those who repent and believe in Jesus can transform even sexual predators into grateful, obedient people of God.

The Trump video was a teachable moment for a Christian leader with the kind of platform that Robertson has. Instead of commending God's Word and the lordship of Christ, he excused sin. Not good.

[To further explore this issue, read this excellent essay by Karen Swallow Prior from Christianity Today.]

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


Monday, October 10, 2016

Update on Changing the "Weigh" I Eat

I've written here, here, and here about my quest to create a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. For me, it's a spiritual adventure as much as anything else. I find myself relying on God to alter a previous dependence on food beyond what was healthy for me.



This past Thursday, I went for my annual physical and, as has happened previously, I was wary of the inevitable weigh-in, fearing that I had gained a few pounds recently. But I was amazed to see that I had dropped a bit more and registered at 170 pounds. That was a loss of about three pounds since I last weighed myself during a visit to a local Little Clinic a few weeks ago.

On June 13, during my annual appointment with the cardiologist, I weighed the most I ever have, 189.7-pounds. As I stepped off the scales, I decided that enough was enough. I asked God to help me reduce and to develop a different relationship with food.

It hasn't been easy. Old snacking habits don't die without a fight. But, usually, when the urge to snack gratuitously hits me, I pray, "God, help me resist this temptation," and I'm able to back away from the food! (It would be comical for someone to actually map out my many soul-searching trips to the kitchen!)

Anyway, I want to assure you that if you've been thinking about taking off weight, it can be done. If, with God's help, I can, you can for sure.

One tip from my experience that I think is really important I've mentioned before. But I can't overemphasize its importance, for me anyway: Don't weigh yourself that often. We don't own scales and I want to keep it that way. To get caught up in the ounces from day to day could get depressing for me. Besides, this isn't just about losing weight. It's about treating the body God gave to me more respectfully and, as I mentioned earlier, establishing a different relationship with food. At least for me, the refusal to buy a set of scales and do daily weigh-ins has been important.

Another tip: Treat yourself from time to time. When I found that I'd lost a few more pounds and got kudos from my doc, I ate a savory snack on Friday. (And on Saturday, we walked over 14,000 sometimes challenging steps. That burned some calories!)

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


Another ticket?

Ken Rudin, the Political Junkie, suggests that there might be another ticket to root for in this year's presidential election.

What a difference 20 years makes

When Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, was asked about the disappointment some Republicans felt over the refusal of Senator Bob Dole, the Republican nominee for president that year, to "go after" President Bill Clinton for moral issues, this is how he responded.

Character is important in a president. But character also entails a refusal to fling mud. This has been a muddy election year. And that, friends, is a non-partisan, multi-partisan observation.

Jack Kemp passed away in 2009.

[Thanks to Steve Kornacki for sharing this on Twitter.]

You can help Haiti

The death toll from Hurricane Matthew is now more than a thousand in Haiti. Cholera has begun to break out in some parts of the country. With poor infrastructure, staggering poverty, and an endemically corrupt government, the people of Haiti, still reeling from an earthquake several years ago, will find this latest natural disaster a tough thing from which to recuperate.

For over five years now, the people of the congregation I serve, Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, have worked with a ministry headquartered in Indiana, SMI Haiti, to bring the Gospel and practical help for improving the everyday lives of people in Haiti. It's one of the most exciting mission partnerships we have.

SMI Haiti works steadily in a few places in Haiti, partnering with local churches, orphanages, and schools there.

Under the auspices of the organization, a group from Living Water goes every February for a substantive mission trip. (Not a North American photo op!) Our folks have helped build church worship areas, an orphanage, and wells, in addition to doing Bible studies. Each year, our congregation does fund raising, a rice and beans drive, to help SMI Haiti feed people in need. The great thing is that 100% of what we send goes directly to the needs of the Haitian communities in which SMI operates.

If you would like to help bring direct help to the Haitian people, a donation toward hurricane relief through SMI Haiti will be a solid investment in that cause!

Please keep Nabeel Qureshi in prayer

See here for more information, please. Pray that God will bring him complete healing. Thanks.

Here is a link to Nabeel Qureshi's web site.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

"Your faith has made you well"

Luke 17:11-19
Our Gospel lesson for this morning ends with Jesus telling a man He has cured of leprosy, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Passages of Scripture like this one have often been misconstrued by people. What does Jesus mean by these words? Is He saying that if you and I have enough faith, bad things won’t happen to us?

I hope that the answer to that question is obvious.

After all, Jesus Himself, sinless, completely trusting in the other two persons of the Holy Trinity--God the Father and God the Son--nonetheless suffered more than any of us ever has or ever will. Completely innocent of sin, Jesus, true God and true man, suffered and died for the sins of the world.

In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says: “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” You and I have all known faithful people--people who trusted their whole lives to the God we know in Jesus--who suffered, some dying at young ages despite their uncompromising faith. And often people encounter suffering--persecution, shunning, and death--not in spite of, but because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is no insurance policy against suffering in this fallen world.

To understand what Jesus means in the final verse of our lesson--”Rise and go; your faith has made you well”--we need to look at the entire incident recounted in the lesson.

So, please go to our Gospel lesson, Luke 17:11-19. We’re told: “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance...”

Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. Today's lesson is part of a section of Luke's gospel that scholars call "the great interpolation." It begins at Luke 9:51 and ends at Luke 18:18, opening with Jesus setting His face toward Jerusalem, intent on His mission of dying on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and rising from the dead to open the gates of eternity to all who turn from sin and trust Him as their only God and Savior. In the midst of rising opposition, Jesus continued in His mission on earth. As His people, we are called to be similarly steadfast, counting on the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us.

Jesus passes between His native Galilee and the country of Samaria. The Samaritans, you know, were disdained by Jesus' fellow Jews. They hated the Samaritans in the way only family members can hate each other. The history was that after the death of King Solomon, God's people divided into two separate nations: Judea to the south (with which Galilee was connected) and Samaria to the north. The Judeans would have argued that while their land had often been guilty of idolatry, Samaria was even worse. In some ways, they had a point. The Samaritans had intermarried, adulterating and syncretizing Old Testament faith. To the Jews, Samaritans were low lives.

In those days, when people had leprosy, they were forced to live in isolation from family, friends, and neighbors in colonies on the edges of towns. No one touched them. They were forbidden to touch anyone else. That’s why the lepers had to call Jesus from afar.

To Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries, lepers wouldn’t have been regarded as prime candidates for the attention of a holy God! They likely would have completely ignored them, the way we human beings often ignore other human beings in our world who have great need. And the people Jesus encounters here were Samaritan lepers, the worst of the worst.

Go to verse 13, please: “...and [the lepers] called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’" In desperation, the lepers called out to Jesus. They seek something no one else is giving to them: mercy.

Our willingness to hear the cries of those around us for mercy is one measure of the presence of Jesus in our lives.

And it is precisely here that we human beings can often be found wanting.

In recent weeks, my heart has been wrenched by the plight of the Syrian people, victims of constant bombing and attacks, including assaults on an aid convoy heading for Aleppo, under the direction of two thugs--Vladimir Putin and Basher al-Assad--and the world is doing nothing. If you and I were filled with the mercy for others that Jesus has given to us, wouldn't we work tirelessly to convince our own government and the members of the United Nations to put a stop to this?


And as I look at what has happened in Haiti, a country with almost no infrastructure and a corrupt government, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, I pray that we will all be filled with sufficient Christian mercy to pray for and give to providing Haitians comfort and relief.


As Jesus has been merciful to us, we’re to be merciful to others.

Verse 14: “When [Jesus] saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed." Old Testament law said that once a priest certified that a person had been cleansed of their leprosy, they could return to their homes. Jesus instructs the ten lepers to see priests. Even as they went, their leprosy disappeared. It’s hard to imagine how the ten of them must have felt at that moment. Their earthly lives had been changed by the compassion of God, given in Jesus Christ.

But look at what happens next. Verses 15 and 16: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.”

When our children were growing up, we explained that we prayed to thank God before eating because, as Martin Luther said, people who don't thank God are pigs, just gobbling up God's blessings as though they were theirs by divine right. Our kids remembered this. If for some reason we forgot to pray, one of them inevitably would throw up their hands and say, "We're pigs!" Then we would give thanks.

Not every beneficiary of God’s mercy acknowledges all that God has done for them. They just go on with their lives as though goodness and blessings from God are things to which they’re entitled.

But none of us is entitled to anything from God. Life itself is an undeserved gift! Every good thing added to it is gravy.

Often though, I’ve seen that people who have been helped by God through extraordinary circumstances, evidence no gratitude to God. They seem unable to admit their vulnerability or their need of God’s help.

Maybe this is why only one of the ten cleansed lepers returned to give Jesus thanks. The other nine didn’t want to even think about how weak and helpless they had been. The fact is, we are all weak and helpless. We all need God’s help.

Verses 17 and 18: “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’” (Of course, Jesus knew the answers to these questions. These are what you might call rhetorical questions.)

The truth is, you never can tell who is going to respond to Jesus Christ. Nor can you know when or how they will respond.

That’s why we as Christ’s disciples, individually and as a congregation, must remain resolute in sharing the good news of new, everlasting life for all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

If, as we share the good news of Jesus with others, nine out of ten people reject the message, so be it. Our call is to simply keep on sharing Christ, keep making disciples.

Then, Jesus says to the one thankful man in verse 19, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

We know that ten people had been made physically well and we don’t know that they had much in the way of trust in Jesus beyond what they’d heard about his ability to perform miracles.

But, I don’t think that Jesus is talking about people being physically well here. Jesus didn’t suddenly revoke the healing He had given the other nine because only one man displayed gratitude.

So, here’s the key fact in this passage: All ten were physically healed, but only one was made well.

A person can be physically healed, but still not be well.

And a person can be physically or psychologically or emotionally broken down, but still be well!

The New Testament, of course, was written in Greek. And the root verb of the word translated as “has made you well” is, in Greek, sozo. What Jesus really says, "Your faith has saved you."


The grateful man was well because he had been saved. The person dying on a hospital gurney can, even as they die, know: “It is well with my soul!” They know that they are just as saved as the healed leper was at the moment Jesus declared that his faith had made him well!

Even at the point of death, it’s possible for us to live in the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God given in Jesus Christ. When we entrust our lives to Christ, we are saved.

How? How can we know that? By faith! 

By faith, the healed man acknowledged God’s blessing.

By faith, he fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped.

And Jesus declared that, no matter what suffering may await that man through the balance of his life, for there is nothing more certain than suffering and death on this dying planet, the healed man had nonetheless been saved for all eternity because He believed in Jesus Christ!

By God’s grace, he had been saved by his faith in Jesus Christ. He could live his life on earth in confidence and hope and joy; through Christ, he was saved--eternally saved--for a life with God that never ends.

We can live our lives with the same confidence, hope, and joy as we yield our whole lives in faith in Jesus Christ!

It is Jesus Christ alone Who can save us--not denominational affiliations, not church rituals or traditions, not liturgies, though each of these things can play constructive roles in the lives of God's people.

We cannot be saved by habits or political action.

We can't be saved by caving into the warped values of a world out of sync with God.

We won't be saved by our personally preferred interpretations of Scripture or by our love, which is only a faint and sin-tinged echo of the perfect love of God.

We can't be saved by our morality, by being good, or by obeying the rules.

It is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone who saves us from sin, death, and futility.

Paul writes in our second lesson for this morning: “...if we endure [with Christ], we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us…” [2 Timothy 2:12]

We can bet our lives on those words. More to the point, we can bet our lives for all eternity on Jesus.

And, like the one man who returned to give thanks to Jesus, we can be filled--eternally filled--with gratitude for grace beyond measure. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This message was shared during both morning services there today.]