Monday, December 31, 2012

Psalm 79 - Thy Kingdom Come This New Year

O God, the nations have indeed invaded your inheritance! (Psalm 79:1)

And.. not just the nations, but, we, we who are His children, have defiled the temple of God.  We, have neglected the worship and praise due to One who loves us so dearly. We wait for a miracle or two or three and then we will believe, truly believe and trust in the LORD. We, who are His people, have turned our backs on Him and share in the sins of past generations. He will not hold against us our ancestor's sins.  However, sadly, we have inherited their sins.  We have learned them. We have repeated them and, yet, we say, we have no sin.

It is the eve of a new year.  Repent, turn to the LORD, live life more fully in His kingdom.  Make this year a sweeter one.  Make this world a more joyful and peaceful one.  Even as we trust that He answers our prayer: "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Turn back and rejoice in the LORD now.  Begin a new thing, something that has been lost for a few generations:  Praise the LORD now, even before you can see with your eyes the blessings that the LORD has given you, has given us.  Praise the LORD, all you children of God.  Praise Him and give Him thanks for those things which, through faith, you have received.

God's blessings on your new year. And... may the peace of God be extended through you to all people.

Pr. J.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Psalm 78 - Who Is Listening To The Things Of Old?

So, who is listening?  Are we teaching the things of old to the next generation so that they in turn will tell their children and they would put their trust in God?  (Psalm 78:1-4, 6 NIV)

How long will God restrain His anger against those who refuse to hear His Word, who refuse to teach it to their children?

Yesterday, my youngest granddaughter wanted to know what the world stubborn means.  I'm thinking her older sister probably had implied that she was being stubborn.  Stubborn, I told her, means that someone always has to have everything their way no matter who it might hurt.  Stubborn means that someone is not willing to listen to others. They are not willing to learn or grow from the experience or knowledge of others. Stubborn means being unwilling to compromise in the way that things are done, even if compromising is the best and right thing to do at the time. Yes, one little question, will get my grandchildren lessons and lectures...

But, they need to know... that there are things that cannot be compromised. The Word of God cannot be compromised.  But, there are also things that we do need to find a compromise to, so that we can live in relative peace and harmony. Things like what we're going to eat for supper, we can compromise on. Or... what to wear to school, where we're going on vacation, what movie to watch, how and when to weed the garden. So long as none of our compromises involve going against the Word of God, God's will for humankind, compromise can be a very good thing. 

And... how do we know what is God's will? We hear His Word, we read and study scripture (just like you're reading Psalm 78 today), and we listen to those who would teach us.

Are you listening? Are you teaching the things of God to the next generation so that they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands; so that they would not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation. (vs 7, 8)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Psalm 77 - Fiscal Cliff

Lots of people thinking about the "fiscal cliff" as the year 2012 comes to a close. There is no doubt that going over the edge is going to hurt a lot of people. I know that it will cost me a bit.  I tried to deposit a third party check earlier this month (same check I've sent every month for years) to a charge account.  They put a hold on it for seven days.  When I asked why, I was told that it's due to the financial state of this country. They wanted to make sure the check cleared before they deposited it.  In the meantime, I got charged for seven extra days of interest. The financial status of this country is on pretty shaky ground. But, the closer we get to that day, the less I seem to worry about it. It will be what it will be.  Our elected officials don't seem to be able to do or want to do much about it so there is nothing left except to remember that it is the LORD who is Almighty. He is in charge. Let Him be.

He will not reject us forever. Look back to where you have been, where we have all been, and we shall see that the LORD has been with us.  We have had some pretty murky times in the past.  He has led us through some turbulent waters and it is He who will save us even now.  Of course, we also have to remember, that sometimes, in order to save us, we have to go through some even more troubled waters. There may be a positive side to this "fiscal cliff" - to remind us of who God is and it is not us - it is not the elected leadership of this country. That lesson might hurt a bit, but in the end, His people will follow in His path through the sea, through the mighty waters, even though His footprints cannot be seen. He will lead His people like a flock to the other side and we will all meditate on and rejoice over His mighty deeds.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 28, 2012

Psalm 76 - Lucifer Is Not Worthy Of Our Fear

Television brings us some strange figures that supposedly are to be feared.  But, Psalm 76 reminds that there is only one to be feared and that is God.  Who can stand before Him when He is angry? (vs 7) 

It is not a laughing matter, but I cannot help but smile when people tell me of visions they have had of the devil - you know that red guy with the horns.  Who told them this?  Who put this picture of the fallen angel in their heads?  I'll tell you.  They saw it on television, they did not read it from scripture.  (Note: Revelation provides symbolic - not literal pictures of evil) I've been told how these encounters with Lucifer have changed their lives.  Yep!  Sure did.  They now live in perpetual fear of death rather than the love of life that God gave them.  Rather than looking forward to life reconciled to God in His Kingdom, they are afraid of death, the devil and all the forces of hell.  Television has put the fear of Lucifer in the hearts of humankind. But, Jesus told his followers: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt 10:28 NIV) Who can do this? It is definitely not Lucifer!

God is above all things, all beings.  He is the creator of all.  He is our creator.  He gives life. There is only one God and that God has given us His all so that we might live.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Psalm 75 - Re-focus!

Just got off of facebook.  God has some wonderful timing.  I don't normally read all the posts since there are so many, just the ones that are on top. God's timing is wonderful!  I would not have seen the bullying or the boasting if I'd woke up a half hour later.  The posts fit just wonderfully with this morning's text from Psalm 75.

Quit boasting! Quit bragging! Quit exalting yourself! What foolishness to lift oneself up before others.  Someone needs to spend a little more time focusing on praising God and all that He has created rather than tearing down others. 

Praise the LORD, for His Name is near, tell of His wonderful deeds!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Psalm 74 - Destruction of Temple

Psalm 74 seems to have been written following the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar.  God's people have been taken to Babylon in captivity.  The Psalmist wants to know why, as Almighty as God is, hasn't He acted against those who have desecrated His temple?

Why?  We could ask the same thing, today?  Why is God not acting against those who have made His places of Worship something other than places of prayer, places to worship Him?  Why are men and women allowed to preach false gospels in buildings that were built for His glory? Why does He permit it?  Or, does He? 

Have we, too, been led into captivity and we're so blind to who God is that we don't even know it? Have we turned our backs on Him and we're so blind that we cannot even see that? Have we become God's enemies?

Lot's of questions to ponder as we enter into a new calendar year... May they help us to look within ourselves and turn in a new and renewed direction that will build up His temple, glorifying His Holy Name.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Psalm 73 - Evil Is Not To Be Envied! Live In The Light Of Christ!

Merry Christmas!  What a relief!  The light has come into the world. Somehow, every Advent, as well as Lent, the Holy Spirit wants to take me on a journey.  They are usually pretty tough journeys. This Advent has been quite a sorrowful journey as I have encountered people who are suffering as well as those who are busy inflicting suffering.

The Psalmist writes that he saw the prosperity of the wicked, that they have no struggles.  I assure you that struggles come to us all, rich or poor or in-between.  Evil has no preference. Evil does not discriminate. I definitely would advise against emulating the wicked so that you might be prosperous. Not, a good idea!

Yesterday, as I prepared for Worship, I noticed that my shoulders were hunched forward, as though they were trying to bear a heavy weight upon them.  I was tired. As the evening drew nearer, I thought of all the people I had spoken to, all that I had encountered this past four weeks and a heavy sadness came over me. I realized that I had taken in so much negativity; I had been in contact with so much evil, so much pain and suffering, some self-inflicted, some not, that I was, in part, feeling the weight of their burdens. It was exhausting. I certainly was not envying those who are arrogant or evil.  I was not thinking about how blessed others are.  I was thinking about how much sorrow and pain and suffering I have witnessed in the last month in both those who suffered as well as those who might cause others to suffer.  I was, also, thinking how blessed are those who know the LORD.  I assure you, the spirits of those who do not know the LORD and cause others to suffer, do not prosper.  They might look like it on the outside.  The world might see prosperity, but on the inside they are alone and afraid.  The darkness overwhelms them.

Do not envy those who appear to prosper and do not know the LORD.  Look, listen, open your hearts to a greater understanding of what it must be like to attempt to live in their world, without knowledge of the LORD.  Can you imagine living in darkness every minute, every day of your life?  When we do that, when we can begin to feel, just a little, of the pain that even our persecutor's might feel, we will then realize how blessed we truly are in the knowledge of God.  And... we might even learn to have a bit more empathy for those who are stuck in the darkness of their own sins. We might even learn to pray for our enemy!

Can you imagine living in darkness for perpetuity? That is the inheritance of those who would serve themselves rather than God. 

The good news is that the light has come into this world.  It is Christmas morning and we celebrate a little baby born in a manger in Bethlehem to be our Savior. 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:1-3 NIV)


"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." (John 3:19-21)

Let us pray that those who walk in the darkness will come into the light.

Merry Christmas!  Pr. J

Monday, December 24, 2012

Psalm 72 - Conclusion of David's Prayers

"This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse." (Psalm 72:20 NIV)

Yes!  This concludes the prayers of David.  It's been a reminder that God hears those who are persistent in their prayers.  But, I have to say, I was getting a bit worn by all this begging. As I read the last verse, I was reminded of the story from Luke 18 about the unjust judge and the persistent widow.  She kept going back and begging the judge for justice against her adversary, until he finally relented.  "And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 17:6-8)  

David, the son of Jesse, was definitely persistent in his prayers.  The LORD sure has more patience than I do.  I would have gotten tired of him begging for justice long before just so I wouldn't have to listen to him.

But, today is Christmas Eve, and the answer to all the prayers is about to be celebrated!  The King above all kings, the Savior of humankind, God incarnate, born in a stable to answer the prayers who call upon His name.

Have a blessed Christmas Eve and may the peace of the LORD be with you through this Holy Night. Pr. J

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Psalm 71 - Aging

It is inevitable that with each passing year, we will change.  Our bodies grow weary, some of us begin to lose memories of the past, we grow old and sometimes we wonder, or rather are made to wonder by others, if God has forsaken us. 

God has not forsaken us. He is our strength when there is none left within us. He is our rock and our fortress.  Our faith should not be weakened with the passing day, but grow strong as we learn day by day, minute by minute, to depend on Him for our very breath. Our faith shall grow stronger as each day the hope of living "whole" in His kingdom is renewed. Though we have seen troubles, many and bitter, God will restore our lives again; from the depths of the earth, he will bring us up again. He will give us comfort. (vs. 21-22)

Even when we are old, we will remember with thanksgiving the God who has been with us and will be with us all of our days.  He is our hope and our salvation.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Psalm 70 - What Motivates Meanness?

The Psalmist makes another plea for help - to be saved from his enemy.  Up before 4 a.m. again, wondering exactly why it is humankind actually thinks it necessary to bring ruin to others in the first place.  I particularly have a hard time understanding, not so much the outright meanness, but the passive-aggressive verbal, mental, and emotional abuse that goes on. What motivates people to be so hateful? I am not even sure if they even have a clue how much they hurt others, by their self-centered life-styles. If they did, would it stop, would they stop?  Or, would the meanness just get worse as they revelled in their ability to persecute others?

The only thing that I can come up with is that they simply do not know the LORD. They may say they are Christians, but the fruit does not bear witness to that? They know a little about Jesus, but they do not know Him.  I cannot help, but feel empathy for them.  It must be a very lonely place that they are at. In the meantime, they continue to attack even those who love them.

So, for this morning, I think I shall pray: Hasten, O God to save our enemies, open ears, hearts, minds to a greater understanding of Your Word, Your good will for them and all people, that we all might be helped.  

'The LORD is great!" (vs 4) He is greater than great! He is my help and my salvation. He is your help and your salvation. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 21, 2012

Psalm 69 - End of Days

Today is 12/21/2012.  It is the day that so many false prophets told us would be our last day.  I do not know what is in store for the world today, what kind of pain and suffering humankind will inflict upon itself and the earth.  But, I am convinced that today is not the end of it all.  Jesus told us that no one would know the day or hour. (Matt 24:36) So, when someone tells me that they do know. I believe Jesus, first.

In the meantime, while those who are waiting for the day when the LORD returns in full glory, the world is busy destroying itself, individuals looking to save and prosper their own skins, rather than considering ourselves to be a part of something greater - a gestalt, if you will.

We are foreigners, even to our own families, as each looks to the preservation of self.  We tread water or sink in the miry depths of our own selfishness and greed, not understanding that unity in Christ, with one another, is the only thing that will lift us out of those deep waters.  The world thirsts for something... But, they know not what it is. They search in all the wrong places for peace.

There is only one answer to all of this despair.  It is found in seeking the LORD.  It is found in seeking His Kingdom. It is the LORD who will save us and none other.

I am rambling again...  The troubles and the despair that dwell upon this earth this Advent season are reason enough to look for the LORD.  Oh, how I pray, that the world would do just that. Save us, O' LORD, from ourselves.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Psalm 68 - Power and Strength

"You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!" (Psalm 68:35 NIV)
Today's reading (and I hope you are actually reading the scripture each day!) is a wonderful affirmation of God's power in the lives of His children.  He gives power and strength to His children.  Sometimes, it seems that He's a little slow in coming to our aid. But, once the trouble is past, we can usually see how His timing was perfect for the most blessed outcome.
I am reminded of the faith of the mustard seed.  The disciples wondered why they could not drive out a demon from a man.  Jesus told them, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt 17:20)  Imagine that!  First off, does a mustard seed really have faith or is it, maybe, because the mustard seed is totally dependent on God for life and growth?  Secondly, Jesus is telling us that all things are possible with faith. I believe this.  I have seen it happen over and over again. And... with faith, by trusting God, good things do come about - in His time, according to His will.  God will defend His children. Healing of all kinds takes place. 
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
    sing praise to the Lord,
to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
    who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God,
    whose majesty is over Israel,
    whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
    the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
                                                (Psalm 68:32-35)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Psalm 67 - God, our God, Blesses Us

Psalm 67 reminds us of the blessings that God has so graciously given to us. We have much to be grateful for. 

Christmas Eve is less than a week away. Advent is about anticipation.  One of the things, I wait in anticipation for, throughout Advent, is the huge number of visitors and guests, as well as members, who we don't see that often, gather together to Worship on Christmas Eve.  I cannot wait for all of them to hear the Good News.  I wait longingly to hear the assembly sing for joy as they hear the Good News of what God has done for them, to proclaim the LORD's salvation to them.  I cannot wait, to hear all those voices sing with joy the praises of God, our God.

May the LORD bless us and keep us.  May He make His face to shine upon on us.  Let us give thanks and praise for all that God, our God, has done for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Psalm 66 - Shout Joyfully to the Lord!

Oh, how I wish! Oh, how I pray!  Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!  All the earth shall Worship Him!  I wake up in the mornings and wish this were so - not in ten years, not in ten thousand years, but for today.  I wish it were true for today.  Oh, but, if the whole earth would only recognize the awesomeness of God, what He has done and will do for those who turn to Him and worship and praise His glorious name. 

There are days that proclaiming the Good News of His Kingdom seems futile.  No one seems to hear.  Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 

One of my frequent prayers of years past was that the LORD, our God, would allow us (the whole world - every living being) would be one - that we would be completely united with Him for just a few minutes.  What kind of changes would happen if everyone could experience that oneness just for a few minutes?  Then, I thought, that might be too much for most to be able to experience and a second would be enough.  One second of experiencing complete reconciliation with God our Father, with one another, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Can you imagine that coming together.  It would be just amazing beyond words.  How would that affect the way we lived, if every person could experience that for just one second - one micro-second - all at the same time. 

Hope, love, joy, peace beyond measure, would abound for all people, just by experiencing the awesomeness of God as one. 

Let the whole earth, shout to the Lord, sing the honor of His name, praising all the awesome works that He has done.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

P.S.  For those of you who keep wondering what they could give me for Christmas.  How about this:  "Worship the Lord, your (our) God with all your heart, your mind, and your soul."  That would cause me to really rejoice!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Psalm 65 - Atonement

The Lord, our God, indeed has provided atonement for our transgressions (Psalm 65:3). 

None are without sin.  Yet, those who turn to the Lord, their sin against Him is forgiven.  The one who created and established all things; the one in charge of all things; He has reconciled us to himself through the gift of His only begotten Jesus the Christ. The lamb of God was slain.  He is our atonement.

We sing and give thanks to the Lord, our God, for He is our salvation.  Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit! 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Psalm 64 - Verbal Attacks, Gossip

Verbal attacks, gossip, bitter words are devastating to the one who is being the target.  Secretly aimed, behind one's back, like a sharp arrow, they are meant to destroy.  They can do real damage; psychological, spiritual and ultimately can even lead to physical destruction.

Thanks be to God, that it is He who defends the innocent.  He will not allow those who spend their lives trying to defame others to make themselves look good, to justify themselves. He will make the accuser stumble over their own tongues.  They will be wounded by the words of their own lips so that the evil that they unjustly plotted will cause them to stumble and their cohorts will flee in fear that they will fall with them. 

The accuser shall fall and "The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory." (Psalm 64:10 NIV)

May God defend us from the unrighteous tongues of those who would accuse His children falsely, slander His children unjustly, gossip so as to destroy us. May He bless His children with peace in the midst of these attacks.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Psalm 63 - Myriads of Thoughts...

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water. 
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2)

This morning, multitudes of hearts ache for the loss of lives yesterday in the Connecticut school shooting.  As in a dry land, our souls are parched, we search for answers, we look for God's help, for His help. 

Though very few facts are in, I can't help but remember our Bible Study this past Wednesday at Zion.  We discussed, for a bit, the issue of a growing population with very serious mental health issues. We discussed mental health issues that go undiagnosed, that are misdiagnosed, treatment that is refused by the patient, and treatments that may actually do more harm and be more dangerous to society than if none were administered.  Some of these diseases are very physical; while, others are psychological, brought on by stress in or the circumstances of one's life. Although we know it, we seldom truly accept that physical and psychological health are both affected by and effect our spiritual health. We have a long way to go in recognizing, diagnosing and treating mental illness.  In the meantime, a lot of people suffer, both the one who is ill and the people around them - all of society.

There are also those who are already using this latest shooting as an excuse for tighter gun control.  And, there are those who lament the fact that God has been outlawed in public schools.  In fact, God has not been outlawed in public school.  No one can stop you from voluntary praying.  They can; however, stop you from forcing children to pray to your specific God.  I would be very happy, indeed, if we all believed in the one God, whom I trust.  But, we do not.  We live in a country where we have freedom of religion and, as Christians, we rejoice that we are free to do that.  However, we have to remember that freedom of religion, in this kingdom, extends to all people. So, let me ask you this question.  If organized prayer were allowed in your child's school, would you be willing to have a Wiccan or a Satanist lead those prayers?  They are after all both recognized as religions, whether we agree with them or not.

I think it's time to stop blaming the increased violence in the world on guns and the lack of prayer in schools.  Will you be praying with your children or grandchildren when they wake up this morning?  Will you be praying with them before they lay down to sleep at night?  Will you be bringing them to the house of God to hear God's promises and to give Him thanks for all that He has done?  If God is missing in this society, I think maybe we should look at what we as individuals, as families, and as a church can do to change ourselves and by result change society around us.  Don't wait until there is a major catastrophe to teach your own children and your neighbor's children about what God has done and will do for them and the world around them.  And, don't be blaming others if you neglect to teach them this.  

For years, I was frustrated with our Sunday School material.  What it boiled down to was that we were teaching morality.  We don't need to teach them morality.  We need to teach them who Jesus is, who God their Father is, who God the Holy Spirit is.  So we quit purchasing material and have made the Holy Bible the text book.  We are confident that once children (and adults) get to know who this God is; once they get to know Him; once they get to a place where they have a real relationship with God, that thing we call morality will fall into place.  Our focus is no longer on how to make them act like real Christians (did you realize that this is what much of our Christian curriculums are actually doing - teaching them to behave?) but not how to have a genuine relationship with God, so that Christ might abide in them and they in Him.  When Christ abides in one, then good things, actually may be accomplished.

Without God, nothing good can be accomplished.  But, as Christ abides in us, it is He who accomplishes good through us. As St. Paul wrote, "... it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."             

So how does all this relate to Psalm 63?  Do your lips praise God?  Do you meditate on Him? In the morning, all through the day, and in the night?  Or has He been forgotten in your home?  Do you bless God so others might hear of His glorious deeds?  Seek the LORD, thirst for His Righteousness....  Quit blaming guns... Quit blaming schools... Quit blaming the government.... What are you doing to teach your children to live in health and in peace?

Ok... so this is a lot of rambling.  Hard to focus in light of yesterday's events...  The only peace we will ever truly know comes when we recognize who this God of ours is.  He can quench our thirst for peace, for equity, for all things good.  He and only He can accomplish these things.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, December 14, 2012

Psalm 62 - None are Good

"God has spoken once, Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work." (Psalm 62:11,12 NKJV)

I'm never quite sure why the Psalmist thinks he is so good and everyone else is so bad.

"'Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.'" (Luke 18:19-20)

If God rewards everyone for what we have done, we are all in big trouble.  Has anyone really followed faithfully, doing only what they ought, all the days of their lives?  If we trusted in our own good works for our relationship with God, we would not have one.  Fortunately, for us, God in His infinite grace and mercy, in His unfailing love, established a new covenant with us.  This covenant is not based on what we have done for God, but what God has done for us, through the giving of His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. 

I don't mean to imply that we should not be doing good. If we are truly grateful for this loving gift of eternal life, we would truly love the One who first loved us and not just pay lip service to Him. This does not mean that we are free to do anything we want to please ourselves.  It does not mean that we are free to trample on the name of the LORD, or our neighbors so that we might please ourselves.  It means that we are free, by the power of God, to love and serve God and our neighbors.  We are free to be in relationship with God and one another.  In the knowledge that we are free from the power of sin, death and the devil, we actively seek to love as God loves us. Because of the covenant God has made with us with the blood of Jesus, we are forgiven.  Our sins are blotted out.  The slate is wiped clean through faith in the One who died for us.  The only works that God will recall on that last day are those things that were not blotted out - those things that Jesus did through us. Our salvation and honor depend on God; He is our Rock and our Refuge.

"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."

Have you been refreshed, by the power of God, by the Spirit, of Christ, so that He might live in and through you, to the glory of His holy name?  All honor and power and glory belong to God.  Find rest in His unfailing love.

God's Peace - Pr. J   P.S.  Been thinking about this some more.  If the Psalmist was indeed David, David was only good in that he believed God.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Psalm 61 - Listen To My Prayer

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer." (Psalm 61:1 NIV)

Who else will listen?  Who else will answer?  None can hear or answer like the LORD, our God.

We are in the midst of Advent preparing for the Christmas season.  I know of no other season of the year when the level of grief is so high.  There is always grief, but it is accentuated during this season, as we remember loved ones who are no longer with us; loved ones who cannot prepare or celebrate the season with us.  So, ultimately many do not celebrate, but grieve and they grieve alone, with none to hear, but God.

The only comfort is God; by trusting in His promises we can find comfort and peace. We long to be closer to Him, to dwell in His Kingdom and to take refuge in the shelter of His wings so that we might find real comfort, real peace. (vs 4)

The Lord, our God, hears our prayers and answers.  May He bless you with the knowledge of His promises, through Jesus Christ, for you and for all who believe.  May He grant you comfort and peace in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Psalm 60 - God Has Not Rejected Us

Most of us encounter times of exhaustion - times when we feel like we can do no more - times when we feel just about defeated.  In times like these we might feel like God has turned His back to us.  But, like the Psalmist rather than give up, we place our trust in the LORD.  With His right hand, He has delivered us.  The LORD saves us.  He has lifted us up.  Even as Christ has been raised from the dead and lives, so shall all members of His Body be raised.  We shall live and triumph over all that threatens to keep us buried in the muck and mire of sin.

God has not rejected us, we have rejected Him.  Turn and trust in the LORD that you might be saved. Trust in Him that you might be lifted up from the dead and live life more fully as you live your life in Christ, even now.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Psalm 59 - Dance and Sing Praises!

Whoa... Yet, another lamentation!  How blessed I feel this morning not to be able to understand where such a desire for vengeance could come from. 

I fell asleep with music in my head, last night.  I don't listen to a lot of music.  There's a conflict in my house over which genre is best so music isn't played much in the home, any more, especially when we're at home at the same time.  That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, though.

Last night, as I feel asleep, the "Lord of the Dance" (lyrics by Sydney Carter) kept playing in my head. 

   "Dance, dance, wherever you may be
   I am the lord of the dance, said he
   And I lead you all, wherever you may be
   And I lead you all in the dance, said he"

And this morning, the song swirling around in my head was a Garth Brooks song, "Standing outside the Fire."

   "Standing outside the fire 
   Standing outside the fire
   Life is not tried, it is merely survived
   If you're standing outside the fire"

Waking up to music in my head, for a change, gave me a bit of food for thought.  Why?  Doesn't happen much.  And... these two songs?  Why?  Was I, am I, in danger of stepping outside His refining fires or dancing outside the fire of His Love.  Or... maybe the Lord of the dance is trying to lead me farther inside the fire?    And... wondering what kind of journey that might be. 

We ponder our journey in this world (at least I do).  What does it mean?  No matter where we are led, as we follow in the footsteps of our LORD, may God help us to complain less and sing more, for He is our strength and our fortress, our God in whom we trust.

"You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely." (Psalm 59:17 NIV)

God's Peace - Pr J.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Psalm 58 - Judge With Equity (Child Custody)

"Do you rulers indeed speak justly?  Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth." (Psalm 58:1-2 NIV)

I have just finished reading three different newspapers online and my response is "No, our rulers do not speak justly.  No, the people are not judged with equity."

Discrimination, by officials, who have been called to lead our various countries is pretty rampant.  I read an article regarding an official in Hungary who wanted all Jews to be screened for security risks.  If that is not racial profiling, I don't know what is.  The people, were rightly protesting this.  It's not going anywhere (hopefully).  But, the attitude is out there.  Christians are profiled in some countries.  Muslims in others.  Where does it end?  When will our world's leaders learn to speak justly and judge the people with equity?

Closer to home....  As civilized as the United States purportedly is, there is one travesty, that completely amazes me that still exists.  It is the propensity for judges to discriminate against men when it comes to child custody cases.  For some reason, a goodly number of people in this country, still think that mothers make the best parents.  It takes a whole lot of fighting in court, a whole lot of money to get the best lawyers, for a father to get joint custody.  Then the mothers complain that the case was won by the father because he had more money than she did.  The reality is that if the fathers had not been willing to fight (sometimes taking loans out to procure an attorney) to protect their children and their childrens' futures; if they had not been willing to spend years in court to protect their own rights as a father and their children's rights to live in a safe and happy home, the courts (in many cases) would have arbitrarily favored the mother. 

I am not saying that all fathers make the best parent.  I am saying that our court systems could work a whole lot harder at judging between the parents with equity.  Send those "Friends of the Court" into more homes to witness the interaction between each parent and the child.  Send them in to see what the parents have in their refrigerators: milk or booz; to see if they are actually being supervised or is the parent still sleeping way into the afternoon, not because they worked the night before, but because they were busy partying. 

The family courts have come a long way in the last few decades regarding this, but they have a ways to go yet.  The best interest of the children should come first, not a mother and her imagined rights. When it comes to custody cases, men should be able to start out on the same level as the women.  Children should have the right to be treated justly and that means not left in the custody of a parent based primarily on the parent's sex, but based on the ability to love, care for, and protect that child; to put that child's needs before their own.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S.  I applaud those judges who do not discriminate against men in custody cases.  They are probably a majority in this country; however, where discrimination does still sneak in, the children get hurt!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Psalm 57 - Advent Watch

"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth." (Psalm 57:5 NIV)

Can you imagine what it will be like to witness the full glory of God over all the earth?  Every knee will definitely bow!  There are days when I think and pray, let it be now, O LORD!  Let it be today! 

So much chaos in this world, so much division, so many disasters.  The church on earth is busy working toward peace.  It is busy working for unity.  But, the only real and lasting peace and unity that will come for all of God's people is the peace that comes when the LORD returns for His Church.

We are reminded, during Advent, to wait and watch for that day.  But, in the meantime, when we face troubling times, we take refuge under the shadow of His wings.  (vs 1)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Psalm 56 - In God I Trust

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid." (Psalm 56:3,4 NIV)

As a child, I spent a lot of nights  feeling alone and afraid. My knowledge of the triune God was very limited.  But, I knew the Father and I trusted Him to love and protect me.  There were many nights that I would fall asleep, imagining the song "He's God The Whole World In His Hands" as a reality for me.  I would close my eyes and imagine myself curled up in the Father's hands, safe and secure.  I would fall asleep in those hands, knowing that my Father, our Father, loved me.  This Father, whom I could not see, but knew, I trusted. 

In God I trust and am not afraid.

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Friday, December 7, 2012

Psalm 55 - Smooth as Butter

The Psalmist sounds pretty unhappy again this morning.  Sometimes, it seems just a bit much.  But, I think many of us have probably been there at one time or another.  Enemies attack and even those whom we thought were friends attacked and our only help was in the LORD.  We were surrounded and although we wished we could fly away and escape the assault, we could not.  We were stuck and only God could help.  Assaulting back would do no good.  It would only makes things worse.

When I was first married, my husband use to accuse me of being too trusting.  Then I got burned a few times, no, many times, by those who presented themselves as people who were friends and who cared.

Maybe, it's not a good thing to be so suspicious.  But, I learned to watch for signs in potential relationships that everything was not as it seemed.  I learned to listen for them.  One, of the things, the lessons, that life taught me was to listen for words that are as smooth as butter, more soothing than oil.    I learned over the years that the ones who would hurt me most were not those who presented themselves as an enemy, but those who presented themselves as friends. If someone smiles and is happy all the time when they are around us, if they always agree with everything we say, then maybe we should be prepared to duck and run for cover. It is a sad commentary, I suppose, that I learned in life to not trust everyone.  But, it is reality.  It is a very sorrowful thing to be assaulted or betrayed by a friend who turns out to be an enemy. It was for me and it is for those who find themselves in this situation today.  Sadly, the reality is that there are more than a few of you who are being persecuting by those you thought were your friends, even today. 

Eventually, I was able to trust, again.  However, I realize that now the trust that I place in people is only because I trust God and I trust God working in and through them. 

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you." (Psalm 55:22-23 NIV)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Psalm 54 - God Is My Help

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me."  (Psalm 54:4 NIV) That is a fact.  I am not ashamed to say it.  In fact, I will proclaim it.

I remember as a much younger person, after I had finally turned around and began trusting in the Lord to be my helper, there were those who accused me of using "church" as a crutch.  I was a little offended at the time because the accusation was really being used to attack me by people who claimed to care about me. If felt hurtful. According to these "arrogant" friends, it was for my own good that I would quit using God as a "crutch" and stand on my own two feet. Well, today, I have no qualms in saying; without the Lord's help, I would fall.  God is my help.  The Lord is the one who sustains me.

I would have never made it through all those early years if God had not been with me.  I will praise the name of the LORD, for it is good! Thanks be to God, for He delivers us from all our troubles.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Psalm 53 - Ignorance Is Not Necessarily Bliss!

I have to admit, I sometimes lose it when people tell me that there is no God.  All I can think are things like (and have actually said on occasion): "Are you stupid, or what?"  "Do you really want to deny Christ?"  "Not a good idea!  Not a good idea, at all!" 

My reaction to being told that there is no God, really depends on the person, the time, the place and the Spirit. I can be more graceful when it is called for.  It all depends....

I remember one recent conversation. My response was something to the effect of:  it really doesn't matter whether you believe in my God or not.  God is and His existence does not depend on whether you accept or deny Him, but your existence does depend on Him!  God does not need you to believe in Him.  You need Him.  There is no other salvation than the one who has come out of Zion.  Go ahead, turn away from Him.  Your rejection of this One, does not diminish Him.  It only diminishes you.  But, if you really want to live life - then rethink your position and repent! May the God that you don't believe in, rescue you from your unbelief!

So you don't believe in God?  Then we will pray for you.  Ignorance is not necessarily bliss. When the King of Glory returns to take His children unto Him, we will rejoice and be glad!  What will you be doing?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Psalm 52 - Good To Be Around Goodness

We went toy shopping last night for Toys for Tots.  I usually avoid shopping as I find it rather frustrating to be around so many people. When you get crowds in department stores, one usually gets to witness a lot of rudeness and disrespect. Last night; however, was different.  It was a very good time.  There were only a few toy aisles that a whole bunch of us were trying to shop in, yet it was a very pleasant experience as everyone helped each. The employees at Shopko were wonderful to work with.  They kept smiling even when the computerized cash register jammed up!  We were all there for the same purpose - a good purpose - to serve the children of this county.  It was wonderful to be among people who love good rather than evil, truth rather than falsehood.  It is just good to be around goodness.  So, why is it that so many would rather boast of evil; who would practice deceit?

I am somewhat of a hermit, living out here in the wilderness.  There are times when I really have to force myself to leave not just my home, but even the community.  I love this place.  It is, for the most part, quiet and peaceful.  Last night, when we pulled into the yard, there was a deer lieing down by the back porch. She raised her sleepy head when she saw us.  It is good to be around goodness.  This place is a retreat for me from having to deal "head on" with all the evil in the world.  Of course, I have to leave it often.  But, when I am here I can rest as I am reminded of the goodness that God intended for us.

Do not reject His good will.  Do not reject His Holy Name.  But, give thanks and praise in the presence of His people and hope in His good name. 

It is good to be among God's faithful people.

God's Peace - Pr. J

"For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people.  And I will hope in your name, for your name is good."  (Psalm 52:9 NIV)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Psalm 51 - Lutheran Music and Liturgy

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12, 21st Century King James Version)
I have had countless complaints about Lutheran liturgy and the overall music. Boring, I've been told. Hmmm.... Somebody has not been listening. Verses 10 thru 12 of Psalm 51 are a wonderful example of why we do what we do during worship.  Sadly, it is no longer a part of many services.  We've been given options.  Some of the options are not so good. 
Years ago, one of my sons' friends, who had gone to worship with him, complained about the music. He informed him that Lutheran music during worship is all supported by scripture.  The Lutheran Liturgy is all supported by scripture.  That is why we do what we do.
During Lutheran Worship you are hearing the word and the Word.  There should be no part that is not supported by scripture; that is not proclamation in some form.  Ok... maybe the announcements after worship, but not during. 
In singing the words, "create in me a clean heart, O God..." we are not only confessing our sins, but acknowledging that God can and will do this thing.  We are acknowledging that we need the Holy Spirit; that we need and desire God's presence.  We are acknowledging that only by the power of God can we know the joy of His salvation. 
Lutheran liturgy and the overall music is not boring, unless you refuse to engage yourself in it, unless you refuse to participate.  Nothing worse than singing alone, especially when one (I) can't sing.  Years ago, immediately following the Great Thanksgiving, I stopped a congregation and told them that we would receive Communion when we could give thanks to God and actually sound like we meant it.  It was much better the second time around!  You have no idea how much fuller the service is when we actually all participate!
I see I'm side-tracked again.  Back to the main thing! Create in us clean hearts, O LORD, renew right spirits within us, and restore unto us the joy of Thy salvation, that we might glorify your holy name.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Psalm 50: I Paid My Dues - Not!

"I paid my dues."  That was the response I received, years ago, from an elderly woman, when I asked her if I could pick her up for worship.  She had been a member of at least the church on earth for 80 plus years.  She no longer drove.  I thought that being able to worship our LORD, with her brothers and sisters in Christ, would be something she would want to do.  But, no.  Her response was I have done my duty.  "I paid my dues."

How anyone could attend Worship for that many years and not understand that there are no dues to pay is beyond me.  There are no dues!  Christ paid it all for us, with His blood.  We worship out of thanksgiving, not because if we do, we will magically get to rise again once we die.  We worship not out of fear of death, but out of love and thanksgiving to a God who has already saved us.  We give thanks because God paid our dues and we have no need to fear death, but look forward to eternal life in Christ. 

You cannot pay your own dues.  That is the bottom line.  God does not expect sacrifices to appease Him.  Our offerings are not payment.  They are or should be from a grateful heart. 

"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High." (Psalm 50:14 NIV)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Psalm 49 - Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Property

I went shopping with my son and grandchildren last night.  It was a rather pleasant experience.  I never heard this once:  "Buy me ......" I think I should go with my son more often.  Either his presence keeps them from asking me for stuff or maybe they're asking him!  Of course, there is always the possibility that there is nothing left to "buy" them. There is nothing left that they really want.  That would be a really good thing.  Is it too much to hope for?

I have spent many a year trying to get them to understand that wasting one's life in the pursuit of having everything that all of the neighbors have is really a waste of one's life.  There are many more fulfilling things to do with our lives than to fill our homes with clutter that we don't really want - stuff that will just sit on shelves in need of dusting.  Things... stuff.... clutter... they will not bring you happiness.  It is much better to seek those things which will.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

Hopefully, we have all heard the phrase: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," found in the United States Declaration of Independence.  But, did you know that Thomas Jefferson's draft was actually "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Property"?  In their wisdom, our forefather's changed it.  Someone must have figured out that happiness is far better than property and that property does not necessarily lead to happiness.

What can property buy you?  Only more things and in this world today, higher taxes.  Actually, owning property is not a bad thing in and of itself.  It depends on how it is used.  Rich or poor, is it used for the glory of God? 

But, the constant pursuit of wealth, simply because we want what our neighbors want is not a good thing. Psalm 49 warns us that no matter how much money we have, it is not enough to save our lives.  There is not enough ransom that we can pay to redeem the life of another.  Everyone will die. Rich and poor alike will die.

"This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself. Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them." (vs 13-17 NIV)

Money will not buy you happiness.  Money will never buy you eternal life.  It cannot be used as a ransom for your life.  One more scripture for to think about this morning concerning the one and only who is able to ransom your life - who is able - when you die - to rise you up in the morning.

"Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Matt 25-28)

Do not trust in money, in property, in your own power or prestige.  For happiness, for joy, for peace that surpasses all understanding, (Philippians 4:7) trust in the LORD, your God.  Trust in you LORD, Jesus the Christ.  There is only one way to eternal life.  Money cannot buy it.  Jesus is the way. Your life has been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ.  Seek first His Kingdom!

God's Peace be with you. Pr. J

Friday, November 30, 2012

Psalm 48 - Tell It To The Next Generation

Thanks be to God for our teachers, especially those who teach our youth.  I often consider that maybe the teachers within our congregation don't get enough support from us.  I am confident though that even when we fail to support them, they have God's unfailing help and support or they wouldn't be teaching.  They, above all people within the congregation, most directly tell of God's works, His beautiful Kingdom, to the next generation. 

For a couple of years now, we have not purchased Sunday School material.  Our Sunday School staff decided that they should just teach scripture (and during Lent the catechism).  The children are hearing the stories from both the Old and New Testament.  They are hearing the stories of God's mighty works among and for His people.

The main reason for the change was that it was hard to find material that focused on God's works rather than man's works.  A lot of the material sought to teach our children how to be "moral" or "good children."  They sort of focus on doing good works.  Doing good works is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.  But, that is not our focus.  Our children (and adults) must hear the Word of God in order for their faith to grow.  Any good works that they might do will be a product of the good news of their salvation, the good news of the kingdom, the indwelling Christ, and not the other way around.  They can not earn their salvation, they cannot win their place in God's temple, through their morality or good works.  It is by faith that they (and we) are saved and faith comes by hearing the Word.  (Rom 10:17)

Open our eyes, LORD, that we might see the mightiness of Your hand.  Help us, LORD, to be witnesses to Your power, Your works, Your beautiful Kingdom, and tell of them to the next generation.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Psalm 47 - He Is Who He Is

This is one of those Psalms that makes me smile.  Rejoice!  Shout to the LORD!  Sing praises to the King of Kings!

Now I know that there is a whole multitude out there who will not rejoice in the LORD.  They don't know Him and they don't want to.  But, regardless of our devotion, He is still the King of all the earth.  He reigns over all nations.  The kings of the earth belong to Him.  It doesn't matter if you worship Him or not.  He is still the King of Kings and LORD of Lords.  That's just the way it is!  God is God and you cannot change Him. No matter how much you deny Him, He is who He is and He is!

So you all may as well give it up and clap your hands, all you nations, shout to God with cries of joy. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Psalm 46 - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Some strange dreams again, lately.  Not sure where my subconscious is roaming these days... I woke up thinking I was laying up against a wall of sand bags for protection.  Don't know whether the dangers I was dreaming about were natural disasters, war, or maybe spiritual warfare.  Regardless of what the ill that is trying to prevail, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (vs 1, NIV) 

Martin Luther expressed Psalm 46 quite well, much better than I possibly could, in my favorite hymn, by him, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe --
His craft and pow'r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He --
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same --
And He must win the battle.

And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thru us.
The prince of darkness grim --
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure --

One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow'rs --
No thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still --
His kingdom is forever.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Psalm 45 - Wedding Song

Oh, King of Kings and LORD of Lords.  Psalm 45 if is an awesome wedding song.  It stirs the heart, on many levels.  But, the level I want you to hear it at today is with Jesus as the bridegroom and the children of God as the bride. Read the description of this King of all Kings. Is He not awesome!  Who could possibly choose another?

May God fill us with the desire to "recite verses for the king" (Psalm 45:1 NIV) that all might come to know and love Him.  Love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and soul and mind; exalt His Holy Name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 26, 2012

Psalm 44 - Save Us Again!

You saved us from our adversaries before, O God.  Save us again! 

The Isralites remember the stories of God strong arm saving from their enemies.  The Psalmists acknowledges that it was not they that won the victories, but that God had won them for them.  Those were tough times.  Apparently, they are struggling through some more tough times and call upon the LORD to save them

As we recount the stories of God saving His people, sometimes we neglect to remember that in order to be saved from their enemies, first they needed something to be saved from.  Life for the people in the stories we recall from antiquity was not easy.  They suffered and God saved them. They sinned and God saved them.  They were hungry and thirsty and God saved them.  They were attacked and God saved them.  He brought them to the promised land.  He was with them

There are times that we may feel like maybe God has rejected us and left us like sheep for the slaughter. He has not.  There are times when we think, maybe, God is still on Sabbath; that He's sleeping or maybe He's just forgotten us.  He has not. He is with us always. But, that does not mean that we will not, from time to time, suffer.  In fact, if you truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you can pretty much be guaranteed that life will not be free from suffering.  Following in the footsteps of Jesus means that we will go where he has been.  His journey took Jesus through much suffering.  It takes us to the cross. And, finally the footsteps lead us to the promised land - our Father's house - the Kingdom of God.

Remember what you have heard with your own ears...  Through His Son, Jesus the Christ, God has saved you.  He has rescued us from the enemy, in His never failing love.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Psalm 43 - Grief

"Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" (vs 2 NIV)

Have you ever felt totally depressed and can't really figure out why?  Grief comes in lots of forms and for many reasons.  The most common reason for grief is the death of someone we love.  But, there are lots of other reasons.  One, which we often fail to recognize, is the loss of a relationship.  Sometimes, that loss is through a divorce.  Thanks to that wonderful thing called denial, we don't often recognize the depression that we sink into as grief.  After all, are we not better off?  The marriage, the relationship, was broken.  It was totally dysfunctional.  Shouldn't we be relieved? 

Children are left grieving the loss of family when parents separate.  Divorces are not the only broken relationships that leave us grieving.  It could be that we've had a major disagreement with a close friend - a disagreement that leaves us not speaking to one another. And... there is a whole list of other things, besides family and friends, that, when gone, will leave us in grief.  The loss of a job, our home, safety, as well as any material object can leave us grieving and in many cases we won't even realize that we grieving for them  But, the loss will leave us feeling depressed, lost in the darkness, and alone.

We are coming into the season of Advent as we prepare for Christmas.  For those who are already experiencing grief, this season does not help.  While the world expects everyone to be happy, happy, happy; those grieving either retreat into a shell or put on a happy face for their family and friends, while they feel like they are dying inside.   

There are many reasons that one might be grieving. It is not something we should be ignoring. The first step is to recognize that, in fact, you are very sad over your loss or maybe it is someone whom you love that you need to recognize is grieving and allow them to share, to talk about their grief with you.  I have found it all too common, that after the funeral or divorce, nobody wants to hear, nobody will listen.  There is nobody to share your burden with.  Unfortunately, for some, in this world, that is a reality.  There is no place to turn except to Jesus.  He can be trusted with you burden.  He already has.  We may not always understand why or what we are grieving.  But, we can always trust in the LORD to help us through, one day at a time.

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (vs 5)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Psalm 42 - Thristy Souls

How many times have we heard words, like these, spoken in mockery of the Living LORD? Where is your God?   If God really loved you, He'd fix things for you.  If God was so loving people wouldn't suffer. If that's the kind of God that you serve, then I don't want anything to do with your God!  These are all just excuses for serving oneself or other false gods and because there is such a proliferation of it in this world is one of the main reasons we find ourselves suffering.  When we serve our false gods, when we serve our own ego, than we turn our back on the one God, who can truly help, who can satisfy our hunger, who can quench our thirst.

And that's the kicker, there is only one True God.  You either serve Him or you don't.  There are two options, not multitudes of options.  Either you worship the one who can can quench the thirst you have in your souls or you do not.   

I'm not sure where the writer of this Psalm is at when it is prayed or written. But, I think these words are notable:  "These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng." (vs 4)  What does he mean when he says "how I used to go." Does he not go any longer?  Is he not able to go to the house of God to worship for some reason?  Does he not go to hear the promises of God?

Where is your God?  Who is your God?  Consider this: what is it that you worship?  Do you gather with the local community of saints to be refreshed by God's word and Word and to partake of the Sacraments?

Our souls cry out for somethings more.  God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have given you more.  Put your hope in God and praise Him alone, that the thirst of your soul might be quenched.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 23, 2012

Psalm 41 - Trust In The LORD

"Even my close friend, someone whom I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me." (vs 9)

The Psalm today reminds me of the story of Job. Not only have the Psalmist's enemies turned against him, but his best friend, as well. 

I use to be one of the most trusting people around.  I trusted everyone.  Sadly, life hardened me a bit. OK, maybe,more than a bit. I learned to trust no one.  But, life's challenges can be a good thing and I finally had to turn to the only one who can be trusted completely.  I finally got to a point where I realized that the only place I could place my trust was in God.  By trusting in Him, it is much easier to trust others because I know that no matter what happens, God is with me. Nothing else really matters.  The good news is that once you recognize and accept God as the One in whom you can place your trust, even your whole life; then peace flows like a river and you can reach out, once again, without fear, to your neighbor.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Amen and Amen. (vs 13)

God's Peace - Pr. J