Heavenly Father, again we come into Your presence with heavy hearts. We ask you to bring an end to the violence in our land. Help us to see one another’s lives as You see them—as valuable and irreplaceable. Let the innocent receive mercy and the guilty be brought to justice. Remind us of Your commands regarding our speech, that the words of all people may bring peace and healing. Give our leaders and our law enforcement wisdom to perform their duties faithfully and remind us of our sacred duty to obey all those You have placed over us. Above all, we ask You, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to bring the peace of Christ to all people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
“Righteousness exalts a nation,” says Solomon (Proverbs 14:34). Christians serve as salt for the nation by praying for peace and justice. Of prime concern is that all repent of sin and trust in Christ for forgiveness and salvation. But we also pray for morality. We pray for good order and for qualified leadership. Paul urges prayers for “kings and all in authority” so that in a peaceful society there is free access for the preaching of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Could a reason we deal almost daily with added assaults on the morality and teachings of the Bible be a lack of prayers? Are the general prayers in our services seen as a valuable arsenal, or as a traditional time-filler? Imagine what happens when Christians across our country use the mighty power of prayer and seek God’s blessings for our nation, for its officials, and for our own neighbors!
Dr. Luther addressed the subject of good works for Christians in society. He wrote in 1520: “We must take to heart the need of all men, and pray for them in real sympathy and in true faith and trust. . . The Christian church on earth has no greater power or work against everything that may oppose it than common prayer. . . If (the devil) noticed that we wished to practice this prayer, even if it were under a straw roof or pigsty, he would not tolerate it for an instant. He would fear such a pigsty far more than all the high, great, and lovely churches, towers, and bells that ever were, if such prayer were not in them” (LW 44:65-66).
So, we now offer up another petition from our poor pen. We have learned that a judge in the state of Wyoming has been accused of judicial misconduct for stating her religious beliefs. The judicial responsibilities of Judge Ruth Neely, who is an LCMS member in Pinedale, Wyoming, do not allow her to solemnize marriages. Her additional duties as a part-time magistrate do include the ability to solemnize marriages. Even though she has never been asked to perform a same-sex wedding, Neely, a 21-year municipal judge, has let it be known that she cannot perform them because of her Christian belief that marriage is defined by God as between one man one woman. A case has been filed against the judge, pitting the aggressive LGBT advocates against those contending for religious freedom.
Do any who desire to hold public office need to scrap their religious beliefs, particularly when such beliefs are in line with their own state’s constitution, yet deemed unconstitutional on the national level? The LCMS and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have each filed an amicus brief this past month supporting Judge Neely (lcms.org/board/amicusbriefs). Please pray for Judge Neely. Pray also that hearts are turned to repentance and faith in the One who has given us His own definition of marriage and has even redeemed us with his blood.
A pigsty prayer? Who can know all the power it packs?
J. A. Moldstad
When we really step back and look at our lives here in America compared to other countries, it doesn’t take long to see countless blessings. We know all of these are from God’s grace. A significant aspect of giving thanks to God for such blessings is remembering those who have sacrificed their lives on our behalf and remembering their families as well.
Just over one million U.S. men and women have died during service in wartime and about 42 million people have served in the military in service to their neighbor. As Christians, we know that Memorial Day is not a religious holiday. It is, however, underestimated by Christians if known merely as three-day weekend, the end of the school year, or the beginning of the camping season and the start of summer cookouts. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our nation.
Although several cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York, was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear—Memorial Day was a product of the Civil War and a desire to honor the fallen. One documented case was in the spring of 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi. After an elderly mother had decorated with flowers the graves of her two sons killed in battle, she walked to the corner of the cemetery and placed her leftover flowers on the grave of an unknown Union soldier.
“What are you doing? That’s a union soldier’s grave!” yelled a Southerner. “Yes, I know that, but I also know that somewhere in the North a mother or young wife mourns for them as we do for ours,” responded the mother.
This compassionate and humbling deed of decorating military graves with flowers set into motion what became Decoration Day and then evolved to our current Memorial Day as we remember our nation’s military fallen.
In addition to remembering and reflecting on the fallen military veterans, we can show honor to the fallen by supporting and encouraging the living. One way to do this is through our new Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG). This newly-formed ELS & WELS veterans’ partnership is requesting each congregation to have a veteran liaison to lead initiatives for organizing ways to help military veterans and their families. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are especially good times to show your support through your volunteering or donations of support. To learn more go to: www.LutheranMilitary.org
Finally, please do remember in prayer and with thanksgiving those who are serving our country, those who have served, and their families.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13).
Jesus, the Almighty Son of God, prayed to God the Father, “Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17) God’s Word is truth. The Word of God is the basis for all the beliefs of a Christian. For someone to declare even one part of God’s Word incorrect, they must be willing to believe that all of it is untrue. For a Christian, faith in the Word of God is a necessity. It cannot be compromised.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we are taught that God created human beings as male and female: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27) Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. (Genesis 5:2) Further into the book of Genesis, Noah is told to bring male and female of each kind of animal into the ark. (Genesis 6)
Because God created two sexes, two genders, that is what Christians must believe and teach to remain faithful to God’s teachings. According to God there are two genders: male and female. There are no other options. To believe or teach otherwise is to declare to God that He is wrong.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning… (Romans 8:22). Even creation itself groans in its imperfection as it waits for the return of Jesus. Because of the Fall into sin, creation is imperfect. In very rare instances, people are born without a clear physical indication of their gender or with extra genetic material. This does not change the fact that there are only two genders: male and female, as God created them.
Christians should treat all those who are struggling with their gender identity with respect and empathy, leading them to know that God assigned their gender even before they were born and that gender is not changeable. More importantly, we need to bring the saving message of the Gospel to them through God’s Word. Jesus died for all people, even those who are broken, confused and struggling. God wants all people to repent of their sins continually, understanding that Jesus has paid for and forgiven those sins. He wants all of us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to leave those sins behind us and to walk in His ways.
Rev. Paul Fries
Holy Week and Easter often lead us to focus more deeply on our faith, the awesome sacrifice Jesus made for us, and the world-changing event of the Resurrection. Our focus is so intense that we may not watch what is going on in the world around us. As we, in the United States, freely attended our churches to hear, once again, of the forgiveness of sins Jesus paid for by his sacrifice on the cross, and of the glorious news of the physically risen Christ on Easter, other Christians in our world suffered greatly.
In Pakistan, at least 70 are dead at the time of this writing. They were killed in a bombing specifically targeting Christians who were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter. The fate of a Catholic priest kidnapped from an old people’s home in Yemen is not yet clear, though some are reporting that the threat to crucify him for his faith was carried out on Good Friday. These two stories have been in the news. But millions more suffer in silence, with their stories untold by the world press.
Some Christians languish in prisons and work camps because they defied their government’s ban on worshipping or of simply owning a Bible. Some suffer daily abuses because they live in countries with a majority of people who are hostile to the Christian faith. Many millions more live in constant fear from their governments, from their neighbors and even from their own families. Jesus warns that following Him would not always be easy. He speaks of the persecution of those who follow Him quite often in the Gospels. But He reminds us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
When I consider all those who live in fear because of their faith, the words of a familiar hymn often come to mind: “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace…” (My Hope is Built, ELH 197:2) Though God’s will may be hidden to all, our trust remains in Christ.
While the sacrifice of our Savior and of His resurrection from the dead are still fresh in our minds, let us remember all those suffering for the sake of the Christian faith. Join us in praying, “Gracious Heavenly Father, I come before you with awe and thankfulness for the great love You showed to me in sending Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Savior. I ask You to be with all those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus as their only Savior from sin and death. Give them strength to deal with their trials even as their steadfast confession of the faith stands as an example to all. I pray also for their persecutors, that they may hear the truth of Your Word and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have their hearts changed from unbelief and hatred to faith and trust in You. Grant to all who are suffering for Jesus’ sake, the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding. In the name of my Risen and Living Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Rev. Paul Fries