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We have no Facebook video for this Sunday since  the person who usually runs our video was exposed to someone with Covid  and is currently in quarantine.

September 20, 2020     Hide and Seek or Seek and Find?

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 *When & where did the game of hide & seek originate?  Some say its first written about around 2000 years ago in Greece.  WE might claim that Adam & Eve were playing it  in the Garden of Eden = except that wasn’t a ‘game’- to them or to God.   But it’s easy to imagine  that  -as a game-  the first children,  Cain & Abel  played hide & seek;  its such natural fun.

One child is ‘it’  & counts to ten;  the others run & hide  with the goal of NOT being found.

The OT reading from Isaiah 55 reminded me of this game.

Unfortunately for many people today,  who desire to know God & to get close to Him,   they imagine that it’s a game they can’t win.  Like when a young child plays with an older child;  the older child is too smart,  & the younger too INexperienced.  So, people fear that they can seek & seek forever  and God is too good at hiding.  People criticize God for hiding out & is nowhere to be found  when there are natural disasters  which He could’ve prevented,  and when good people are victims of the wicked.

*Where is God when I’m hurting,  or when the world is falling apart?   *Is God hiding;  is He lost?  Thru Isaiah  the Holy Spirit says,  ‘The Lord’s right here,  right now,  for you.’

He says,   “Seek the Lord while He may be found;  call on Him while He is near.”

Seek the Lord,  because He wants to be found.

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First of all,  let’s back up a little  to understand this ‘game-of-life’.   From the Bible’s point of view,  God is not the one that’s lost;  He does not randomly hide so that people can’t find Him when trouble comes.   Sometimes a spiritual person will say,  ‘I’m seeking God,  but I haven’t found Him yet.’    The thing is,  God comes after us.   God came to the Garden of Eden to walk with Adam & Eve;  they were hiding.   God came to Cain to ask where his brother Abel was.  God came & appeared to Moses from within the burning bush.  God approached Noah with a building project.

This is a main point made throughout the whole Bible = God is seeking us.  That term ‘seek’  is used a couple of hundred times in the Scripture.   When Jesus-the-messiah finally arrived,  he said,  (in Lk.19:10)  “for the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”

God’s not the one who’s lost.   When in Isaiah,  God challenges us to ‘seek him’,

He’s calling us to open our eyes,  and realize that He’s been there the whole time,  seeking   after us;   like a good shepherd seeks & finds his lost sheep.   So,  this is a word, an idea, & a fact  the Lord wants us to know & never forget.   “Seek the Lord while He may be found;  call on Him while He is near.   Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.   Let him turn to Yahweh -the Lord-  and He will have mercy on him …for He will freely pardon.”

This is an amazing invitation;  and by those words,  God want us to remember what is true about the older child playing with the younger one:  the older one knows exactly how to find the younger one;  and the older one knows exactly how to be found.   Not only is the God of the universe the ‘seeking God,’  but He is also the ‘findable’ Lord.   And if we’re confused about which ‘child’ we are  in this game-of-life,  the Lord also makes that clear  when He says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,  so are my ways higher than your ways  and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It’s thru the Bible alone  that we hear this good news.  The Creator of the Universe  is a God who desires to be known,  who wants to have this daily connection & lasting relationship with His people.  God’s own Son has us taught to pray ‘our Father’ = that’s a real relationship with the One who can be,  & wants to be,  known.   That’s a promise He makes to the whole world.   Yes,  every human being is sinful & rebellious;  but He is still seeking all of us,  to rescue & save all  == to trust Him,  obey & live with Him.

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And *what is the benefit of being found by God  and living our life with Him?

Jesus says that this is ‘life to the full’;  it’s a life that has things in it  that the world cannot give.  Sure,  the world can give ‘things’:  /cool things, useful & fun things;  /things that look good & feel good for a time.   But living in this world can also mean fighting over those things & losing those things;  you have them for a while,  and then they break & rust,  they get stolen or lost,  they become useless with out-of-date technology,   or those things have to be sold in order to provide for our next stage of life.

So,  when God comes & gives OTHER kinds of things  -heavenly things-  *how valuable is that?

He comes to give us His own presence = that’s a love for us that the world can’t measure or create or sell to us.   God comes to tell us what is right to think & do,  and what is wrong to stop & avoid.    He comes to us with a daily renewal of life  with His own forgiveness for yesterday’s sins,  with our mistakes & bad things.   He comes to give us courage to get up again in the morning & to live in His good ways,  while the world’s ways keep changing & are confusing & threatening & wrong.     And over all of our life,  like a protective cover,  is His unbreakable promise  of His power over death,  and His promise of our place reserved in His heavenly kingdom.   Our Creator wants all those good & unworldly things for us.  That’s why He calls us to seek Him;  that’s why He comes  and makes Himself findable.  He wants us to have the joy of finding Him,  and having ‘life to the full.’

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Now,  in our comparison,  God is the older & wiser player in this game of ‘hide & seek’,  and He wants to be found by us.   However,  that doesn’t mean He hides where WE want Him  to be.    In His wisdom & mercy,  God is found where HE wants to be found.  Because of our unholy dirt of sin,  we are caught under His just & proper anger.

So,  He comes to us with the call of repentance  and with the gift of faith.  Ultimately, our sin and God’s call to live by faith & by His Words  means that God’s people would be humble people in this world.   God’s people would be His servants,  and they would be very different than the sinful world around them.   God’s people would not end up being the most important or most respected people;  God is not building a mighty earthly nation & kingdom invested in this passing world.

Thru the prophets,  the people of Israel were reminded that their life was in Yahweh,  who is beyond this visible world;  and that apart from Him,  they would not be a great people or a great nation.  They would not be invested in a broken world;  but God chose them to be His witnesses to the world of who He is,  and what true life is.   God is still finding the lowly & the nobodies of the world  -like us-   in order to show the whole world what His priorities are.   God’s priorities are individual,  merciful,  & eternal.  And,  since He is the God & Savior of the lowly,  it shows that He is Lord & Savior of

ALL people,  because there are so many ‘unimportant’ people.    So,  *is this why many people scoff & mock this Christian faith & grace in Christ  = because it’s  too simple-minded ?   = because God’s people are not grabbing everything they can in this world ?      Or,  do they mock the gospel of Jesus  (the value of His death & resurrection)  because =if it’s the religion of the poor & lowly & deplorable people = it must not be ‘the best’ religion?

Man’s sinful nature will do that = it will look for God  where WE think He should be,  not where He is.   It will put value on what WE like,  & not understand what God values.   It will dismiss the importance of something  because UN-important people are paying attention to it.

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It reminds me of this story of a few years ago:  A nurse named Melanie  was on her way to work when something in the trash bin caught her eye.   It was an old cello,  slightly cracked in several places,  but kind of charming;   she wondered what the possibilities were for repurposing this discarded piece.   She took it to her boyfriend,  who is a cabinetmaker,  to get his opinion.  Together they thought it could be turned into a nice & distinctive CD holder.   They didn’t get to work on it right away,  which was probably good.  Because,  as it turned out,  it wasn’t just any old cello.   It is one of only 60 like it in the world made by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari in 1684.  This 320-year-old masterpiece was valued at 3.5 million dollars;

it had been stolen from a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra a couple of weeks earlier,    & now it was sitting in Melanie’s apartment  with the plan of being turned into the world’s most expensive CD holder.
If you don’t know,  in the music world,  anything ‘Stradivarius’ is like gold or diamonds.  I’m not sure whether a musician -or even scientist- can fully explain the difference in sound between a Stradivarius  compared to a modern violin or cello;  but they all say there’s a huge difference.  They are the most sought-after musical instruments in the world;  and whole concerts are built around the presence of,  & playing of,  one of these great works of art.
So,  the thief stole it,  but just threw it out;   even Melanie didn’t see the worth & value of what she found,  until she heard & believed the news from those that recognized that cello.    Likewise,  People hear about the incredible grace of God in Jesus Christ,  /the eternal debt of sin paid for at the cross,  /the guilt of sin removed,  /the reality of true freedom & peace with God,  /with a new life,  now and forever  = they don’t see it,  so they throw it in the garbage can,  and seek other things.   But that doesn’t change the truth of it.   *Do people really think that the Creator of all things  doesn’t want to be found,  or doesn’t seek a real relationship with us  so that we can have a far better life now,  & a real future?     Man’s old nature thinks that.

That’s why the Holy Spirit has given to us passages like Isaiah 55.   His words are meant to wake up our heart & soul,  that we would be turned around by His voice  and hear His call.

The findable God,  with His priceless mercy,  is inviting us  to seek & to find Him  as the center of our life & salvation;   for today & tomorrow,  & forever.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found;  call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.   Let him turn to Yahweh -the Lord-  and He will have mercy on him …for He will freely pardon.”
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Some years ago,  a friend of mine had this experience.  Our St.Louis seminary had a professor named  Rev.Dr.Norman Nagel;  by every measure one of the most brilliant theologians of the Lord’s Church.  He could speak & study in several languages,  was sought after in all the world’s Lutheran church bodies,  and often invited to lecture for other church bodies.

My classmate knew Dr.Nagel well,  & learned that he would be passing thru his town & would be stopping by his home.  So he was excited & nervous that such an important person was going to be visiting.  He got delayed at the church,  but finally made it home,  where his guest had already arrived.    When he went in the house,  he didn’t see Dr.Nagel anywhere.

He asked his wife, ‘where is he?’   he learned that this world-renowned professor was hiding = playing hide & seek with his 2 yr.old daughter, Devin.   My friend looked around a little, & easily found their visitor standing behind the bedroom door,  where Dr.Nagel asked him to be very quiet  so that little Devin could have the joy of finding him.

And where many important people would’ve stopped the game at that point  to do more adult things,  Dr.Nagel played a few more times  because it was such a joy to him for the little girl to giggle & laugh when she would seek & discover him.  And,  she was so good at the game  that she found him every time.   Now,  *was she that good,  or was he that good?

We know  from Isaiah 55  that our God & Father IS that good;  & He wants every person to know Him.   God wants all people to be able to count on that fact that  He wants to be found.   God has hidden Himself in His Word,  so that by His Spirit  we will seek Him & find Him;

we will hear Him & know Him  /in all His holiness & mercy,  /in all His guidance & comfort,    /in all His correction & forgiveness,   /in all His goodness & peace.

God has used water to hide His blessing in your baptism;  He uses simple bread & wine to hide the Savior’s body & blood for our added comfort & peace;   He uses His people in His faithful churches  as the place where He promises to be present  for all who are seeking Him.

God has His hiding places nearly in plain sight,   so that we will have the joy of finding in Him  all the blessings of true life.

Amen