Heavenly Father, as our nation pauses today to remember those in the military who have given their lives for freedoms we enjoy, we pray you would have us all look to you for strength, comfort and guidance. Be with all who serve in our Armed Forces. Bless them and their families. Grant your loving protection. Let peace prevail among all the nations, O God. Especially let your mercy rest upon our land, even as we acknowledge with thanksgiving your past goodness on this country. If it is your will, preserve the lives of the men and women in uniform as they defend our citizenry. Most of all, we pray that you would turn the hearts of all – military and civilian – to your holy Word where we find the true peace for our sinful souls that surpasses all understanding. Keep us repentant of sin. Move us to know, take hold and treasure your saving grace. In the name of Jesus, our Savior and Your beloved Son, who alone gives this peace and hope for eternity, we pray. Amen.
With government officials openly declaring their personal support of homosexual “marriage,” we feel it important to reiterate the biblical teaching that marriage, instituted by God, can only exist between one man and one woman by mutual consent and promise. We firmly believe that this is the only correct definition of marriage and reject as opposed to God’s Holy Word all other definitions.
We confess that Scripture condemns homosexuality and extra-marital relations (fornication and adultery) as sin. Nevertheless, when an individual caught up in such sins truly repents, the forgiveness of the Gospel is to be fully applied. We teach on the basis of Holy Scripture that marriage is the only proper context for the expression of sexual intimacy and for the procreation of children. See Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 18 and 7:2-9, John 4:17-18, 1 John 1:9, Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:18-24, and Matthew 19:4-6.
Fifty days after the most amazing event in world history, another amazing happening occurred in the same city. If Christ’s bursting from the tomb was a world-changing event (it most certainly was!), the day of Pentecost was a life-changing event for Christ’s church in the advancement of the saving Gospel.
What sticks in your mind about that day? The tongues of fire? The apostles’ instant ability to communicate in foreign languages? The sermon by Peter? How about this one: the prominence of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism?
Three thousand baptisms in one day. Wow! The people—the men, women, and children—listening to Peter on that Sunday took to heart what he was preaching concerning this energizing, sacred ordinance from God: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39).
Did you hear the mention of your name and mine? Consider the words: “every one of you,” “for all who are far off,” and “whom the Lord our God will call.”
Have you thought of how your Baptism, whenever the day and year it occurred, was enacted for your spiritual and eternal benefit as the true “church growth” method set forth so emphatically on that day in Jerusalem known as “the birthday of the New Testament Christian church”? Someone appropriately described Pentecost as “only a few drops of the coming rain shower.”
Praise God for this shower of grace! It has sprinkled on our naturally sin-hardened heart-land with Spirit-worked and Spirit-filled sprouts of blessing in our souls. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
The forgiveness of sins, as Peter explained long ago on that 50th day following Easter, earned by our Savior on the cross and sealed by His empty tomb, has been brought home to our own hearts by Baptism. What a miracle occurs when drops of water are connected with God’s Word “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Thousands upon thousands of this sprinkling of life continue to be made. May we ever be eager to advance this awesome rain shower of grace sent from the Father above. Pentecost is on the move!
-President John A. Moldstad
Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
Rollercoasters and my stomach do not agree. Yielding to peer pressure as a teen to ride the curvy rails, I was thankful that no videotape documented my white-knuckled grip with eyes glued shut. You, on the other hand, could well have enjoyed such a thrill—at least you said you did!
Sometimes our religious or spiritual lives can seem like a rollercoaster ride. This type of ride is never fun. One moment you are at an uplifting church service; a day or two later you are hit with devastating news. One day you are sharing the love of Christ with a needy soul; on another, you might find yourself complaining as if God did not care.
Transfiguration Sunday, February 19, is a high point in our church year. But don’t forget the previous week, as explained in Matthew 16. St. Peter was on a spiritual rollercaster. At the peak, he made a great confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commended this bold affirmation of faith and spoke of giving out the keys of the kingdom. Moments later, Jesus explained how He as Savior would need to suffer, die and rise again. Peter’s feelings took a serious dive. He objected to his Lord, “This shall never happen to you!” The coaster sank even deeper when Jesus said to him, “Get behind be me, Satan!” Peter wanted glory for Jesus, but did not fully grasp the mission of the cross and what this would mean for Him, for you and me, and for the whole world of sinners. Then, in just a matter of days, Peter’s soul coaster was at an apex. Peter, James and John witnessed the brillance of Jesus’ divine majesty on top of a high mountain. What a sight it must have been (Matthew 17:2)! Read what Peter later wrote in 2 Peter 1:16–21.
When we have our own up and down moments, let us not forget the critical juxtaposition of Jesus’ description of His death at Calvary—what Peter mistakenly saw as a low point—and the high mountian experience of glory. The One who goes to the cross on His resolute mission to pay in full the price of justice for our sins is the One who possesses the full power and majesty of the universe. If God goes to the cross and sheds blood for us, how can we fail to have forgiveness for every sin and the certainty of His everlasting love? This He did for Peter and for us! This He did for all. A Bible scholar classified the Transfiguration of Jesus as a “beacon- fire” moment. In Old Testament times, the Jews had a custom of lighting beacon-fires from hill to hill, announcing to those at a distance from Jerusalem the approaching day of a feast. Alfred Edersheim says, “So does the glory kindled on the Mount of Transfiguration shine through the darkness of the world and tell of the Resurrection Day.”
Can we engage others with Jesus, serving as beacon-fires?
John A. Moldstad