Why do we believe in Jesus?

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty … We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts….” 2 Peter 1:16,19 (read v. 16-21)

Why do we place our faith and trust in Jesus? Why do we believe that Jesus is God the Son in human flesh and our Savior from sin and eternal damnation? Is it a matter of blind faith, based on myths and fables, or is it historical truth witnessed by the disciples of the Lord Jesus and testified to by God Himself?

Peter plainly says our faith is not based on “cunningly devised fables” about the power and coming of Jesus Christ. They didn’t sit down and craft a story to deceive the world. Rather they were eyewitnesses of the power and majesty of the Lord Jesus. They not only heard His teaching; they saw His miracles. They saw the sick made whole, the lepers cleansed, the blind given sight, the lame walk and the dead raised back to life. And they were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They saw His glory and heard the voice of God the Father testify of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5). They witnessed His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection on the third day. They were so convinced of truthfulness of Jesus’ life and teaching, they suffered all, even death, for the faith they proclaimed.

And if that were not enough, we have the witness and testimony of God Himself concerning the person and work of Jesus. God testified of Jesus at His baptism and again on the holy mount (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). And the Scriptures – written not by the will of man but of the Holy Spirit as He moved men to write and guided and directed them in the thoughts they expressed and in the words they wrote so that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, testify to us of Jesus, who He is and what He has done to redeem us and give us life instead of death.

“Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” and “whereunto [we would] do well [to] take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in [our] hearts….” The Scriptures, the Word of God, “are able to make [us] wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).

Our faith is based solidly “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), and God Himself has given us His witness and testimony concerning Jesus, both in His Word of the Scriptures and from the holy mountain: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

O God, grant that we hear Your testimony concerning Jesus and the light of truth shine into our hearts. Grant us true and saving faith in Jesus our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible.]

 

Words of Encouragement for Feb. 19, 2014

Meditations in Jude

 

“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” Jude 1-2

Note that Jude, the brother of James – either one of the apostles (Luke 6:16) or the brother of James and a half-brother to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55 ) – simply calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, claiming no position of authority as an apostle or as a brother to Jesus. So also we, whether pastor, teacher or lay worker, are all servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who seek to carry out His will and mission in this world.

Jude writes to those sanctified and set apart by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called to faith in Him. He writes to those who have graciously been brought to faith in Christ Jesus and are preserved in that faith by God’s working. Therefore, it is not to those who are Christian in name only but to those whom God has called and sanctified through faith in Christ Jesus that Jude addresses this letter.

And though we hear these words often, the blessing of verse two which Jude uses to greet his readers is worthy of careful consideration. It is not only a well wish but the prayer and blessing that God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, the peace of sins forgiven won by Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death, and God’s love which comes to us in His Son be multiplied and increase.

Oh, that we might know and grasp in faith the richness of God’s mercy upon us for Jesus’ sake! Oh, that we might know that peace of God which passes all understanding, and that we might begin to grasp the greatness of His love for us in sending His only-begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins and save us from the wrath and judgment to come!

We thank and praise You, O Father, for the mercy, peace and love You have shown to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Grant that we hold hast to Him unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4

Jude’s original intent was to write of the common salvation won for all through the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, our Savior; but the fact that men had crept into the church or churches undetected and were turning the grace of God in Jesus Christ into a license to sin and indulge in the desires of the flesh, and were denying the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, prompted him to write a brief letter urging his hearers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

We don’t know the specifics, though similar warnings can be found in 2 Peter, 1 John and in the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Could it be Gnostics who thought that what one did in the body really doesn’t matter? Or, was it a form of carnal Christianity which used God’s grace as license to indulge in sin since salvation is by grace and Christ paid for all sin? Are the words more broad because they are to be applied to all sorts of perversions of the Gospel?

Thus, we ask ourselves if there are those within the pale of churches today who abuse the grace of God offered and given us in Christ Jesus in order to indulge in the sinful desires of their flesh? Do we even use God’s grace as a license to sin?

Did Christ die for all sin that we might continue on in our sinful ways without consequence? What does the Bible say? “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

And, does it ever happen that people become associated with churches who, whether by their teaching or lifestyle, advance such errors among believers and cause others to fall with them?

What was the faith once delivered unto the saints? Where can we find and learn its teaching? Remember that we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Remember that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Thus, for what faith are we to be earnestly contending? Are we to stand by when people within the pale of the church teach contrary to the Bible or attempt to change its meaning to accommodate their own sinful views or lifestyles? Notice also that those who abuse and pervert the true doctrine end up denying “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Through the Scriptures, O God, You have revealed to me the faith once delivered to the saints. Give me the strength and the willingness to contend for that faith against those who would depart from the teaching of Your Word and turn Your grace into a license for sin and deny You and the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 5-6

Can one have true and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s savior from sin and yet continue in willful disobedience and rebellion against His Word? The apostle John writes: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). He adds: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:4-6).

Thus, Jude adds the examples of the children of Israel who sinned in the wilderness and of the angels who “kept not their first estate” but sinned against the LORD God who had created them to be His servants and to do His will.

So also, we should not be deceived into thinking that God will not judge and punish those who abuse His grace and turn away from Him and the salvation He provided for us in His Son. The writer of Book of Hebrews says (in Hebrews 10:29-30) of those who willfully turn back into sin: “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”

Keep me, O God, from the presumptuous sin of abusing Your grace and turning back to the sin from which You redeemed me. Grant unto me true repentance and faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude 7-10

Sad to say, even within the outward pale of churches, there are those who would imagine that there is nothing wrong with the sexual perversion of our day. They say the prohibitions of Scripture were culturally influenced and are not true reflections of God’s character or will.

But how do they answer the fact of God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities (Gen. 18-19)? How do they answer God’s judgment upon Canaan (cf. Lev. 18)? And, indeed, we might add other judgments upon cities and nations to the mix.

Yet, in spite of the Biblical records of God’s judgments upon cities and nations for their abominations, people today – even within the outward pale of churches – condone such sin and ridicule those who warn of God’s wrath and impending judgment. As Jude writes, they speak evil of those who oppose such abominations and they rail against them – something the angels of God would not even do when contending with the devil. What these people don’t know they ridicule; and what they know naturally as unthinking animals, in those things they corrupt themselves (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.).

How sad the conditions in the world today! And, even more sad, that such forms of thinking and lifestyles have come to be accepted among many who count themselves Christian!

God’s judgment is near. Now is the time to repent and look to the Lord God for mercy in Christ Jesus before it is too late!

O God, have mercy upon our nation and the churches and religious leaders of our land. Grant that we would heed Your Word and repent of our evil ways, looking to You for mercy in Christ Jesus. Give us boldness to contend for the true Christian faith in the face of such opposition to the truth. Amen.

 

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Jude 11-13

Will God judge those who pervert the true doctrine and use the grace of God as a license for sin? Jude describes them to have fallen into the sin of Cain, who turned from the faith and even killed his brother Abel who was counted righteous through faith (cf. Gen. 4). Like Balaam (Num. 22-25) who, for the sake of earthly gain, found a way around God’s word and commandment and caused the children of Israel to fall into sin and be cursed, so these hypocrites were quick to follow in such erring ways for their own gain. Along with Korah and those who spoke against God’s called servants (Num. 16), these are likewise condemned to perish.

Jude describes them as “spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”

These claimed to be believers and Christians but had no evidence of faith in their lives. Their lives and teaching were a denial of their Savior and of His doctrine.

Do we have those today who only go through the outward motions of the Christian faith while their hearts are far from the Lord? Are there those who seek to explain away and get around the teaching of the Bible on subjects which are in conflict with current cultural views?

And, what about us? Are we guilty of the same things?

Grant that we hold fast to Your Word, O Lord, and not compromise for the sake of peace or worldly gain. Have mercy upon us and forgive us for our sins and failures. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

 

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14-15

We know from Genesis 5 that Enoch walked with God by faith and that God translated him into heaven so that he did not die (cf. Heb. 11:5). From Jude’s letter we learn that Enoch, like Noah, also warned the people of his day of God’s coming judgment upon all who remained impenitent and lived in opposition to God and His ways.

And this prophecy of Enoch that “the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” applied to the hypocrites among the churches to whom Jude wrote and to the hypocrites and unbelievers of our day.

Our Lord Jesus will soon return in the clouds of heaven with His holy angels to execute judgment upon all who have not turned from their sinful ways to Him in faith. Those who repent and trust in the redemption Christ accomplished by His life, death and resurrection will be received into the eternal joys of heaven. But those who continue in impenitence and unbelief will be found guilty and condemned to the eternal fires of hell (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10).

Thus, judgment awaited those of Jude’s day who turned the grace of God into a license for sin; and the same judgment is coming upon those of our day who turn from Christ and His doctrine and indulge in the pleasures of sin.

Your Word warns us, O God, of Christ’s return and His judgment upon all who have not believed in His name. Grant that we truly repent and look to Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And grant that we, like Enoch, speak the truth in love and warn our generation of God’s coming judgment upon impenitent sinners. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Jude 16-19

Should we be surprised at the unbelief of our day? Should we be surprised that, even within the outward pale of the church, people pervert the truth to support their selfish and sinful ways?

The answer, of course, is no. The apostles of our Lord Jesus warned us. The Scriptures tell us that persecution can be expected and “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13).

Though they often champion unity in the churches, they are the ones who “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” and they “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17,18). And it is for that reason that Christians who hold to the faith of the Bible are commanded to “mark” and “avoid” them.

In the days of drought following the prophecy of Elijah, Ahab said to Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”(1 Kings 18:17) Elijah answered (v. 18): “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.” So also today, many would accuse those who contend for the faith once delivered to the saints of causing trouble in the churches and causing division. The real cause of trouble and division, however, rests on those who compromise the clear doctrine of God’s Word.

Thus, in Jude’s day, even if the churches must put out those who turned the grace of God into a license to sin, it was the unbelieving who separated themselves from the churches by their unbelief and sin.

It should be noted that those of whom Jude speaks use persuasive words and speeches and make use of personal and political connections to gain advantage, but they have not the Spirit of God. Instead of submitting to God’s Spirit and the God-breathed Scriptures, they walk after their own fleshly lusts and use carnal means to get their way.

Keep us from walking according to the flesh instead of yielding to the Spirit of God and to the truth revealed in His Word. Preserve us from their pernicious ways. Amen.

 

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 20-21

What did Jude direct his beloved hearers to do? Indeed, it is similar to what Paul commanded Timothy: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Jesus also said to the Jews who believed in Him: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Since the Spirit sanctifies us through the Scriptures (John 17:17; Rom. 10:17), we build ourselves up in our most holy faith by continuing in the Scriptures and praying for the Holy Spirit to teach and guide and lead us into all truth. We keep ourselves in the love of God which moved Him to give His only-begotten Son to die for us and pay in full for all our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10), and we look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ – His merciful gift of forgiveness and life everlasting.

In other words, we cling to Jesus and His Word. We hold fast to His promise of forgiveness and life everlasting for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. We look forward to His glorious return and partaking of His mercy and pardon on that day. We continue to hope and live for the life eternal which Jesus will give to us when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

O gracious and merciful Savior, keep me in Your Word and grant that I cling to You by faith, trusting and looking forward to partaking of Your merciful gift of life everlasting in Your glorious kingdom. Amen.

 

And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 22-23

What are we to do while we await that day when Christ returns and, in mercy, receives us to Himself in heaven?

Like Enoch, we continue to warn the impenitent and unbelieving of God’s coming judgment upon all who continue in rebellion against Him. We warn those who use the grace of God as a license to indulge in their sinful longings and desires.

But we also show mercy. We have compassion on those misled and overcome by sin. We warn them of the consequences and offer to them the comfort of God’s pardon and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Patiently and compassionately, we reach out to the lost and erring that they too might come to repentance and be saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His cross.

Some we “save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” We use the utmost care that we too be not drawn into sin and error through the weakness of our own flesh. We recognize the danger and consequences of sin – death. But, through the right application of God’s Word, we pull them from the impending fires of hell, hating their sinful deeds, and show them the right way – a life lived by faith in the Son of God.

God, grant that we might bear witness to Your impending judgment upon sinners but also to Your mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Preserve us from our own sinful longings and desires. Keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

What a beautiful doxology! Jude closes in words of faith and praise to the LORD God who has brought us to to know and trust in Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for all.

It is the Lord God, by means of the gracious working of His Spirit through the Word, who is able to keep us from falling into sin and unbelief. He is the only one able to preserve us in the true faith and present us faultless before the throne of His glory. And He does so with exceeding joy!

And “to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

The fact that we believe and are saved through faith in Jesus is entirely to the glory of God. We were dead in our sins, but God graciously raised us up to life through faith in Jesus and His blood, shed for us upon the cross (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.). And, “He which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

All praise and glory be to You, O Lord Jesus, for redeeming me, bringing me to faith and preserving me in the faith once delivered unto the saints. Grant that I continue in your Word, hold fast to You and Your doctrine, and contend for that faith in this dark and sinful world. Amen.

 

1. Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.

2. Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully through these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

3. The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb, who from the Father’s bosom came, who died for me, e’en me t’atone, now for my Lord and God I own.

4. Lord, I believe Thy precious blood, which at the mercy-seat of God forever doth for sinners plead, for me–e’en for my soul–was shed.

5. Lord, I believe were sinners more than sands upon the ocean shore, Thou hast for all a ransom paid, for all a full atonement made.

6. When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.

7. Jesus, be endless praise to Thee, whose boundless mercy hath for me, for me, and all Thy hands have made, an everlasting ransom paid. Amen.

Hymn #371, The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: 1 John 1:7 Author: Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1739, cento
Translated by: John Wesley, 1740

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 49; Leviticus 19:1-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23; Matthew 5:38-48. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will begin its study of the Book of Genesis with chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.” Psalm 49:15

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Our next Pot-luck Dinner will follow our worship service on Sunday, March 2.

Lenten Services will begin on Wednesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. The Wednesday services will be preceded by a soup and sandwich luncheon at 6:20 p.m.

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. tonight, Feb. 19, at the church.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Oct. 30, 2013

When you pray

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matthew 6:5-8

Prayer is not to be a show of religious piety but the sincere communication of the heart and soul to God the Father. Jesus urges His followers to quietly and, in the privacy of their own homes, pour out their hearts before the LORD God, trusting in Him to mercifully hear and answer their prayers. Those who make a show of their prayers to be seen by men have their only reward, but those who pray to God in secret will be heard by God in secret and rewarded openly.

Nor are Christians to use vain or empty repetitions in their prayers, as the heathen do, thinking that God will hear and answer their prayers because of their many words. Jesus teaches us that God desires the prayers of our heart and not empty words uttered by our lips. Thus, the mere repetition of prayers will merit us nothing before God and are not really even prayer at all! Rather, Christians are invited by God to come before Him with their petitions and thanksgiving, trusting that He indeed will hear and answer us for the sake of Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world (cf. 1 John 5:11-15).

It is not our many words or our religious piety which persuade God to hear and answer our prayers. Rather, it is His love and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake that moves Him to reach out to us and invite us to come humbly before Him with our prayers and petitions, knowing and believing that He will hear us and grant what is best for us as His dear children through faith in Christ Jesus. And, as Jesus says, our Father knows the things we need before we even ask them of Him.

Dear Father in heaven, we thank You for Your grace and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake, and we thank You for the privilege of coming before You in prayer. Move us to come before You in humility, trusting that You will hear and receive us for the sake of Jesus and His blood shed for us on Calvary. Amen.

 

Enoch Translated

“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Hebrews 11:5 (Read Genesis 5:21-24)

The Bible tells us of Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, that he “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). At the relatively young age of 365, Enoch was taken directly, without seeing death, to be with the LORD God in heaven. Enoch was translated; that is, changed from a temporal, earthly existence to an eternal, heavenly one. His body and soul were taken from this earth into his eternal and heavenly home. Such a translation is hard for us to understand.

In all of human history, Elijah the prophet is the only other human being to escape death and be taken directly to his heavenly home (cf. 2 Kings 2:11). Even the Lord Jesus Christ first died for the sins of the world before He rose again on the third day and then 40 days later ascended into heaven.

Enoch walked with God by faith, trusting that God’s ways are right and that God would send the promised Seed of the woman to redeem him from sin and eternal death. In the book of Jude, we learn that Enoch also testified in his time of God’s coming judgment upon all who continued in their ungodly and rebellious ways (v. 14f.).

To walk with God by faith is no different today. Believers know and believe that God’s ways are true and right and trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for the sins of the whole world and rose again on the third day. Believers walk in fellowship with God the Father, agreeing with Him about their sinfulness but trusting in Him to graciously forgive their sins and accept them as His own dear children for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lived a righteous and holy life in mankind’s stead and made full atonement for the sins of the whole word when He suffered and died upon the cross (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

Like Enoch, believers are pleasing to God and righteous in his eyes because all their sins have been washed away in Jesus’ blood. Their works too are pleasing in His eyes because they flow from faith in Him and are made pure through the shed blood of Jesus.

Believers have already been translated. The Bible says of believers in Jesus that the Father “hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14). God has graciously translated His children from the kingdom and rule of darkness and sin into the kingdom of grace and forgiveness – the kingdom of His own dear Son.

And believers will be translated into God’s eternal and heavenly kingdom when Jesus returns. The Bible says to all who believe: “Our conversation [way of life] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Enoch walked with God by faith and was translated directly into heaven. All who today walk by faith in the Son of God, trusting in Him for mercy and forgiveness, have been translated from the kingdom of darkness and spiritual death into God’s kingdom of grace and life. On the last day, they too will be translated – their earthly body will be changed into a glorious and heavenly body like that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus, let me ever walk with You by faith so that, as Enoch was translated from this world into your heavenly kingdom, so I may arise and live with You forever in Your eternal and glorious kingdom. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 36; Hebrews 13:1-25; Luke 12:13-59. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of 1 John, in chapter three.

 

Verse to Remember

“And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Luke 12:29-31

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Sam Rusch, Ray and Bonnie Hawes, Robert and Dawn Hiebert, Mel Boren, Freda Stueland – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Remember also Lorene, who is in need of money to pay her rent and other bills.

 

Announcements

Choir will practice on Sunday, meeting in the choir room following the worship service.

A pot-luck dinner will be held on Sunday, Nov. 3, following our morning worship service.

Our next evening Bible study will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The Annual Voters’ Assembly is tentatively set for Sunday, Nov. 17.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

Why listen to the message of the Bible?

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let [them] slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him]; God also bearing [them] witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?”  Hebrews 2:1-4 (read chapter 2)

Jesus said: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:48-49). He also said: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Therefore, we ought to give careful and earnest heed to the message we have heard from God’s Word – the Bible – and repent of our sinful ways and place our faith and hope in Christ Jesus, God’s own dear Son come into this world a true man to bear the just punishment for our sins and make reconcilialtion for our sins and the sins of all people (cf. Heb. 2:14-17).

If those who neglected to pay heed to the Word of God revealed to Moses through angels were found guilty and judged of God, what will happen to us if we neglect to hear His own Son? Jesus revealed to us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no one can come to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). His apostles have borne witness to His mighty miracles and to His sufferings, death and glorious resurrection; and the truthfulness of their witness was verified by the miracles and mighty working of the Holy Spirit.

“There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

We dare not let the gospel message go unheeded! We dare not turn away from Jesus and the salvation He won for all when He took on our flesh and suffered and died in our stead, for those who have the Son have life, and those who do not have the Son of God do not have life (cf. 1 John 5:12).

God provided salvation for us when He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for our sins. In Jesus, there is forgiveness and there is life! “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Grant that I not neglect Your Word, revealed to us by Your Son, but repent of my sinful ways and place my hope in Jesus, who suffered and died for the sins of the world. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

A sower went out to sow his seed….

“A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:5-8 (read v. 4-15)

From Jesus’ parable of the sower, we learn that not all who hear the Word of God with their ears rightly receive it. In fact, some who initially hear God’s Word and come to faith in Jesus fall away again; but, by the grace of God, some of the seed of God’s Word falls on good ground – prepared by the Lord – and grows and produces faith and its fruits.

As we read the parable of the sower and its explanation, we are quick to identify people we know with the poor kinds of soil and ourselves with the good ground. But, when we do this, we miss the warning and comfort of this parable for ourselves.

This parable certainly warns against being like one of the three poor kinds of soil. We may think of ourselves as the good soil, but how often do we not also fit the descriptions of the poor ground?

Many times we are like the hard ground. The Word of God is sown upon us, but it doesn’t sink in and produce fruit in our lives because we have either been uninterested or inattentive. Then the Word is snatched away by the devil.

Often we are also like the rocky soil. In times of trouble, affliction or persecution, we shrink back from a bold and faithful confession of the truths of God’s Word because we have not let that Word sink its roots deep into our lives.

When trouble comes, or persecution, we turn away in doubt and unbelief.

And how often, like the thorny ground, we let the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things in this life keep us from faithfully hearing and learning God’s Word!

These things choke out the Word and keep us from living our lives by faith in Christ Jesus.

When we are good soil, we can take no credit. We must say with Jesus that it is a blessing of the Lord when the Word sinks in, grows and produces fruit in our lives (Matt. 13:16).

It is the Lord who cultivates the soil of our hearts, breaking up the hard ground, removing the rocks and pulling out the weeds, that the gospel of forgiveness of sins and life eternal for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross might be heard and believed by us and produce fruit in our lives.

Almighty God, Thy Word is cast like seed into the ground; now let the dew of heaven descend and righteous fruits abound. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn # 49, Verse 1)

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

The Bible: Why should we read and study it?

The Bible

Lesson One

 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

 

 1. Why do we study the Bible? About what does it teach us?

 

2 Timothy 3:14-17: Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1 Peter 2:2: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.

We study the Bible because it is the inspired Word of God and it teaches us about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the study of the Bible, we learn the true doctrine and teaching of God, and we are taught how to walk in His ways.

 

2. What is unique and special about the Bible?

 

2 Peter 1:19-21: We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 2:13: Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

2 Samuel 23:1-2: Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

 

The Bible is special and unique because it is God’s Word to man. It was not written by the will of man. God Himself moved men to write and guided and directed them in the thoughts they expressed and in the words they wrote.

 

3. Does the Bible have mistakes and errors in it?

 

Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God is pure.

Psalm 119:160: Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

John 17:17: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 10:35: The scripture cannot be broken.

 

All that the Bible teaches and says is true because it is inspired by God Himself and is His Word.

 

4. Has the Word of God been corrupted or lost?

 

Psalm 119:89: For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

Isaiah 40:8: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

1 Peter 1:24-25: For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Matthew 24:14: And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Matthew 24:35: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Not only did God give His Word by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He has and continues to preserve His Word as a true and faithful witness to all the people in the world of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

5. What does God say about changing His Word – adding to it or taking away from it?

 

Deuteronomy 4:2: Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Matthew 5:18-19: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot [smallest Hebrew letter] or one tittle [smallest part of a Hebrew letter] shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Revelation 22:18-19: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Jeremiah 23:28: He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.

God forbids us to change His Word – to add to it or to take away from it. We are to speak and teach it faithfully. For this reason, we use great care to teach nothing more and nothing less than what God has revealed to us in the Bible. And we seek to use translations of God’s Word which are fully faithful to those texts which God has preserved and which have been widely used by the churches down through the centuries.

 

6. What use should we make of God’s Word?

 

Luke 11:28: Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Psalm 119:97: O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

We should read and study the Bible, learn its teachings and meditate upon it because it is God’s Word to us. It teaches us of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and it also teaches us how to live for our Lord and Savior.

Look in the front of your Bible at the listing of books there. You will find our Bible has a total of 66 books – 39 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. Memorize these books of the Bible in order so that you can easily find them when studying God’s Word. Also, memorize the Bible passages listed above which have been assigned by your teacher. If you can, memorize them all – they are God’s Word and will help you learn of Him and grow in your faith in Christ Jesus.

SUMMARY

 

We believe that all of the Bible, and each and every word of the Bible (the 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament canonical books), was given by inspiration of God and is therefore the true and unerring Word of God (II Peter 1:21; II Timothy 3:16; I Corinthians 2:13; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Samuel 23:1-2). We also believe that the Word of God has not been lost or corrupted, but has been faithfully preserved by God down through the centuries as a witness to all the nations (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; I Peter 1:25; Matthew 24:14,35). We believe that it is still accurately recorded in the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Majority (or Received) Texts, and that it can be read and studied in faithful Bible translations, such as Luther’s German Bible, the King James Version and New King James Version of the Bible, and other faithful translations. We reject and discourage the use of texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful and thus corrupt the Word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Jeremiah 23:28; Matthew 5:18-19; Revelation 22:18-19).

 

Since all of the Bible is God’s true and unerring Word, we teach that the Bible is to be the source and judge of all Christian Doctrine. What is not in accord with God’s Word is not to be taught as Christian Doctrine (Isaiah 8:20; Jeremiah 23:28-32; II Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 17:11). The Bible is also its own interpreter; thus, passage interpretations which are not in agreement with other clear passages of Holy Scripture are to be rejected (II Peter 1:20-21; Isaiah 8:20). We teach that the Bible is to be diligently studied and heard; for it reveals to mankind the only way of salvation, which is through faith in Christ Jesus, and it guides the Christian in living according to God’s Holy will (John 5:39; 20:31; II Timothy 3:14-17; Psalm 119:105).

Why do we preach the Word?

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” 2 Tim. 4:1-2 (read chapter four)

Why the focus on the Word of God? Why is it our endeavor to preach nothing but the Bible? To use only God’s Word to reprove, rebuke and exhort?

The answer, of course, is the command of God. Not only are we to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” we are to preach and proclaim the Scriptures, because they are God-breathed and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

As the apostle Paul charged Timothy, so our Lord Jesus charged us when He said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20).

As Paul commanded Timothy, pastors today are still to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” But what has happened? Instead, so many preach other things and attempt to reinterpret the Word to support their own ideas and opinions. And, sad to say, as a result, their hearers don’t know the Word, don’t recognize true doctrine and are easily swayed by the perverted doctrines of the devil and his preachers (v. 3-4; cf. John 8:44).

We preach the Word of God, nothing more and nothing less (cf. Deut. 4:2). Even when the world opposes us and people would rather not hear us, we exhort and proclaim the true doctrine with all long-suffering and patience, leaving the rest to God, who convinces people of the truth and creates faith in their hearts.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Thus, we continue to preach and proclaim the Word of God that men might be made “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” and be “throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Grant that we preach Your Word and nothing but Your Word, O Lord, that the Holy Spirit might reveal to us and our hearers our utter sinfulness but also the mercy and forgiveness You offer and give to sinners for the sake of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

Words of Encouragement for the Week of Jan. 30, 2013

Meditations in St. John’s Second Epistle

“I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.” 2 John 4

It gave the apostle John great joy to know that a number of those who had heard the truth of God’s Word and were (at least at one time) members of this Christian congregation were walking in the truth as commanded by God the Father.

As Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

Thus, there were yet believers from this congregation who walked in the truth. They believed the Word of God and acknowledged and confessed before God the Father their utter sinfulness; they placed their hope and confidence in His mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the propitiating sacrifice of God the Son for their sins and for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2). They held fast to their faith in Christ Jesus and they continued in God’s Word.

In our day too, we have great joy when God graciously brings one to faith in Jesus and preserves and strengthens them in the truth unto life everlasting. This is especially so because of the many who are baptized, attend Sunday school and confirmation classes but then turn aside from the truth back into the sinful and erring ways of this world, often to be lost forever.

In fact, we must acknowledge it as the greatest blessing when one comes to faith in the Savior and continues and grows in that faith for the rest of his or her earthly life, for it is only by the grace of God – the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit – that this happens.

And so, with the apostle, we too rejoice and give thanks to God for bringing us to know our Savior and for bringing others to know and trust in Him. And we rejoice and praise God as we see Him continue His gracious working in the lives of His children!

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). To Him be the glory!

O gracious and merciful God, thank You for bringing us to know and trust in the truth of Your Word which tells us of sins forgiven and life everlasting through the innocent sufferings and death and glorious resurrection of Christ Jesus, Your Son and our Savior. By Your Spirit, preserve us in Your truth and love unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 4; 1 Timothy 2:1-15; and Luke 4:1-15. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of 1 Peter, beginning at chapter 2, verse 18ff.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Sam Rusch, for Mel Boren, for Pastor Moll; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus. Remember the efforts to spread the Word of God through publication of the Scriptures and other faithful materials on the Internet through the Sword Project, Crosswire Bible Society, Xiphos and other organizations.

 

Events and Announcements

Potluck Dinner - Our next regularly-scheduled pot-luck dinner will be on Sunday, Feb. 3, following our worship service.

Choir will practice briefly following church services on Sunday.

New Organ – Following voters’ approval of the purchase of the pipe organ offered by Faith Community Church in Bentonville, work has begun to dismantle the instrument and transport it to our building. Over the next few weeks, much work will be done to move and reassemble the organ.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by email at pastor@goodshepherdrogers.org.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Infected thinking is destroying our churches

This is something you will not usually read in any major newspaper. In fact, you’re unlikely to find it in most religious periodicals. But I’m going to tell you what threatens to destroy so many churches and denominations of our day and why so many people already feel that religious views and matters of faith should be discussed only inside the walls of a church sanctuary or Sunday school classroom and not in public view.

While I could go into some detail on the root causes for this shift based on the philosophical views of modern man, let it suffice to say that it all boils down to how people and churches view the Bible. In early Christianity and again at the time of the Reformation, the Bible was viewed as God’s Word to man, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and true and authoritative in all that it teaches, including matters of morality, history and science. The Bible was regarded as true and without error in matters relating to God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, but also in other matters, such as a six-day creation, the age of the earth, the universal flood, and the earth being round rather than flat (Isa. 40:21-22).

As modern man moved away from this absolute and authoritative view of the Bible, in its place man substituted relative truth based on popular opinion of the day. Thus, as opinions and views change, so do moral values and laws. What was once considered truth because it is taught in the Bible is no longer considered true today. What was wrong because the Bible calls it sin or an abomination may no longer be counted sinful or wrong today.

While we might expect this in secular culture, it has also crept into churches and church bodies, even into conservative ones — I know from my own encounters with it. Pastors and teachers may still call the Bible true and authoritative, but they draw a line between the Bible’s teaching on spiritual matters and its statements which touch upon matters of science or history. They say the Bible teaches spiritual truth but is full of misguided errors when it speaks in the arena of history and science, errors which were shaped by the thinking of the period in which the Bible was written.

Many churches and religious teachers will say that God is the creator but deny that He did it in six normal-length days some 6,000 years ago. They may say that sin and evil came into the world but would deny the historical accuracy of the account of the fall in Genesis 3. They may even admit to a deluge of some sort but would deny God’s judgment upon the world through the universal flood described in Genesis 6-8. In this way, much in the Bible (and especially in the first 11 chapters of Genesis) is viewed only as myth which conveys spiritual truth.

But the dividing line in this division of the Bible hasn’t stopped there, between what is spiritual truth and what is history and science. It has crossed over even further, into moral issues, with a view that many of the Bible’s teachings on moral issues are only statements of the cultural values of the day in which the Bible was written.

Examples abound. Passages regarding marriage being the union of one man and one woman, and sexual relationships outside of marriage and divorce being sin are viewed as reflections of the culture of that time but not applicable today (cf. Gen. 2:18ff.; Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5:27ff.; 19:3ff.; Hebrews 13:4; and the same argument is often applied to the moral perversions condemned in Gen. 19, Lev. 18 and Rom. 1:18ff.). Prohibitions against women preaching and teaching in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34-37; 1 Tim. 2:11-15) are also regarded as cultural views of the day and not binding, even though the Scriptures tie them to creation and the fall and to God’s law.

This, of course, affects the heart of Christianity; for, if the Bible is in error regarding creation, the fall into sin, God’s judgment upon wickedness in the Genesis flood, moral values and lifestyles, of what need is there for a Savior from sin, Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross or His resurrection? And where does this dividing line in regard to truth in the Bible stop? It leaves nothing untouched, and faith is completely separated from history, science and any moral absolutes — and even reality! It becomes only a crutch to cope with the difficulties of life and to be practiced in the privacy of one’s home or church but not in the real world. Its truth is only relative — true if it helps you, but not true absolutely and applicable to all people.

The result, if left unchecked, is a Christianity stripped of its heart and soul — just another group of organizations seeking social justice and the welfare of mankind in this world. And for those who hold to the Bible’s authority, as did the early churches and the churches of the Reformation, it will mean exclusion from public expression and service and accusations of hate speech. In fact, Bible-believing Christians may soon face trouble and persecution simply because they believe and express all that the Bible teaches.

To combat the shift, Bible-believing Christians need to wake up and speak up, both by holding fast to all that the Bible teaches, whether it be in spiritual matters or matters of science, history and morality; and they need to study their Bibles and the overwhelming evidence of its truthfulness in all that it affirms so that they don’t lose their faith in the wake of the tide of modern relativism but can, rather, defend it.

Words of Encouragement for the week of Jan. 2, 2013

 Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle

“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” 1 John 5:19

Having been born of God and brought to faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior, His seed dwells in us and we are His children (cf. Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 1:23; John 3:5-6; Tit. 3:5).

The rest of the world, on the other hand, are of the seed of fallen Adam and remain under the sway and control of the devil, who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continues to hold sway over Adam’s offspring (cf. Rom. 5:12).

We too were born into this world dead in our trespasses and sins and walked according to the course of this world and were under the dominion and influence of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; Ps. 51:5). But God, in His mercy, raised us up from death to life through faith in Messiah Jesus (cf. Eph. 2:4-10; John 5:25).

When we look around us in the world – sometimes even among our own family members and friends – we see people still in darkness, still under the sway of the wicked one. We cannot raise them up, but we can proclaim to them the life-giving Word of God. The light of God’s Word shines upon them and reveals their utter sinfulness and the judgment of God justly deserved, but it also reveals the grace and mercy of God toward all in Christ Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness for us and then suffered and died for all our sins and rose again in triumph over the devil and his wicked scheme to destroy mankind and all God’s creation.

How thankful we can be that God has graciously “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14)! And since the world remains under the sway of the wicked one, how important it is that we shine the light of God’s Word upon this world that people might, by the grace of God, see and repent of their wicked ways and look to Jesus and His shed blood for forgiveness and life everlasting!

Thank You, O Lord God, for shining upon me with Your life-giving Word and raising me up from death, rescuing me from the rule of the devil and bringing me into the everlasting kingdom of Your Beloved Son Jesus Christ. Move me to proclaim the light of Your Word that others too might be called from death to life in Jesus. In His name we pray. Amen.

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 72; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12; and Matthew 2:1-23. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of 1 Peter, beginning at chapter 2, verse 11.

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Dawn Hiebert who is recovering from surgery, for Mel Boren who is in a nursing home, for Sam Rusch who was hospitalized, for Crystal Brooks, for Pastor Moll who is recovering from skin cancer surgeries; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus. Remember the efforts to spread the Word of God through publication of the Scriptures and other faithful materials on the Internet through the Sword Project, Crosswire Bible Society, Xiphos and other organizations.

Events and Announcements

A Pot-Luck Dinner will be held after church on Sunday. All are invited to join us in this meal and time of fellowship.

Congregational Evening Bible Study is tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by email at pastor@goodshepherdrogers.org.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.