Gracious Heavenly Father, we come to You again in sorrow as we see and hear of the violence in Las Vegas. We ask you to be with the survivors and the families of the victims. Bring comfort and healing to all. Help the first responders and all those who care for the injured, giving them strength to perform their duties. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
On Thursday, you may see and hear many reports of people gathering together for the National Day of Prayer. It is a day our government sets aside for people to pray for the country. The organization’s website states, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.”
The idea of asking the people of a nation to pray for that nation is not necessarily a bad idea—if those prayers are prayed by Christians to the only true God, the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But, while that may or may not have been the original idea behind this day, it is now often seen as a day to set aside our religious differences and come together. Often, public prayer events are held with Christians and people of many other faiths, all offering prayers to their “god.” What may look like an answer to many of the world’s problems, is instead an offense to God.
Prayers to all the different “gods” of the world serves no purpose. There is One God: The Triune God. Prayer is an act of worship, and joint prayer services involving Christians and non-Christians elevate false gods to the same level as the only true God, violating the First Commandment (You shall have no other Gods – Exodus 20:3) And, we are warned clearly in the New Testament against this type of worship: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV) We should treat all people with respect, but we should not accept false gods and false teachers as equally valid belief systems. It is our duty as Christians to point out error, to preach and teach all of God’s Word, so that Word can work through the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity) on the hearts of unbelievers and bring them to faith.
But, what about joint prayer services with other Christians? Let’s look at what God’s Word, the Bible, tells us. Why? Because Jesus Himself tells us the Bible is “truth.” (John 17:17) And Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, also tells us “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31 ESV) Abiding in the Word means that we follow that Word, even when it is difficult or unpopular. We should only pray together with those who also believe God’s Word—all of it. It is wrong to pray with others who deny such things as the inspiration of Scripture or the power of baptism, or the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. It may seem harsh to others, but Scripture is clear: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17 ESV) “Avoid them,” not “pray with them.”
Standing firmly on the teachings of Scripture is not always popular, and many will allow their emotions or human reason to cloud the Word of God in this matter. But we cannot give up the truth or we risk losing the Gospel. The Word of God assures us He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV) and, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17 ESV)
Please do pray for our nation and its leaders. But do not compromise your faith, or cloud the beautiful message of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ with a false unity.
-Rev. Paul Fries
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, and the day the Christian Church commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.
It is on this day that Jesus, fully God and fully man, bore the sins of the world, suffering Hell in our place as He hung on the cross. The death of Jesus paid the debt all people owe to God for their sins, redeeming us from sin, death and power of Satan. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
Christians observe Good Friday in solemn reverence, recognizing our own sinfulness and contemplating our utter hopelessness without the forgiveness and salvation earned for us by Jesus on the cross. As we contemplate our need for a Savior, we also look ahead to Easter, when our Savior, Jesus, rose from the dead.
Today is Maundy Thursday. Where do we get that name? The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means command.
On this day we remember Jesus’ commands on the day before He died. The first command is to love one another: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV)
Jesus also commanded that we continue to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion: And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20 ESV)
On Maundy Thursday, we remember the Lord’s commands and celebrate His Supper. We also look ahead to the love He showed for us on the following day as He laid down His life to save us.
Donald Trump swore. This may not come as much surprise. But what I have in mind is inauguration day, when he swore the presidential oath.
A long line of presidents have recited those words, and almost all of them took that oath with their hand on a Bible (or two).
Why the Bible? The use of this book is not required. Why not swear on the Constitution itself? Both John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce had this idea when they placed their hands on a book of U. S. law.
For some presidents-elect, no doubt, the use of a Bible has been little more than symbolic, a nod toward American tradition.
But for others, swearing by the Bible meant something more. They understood that they spoke their oath before the almighty God, who put them in this office and could easily remove them again.
This is why Bibles were so often used in courtrooms, to impress on those testifying that they would have to answer to God if they lied under oath.
Symbolic or not, I think this practice honors the intention of our country’s founders. They did not prescribe or outlaw any one holy book or religion. But they did establish the basic functions of American government using biblical principles.
The Creator God was understood as the Lord over all, including government. The Ten Commandments were accepted as His unchanging will. And a system of checks and balances was put in place because of a realistic view of human nature.
It is not a perfect government, but it is a good one. And it will remain a shining example to the world as long as America’s citizens recognize their place as created beings of an all-powerful and merciful God.
But this is not the way we humans naturally think. We do not like to see ourselves as beneath or subservient to anyone. We want to make our own rules and determine our own course. We want to be free in every way.
Except that we are not free. By nature, we are enslaved to sin.
The Apostle Paul said to Titus, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
“Hated by others and hating one another” – doesn’t that sound something like what we have witnessed in our country these last weeks and months?
As a people, we seem to have forgotten how to speak kindly with one another, how to admit when we have taken things too far, and how to forgive one another. There’s no way around it – we are sinners.
But God our Creator has done something about our sin. He sent His only Son Jesus to keep His holy law in our place, and to suffer and die for all our wrongs. Jesus Himself testified that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
No other religion in the world teaches anything like this, that the perfect God saves sinners by grace alone. This is the central message of Christianity. And Christianity is taught in only one book:
Pastor Peter Faugstad