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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Psalm 40 - Praise and Thanksgiving

Today is the National Day of Thanksgiving.  We give thanks to our God who has lifted us out of the muck and mire, set our feet on a rock.  He has put a new song in our mouths, a hymn of praise, a hymn of thanksgiving. 

It is still early and I have already heard of God's wonderful works God has done for a couple of friends.  He is truly marvelous.  Later this morning, we will give thanks for God bringing together two people in Holy Matrimony as they are married on this Thanksgiving Day.  Neither of them will ever forget their anniversary and this Thanksgiving Day.  May they always give thanks that God has brought them together.  And, of course there will be the turkey and fixings to enjoy that my husband is fixing for our residents and family.  So much to give thanks for - each and every day.  Look around you. God is good.  He is very, very, very good!

May the LORD, help us to always proclaim the wonders that He has done.  They are too numerous to ever be able to share them all with others, so many that we should never lack for words of praise and thanksgiving for all that He has done.

May the peace of the LORD be with you this Thanksgiving day as well as every day.  Pr. J


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psalm 39 - Death is Inevitable

 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is." (vs 4 NIV)

I don't know about you, but I never have to ask the LORD to remind me how fleeting life is.  I am reminded every day. From the moment I get up every morning when I wonder why and thank God that He has given me another day to my evening prayers when I once again thank Him for getting me through another day.

Reminders of the inevitability of death are all around.  They are in the people we talk to.  Those whom we minister to.  I am a co-owner of an adult foster care.  Just being with the people in our care is also can be a reminder of how fleeting and fragile life is.  Watching the children around me grow up so very quickly, reminds me how short the time from beginning to end is.  From baptism to marriage takes no time at all!  Life is very short.  I don't need God to tell me that.  I can see with my eyes how very quickly time passes. 

We can either be sad about it and rush around trying to get all that there is stuffed into our very short time in this world. We can spend all of our days in vain rushing about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. (vs 6)  Or... we can rejoice that God has given us this opportunity to get to know and love one another, using the gifts He has given us to proclaim the Good News of His Kingdom.  We could spend these years taking advantage of the opportunity and time that God has given us to grow together and to do that growing in Him.

Life in this world is short.  But, for those who believe, we are timeless.  We have inherited eternal life, not in this world, but in the Kingdom, the presence of God.  Our hope lies in Him. (vs 7)

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Psalm 38 - You Are Forgiven!

David is a sinner.  His guilt lays heavy on his heart. He confesses his iniquity.  He is genuinely sorry for his sins against God.

We, too, are sinners. When the guilt lays heavy upon our hearts it behooves us to turn to the LORD, confess our sins, and receive the forgiveness that God has so freely bestowed upon us through our Saviour, Jesus the Christ.

As Lutherans, we are taught that we should daily confess our sins before God.  Sometimes, the guilt lays so heavy that it is difficult for us to forgive ourselves.  We know that we are not worthy of forgiveness.  We don't want to be the one's responsible for the spilling of the blood of Jesus.  No one, we think, should die for our sins.  But, he did.  It is done.  It is finished.  He loves you that much.  You are forgiven.

I have often been asked if I hear confessions.  Of course I do!  There are some who think that their confessions should be private and only between them and God.  Confession, with your Pastor remains private, always.  (If it is not - find a new confessor) Sometimes, it is necessary, when our guilt seems to overwhelm us and we are unable to forgive ourselves, that we are able to speak aloud our sins and hear the declaration that God forgives you.  For the sake of His Son, you are forgiven. 

There is no shame in confessing our sins.  There is only freedom and peace received in the reconciling Word of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 19, 2012

Psalm 37 - The Meek Share!

More blessings and curses...

Those who demand of others will see their own end.  "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity." (vs 11 NIV)

I have been considering something that I witnessed quite often lately.  Greed and selfishness abound and for no reason that I can quite put a finger on, except maybe a lack of empathy or compassion for others.  It has to do with table manners.  It is most recongizable in children, although I see this example in adults, from time to time, as well.  I first started recognizing this behavior in a few of our past foster children and I've seen it in some of our adult foster childen from time to time.  With them, I usually recognize it as a symptom of mental illness or previous abuse or neglect.  Some of them had so little to eat in their previous homes, they are afraid if they don't fill up now they may not get another meal for some time.  However, I don't know what to think about people who are mentally healthy (or at least appear so) and don't have a history with childhood neglect who do this. 

You've probably seen it.  It's the habit of some who have to have the biggest portions and then while others do without, they decide that they weren't that hungry and throw it out.  You see, some people (at least I was) taught that you take no more than you can eat and if there is not that much on the table to go around, you take less so that those whom you love will have more. Maybe, that's it.  Maybe, we don't know how to really love these days. 

I just don't get this concept of having to have the best and the most and leaving the crumbs to those whom we claim to love.  What was it that Jesus told Peter?  "If you love me, feed my sheep."  (JOhn 21:17) Consider the plight of those whom you love - consider the plight of those whom God loves - give generously - share generously. 

By the way, taking from the rich to give to the poor is not exactly the way those who will inherit the kingdom do it.  Scripture tells us:  "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)  A gift given under compulsion is a tax, not a gift.  It was the meek widow who put her last penny into the offering, because of her love and faithfulness, that Jesus commended.  (Mark 12:41-43 and Luke 21:1-4)

"The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed." (vs 21-22)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Psalm 36 - No Fear of God?!

"I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:  There is no fear of God before their eyes." (vs 1 NIV)

I will second that!  God for many has become some sort of abstract pie in the sky. There is this idea that God does not judge.  He will not vindicate his children.  Everyone goes to heaven no matter which god(s) they serve in this world.  God is just a nice guy. 

God is, indeed, good.  But, that goodness means that He also requires justice and sometimes justice doesn't feel so good to those who unjustly persecute others, to those who choose willfully to serve other gods.  His goodness also means that he will vindicate his children.  He will care for those who are persecuted and woe to those who do the persecuting.  Sorry, if you're one who likes to do what they will, no matter who it harms, just because it might feel good to you, you really need to rethink your position on who God is. 

But, then again, those of you who are reading this blog regularly, probably already understand that God is Almighty.  He is God. To those who may stumble upon this blog looking for something else, know this:  "For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  (Heb 4:12-13)

God is more than a fluffy marshmellow or a cloud.  He is God.  Creator of the universe.  He gives life and He can take it away.  I think that it would be most prudent to not just love Him, but to respect (fear) and honor Him!  Put away the false gods. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, Almighty God, Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.  May the foot of the proud not come against us, nor the hand of the wicked drive us away. (36:10-12)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Psalm 35 - Prayer of Protection

When the little children come to the altar for a blessing, one of the prayers I find myself praying for them most often is for their protection.  Sometimes, we underestimate their fears.  Sometimes, we even underestimate the actuality of those fears. I pray that God would walk beside them protecting them all their days and I pray that He would grant them courage and peace.

Looking back to what I remember as a child, I remember a lot of fear.  Some of it was legitimate.  Most of it was not.  Most of it was just being afraid of the unknown.  There is a lot of "unknown" for little children.  They will learn to face many of their fears or simply outgrow them.  In the meantime, we pray for their protection, their courage, and for them to know God's peace.

I can't even begin to imagine what the fear of the enemy is like for children growing up in countries,  where they are dodging missiles.  But, they need our prayers.

Protect your children, O LORD.  Keep them safe from all evil, harm, and danger.

Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from them, Lord. Awake, and rise to their defense! Contend for them, our Lord and our God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 16, 2012

Psalm 34 - The LORD Answers

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me..." (34:4 NIV)  And... He will answer you, too. 

I often hear the cries of those who feel lost and alone.  They do not know where to turn for help.  I only know of one place where there is genuine relief to be found.  As a Marine's wife, I spent a whole lot of time alone, raising our children.  We often joked that my husband spent more time on ships than many of the sailors that we knew. It wasn't really a joke, though, because he did.  Where to turn when you're a young wife and mother far from home?  There is, there was, only one place and that was to the LORD.

I could lament the years I spent alone, but instead I rejoice in them.  If it were not for those years, far from family, raising sons, taking care of a household alone, working, and going to school at night, I might not know the LORD.  I needed help, so I sought the LORD, and he answered me. God, through my family in Christ at Calvary Lutheran in Jacksonville, NC, helped keep me going.

Seek the LORD.  Knock and the door will be opened.  (Matt 7:7)

"I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together."  (34:1-3)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Psalm 33 - Singing

Sing to the LORD a new song!

I got up a bit earlier than usual today, made some coffee, checked out facebook, read Psalm 33 and am thinking that today would be a good day to sing to the LORD...  Actually, every day is a good day to sing to the LORD.  I love to sing.  Problem is:  not many around me like me to sing.  My granddaughter says I sing like a man.  I'm a couple octaves lower than your average woman.  I'm thinking my voice is unique.  But, for the sake of others, I usually just sing when there aren't too many people around.  Course, there are the times when I break out in singing God's praises when everyone is least expecting it.  Sometimes, I even dance to it.  I do get a few sideways glances when I do that, especially in places like Walmart.  But, I get strange looks even at church when I sing and sway to the music. It's OK. I'm getting use to that.  My granddaughter (and some of the Sunday School) just look at me kind of strange.  I get these looks like "don't you think you should stop?" But, I think they're getting use to it, too.

Singing is good, whether you're singing in the choir (they usually don't invite me to sing in choirs) or at home alone.  Singing helps us to express our inmost thoughts and feelings.  What is hidden deep down inside of us, comes to the light through words. 

We breathe the words.  It was through the breath of God that all things were made.  He spoke and it was.  It came to be.

Words can hurt.  We need to be cautious that we're not destroying others with our words.  But, singing to the LORD, singing His praises, now that's a good thing.  Sing the praises of God.  Sing praises to the LORD. Use your words wisely, put them to song and give glory to the Word, who is God.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, this day and everyday even as you trust in His holy name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Psalm 32 - Blessed is the Confessee

"Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." (Psalm 32:1 NIV)

Confession, today, is quite a different animal than it was years ago.  I probably only hear, at the most, a dozen direct confessions a year.  I hear many more than that indirectly, though.  They start out with a simple conversation and all of a sudden I realize that I am hearing someone's confession.  This is a good thing!  When I hear them, whether they were intentional confessions in a more traditional fashion (that is, someone asking me to hear their confession) or whether the confession just happens during conversation, they receive prayer and absolution. They are reminded that their transgressions are forgiven.  They are reminded that their sins are covered by the blood of Christ.

Sadly, I don't hear as many confessions today as could or should be heard.  Recently, I have had a couple of people tell me that they have forgiven me.  We were, in a loose sense, reconciled. But, sadly, these people never confessed their own sins.  They continue to live in turmoil.  The world is out to get them. They are right. Everyone else is wrong. They will most likely continue in the chaos they have created for themselves for a very long time; at least until they can recognize the sin that has come to inhabit their lives.  Sadly, no repentence. No confession. No absolution.

You see, if we cannot confess our sins, then we have a bit of trouble accepting the forgiveness that God so freely has given us through the death of His Son.  It's not that God will not forgive you. It's more a matter of you wanting to be forgiven.  After all, if one is perfect, than you have no need of forgiveness.  Jesus told the Pharisees:  “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:12-13 NIV)

We are all sinners.  "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8) But, the good news is that Jesus came that our transgressions might be forgiven.  Jesus came that we might be sanctified and reconciled to God our Father and to one another in the Kingdom of God.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt 4:17)

Dear one, confess your sins, receive the forgiveness that is given to you through Body and Blood of our LORD, Jesus Christ. "Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Psalm 31 - Worthless Idols

I went to bed last night and woke again this morning thinking about the worthless idols that people whom I love worship.  It is very sad to know that rather than God, people that I care about would worship these inanimate objects.  Even sadder is the fact that they don't realize that they are doing this, so there is no repentance.  They cannot change until they see the light. 

I have been told more times than I can count: "I believe. That is enough."  But, what do you believe?  Do you believe that the money you're trying to win gambling online is going to save you?  It's more likely to bury you.  And... even if you do win, will it really bring you happiness?  Why do you waste the hours, the days, the life that God has given you to such worthless pursuits? Do you really believe that the drugs (even if they are legal prescriptions) and the alcohol are going to bring you peace?  What's up with that, anyway?  Has all sense departed this world?

God has given us and continues to give us an abundance of gifts. But, we set them aside to pursue things of this world.  What's up with that?

David wrote in the Psalm today:  "I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord."  (vs 6 NIV) Unlike David, I do not hate those who cling to worthless idols.  Rather, I pray for those who have fallen into the trap of worshipping them, to their own demise.  They will not know peace until they turn to the LORD.  And... living without the peace of God is not a place I'd wish upon anyone.

May God help us all to worship the one true God and receive the blessings He has so richly given us through Jesus Christ, our LORD and Saviour. 

How abundant are the good things that God has stored up for those who fear Him, that He bestows in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in Him! (vs 19)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psalm 30 - From Wailing To Dancing

Take just a moment to remember where you've been.  Remember the tough times - the times you thought you'd never get through.  Did the LORD not lead you through them? Did those times not pass?

We all go through them.  But, all who have stood firm on the Word of the LORD, look back and know that the LORD was with us.  We can look back and know that through those times we grew from those trials.  We grew closer to the LORD as we trusted in Him.  We trusted Him to  lift us out of the depths and He did.

The LORD turned our wailing into dancing, clothing us with joy, so that sang His praises.  May God help us to sing His praises for all eternity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Psalm 29 - Temple of Peace

"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace." (vs 11 NIV)

The LORD blesses His people with peace.  Everyone seems to want peace, but so few know where it comes from.  So many false gods to worship in this world, but those who dwell in the temple of the LORD, give glory to God. The members of the Body of Christ glorify God.  They focus on Him and know that He is the creator of all things.  They know that He is the recreator of all things.  Oh, if only eyes would be open to see and ears opened to hear!  

Turn away from all false idols.  Give to God the glory due His name and you will know, you will dwell, in His temple of peace.

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness." (vs 2)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Psalm 28 - Who's Got Your Back?

Call me just a bit cynical, but I have a tendancy not to completely trust people who are "happy, happy, happy" all of the time.  Over the years, I've been taught, the "hard way" that people who smile ALL OF THE TIME, sometimes, have an ulterior motive.  Sometimes, I feel guilty about taking this attitude, but I've seen a few too many people attacked by "smiley faces." 

I am not alone in this assessment, though.  Psalm 28:3 (NIV) describes those who would smile at you and then attempt to destroy you. 

"Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts."

The recent presidential campaign was a good reminder that smiling faces sometimes are indicative of ulterior motives - motives that don't necessarily have the good of the people as a priority.  Watching some of that propaganda really turned my stomach.  Even though, I am a bit cynical anyway, it was still difficult to believe that people could lie to that degree with such sincere smiles on their faces.  Unless, we start holding our elected officials accountable for the lies that they are willing to tell to justify their own actions, we are going to find ourselves in a whole lot more trouble than we can imagine.  Peace, peace, they promise, but harbor malice in their hearts. 

Sorry, I'm more cynical than normal today about the condition of humanity. It doesn't help that I've just turned the television on to find out that General Petraeus has resigned because of adultery.  We will probably never hear the rest of that story.  But, don't despair.  The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. He will save His people and bless us.  He will be our shepherd and carry us forever.  In the sight of the enemy, the LORD will do this thing.

When I'm not sure if I can trust someone and safely turn my back, I remind myself that I can trust the LORD and He's got my back.  There is nothing to fear.  He is my strength and my shield.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 9, 2012

Psalm 27 - Light and Salvation

"The LORD is my light and my salvation." (vs 1 NIV)

We all go through troubling times.  Where do we turn?  We turn to the LORD.  We seek His face, His presence.  We seek to dwell in the LORD's house. 

I know full well that the troubling times are the very reason that I am able to make this earthly journey and keep my sanity is because the LORD walks with me.  He leads me on a smooth path because of, not just in spite of, but, because of my enemies.

When times get rough, when there is no one on earth that one can turn to, God is there.  He will see us through.  He is the light that shines in the darkest of days and nights.  He is our salvation - our only salvation.

Seek the face of the LORD, that His perpetual light might shine up you.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Psalm 26 - Begging For Vindication

David seems to do a lot of begging for vindication.  I wonder if God gets as tired of hearing it as I do.  Chapter after chapter gets a little much.  But, I hope and trust that God never gets weary of hearing our pleas.  There have been times in my life (even now) that I  pray for vindication.  I just pray that the enemy would leave me alone already!

There are times when we try to work with people or help them and we find out in the end that they have no desire to be helped.  We find ourselves entangled as the Psalm says, with those whose hands have a sinister scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes. (26:9-10 NIV) It is terribly saddening to find that one we would help has been planning all along to destroy us.  But, it happens.  It is an age old problem.  There really is nothing to do about it, but to stand firm in our faith. Trust the LORD.  As David prayed for relief, we might find ourselves praying:

Vindicate us, LORD.  Redeem us and be merciful to us. Keep our feet standing in on even ground; on a firm foundation. (vs 12)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Psalm 25 - Forget My Sins, Please!

"Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord." (25:7 NIV)

According to His mercy, the sins of our youth, are sins of the past and they are fogotten, blotted out by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God!

However, it would be nice if our neighbors' memories were as short as God's!  So often, it is difficult for people to move ahead with their lives, because everyone around them has this picture of a sin that they may have committed in their past and they just won't let go of that picture.  They build up walls and obstacles for the one who would like to move forward with their lives in service to God and community.

I left Upper Michigan when I was very young.  When I returned, after my husband's retirement from the Marine Corps, to my surprise, everyone thought I was the same person that I had been when I left.  Wow!  It was amazing!  It was like when I left, my life must have stopped or something.  I assure you, it did not.  It has been quite full of God's presence and guidance and refining!

I knew a faithful Pastor years ago.  He served in the same community that he grew up in.  After decades of ministry, there were still some who thought he could not have been really called by God to serve His Church.  (I assure you - he really was!)  But, they thought this about him because when he was in his early 20's, he had been caught driving drunk.  This, many of the people of the small community, never forgot. 

It is a good thing for all of us, that God in His mercy, pardons our inquity for His name's sake. Our sins of the past are just that - in the past.  They are behind us.  Let us look to each day as a new day to live in the presence of God.  And... not just we.  May God help us to allow our neighbor's to live for today and tomorrow, not stuck in the past.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Psalm 24 - Founded It Upon The Seas!

"For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters." (vs 2)

As I was cleaning house last night, I had the television on.  I don't remember which cop show was on, but someone had quoted John F. Kennedy, "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came."

Some of us seem to have more affinity with water than others.  I'm not sure why. I have always been drawn to water.  Maybe, it's because my parents both loved to fish and we spent a lot of time at different lakes or rivers or creeks, fishing and picnicking.  They, too, were drawn to the water.  I, for whatever reason, actually feel homeless when I am not living near it.  The larger the body of water, the more at peace that I feel.  I think that it is in part due to the fact that the water reminds me of being washed in the waters of baptism as well as the many other stories from scripture that relates to being washed clean in various ways by water.  Water reminds me who God is.  Those larger bodies of water remind me of the power of God.  Storms on the sea can be devastating to human life and to all the rest of creation, as Hurricane Sandy recently reminded us.  But, there is one who is larger than these storms on the sea.  One who is even more powerful.  That One is our LORD.  He is the creator of all that.  He founded the earth upon the seas.  He is the One who established it upon the waters.  It is the creator and not the sea that we should be in awe of.  This piece  of His creation (the waters) is just a reminder of who God is.  He is the King of Glory!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 5, 2012

Psalm 23 - The LORD Is Our Shepherd!

Well, here is one I don't have to read.  I pray it every day, not just for me, but for all of you, as well. 

The LORD is our shepherd!  Thanks be to God that He is with us now and always, guiding us wherever He would lead us!  Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil, for God is with us. 

As long as we live in this world, death looms large in front of us.  It is still before us and we live in its shadow.  But, God is larger.  Thanks be to God, Christ has overcome the power of death for us. On this side of death there will always be trials and challenges to overcome.  We will endure persecution for the sake of the Gospel (that is the good news of the Kingdom in Jesus the Christ).  We will suffer, but we know that even as these days might present themselves as a shadowy darkness, God is with us.  Our shepherd is is with us in the face of the enemy, even as He anoints our heads with oil, leading us to green pastures and still waters. 

His goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.  We are confident that the LORD, our Shepherd, will be present with us even as we dwell in His presence, in His House, in His Kingdom, forever!  Amen!
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Psalm 22 - Why Have You Forsaken Me?

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (vs 1 NIV)

If you've got plans to skip reading this chapter, please, don't! This Psalm is so filled with passion it is indescribable. At Zion, this Psalm is read every Maundy Thursday during the stripping of the altar.  A haunting echo, the passion of Jesus' resolve to give his life for ours is heard in the lament.  Yes, resolve, but at the same time the sorrowful loneliness, as Jesus prepares, in his final hours, to give his life for the us, to die for the world.

And, if you're one to skip the Maundy Thursday Service simply because you'll be there on Easter Sunday, don't!  There is no Easter without the suffering and sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  So, please don't be skipping the next Maundy Thursday Service, or Ash Wednesday, or Good Friday.  There is no Easter without the suffering and death of Jesus.  There is no life, without his death.

There is no way to fully explain this chapter in a little blog.  Read it and read it aloud. Listen to the words.  Listen to the pain and the suffering.  Listen to the hope.

"May your hearts live forever." (vs 26)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Psalm 21 - Rejoice and Trust in the LORD!

The king rejoices in the strength of the LORD. (vs 1 NIV).  Oh, but if all rulers of the earth would only rejoice in the LORD and not just in His strength, but in His grace and mercy, in His unfailing love.  If only the eyes of the rulers of the world would be opened that they could see the power of God.  Can you imagine how awesome the world would be if every knee would bow now, rather than later?

If only the rulers, and not just the rulers, but all of God's children would learn to really trust in the LORD.  The psalms that we have been reading the last couple of weeks do a lot of rejoicing that God will triumph over our enemies.  I have to admit that I'm not always sure how to read these psalms.  But, they have come at a very good time for me.  They have been a very good reminder that the victory over God's enemies belong to God.  It is He who will lay His hand upon His enemies who oppose His children.  It is He who will deal with those who would keep His children from worshipping and serving Him.  All we can really do is to trust the LORD that His will be done.

May we learn to trust in the Lord, for His unfailing love will not be shaken.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 2, 2012

Psalm 20 - Relief From Distress

"May the LORD answer you when you are in distress." (vs 1 NIV)  So often we wonder, what can I do to be relieved of this distress I'm in?  There is no formula that works all the time, for everyone.  There is no formula to be found in this world that will endure. 

There is only one place that we can go to; there is only one to whom we can turn so that our distress is relieved.  It doesn't do us any good to trust in the strength of this world or ourselves to relieve us of our suffering.  As verse 7 tells us:  "Some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."  God is the only one who can truly deliver us from our suffering.  He is the only one who can grant us true peace. 

The bottom line is that for those who follow in the way of the LORD, this peace, this reconciliation with God our Father, through our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is the desire of our hearts and it is the answer to our distress.  No matter what is going on around us in this world, as long as we are reconciled to God, through the blood of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will know His peace and we will shout for joy over the victory won for us through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

May the LORD fill the desire of your heart and grant you His peace.  Pr. J

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Psalm 19 - Pleasing to God

"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (19:13 NIV)

Those of you who happen to attend Zion have heard this verse a few hundred times - maybe thousands!  It is the verse, that we pray, before the sermon at any and almost all of the Worship services that I lead, whether it is Sunday Worship, a funeral, a wedding, or whatever the occasion.

I begin every sermon with this prayer and I end it with a prayer, as well.  I was taught in seminary not to do this.  And, I seriously did think about doing just that.  But, found I could not. You see, I need God's help.  In fact, I need God to speak through me, because I really don't know what it is that He would have me say to all of you.  I really don't know the words to use that each of you need to hear and if I did the message would go on for hours!  But, God can touch each of you with a whole lot less words. 

At, the beginning of each service, as I face the altar, I also usually pray something to the effect of:  "Send your Holy Spirit that your people might hear your Word, your will for them, and not mine." I depend upon the Spirit of God to open the ears of each of the hearers so that everyone one might hear God's word, his will for you.

One of the rules I follow in sermon writing is never talk politics. I cannot even begin to imagine myself endorsing a candidate from the pulpit! I've been asked about this by a few people as there are  some who seem to think this is the preacher's job.  However, the pulpit is for preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  It is not for promoting a partisan view of the kingdom of this world. In regards to preaching politics, I am confident that it would definitely be my political views that would be expressed and not God's. 

Sharing the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ is not about pleasing man.  It is about pleasing God. In fact, often, people will not be pleased with the message.  Sometimes the very same sermon that will bring comfort to one hearer, will bring conviction to another.  That, my friend, is the work of the Holy Spirit.  God knows who is going to be at Worship on any given Sunday and He knows what they need to hear.  And, if they have ears to hear, they will hear just what He wants them to hear.  Thanks be to God!

It always amazes me when people tell me after the sermon that they were so moved when I talked about..... (whatever it was they heard).  I don't tell them, I didn't actually say that.  If that's what the Spirit wanted to say to them, if that's what they needed to hear, then so be it.  And... the glory belongs to God!

Help us LORD!  May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts and minds always be pleasing in your sight, O' Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.

God's Peace - Pastor J.