August 30, 2012
Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared. Psalms 130:1-4
Our catechisms list many of the blessed Lord's attributes. Unfortunately, one of the qualities we Christians often forget is the Lord's sense of humor. As proof of the fact the Lord likes to smile, I offer the story of Sal Bentivegna.
Depending on what news source you read, Bentivegna is either an atheist or an agnostic. Either way, he thought religion was a joke and his very-Catholic mother had been misled. To prove there was no Lord watching over her, Bentivegna would often get sarcastic. He was being sarcastic when he told his mother she ought to pray "to her God" and ask for cash to remove her money problem.
Mom declined to pray for such mercenary matters.
Her prayers were reserved for important things like asking the Lord to provide a miracle for her boy -- a miracle that might resurrect his faith. In reply to her son's challenge, mom said he was more than welcome to go to the Lord on her behalf. He took up the challenge and mockingly asked God to help his mother win the lottery.
Now, although these Daily Devotions do not endorse or support the playing of the lottery, we have to be amused by the fact that, the next day, Mrs. Gloria Bentivegna won the New York Lottery Sweet Million game.
Every year for the next 20 years, Bentivegna's mom is going to receive $50,000.
Sal Bentivegna's "prayer" had been answered. But how about his mother's request for her boy to be given a life-changing, soul-shaking experience? Bentivegna himself can answer that question. He said, "I sat back and thought about it and realized the odds against this are astronomical. I can't shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it. No pun intended, it was a Godsend."
So, where does this devotion go from here?
Simple, it goes this way -- experience has taught me two things: First, many Christians are in the same situation as Mrs. Bentivegna. Like her they are praying for a loved one's relationship with the Lord. Like her they are asking the Lord to use an event that would bring a wandering soul back to his Lord.
This takes me to the second thing experience has taught: life will produce those moments when the Holy Spirit will bring a soul closer to the Lord, or the devil will drag that individual further away.
At those moments when an unbeliever ought to be conscious of his limitations and his need for the Lord's assistance, close, caring Christians can be used by the Lord to accomplish His purposes.
This is why we pray for those who have wandered and those who care about them.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I ask that You will be with and use Your people to reach out to lost loved ones. Give them the words and wisdom to say the right thing to those who have wandered. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries