Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Psalm 18 - What Faith!

What faith!  What confidence, the writer of Psalm 18 has in the LORD! 

If only we could all trust in Him as David does.  David is totally confident that God is his fortress and his deliverer.  God is his rock!  Trusting in the LORD, David declares all this and what is more, David declares his love for the LORD.  He praises God.

Just wondering what would happen if for just one day, every Christian would stand up and boldly declare their love of the LORD.  What would happen if, for just one day, every one who professes to be a follower of Jesus, would truly trust Him and not themselves for their salvation?  What would happen if we called out in distress, and knew (absolutely knew) that God would deliver us?

We can know this.  But, do we really believe it?  What would happen?  How would this change not only our own lives, but the world?

May the one who can make the earth tremble and shake the very foundations of the mountains, help us to understand and to truely believe that He is the God of our salvation.  There is no other.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Psalm 17 - Vindication

David pleas for the LORD to vindicate him; to confront them. David has planned no evil for them. He has not spoken evil by verbally attacking them. He places his vindication; even his vengeance, in God's hands.

For most of us, that is much easier said than done. When we are being persecuted or bullied, as we would say in the language of today, it is very difficult not to attack back. But, I'm thinking that it would be better not to open our lips and attack bullies back; not to plan an all out assault on them. Do we really want to waste our days arguing and fighting? Do we really want to fall into a trap becoming like those who persecute us?

David writes: "Though people tried to bribe me, I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled." (vs 4-5 NIV) Sometimes, the best course of action when we are being bullied is just to step back - ignore them - let God's will be done. Allow the LORD to vindicate you.

On occasions, when my granddaughter has gotten herself involved in "spitting matches" with others her age, I have advised her to have nothing to do with them. Back off and let God take care of it. Quit "spitting" back. God knows what He's doing, she doesn't. He knows what is really going on, while her vision is limited. Nothing she can do can match the way God can save and vindicate her. I also, usually, have to remind her that this is not "karma." It is the work of God protecting and keeping His children.

May God keep you in His peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 29, 2012

Psalm 16 - Apart From Him We Can Do Nothing

With David I say to the LORD: “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  (vs 2 NIV) God has truly been good to me.  I will not say there have not been rough times.  There were some real tough ones.  There still are.  But, no matter what happens, I know that the LORD is at my right hand.  He is at my side, protecting me, guiding me.  He has filled me with joy in His presence.  He has blessed me with eternal pleasures. 

There is nothing more pleasant, more joyful, than walking, living, in the presence of God!  In the immortal words of Mikey:  "Try it, you'll like it!" 

We have had an extraordinarily pleasant week-end, blessed by the LORD.  Our youth helped lead Worship yesterday morning.  It is always so awesome to see their joy as they participate in serving the LORD.  Zoey received the Sacrament of Baptism, as the children and the whole family of God welcomed her into the Body of Christ.  We ran out of bulletins!  That's a good thing!  And, in the afternoon at our annual benefit concert for Toys for Tots we ran out of space, as usual.  We overflowed into the narthex and the library.  The concert is ecumenical - people of every denomination and congregation gather together to glorify the LORD with their musical gifts and people of every denomination and congregation in the area gather to hear it.  The concert was a huge success!  It produced over $4,000.00 in monetary offerings and toys for children of the area.  Thanks be to God!

God has blessed this people with many gifts.  We have some outstanding gifts of music.  But, the greatest gift He has given us is love - love for one another and love for the one who first loved us. 

We give thanks to God for all His gifts - for apart from Him we can do no good thing.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Psalm 15 - Jesus is our Righteousness

From the reading today, I think we might be in a bit of trouble.  Who is blameless?  Who does what is righteous and speaks the truth from their hearts, all of the time?  Is there any one of us who does these things all of the time?  The last few days, we've thought a bit about our sinful natures and hopefully we all understand that none of us our righteous if the thoughts of our hearts and minds, if the work of our hands are what are counted toward our righteousness.  If we depend on our own righteousness to dwell in the LORD's tent, upon His holy mountain, His Kingdom, then we are lost.

Thanks be to God, that we are found righteous, not because of our good works, that is the works o the law, but by faith in the One who is righteous, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and LORD.  As Paul wrote to the Romans: 

"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."  (Romans 3:21-26 NIV)

We shall indeed dwell in the LORD's house, not because we are so good, but because the LORD who loves us is so good and was willing to shed His blood as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins.  It is by faith, in Him, that we are saved from ourselves and inherit our place in His kingdom.  Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Psalm 14 - Common As Eating Bread

Sin was common place in David's time.  It is in our time, as well.  David compares it to being as common as eating bread.  That is something most of the world does daily.  We do it without even thinking; just as we sin against God; just as we do harm to one another, without even thinking.  We all turn our backs against God, rebelling in our unbelief.

How sad it is, that we who are called the children of God, do not do all that we can do to glorify His Holy Name, that all might hear and believe.  But, God has a plan - a plan to save us from ourselves - from sin - from death - from the devil.  Out of Zion, he raised up our Saviour, a light to the world, that all might see and hear and believe. 

Believe!  What David is talking about in this Psalm is a pretty specific sin that leads to the sin of harming others.  That sin is unbelief. It is unbelief, turning our backs on God, that allows grievous mischief in this world, that in turn leads others away from faith in God.  It is by faith, that we are saved.  Thanks be to God, for His mercy endures forever!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 26, 2012

Psalm 13 - Unfailing Love

Been up since 4 a.m. wrestling with my thoughts.  (vs 2 NIV) Not sure why.  I think maybe it has something to do with my age.  I have a lot of years to review and sometimes wonder what the future has in store.  Rather, I wonder what it is that God has in store for my future here on earth.

No matter where I am led, what I am led to do, I trust in His unfailing love.  (vs 5)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Psalm 12 - Faithful or Faithless?

"Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race." (vs 1 NIV)

My only question this morning is:  was there really a time when someone was totally, completely, 100% faithful.  The only one I can think of that was truely faithful was and is Jesus the Christ.  We all like sheep, have gone astray.  (Isaiah 53:6) It is true that many have turned and returned to the shepherd of our souls.  (1 Peter 2:25)  Yet, can any of really say that we are completely faithful?  When was the last time we put ourselves first and doing the will of the LORD second or maybe third or fourth?  Yesterday?  Maybe, it was the moment you got up out of bed this morning? 

We sin against God and one another without even realizing it.  We might pray for relief from our enemy, but who might be praying for relief from us? That is why in our corporate confession at worship we often ask God to forgive our sins both known and unknown to us. 

Often in our weekly Bible study, we discuss the amazing things that were accomplished through the first followers (miracles, if you will).  We wonder if God has stopped producing miracles or is our faith and our faithfulness so wanting that nothing (or very little) can actually be accomplished through us? 

No, not one is completely faithful anymore, except the Son, Jesus the Christ.  He is faithful. We have all turned our backs and like sheep have gone astray.  But....  I remind you of Luther's explanation of the third article of the Apostle's Creed:  "I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.  But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ.  This is most certainly true.

We, are sinners, indeed.  We are faithless.  Yet, the Spirit of the one who is faithful, keeps us in the true faith.  Quite the paradox! But, thanks be to God!  This is most certainly true!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Psalm 11 - God Sees

"He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them." (11:4b NIV)

Now that is both law and gospel!  God sees everything that goes on under the sun.  He is with you when you are persecuted.  He is with you when you persecute.  It is good news to those who follow in His way.  It is not good news for those who would rather their wicked ways not be seen by others and try to hide what is in the secret recesses of their hearts.  For even if no other human being sees what it is that we contrive within our hearts, what we do, God sees.  God knows.

There are no secrets that can be hid from Him.  God is with you always.  As we begin a new day, we are reminded that God sees, God knows, all that we say and think and do. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Psalm 10 - Help Quickly

Help! Help! Help!  Help quicker dear, LORD! 

How often do we wait to see the answer to our afflictions - the answer that we want?  David, too, wanted to see the LORD's deliverance quickly.  But, it doesn't always happen that way.  God's time is not our time.  He had has plan.  But, we can be assured that the LORD does indeed see our suffering and hear the desire of the afflicted; encouraging us and listenig to our cry.  (vs 17 NIV)  We are confident that God is with us and in the end God will see our salvation.  God will save us from our trouble.

But, the wicked see no such thing.  They continue to persecute those who serve the LORD.  God sees this, too.  His hand will prevail.  God is God and He will prevail.  He will deliver His children from their afflictions and persecutions.

Have comfort in the knowledge that God is working things out for the good of those who love Him.  (Rom 8:28) We will sing and dance in the LORD's house.  His will be done.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 22, 2012

Psalm 9 - Thank the Lord and Sing His Praise

"Thank the Lord and sing his praise; tell everyone what he has done."  Remember these words?  We use to sing them all the time in worship.  The words of the psalm today remind us that we are to lift high our thanksgiving and praise for this God who has saved us from our enemy (sometimes our enemy is us!).  I think that I also remind people quite often that we have much reason to thank the LORD and sing His praise and and encourage you all to tell everyone what he had done.

God has been tremendously good to us.  Yesterday, at worship, we heard our third and final stewardship talk for this month.  The first one was on creation and recycling - a project a couple of our members at Zion have taken on.  The second stewardship "table talk" was on stewardship of Word and Sacrament, by me.  And... the third one was on tithing.  This one on stewardship of finance was actually a testimony on how God has worked in and blessed one of our member's lives. It was a few moments of thank the Lord and sing His praise. It was a time of sharing with the congregation of all that God has done for them.  He and his wife are two of the most faithful people in all areas of stewardship, that I know.  I am most grateful that he spends so very much time on stewardship of the Word, as he studies the word of God and shares the Word faithfully with others as he expresses His thankfulness for all that God has done in so many ways.

I thank the Lord and sing His praise; for He has sent us many faithful witnesses to share the good news of the kingdom with us and many around us. 

May God grant that we should at all times and in all places remember who our God is and give Him thanks and praise, extolling all that He has done for us.  (I know that you have had God work in miraculous ways in your lives - share those stories with others - that they may hear and believe!)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Psalm 8 - Majestic Is His Name!

When I consider the heavens...! 

I've been up and down a few times this past night.  Each time, I've stepped outside to observe the meteor showers.  I didn't see one meteor.  But, the fall sky (or maybe today starts the winter season)was brilliant again!  Multitudes of bright sparkling lights twinkle ever so lightly against the vast darkness.  It is all, but a mere reminder of the vastness and the magnificience of God. 

As we observe the ever changing sky we do well to remember that in addition to a meteor flying through now and then, we, too, are moving through the universe.  We are orbiting the sun. It does not orbit around us. The sun is the center of this universe and whatever we see in the heavens, we see it in accordance to our positioning around the sun, that the LORD has provided us with for heat, for light, for energy.  God is the creator of that sun.

Jesus the Christ, is the Son of God.  Without Him there would be no light in this world - not the twinkling of the stars nor the sun to warm the earth.  Jesus the Christ is the center of our life.  As Christians, whatever we see or say or do, it is in accordance with our positioning, our relationship, with Jesus the Christ. 

God is the creator of the universes.  He is the true light that enlightens His children.  "Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (vs 1, 9)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Psalm 7 - Watch What You Pray For

I am thinking that one would be have to be real careful praying this prayer!  "... if  there is guilt on my hands — if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe — then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust." (7:3-5 NIV)

Is there any that walk the earth that are not guilty;that have not sinned against others, themselves?  I'm not saying you shouldn't pray as David did.  I'm just saying, I'd be pretty cautious.  We not only be cursing others ourselves as well!  On the other hand, this prayer does distinguish between allies and oppressors.  I'd just be real careful of the words we choose to use! 

One of the things, I use to warn my children about was to be careful what they asked because they might get it.  I think that's a good thing to consider when approaching God, who hears our prayers and answers.  Be careful what you pray for because you might just get it! 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 19, 2012

Psalm 6 - Lord, Have Mercy!

Despair!  David prays, "Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?" (Ps 6:2-3 NIV)

Like David, we, too, often find ourselves in a state of despair, with no where to turn.  Well, actually there is one to whom we can turn.  We bow before the LORD and pray, "Have mercy on me, Lord!"  This prayer, for me, usually sounds like this:  "Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy." 

And then it ends:  "Thank you LORD, for in your mercy, you have heard my prayer and answered." (see vs 9)

I don't always see the answer when I thank the LORD for answering.  But, I am confident that He has answered it.  God is with me.  He is with you. He will deliver those who trust in Him.

May the peace of the LORD be with you always.  Pr. J

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Psalm 5 - In The Morning When I Rise

"In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.  (Ps 5:3 NIV).

The reading this morning reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, "Give me Jesus."  The words are a prayer to God, "In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.  You can have all this world, just give me Jesus."  I looked on you-tube for a good rendition of the song so I could share it with you, but I have to tell you, I found none that can play or sing it like our own Bertha Hommer.  She is truly a gifted musician and we are blessed to have her.  What better way to wake up in the morning than praying and laying this request before the LORD, "Give me Jesus!"

Each morning, I wake up praying.  Sometimes, no often, those prayers are prayers for help - help to get me and others through another day - to meet the challenges of another day.  When I wake up each morning, I know that the one thing that I need to get through the day is Jesus.  After I rise, I generally read the news online and any prayer requests I've gotten through facebook or my email; read some in the Bible; and write this blog.  Then, it is time to go back into conversation with God, in prayer. 

David's prayer, his lament, today includes:  "Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me." (vs 8)  It is very easy when we are caught up in the daily struggles to head off in a direction that is not on the straight path the LORD has provided for us.  Sin, the world, the devil, many things can pull us off this path that the LORD has set before us.  We have to be very cautious on how involved we get, lest we get pulled in to the enemies lies that there is another way.  Sometimes, it may seem easier to just join the "club" rather than to stand on the Word.  It may seem easier, but it is not!  There is only one way to eternal life in the presence of God, in His kingdom. That way is, in and through and with, Jesus the Christ.  He is the way!  Give me Jesus!

Life in this world is full of tough times and struggles and so we lay our requests before God and wait, with faith, expectantly, asking the LORD to spread His protection over us (Give me Jesus), each day, that we may rejoice in Him. (vs 11)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Psalm 4 - Who Will Bring Us Prosperity

Last night, I flipped back and forth between the second "Presidential Debate" and "Law and Order."  I do this when I watch movies with a lot of killing in it, too.  Don't they realize how frustrating and scary it is watching grown men, leaders of this country, be so manipulative and disrespectful of each other?  Do they not know that these shananigans are killing the spirit of this county? It is especially scary to watch men who are planning to hold the highest office in this country do this.  Why can't politicians just answer the questions without justifying themselves by lieing about the other? Politics, over all, just seems to bring out the worst in people. 

As the questions are avoided or talked around, they not only disrespect each other by not answering the questions straight forward, they also disrespect the American people.  Most of us, I think, would really like to know:  “Who will bring us prosperity?” (Ps 4:6) We have been in major economic hard times for awhile now. Multitudes are hungry and homeless.  Multitudes without jobs so that they can feed their families and provide adequate shelter.  Which candidate will best guide this country out of these hard times?  Which candidate will best give the people the confidence in the economy to begin rebuilding this country?

Of course you probably know that I believe that, without the help of God, neither candidate can do this.  May God help us to discern the better candidate.  May God bless this country by shining His face shine upon us; filling our hearts with joy as grain and new wine abound.  May we lie down and sleep each night in safety and in peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Psalm 3 - Prayer of Protection

David prays for deliverance from his enemies.  He is confident that the LORD will deliver him.

A confession that I often hear is that someone feels guilty for praying that their enemies be stopped in their tracks, no matter what that entails.  They feel guilty about this kind of prayer.  As we read through Psalms, we're going to find that David, God's chosen, prays this type of prayer quite a bit.

There are a lot of foes that will try to put an end to the work of the LORD through His servants.  It is, I think, quite appropriate to pray for protection that His work be continued through us. 

One thing that I would remind us all of, though, is that even as we might be praying that our enemies might be stopped, they may well be praying that we be stopped in our tracks, as well.  And... God may answer.  None of us are without sin.  Ask yourself, who really is the enemy of the LORD here?  Is it I or those who oppose me?

May God deliver and continue to sustain us both night and day. May His blessing be upon His people.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 15, 2012

Psalm 2 - Threat or Promise!

A promise or a threat....

Psalm 2 is worded in a way that it definitely sounds threatening.  It is to those who reject the LORD's anointed.  First off, this psalm reminds us that God appointed and anointed the kings of Israel and that the people ought not reject them.  But, it is also a promise of even more.  It is a promise that God will ultimately send His own Son, Jesus the Christ, to save the world and to rule it.  We would be wise not to reject his sovereignty.

Jesus the Christ is our King!  Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Psalm 1 - Blessed Is He Who Meditates on God's Word

We begin a new book this morning - the book of Psalms. Psalms is a book of poems or songs, as many congregations, including my own chant/sing a different one every Sunday morning. 

Today we begin by being reminded that those who meditate on the law of the LORD will be blessed.  As we study the Word of God to know His will for us, we will be blessed with the knowledge of His great love and mercy given to us through the precious gift of Jesus the Christ.

In this month of October, we spend time focusing on stewardship at Zion.  Last week we had a "Table Talk" concerning stewardship of creation by one of our council members.  Next Sunday, we will hear a testimony on stewardship of finances by one of our "counters." This morning, I am still going over what I will discuss in regards to stewardship of Word and Sacraments. 

Oh, you've never heard of the concept of being a steward of God's Word and Sacraments.  It is simply this.  God gives you the precious gift of life - eternal life in His presence.  We receive that gift by faith through the means of grace - namely the gifts of Word and Sacraments.  We receive life, who is Jesus Christ, when we hear His word.  We receive life, who is Jesus Christ, when we are baptized into His Body.  We receive life, who is Jesus Christ, when we receive His body and His blood into our very own bodies through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  By the power of the Spirit of Christ, we receive Him through these means of grace.  If God gives us these precious gifts freely, why would we neglect these gifts to the detriment of our own lives? To be good stewards of the Word and Sacraments is to hear the word and the Word and to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion often, that Christ may abide in you and you in Him. In that we are truly blessed!

Well, I hope I do better than that at the "Table Talk" this morning.  I hope you get the gist, though!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Job 42 - Without God, I Cannot Pray

What an awesome ending of grace and mercy.  Job repents and receives renewed life!  He is blessed even more now, than before.

Job's friends too, are forgiven, after Job prays for them. The LORD tells them that Job will pray for them and God will forgive them.  Job does and the LORD does. Isn't that interesting?  Is this, "pray for his friends," a command to Job? Or... does God know, in advance, that Job will do this for them?  It does bring about some questions regarding prayer.  Actually, a question I was given the answer to many years ago. 

About 10 years ago, I took a sabbatical to practice the discipline of prayer.  I kayaked from the mouth of the Huron River to Ontonagon, MI.  The purpose was to study the life of Bishop Frederick Baraga, the first Bishop to the Marquette Diocese and missionary to the Native Americans. He was an ardent prayer, rising early, much as Martin Luther and many other evangelists that left huge footprints on the earth in regards to mission work.  Waking up early to spend large amounts of time in disciplined prayer didn't work so well.  At least, not in the way I had hoped for.  I had hoped to be able to discipline myself for prayer at specific hours with specific purposes.  What I found instead was that I would pray for the people whose homes I paddles by.  I would talk to God spontaneously; not with requests, but just random conversations, and out of boredom with myself, I prayed the catechism over and over.  But, the main thing I learned about prayer, for myself, out on the water was: But, for the grace of God, I cannot pray. 

Just as somehow, God inspires or commands or whatever He has done that has Job praying for those friends who persecuted him, the Holy Spirit inspires us to pray.  The Holy Spirit prays through us.  It is not our work.  It is a work, it is a gift of God.  But, for the grace of God, we cannot even pray.

May the LORD, teach us to pray.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Friday, October 12, 2012

Job 40 - 41 - God Is Our Defense

At long last, Job has figured out that he has nothing to say in his defense.  He is not God.

In this discourse between the LORD and Job, the LORD continues to remind Job who He is.  In humility, Job is getting it. 

One of the mosts intriguing figures, for me, in scripture is Leviathan, that great sea monster.  At least, that's what I think Leviathan is. It appears to be a creature so amazing that no man can conquer it. And, God reminds Job of this.  There are many things in this world that man cannot conquer without the help of God.  I remind you, again, this morning that God is God.  There is only one God and it is not us.  We have no defense for acting like gods.  The only defense when we stand before the judge of all the earth is God, Himself.  It is only His love and His mercy given to us through Jesus Christ that finds us righteous. God is our defense.

God's peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Job 38 - 39 - God's in Charge - Not Job - Not Us

Out of the storm, the LORD speaks to Job.  He reminds Job that it is He who is God, not Job.  He puts him (and us) in his place.

Sometimes, we all need reminding that it is God who is in charge.  It is God who created and continues to care for all of creation.  Sometimes, we forget this and start thinking we know better than God how to care for ourselves, for our congregations, for His whole creation.

A rule of thumb that I have for doing ministry is that if it does not bring glory to God, if it does not help, but rather hinders the growth of the church, then it is probably our will and not God's that we're doing.

We are not gods to be served and to be given everything we want.  We are servants of the Most High God.  It would do us and the whole world well to remember that.  It's not about us.  It's about God.  It's about Jesus.  We're not the center of the universe.  God is.  Remember that it is He who should be first in all things. We are called to serve Him and most often we are called to serve Him by serving others, by bringing the Good News of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ to a hungry and thirsty world.

I'm rambling this morning.  Sorry.  Here's a good place to remind everyone of the purpose for this blog.  It is simply to help you on your journey through the Holy Scriptures. We read it together daily.  The blog is only my immediate response to what I have read. What I think is not the end all. What is important is that you sift through what you have read in God's word and get to know this God of ours a little better, even a little more intimately.

May God bless your day and grant you His peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Job 37 - Seasons - Nothing We Can Do About Them

Elihu lifts up the majesty and power of God.  And, it is indeed amazing!  He is in control of all the forces of nature. 

The seasons change.  They have changed every year since the beginning. Yet, we hear complaints about every season.  Every season brings challenges.  The spring is too muddy, the summer too hot, the fall is too windy, and winter is just too cold or there is either too much snow or not enough for the snow-mobilers and skiers.

Every region of the world has its specific weather challenges.  We were in South Carolina this summer.  It was too hot. We spent most of the time in the air conditioning watching television. It has been wet and colder here in the Upper Peninsula - not freezing yet, but colder the last few weeks. We've even had a few snowflakes.  And... I have already begun to hear the complaint, "It is too cold up here."  Actually, it's not.  It's about right for this time of year. 

I remember vacationing up here while we were living in various other regions of the earth.  It always amazed me that the conversations always focused on the weather.  Not enough rain!  Too much rain!  Too hot!  Too cold!  Rarely, did I ever hear the weather is just right.  I'm not sure how it happened, but instead of standing in awe of how beautiful the various seasons that God created are, human beings tend to complain them.  There is always something wrong with the weather.  It's like calling an inanimate object stupid when we're angry.  How can the weather be wrong?  It just is.  That's how God created it to be.  God is in charge of it. 

Personally, I kind of like the fact that there is something in this world that we haven't figured out how to manipulate, and that is the weather and the seasons.  I love storms.  I love to sit and watch the lightning and hear the thunder roar.  It reminds me that God is still in charge.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Job 36 - Perfect Knowledge

Who exactly is this Elihu, this man who claims he has perfect knowledge?!  He implies Job's sin is arrogance and it may well be.  But, I would think that claiming to have perfect knowledge is extremely arrogant.  There seems to be some truth in what Elihu says, but it's a bit presumptuous for him to be claiming that some of these things are true about Job.

For instance, verse 5 says:  "God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose." I am pretty convinced from the rest of the scripture that is most certainly true; as is verse 7:  "He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever."

This Elihu is probably pretty wise, but he is not the epitome of wisdom.  We all make mistakes and we should all be very cautious when it comes to advising others on what their problems are, remembering the "speck" in our own eye. (Matt 7:5, Luke 6:42 NIV)
God's Peace - Pr. J


Monday, October 8, 2012

Job 35 - God Handles Angry Complainers

Elihu is not sounding any better than Job or the other "friends" of Job. I'm not sure if he understands that Job's complaints may not come from a lack of faith, but rather because Job is a mortal and is in pain. Job's complaints against God come from frustration, confusion, and the suffering he is undergoing.  In all this, Job is angry.  I'm thinking that God can handle the complaints from one man.  Even Elihu states this. 

Who then shall we complain to?  God or man?  Who can deal with our raw emotions better than God?  How big is your God?  Think about how much He has already put up with from us and still loves us to have sent us His Son to die for us.

I'm thinking that Elihu's advice is turning out not much better than Job's other friends.  I'm thinking that sometimes it is best to keep our lips closed.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Job 34 - God is Just

God is just!  He is more than just!  Elihu reminds Job that it is not his place to judge whether God is just or not.  Elihu reminds them, "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust." (vs 14, 15).  

The excuses that people will use for not worshipping the one true God always amaze. On many occasions and in various ways I have heard them accuse God and simply state that they will not worship anyone who is so unjust. They will not worship a God who will not fix everything for the world.  They will not worship a God who insists that He be put before all our other little false gods.  In other words, the excuses that I've heard to include the judgment of God that He is unjust.  These words echo in my ears. "If that is your God, then I want nothing to do with Him."  Well, I am sorry if you don't like the way God rules. I am sorry that you may not like the fact that He allows us to choose how we live in this world, destroying the earth and one another. I am sorry that you don't like the fact that God is GOD!  You don't have to worship Him.  You can choose to stay in bed.  But, it doesn't change the fact that there is only one God and "if it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust."  God is God.  There is nothing you can do about that.  I take that back. You could bow down and worship Him.

Just because we don't understand God's justice, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It merely means that we don't understand it. God is God. God is just.

See you at Worship!  God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Job 33 - Listen - God is Calling

God speaks to us.  He speaks to us in many ways.  But, for some reason we do not hear.  Sometimes, it is because we are so wrapped up in our own suffering and in justifying our own actions that we cannot or do not want to hear Him.  We shut God out because in reality we don't want His way. We want our way. 

Ever hear the noise in all the world?  I know you have...  Why is there so much noise?  I think, just maybe, it is because we are afraid that God might speak to us and if there is sheer silence we might hear that gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:12)  What would happen if we were able to heard God calling? Would we feel compelled to follow? That could be a rough road. Maybe, it's better not to listen. Then we won't have to tell God, "No." 

Why is there so much noise?  Because, we have turned it up in order to tune out God. I have an elderly friend who had lived for many years alone.  Her closest friend was and is Jesus.  Today she lives with others who care for her.  She misses being alone with Jesus.  She misses being able to hear God's whispers of love.

God speaks to us in many ways.  Take the time to listen! Listen! God is calling!

God's Peace - Pr. J


Friday, October 5, 2012

Job 32 - Comfort Afflicted; Afflict Too Comfortable

We have a new player today:  Elihu.  We've heard nothing about this younger friend, Elihu, until now.  It is his turn to speak, finally! He's been sitting, intently listening.  He refutes the wisdom and usderstanding of the elderly.  It is not mere age that makes one wise.  Rather, understanding comes from God.  He says, "But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand." (vs: 8)

Eliju, as a younger man and apparently less esteemed than his elders, finally gets to speak.  He says, "I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer.  I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away. (vs 20-22)

The reality that if Elihu's culture was that young men should keep their lips still so as not to offend by appearing wiser than the elder's.  Elihu refutes this and speaks.  There is a reality in the American Christian culture that also needs to be refuted.  It is a reality which has no scriptural basis.  And.. that is that Christians should accept everyone just as they are.  A Christian should never open their lips in a way that might offend anybody.  We are to just turn the other cheek, while the world destroys itself, while a neighbor attacks a neighbor, while God is being blasphemed.  All this we should do, just because the culture thinks that Christian's would/should never do or say anything to offend anyone.

I want you to think about that.  Did Jesus keep his lips still?  Did he not confront anyone?  My favorite "assertive" word from Jesus was when he was warning his disciples about his impending persecution and crucifixion.  Peter does not want to hear about it and Jesus responds:  “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  (Matt 16:23)  Can you imagine what the response would be if one of us told someone: "Get behind me Satan!"?  I know how most would react to me.  I would be reminded in not so gentle words that I am no Christian.  A Pastor would not treat people like that! In fact I have been told that on more than one occasion.  What kind of Christian am I that would dare to call someone on their following in the footsteps of the world, rather than Jesus?  But, it has been mainly by people who have never read or actually heard scripture.  Some have been to a few Worship services on very rare occasions, to hear the Word of God.  But, I'm not sure if they were listening.  It is those who have mistaken the false "American Christian Cultural Understanding" (I don't know how better to describe this false understanding) who will challenge you when you stand on the Word of God.  Read your scriptures and you will find that Jesus did, indeed, open his lips to comfort the afflicted as well as to afflict those who were too comfortable in their own ways, in the ways of the world.

To follow in Jesus' footsteps will not be easy.  You will not be loved by everyone.  And... there will be times when you must open your lips and speak the truth, comforting the afflicted and sometimes afflicting the too comfortable with the Word of Truth, who is Jesus Christ.

A few more scripture verses this morning, from Matthew, about the challenge that goes with following Jesus - a reminder that everything Christian does not always feel good. 

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  (Matt 16:24-26)

God's Peace - Pr. J


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Job 31 - The Sinless One

Job is sounding pretty self-righteous, again, this morning.  I cannot help but consider whether it is really possible for any such man to have existed. It is. But, the only one without sin was the one who gave himself for us, on the cross, Jesus the Christ. 

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Heb 4:14-16 NIV)

The only argument for our righteous, is not, cannot be, based upon our good works.  It is based only on the blood of Christ, shed for you. We can approach God's throne of grace in faith that we will mercy and grace solely based on His love given to us in Jesus' Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Job 30 - Job's Good Works?!

“But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs." (vs 1)

That's how a righteousman talks!  I am sorry.  I know that Job is supposed to be a righteous man, but I am getting just a little tired of all of his whining about and judging others and glorifying his own good works. I realize that these friends have first attacked him; but, obviously, Job has not heard about turning the other cheek. 

I realize that many of us can fall into the same trap that Job appears to have fallen into - that is depending on and trusting in on our own good works - but, it doesn't make it right or good.  This story is a good reminder to us that we should probably avoid that trap.  In the end, it appears that Job is all about doing good works.  He knows the letter of the law.  Apparently, the spirit of the law had not yet been revealed.

Lord, help us to still our lips if the only thing that is going to come out of them are insults to destroy the pride of others and build up our own.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Job 29 - Good Old Days

Job longs for the "good old days" when all was well with his life.  In fact, it was better than well.  His life was great.  He was admired, respected, looked up to.   

How many of us long for the "good old days."  I hear it all the time.  It is strange to me, though, that it is not the really elderly who I hear this most from, but more from the middle-aged.  Those who have lived 80 or 90 years have experienced enough life to know that each year will bring change and some of it will not be good.  But, they also know that much of the change to come will be good and they have learned to trust God. 

For some, who reach middle age, it is kind of a shock when we realize that we're not young any more and we want to go back to those days when we were - when everything seemed wonderful - even if, in reality, it was not.  I think, just maybe, the reality of our mortality starts hitting many of us sometime after we hit the age of 50.  We long for the "good old days" because we fear death.  If not death, maybe it's life we fear.  Maybe it's fear of not being young and beautiful, active and full energy to go out and a desire to go out and change the world.  Physically, we often cannot do what we use to do and so we long for the "good old days" when we were young and had hopes of doing great things. 

Now, I'm just surmising.  I'm sure this does not hold true for everyone.  But, it seems, it holds true for Job.  He is sick and tired.  He would be considered, after all, middle aged, as we know the rest of the story and know that he will live to prosper and even raise another family.  His life is not any where near it's end; yet, we find him today longing for the "good old days." 

May God help us to learn to enjoy each day for the gift it is.  The past is the past that has brought us to today.  It has helped make us who we are.  But, would we really want to go back to those "good old days" and learn all those lessons all over again?

God's Peace - Pr. Judy


Monday, October 1, 2012

Job 28 - Jesus Christ is Wisdom

Man goes to great depths in search of riches.  Yet, even if we sought it, we cannot find wisdom, a gem greater than anything that can be found in any mine shaft.  Wisdom cannot be found or earned or anything else, by human power or strength, in this world.  Wisdom is a gift from God. 

And... the gift of wisdom is Jesus Christ.  St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
  "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."  (1 Cor 1:22-24, 30 NIV)

How much of our lives are spent searching out ways to become rich in the ways of the world?  How much time has been lost?  Life, my friend, in this world, is very short, indeed.  Death will come to us all and as the saying goes:  "We cannot take it with us."  So what then?  Then, will we say, I sure wish I'd spent less time searching for gold and silver.  I sure wish I'd spent more time in the wisdom of God, who is Christ Jesus.  I sure wish I'd spent a bit more time with the genuine pearl of great price...

May God grant that we should spend our hours, not in pits of darkness seeking things that glitter and shine; rather, that we should spend them in the marvelous light of His wisdom, who is Jesus the Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J