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Due to icy road conditions and the forecast of additional freezing drizzle and glazing through mid-morning today, Bible classes and worship services at Good Shepherd are canceled.

We will next meet for Lenten worship on Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. A soup and sandwich supper is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” Mark 9:5-6 (Read 2-10)

What do we learn from Jesus’ transfiguration? Why do we consider it just before we enter the season of Lent and focus our attention on Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world? And, why must we, like Jesus’ three disciples, go down from the mountain?

First of all, we learn that Jesus is indeed the eternal Son of God for His disciples saw His glory – a glory which was hidden from their eyes during His earthly ministry. And, God the Father spoke from the cloud of glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” Cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Mark 1:11; John 12:28.

Secondly, we learn from the transfiguration the truthfulness of the Scriptures and all they teach concerning Jesus and the Christian Faith. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-21, Biblical Christianity is not some cunningly devised fable to deceive the world. Jesus is indeed the Son of God and His doctrine is true. Peter, James and John were there on the holy mount. They saw Jesus in glory and they heard the testimony of God the Father concerning His Son.

Thirdly, we learn from Jesus’ glory, when compared to the fading glory which shone on Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29ff., as well as the fact that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus “of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31), that the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to the New Covenant which Jesus would put in place by the shedding of His blood upon the cross.

Fourthly, we learn that, as Moses’ face reflected the glory of the LORD after he communed with the LORD in the tabernacle of meeting, so we, when we commune with our Lord Jesus through Word and Sacrament, reflect more and more the glory of our Savior. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Fifthly, we learn that Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus in glory. They were glorified and so also will we who believe be glorified with our Lord Jesus when He returns for us in clouds of glory. Cf. Revelation 7:9-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.; 1 John 3:2.

And finally, we learn that, though it is wonderful to be on the mount and see the Lord’s glory, we have to come down into the valley of this world. As Jesus descended from the mountain to bear the sins of the world and to suffer and die upon the cross, so also we are called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus (cf. Mark 8:34). As long as we live in this world, we have work to do here in the valley. We are called upon to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We are to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47) that others, too, might see Jesus for who He is and place their faith in Him. We are to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Christ Jesus that others, too, might partake of His glory.

Yes, “it is good for us to be here” and we need to be here that we might be assured of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, but we also have work to do down in this world that others might learn of Jesus and partake of the glory which awaits all who trust in Him!

O glorious Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, You have shown us Your glory that we might know You and have a glimpse of the glory to come, but You humbled Yourself and went to the cross that we might have pardon and forgiveness and be raised up in glory on the Last Day. Grant that we hear Your Word, trust in You and proclaim Your glorious Gospel to the world. Amen.

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

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“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” 2 John 1-2

The apostle John, who simply refers to himself as an elder in the church, writes to the elect lady and her children. While this could be a real woman named Kuria (the Greek word here translated lady) who has children and a sister, it appears more likely that John writes to a local church and to the believers in that church.

John doesn’t proclaim his apostolic authority, but simply writes as an elder and proclaims his genuine love for this congregation of believers. In fact, all who know and believe the truth revealed and taught to us by God’s Spirit in the Holy Scriptures share in that love for individuals and congregations who know and believe the truth revealed in God’s Word; namely, the truth of God’s salvation for lost and condemned sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ.

This remains true even today. Who are our dearest and most loved family members? Are they those related to us merely by blood or those related to us by spiritual birth and faith in our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

O God, grant us a genuine knowledge of the truth and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us a love, like that of John, for all who abide in the truth and hold fast to Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 3

Though we hear greetings like this often in church services and from the pulpit, what do these words mean?

Grace is God’s undeserved and unmerited favor. Instead of looking upon us in judgment on account of our sins, He looks upon us with favor because all our sins have been punished in His Son, Christ Jesus. Instead of dealing with us as our sins deserve, He has mercy upon us and forgives us for Jesus’ sake. Instead of being God’s enemies, God looks upon us as His friends. Instead of coming to us in wrath and with punishment, He comes to us in peace and accepts us as His own because all our sins were judged and condemned in His Son.

And this grace, mercy and peace come to us from the Father who so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son, and from the Son who so loved us that He went to the cross and died for us to make atonement for all our sins. And, of course, it is God’s Spirit who, in love toward us, reveals this truth to us and brings us to trust in God’s grace and mercy and peace in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His cross.

O gracious God, look upon me in mercy and with favor for the sake of the death and resurrection of the Son, Christ Jesus, in my stead. Amen.

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

As it gives parents joy when their children grow up and live decent and upright lives, so it gave the apostle John reason to rejoice greatly when members of this Christian congregation continued walking in the truth of God’s Word. Instead of turning back into sin or being misled by the many false teachers who pervert the truth, they continued in the faith revealed to them through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and clung to Christ and His cross for their salvation.

Sad to say, today so many who grew up in Christian churches and heard the truth as children have turned away in their adult years. Though they learned of their sinfulness and the redemption won for all by Christ Jesus, they have turned back into sin, turned away from the saving Gospel and have abandoned their faith in Christ Jesus.

Yet, when we find those who once heard and believed the truth continuing in it years later and throughout their lives, it gives us reason to rejoice and praise God for His faithfulness in preserving His elect children in the true faith in Christ Jesus.

O faithful and merciful God, thank you for bringing me to know the truth and to trust in Jesus as my Savior. Keep me in that truth that I not be lost but hold fast to Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” 2 John 5-6

Many are deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and yet disregard God’s commandments and live as they please in accord with the sinful longings of the flesh. Instead of living for the God who loves them and gave His Son to redeem them, they turn from Him and reject His Word to them. Not only do they not love and honor God, they also do not love and respect those who follow after Christ and seek to live in accord with God’s commandments.

John directs his readers – members of Christ’s church in this place as well as members of Christ’s church today – to love one another as God has loved us. He directs them to love but also explains that true love for God and fellow believers is to walk in accord with God’s commandments.

In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).

John warns his readers against those who held a false faith, who claimed to be believers but denied the Son and the Father by refusing to heed God’s Word and the truth taught them from that Word by the Holy Spirit. That warning is still needed today.

Keep me, O God, from a false sense of security. Grant that I not turn from You and Your truth and live in willful disobedience to Your commandments. Have mercy upon me for Jesus’ sake and keep me in Your truth and love. Amen.

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 7

In John’s day, there were those who denied the truth revealed regarding the person of Christ. Some denied that Jesus was true God. Others denied His humanity, teaching that God the Son did not really take on human flesh and blood and become true man in order to save us.

Today, too, there are those – even within the outward pale of Christianity – who deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ Jesus. Some claim He was just a man, a great prophet. Some say He is the Son of God but somehow less than the Father and not equal to the Father in being eternal, almighty, all-knowing or having all glory. Others still deny that He really became a true man, taking on a human body and soul through His conception and birth of the Virgin Mary.

Of course, to deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ is to reject God’s Word which tells us that Christ was and is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14). It is to deny that Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary and yet was Christ the Lord as proclaimed by angels (Luke 1 and 2). It is to deny that Jesus (Jehovah God, Himself) took on our flesh and died in our place to be our Savior.

Those who profess such lies are deceivers and opposed to the true Christ and the salvation He won for all by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of all the world.

Protect us, O Lord, from the many lies and deceptions of the devil that we might hold fast to Christ as true God and true man and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 8-9

John warned his readers – members of a local church of Christ Jesus – to be ever watchful over their doctrine and beliefs that they not lose the faith and salvation for which they had already suffered so much as they struggled to hold fast to Christ and His cross in a world full of idolatry and deceptive doctrines. If they were to give up the doctrine of salvation through faith alone in Christ Jesus, they would lose their reward and suffer the loss of their own souls.

Those who transgressed and did not continue in the teaching of Jesus Christ no longer walked in fellowship with God. But those who, by the Spirit, remained in the true doctrine of Christ – who acknowledged their sinfulness and placed their faith in Jesus, the God-man Savior, had forgiveness and mercy from God the Father, walked in fellowship with the Father and the Son and had eternal life (cf 1 John 1).

And, yes, this remains true today. We all need to watch out for the many lies and the deception circulated as truth in the world, and even within the outward pale of churches, and hold fast to Christ Jesus, true God and true man, as our Savior and Redeemer.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).

O Spirit of God, keep me ever watchful and preserve me in the true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through the study of Your Word. Amen.

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John 10-11

Is it right to help or in any way support those who proclaim a doctrine which is false? If one proclaims some truth but also mixes in error, what should we do? Can we support those who persist in departing from the teaching of Christ? Should we even wish them well in their work?

This is a difficult commandment to follow in a day when people are doctrinally indifferent and advocate a tolerance for false teaching and deception. But the apostle clearly tells us not to in any way support the preaching and teaching of one who does not hold to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus. We are not to give them lodging to help them on their way or even wish them well in their work if they “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3). From such we are to withdraw ourselves (1 Timothy 6:5).

O Lord, deliver us from the lies and deception of the devil and grant that we do not support the work of those who would pervert the true doctrine revealed to us in the Scriptures. Give us the wisdom and strength to withdraw from them and not become partakers of their evil deeds. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.” 2 John 12-13

How important it is that we gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments that we might encourage each other in the truth and be preserved in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus!

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

There is something special about encouraging each other face-to-face, and the apostle intended to do just that. Yet, the threat of false teachers and their erring doctrine made it necessary and urgent for John to send this warning to his fellow believers.

He relayed to them a warning against those who taught and lived contrary to the doctrine he and the apostles had delivered to them. He warned them against turning away from God’s commandments and back into sin, and he warned them of teachers who denied that Jesus is the Christ, the God-man Savior, and who departed from Christ’s doctrine.

John’s letter is equally important for each of us today. God grant that we heed God’s Word and hold fast to “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent” (John 17:3).

O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, graciously keep me in the truth, trusting in the atoning sacrifice of the Son. In His name, I pray. Amen.

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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.”

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 Timothy 3:15-17).

It is as is recorded of David 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 Timothy 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 Timothy 3:15; cf. Matthew 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 us 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 to us Jesus and salvation in Him.

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 Christ Jesus and to show us the salvation God provided for us in Him! It tells us that in Christ Jesus we have a lively hope – the everlasting joys of heaven – because He shed His holy and precious blood to redeem us and make us His own and is risen again (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 in Him. Amen.

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“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

Those who trust in Christ Jesus believe His words. They do not pick and choose, nor do they twist or explain away Jesus’ words and teaching. They accept His teaching on all things – even where it is contrary to contemporary public opinion. In fact, Jesus warns that, if we are ashamed of Him and His words in this present adulterous and sinful generation, He will be ashamed of us at His coming.

Do we live in an adulterous and sinful generation? Without a doubt! Even “Christians” and “churches” adulterate Jesus’ words and teaching to fit their opinions and lifestyles and to be more acceptable to this world.

And what do Jesus and His words entail? He said marriage is between one man and one woman, citing Genesis 2 (Matthew 19:3-9). He condemned adultery, pornography and divorce (Matthew 5:27-32). He was there in Genesis 18, talking with Abraham about God’s judgment upon the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is the one who forms and gives life in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16 and John 1:1-4). Jesus called God His Father and not His mother or some neuter-generic name.

Jesus also taught that He is the only way to the Father, that apart from faith in Him as the eternal Son of God and Savior we will die in our sins and be condemned to hell (John 14:6; 3:14-36; 8:24).

Are we ashamed of Jesus and His words? Do we shrink back from confessing Jesus as our God and Savior in the present adulterous and sinful generation? Do we pick and choose or twist His words to make our beliefs and teaching more palatable to those around us? Do we use our own limited reason to explain away what we don’t understand or what does not fit our modern worldview? Do we trust in our own works and lives rather than repenting of the sin and evil in our lives and looking to Jesus and His cross as our sole source of salvation?

Consider Jesus’ warning: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Dearest Jesus, forgive me for failing to confess You and Your words without shame before this adulterous and sinful generation. Grant that I hold fast to You in faith and boldly proclaim Your name. Amen.

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

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