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“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. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 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.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

The Christian Faith is not built upon cunningly devised fables. It does not rest upon the visions of one or two founders (such as the faith of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists or Islam). The Christian Faith, unlike other religions, is a religion based on historical fact – witnessed by not only a privileged few but by 12 apostles, numerous prophets and hundreds and even thousands of eyewitnesses.

The Apostle Paul could testify in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

If people had doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, there were ample numbers who had witnessed Jesus’ death and had seen Him alive again after His resurrection. They didn’t have to take the word of one or two witnesses. The events surrounding Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were witnessed by so many they were undisputed. If you notice in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ enemies didn’t dispute the things He had done; they disputed by what power He had done them.

Peter himself was a witness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And, as he says in this epistle, he was there on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus (cf. Matthew 17:1ff.) when God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

And we Christians have far more proof and documentation upon which to build our faith than just Peter’s testimony. As he writes, “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.”

As Christians, we have the testimony of Scriptures, written over a period of about 1,600 years by approximately 33 different authors – though, in fact, it has only one author, and that is God, who moved these men to write and put into their hearts and minds the words which they wrote so that all of Scripture is God’s own inspired or God-breathed Word (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

It is as David said in 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.”

Notice that the Bible does not teach that the writers of Scripture were inspired – though God indeed did move them to write – it says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Scriptures themselves are God-breathed and inspired.

Though recorded by so many different men and over such a lengthy period of time, the Scriptures agree completely and throughout. There are no unexplainable discrepancies. The message is the same from beginning to end: Man has sinned and fallen short, but God provided redemption in His Son.

And so, our faith rests upon solid truth – upon the witness of so many eyewitnesses who were so convinced of the truth they gave their lives for it, and upon the witness of God Himself who gave us the Scriptures and has preserved them down through the centuries as a witness of the truth that we might be made “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15; cf. Matt. 5:18; 24:14).

Yes, the Scriptures reveal the holy will of God and our utter failure to live up to His law, but the same Scriptures assure us that “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). The Scriptures assure all of us who believe that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6,7).

We would do well to pay heed to the Scriptures “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” When we read our Bibles, attend church where the Scriptures are faithfully taught and listen carefully to God’s inspired Word, the Scriptures are like a light shining in a dark place – they reveal to us Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, the Light of the world.

Again, the Scriptures themselves say: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

Through the hearing of God’s Word, God shines into our hearts and reveals our sins but also reveals to us Jesus and salvation through faith in Him and His atoning sacrifice.

It is as Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:6), “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

And so, unlike other religions and faiths, our faith rests upon the witness of many chosen apostles and prophets recorded for us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Bible. It rests upon the witness of God Himself, recorded for us in His inspired Scriptures.

God’s Word shines like a light into a dark place – it shines into our hearts to reveal to us our sinfulness and our just punishment, but it also reveals to us Christ Jesus and the salvation God provided for us through faith in His name! It tells us that through faith in Christ Jesus we have forgiveness for all our sins and a lively hope – the everlasting joys of heaven – because Jesus shed His holy and precious blood to redeem us and make us His own and is risen again in victory (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-9, 18-19).

God grant that the light of His Word shine in our hearts and reveal to us Christ Jesus and salvation through faith in Him. Amen.

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

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“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27 (Cf. Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)

It had been a busy day! Jesus had healed the centurion’s servant, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, healed the sick and cast out devils in some among the multitudes who came to Him, and He had taught about the cost of discipleship to those who spoke of following Him.

He and His disciples then entered into one of the fishing boats and began to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a tempest arose. Though the wind and the water were likely calm when they set off, a violent wind storm arose on the sea and the boat in they were making the crossing was being swamped by the waves so that these seasoned fishermen — experienced with storms on the sea — realized they were in peril of dying in the storm. All the while, we read that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat!

And what if the disciples’ fears had come to pass and the boat sank (along with the other boats mentioned in Mark’s Gospel) and they all perished? If you think about it, that boat carried a very precious cargo. It carried Jesus, the Savior of the world, and His disciples, who were being trained to preach the Gospel of forgiveness and life in all the world! If that little boat had sunk, with it would have perished our only hope of salvation and the founding teachers of Christ’s Church (cf. Acts 4:12; Matt. 16:15-18).

And, in so many ways, Christ’s Church in this world — His little band of true believers — is like that boat being swamped by the waves in the windstorm on the Sea of Galilee. There are, of course, many who claim to be Christ’s disciples and true Christians but, because they reject His teaching and do not repent of their sinful ways and place their faith in Christ alone and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, they are not true Christians and are not a part of His Holy Christian Church which is made up only of true believers. They are not even in the boat with Christ and don’t experience the storm on the sea!

Like that little fishing boat on the sea of Galilee, the winds of false doctrine (cf. 1 Cor. 11:19) and the waves of persecution and suffering (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12-13) beat against the Church and cause us to fear — at least at times — that Christ’s true Church in this world will perish, that the devil’s attacks with erring doctrine and with ridicule and persecution will send the little boat and Christ’s believers to the bottom of the sea. And, all the while, it still so often appears that Christ is asleep in the boat and unconcerned.

And what does Jesus say when His disciples cry out to Him, saying, “Don’t you care that we are about to perish?” (Mark 4:38): “Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?” And we do have little faith when we doubt that Christ can and will preserve His Church through the preaching of His Word and the right administration of His Sacraments.

God promises in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; Tit. 3:3-7.

Jesus has promised that “the gates of hell” will “not prevail” against His Church (Matt. 16:18). And His Word assures us that He who began a good work in us will continue and complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Though our Lord Jesus may let us struggle for a time against the wind and the waves and suffer the attacks of the devil, the world and our own flesh against us, in His time, He will rebuke our enemies and say, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). And when He does, all who opposed us and fought against us will be silenced and stilled. And Christ’s Church, which He has redeemed with His own blood and made His own through the waters of Baptism will enjoy an eternity of peace and calm in His everlasting kingdom, for all who rejected the truth will be judged and cast out into the everlasting fires of hell and all who have placed their hope in Christ alone will be raised up to the eternal bliss of heaven! Cf. 2 Thess. 1:6-10.

Forgive us, O Lord, for our fears that we will perish in the midst of the winds of false doctrine and the boisterous waves of persecution. Grant that we not abandon ship but hold fast to You and Your cross in faith, looking forward to the eternal peace and joys of heaven You have promised to us and all who believe. Amen.

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

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“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:1-7

Like the people of Old Testament Israel, we all too often spend our lives, our energy and our incomes on things which do not satisfy. Instead of taking the time to read and hear God’s Word and learn of Him and His ways, we use all our time and energy focusing on the cares and pleasures of this life. In the end, such things do not satisfy. They leave us empty and desiring more in the hope that, somehow, we will find happiness.

Again, as He pleaded with the people of Old Testament Israel, He pleads with us: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”

God called to His people of old to repent of their sinful ways and return to Him. He promised to make with them an everlasting covenant – the sure mercies of David, the certain mercies won for all by Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who would make atonement for all sins by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross and who would establish an everlasting kingdom made up of all who repent of their sinful ways and trust in Him.

And God calls upon us – even pleads with us – to turn back to Him before it is too late! He says to us too: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

The hour of our death and the day of Christ’s return are drawing ever closer. Then it will be too late to repent; the hour of our judgment will have come! While there is yet time – while God is still near to us with His gracious offer of forgiveness and life in Christ – He would have us forsake our sinful thoughts and ways and turn unto Him for mercy and forgiveness.

Through the preaching of the Gospel, through the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the Supper of our Lord, He offers and gives to us the mercy and forgiveness won for us by Christ Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again. He reaches out to us and offers us pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat.”

And when, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, we turn back to Him in contrition and faith, God is merciful to us and abundantly pardons. No matter how great our sin, God forgives us all because of the holy life and bitter sufferings and death in our stead of His only begotten Son – and the son of David – Jesus Christ our Lord!

So I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and have sinned in thought, word and deed? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you and made atonement for all your sins? Do you also believe that Jesus, in His Supper, gives you to partake of His body and blood which were given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you? And, as a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?

If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

O LORD God, by the gracious working of Your Holy Spirit, grant that we live in continual repentance and be found trusting in Jesus Christ our Savior when our earthly life comes to a close. We ask this for the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death in our stead and because of His glorious resurrection. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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