Thursday, January 31, 2013

Psalm 110 - King and Priest Forever

Psalm 110 is most often interpreted as prophecy fulfilled in Jesus. We read it through the lens of the New Testament as it is quoted there numerous times.

In Mark (12:35-37a NRSV)
     "While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
     “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
      “Sit at my right hand
      until I put your enemies
      under your feet.”’
     David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”"

The LORD will send out a ruler from Zion.  He will rule in the midst, and in spite, of God's enemies. He will be a priest forever according to the order of Mechizedek. (v.4) In Hebrews, chapters 5, 6, and 7, the writer more clearly links Jesus to this prophetic passage from the Psalms.  

     "We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain,  where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Heb 6:19-20)

David's hope was in the One who was to come.  Our hope lies in the One who has come, is now, and will reign as King, and as High Priest, forever, Jesus Christ, our LORD.

May your hope be renewed and your joy complete.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Psalm 109 - Vengeance is God's

"He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.
May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me. (Psalm109:17-20 NIV)

Vengeance is the LORD's.  I have learned over the years that it is not my place to take vengeance on those who accuse me.  God will take care of me. He will take care of those who are falsely accused or accosted. He will take care of those who falsely accuse or unjustly attack others. No, I am not a pacifist. I definitely will defend others when they are attacked. There are times when we need to defend ourselves. There are times when we need to seek assistance from the law. However, there are also times, I think, that we should step back when it is we who are being attacked and let go and let God, as the saying goes.

Years ago when I was very young, I was selling insurance door to door.  At one home, a man, arrogant and full of deceit attempted to assault me.  I was pretty shaken, but I got away unharmed.  I wanted to press charges.  A co-worker, an older Christian man, talked me into not doing that. The man who had attempted to harm me was pretty well known and liked in the community.  I was a stranger.  He was a local politician. I was an insurance salesman. "Do nothing, he said. Who are the authorities going to believe? Let us pray together and leave the vengeance to God.  Let us pray that the evil he intended upon you return to him." So we did.

Did God answer our prayers?  You tell me.  The following week, while the man was at work, his  wife left him. With his new convertible filled with his precious electronics in the trunk, she and her boyfriend sped away from the house and wrecked his vehicle. It hit the newspapers. The car and the contents were totalled. His wife and her boyfriend were unharmed, but his ego was definitely done in. He was no longer the prideful man he had been the week before.

Sure, there are days, still, when I would like to take vengeance.  But, I learned that day, almost forty years ago, to leave vengeance to God. He will take care of me. He always has. Why would He not continue?

Remember, your curses against others are prayers. Prayers that just might return and turn upon you. Watch what comes out of your lips - prefer blessings to curses - as what you do to others may be done to you.

"He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him." (vs 17)
God's blessings and peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Psalm 108 - Jesus Victorious Over All - Even Death

You want victory?  In all things, in this world and the next, the LORD brings to us victory! Jesus is victory!

How many times have you sought the help of humankind to get you through troubling times? The schemes and works of man might seem to help for a time. But, it never seems to last. There is only One who can deliver you completely and thoroughly. Quit scheming against others and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Trust the LORD and give Him praise. In Him, you will find deliverance from your enemies.  There is no better advise that I can give you if you are in the midst of turmoil than to listen to the LORD, your God. He will lead you out of the wilderness.

This morning, I am preparing for a Memorial Service. They can be difficult. Sometimes there is just too much time to plan what can one say to comfort those who grieve.  What can one say to those who are standing face to face with the death of a loved one?  The only thing once can do is to trust the Holy Spirit and to proclaim the Kingdom of God for all who believe. Jesus the Christ died, descended into hell, and rose from the dead for us. He conquered death for us and because He lives, so shall we! We shall live in the Kingdom that He has prepared for us!  

"I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor
does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinth 15:50-55 NIV)

Who will bring us to the promised land?  You know the answer to that.  Jesus Christ, our LORD. Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Psalm 107 - Genuine Love Endures Forever

If you find yourself in a dark place, alone and without love, cry out to the LORD and He will deliver you from your distress.  And... when he does, tell your story that others might hear and believe. Tell your story that others might turn to the LORD for their deliverance, for their redemption.

By the blood of Christ, you have been redeemed.  Why is that so difficult to believe?  Maybe, because so many refuse to hear His promises?  Maybe because so many refuse to turn from the ways of the world and turn to the path the LORD sets before them? 

Quit wandering aimlessly in the desert wastelands!  Step out of the darkness into His marvelous light! Turn from your rebellious ways and bask in his unfailing love for you! Bask in that light of love! Share that love of God with others so that they, too, may live in His peace.

The world is not a happy place.  Actually, there a lot of people running around pretending to be happy. But, sadly inside where man cannot see, there is a loneliness, a lovelessness that dwells within the heart.

Humankind has have a very bad habit of seeking momentary pleasures. We seek superficial love that passes quickly and costs us much. It costs us our relationships with God and genuinely loving relationship with one another. There is only One to whom we can turn to know genuine love.  That One whose love is genuine and never-failing is the LORD, our God, who on the cross redeemed us and made us His own.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; his love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Psalm 106 - Remember, But Don't Live In the Past

Over and over again, the people rebelled against God.  Over and over again, they suffered because of their rebellion.  Over and over again, the LORD saved them from their own iniquity.

It's the same old story.  It's not just Israel's story.  It is ours.  All of us have gone astray.  All of us have experienced the consequences of our sins. Yet, God, whom we have offended most, continues to forgive. He continues to give to us salvation through Jesus Christ.

As often as we turn and call out to Him, He hears. We remember our past sins and God forgives.  Remembering where we have been is a good thing.  It reminds us who we are not.  We are not God. It reminds us who it is that saves. It is not us.  Only Jesus can save.

But, sometimes we have a different motivation for remembering - especially remembering the sins of others. That motivation is sin itself. It is sin when we remember the past sins of others to make ourselves feel better about our own sins. "I'm not as bad as so and so...."  It is sin when we remember the sins of others, but cannot acknowledge the sin within ourselves.  It is sin when we live in the past and refuse to live in the day that God has given us to live in today, when we do not receive the gift of light and life today; rather choose to live in the darkness of yesterday. They seek to destroy the lives of others, but only end up destroying their own.

Remembering the past can be a good thing.  Remembering can help us live fuller lives in Christ today as we remember not to turn our backs on the One who has had mercy on us. But, if you choose to live in the dark past, stop trying to drag others back there with you. There are those who prefer to follow Jesus and now live in the light of God's grace.

"Praise the Lord!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."  (Psalm 105:1 NIV)
God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Psalm 105 - Remember

Roadside Park in the Keweenaw
Remember His marvelous works for He remembers you!

I believe that every single person that is reading this blog has experienced miracles in their lives. Miracles of healing of body and spirit.  Miracles that helped navigate you on your journey.  Some miracles are right there in your face, right now.  Other miracles happen long term over time as God remembers you, is with you, guiding you, giving you strength to keep on keeping on.  However, not every one recognizes many of the miracles in their lives the hand of God. Some choose to think these miracles happened because of their own good works.  I'm thinking that those that think in this latter way, probably don't experience as many miracles as the rest of us.

"Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore!" (Psalm 105:4 NIV) Recognize the presence of God in your life.  Remember His marvelous works and recount them to others that they to might begin to realize how God has been present with them.

God remembers you. He is with you for your good.  He remembers His promises.  He has fulfilled them in Jesus Christ.

Remember His marvelous works for He remembers you and is with you even now!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 25, 2013

Psalm 104 - Playing With Leviathan

Wolf Point, Keweenaw - a calmer day
Well there is that Leviathan...  I have never been able to include Leviathan in a sermon.  Eighteen years of preaching and somehow I've never managed it. During Worship as we have sung this Psalm, I have thought: "Missed another opportunity!" 

The awesomeness of God's creating activities and His playing with Leviathan according to this psalm, reminds me of my first kayak trip on Lake Superior.  So this morning, I'm going to take the opportunity to share a story with you. 

It was a 4-day journey from Big Bay to Marquette with a group of clergy. Big Bay is only about 25 to 30 miles from Marquette, so it wasn't going to be a hard paddle. Except... 3 out of the 4 days we were paddling in small craft warnings.  Now, them were some waves! Leviathan was mentioned more than once!  We had to actually paddle quite a ways from the shoreline where the waves were more rolling and we could ride them.  The closer to shore, the more threatening the water.  It was actually pretty awesome!  I remember Pr. Peter Vorhes riding the waves in front of me, singing hymns!  Now that was really awesome!  Especially, since he has such a fantastic voice.  "O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hands hath made..."

Was it scary!  I hate to admit it, but it was not.  The wind and rain and waves were so great that it took all of my concentration to ride the waves much like a surfer would do.  There was no time to be afraid.  At one point, there was a long narrow peninsula we had to go around.  Not far from the end of this peninsula was a small rock island.  To get around this peninsula and the island, where the wave action was pretty fierce, we would have had to paddle a long ways out... So, we chose to go between the little rocky island and the peninsula point, where the waves were bouncing off the island and crashing into the waves as they had bounced back from the little island.  It was wild in there. We went through two by two.  It only took about 5 minutes to get through - a ride of a life-time.  Pr. Peter was only a couple yards away from me, but there were moments when he and his kayak disappeared from my sight completely as huge waves came up between us.  I still cannot help but smile.  When we made it through to slightly calmer seas; Pr. Peter, smiling, yelled at me through the storm, "let's do it, again!"

Playing with Leviathan...

There's my story. That was a long time ago, when I was much younger. My young paddling partner of today is not really into getting wet for no good reason and she would probably insist on staying home if I suggested that we should go and play with Leviathan. The sturgeon make her nervous enough.

That reminds me of another story... when my own children were young, I tried to get them to go canoeing with me on the New River in NC. I told them I was going to try to photograph some alligators.  I realized then that is not the way to try to get someone to go paddling with you... Alligators and Leviathan should usually be left out of the big picture...

Please, read all of Psalm 104! Meditate on His Glory and the awesome work of creation that He has done.  And, I'm really not recommending playing with Leviathan.  That really is something that should be left for God alone.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.
There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!  (Psalm 104:1, 25-26 NIV)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Psalm 103 - Where Eagles Fly

"Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!" (Psalm 103:1 NIV)

What an magnificent and powerful bird!  I am most blessed to live where not only the bald eagles, but the golden eagles fly quite regularly. This photo was taken a couple of summers ago in my backyard.

Whenever, I see a bald eagle flying or sitting a tree watching me, my heart leaps. These birds, our national bird, give me a sense of both peace and security. The sight of them refreshes me.  Indeed, for a moment or two, I do feel young again. I feel like time does not exist or just stopped. Thet take my breath away. For a moment, there is nothing between the eagle and me. We are one. God created both. They are marvelous to behold.

To watch the majestic flight of the eagle is a reminder how magnificent and powerful God is. It is a reminder to me that God in his infinite wisdom is in charge of things. He made man to walk up on the earth, the fish to swim, and the eagle to fly. How wonderful is that? Who will not bow in humility when one realizes the power and authority that God has. All these things....  and, more....

He blesses our souls, heals us, reconciles us to Him and to one another. He forgives us our iniquities, though we are far from worthy. He crowns us with loving kindness and tender mercies. All that is are His. We are His. That should bring a sense of peace and security to all people.  It will, once we realize that He is God and there is no other.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits. Bless the Lord, all His works, In all places of His dominion." (vs 1,2, 22)

May God refresh you this and every morning as you rise.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Psalm 102 - Prayer, Crying To God For Help

Ok, I've got a couple prayer requests that I'd like answered rather quickly.  "Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.  Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly." (Psalm 102:1-2 NIV)

The prayers aren't for me, but they are urgent enough that they are keeping me awake at night as I spend much more time in prayer begging God to be quick to answer for the sake of others. Like the disciples on the night in which our LORD was betrayed, I have often fallen asleep in the middle of my evening prayers.  Sometimes, I've even fallen asleep during my morning prayers.  But, lately, it is taking focused effort to fall asleep. Lately, the desire to see God's answer is more urgent within me and it is difficult to fall asleep as I am, like the persistant widow, (Luke 18:1-8) reluctant to leave my evening prayers.

Our days on earth are so very short, they vanish like smoke.  There is so very little time to waste promoting strife.  So very little time to enjoy the good things that God created and prepared for us. It would be so good, if God's children would grab hold of the good and turn their back on the bad and maybe I (and many others) would not have to be up in the middle of the night praying for the salvation of others.  We might still be up praying.  But, then our prayers would be prayers of thanksgiving as we just talk to our Father and listen to Him.  You know, do what we do when we're in a good and healthy relationship... Communicate...

Our prayers for the needy will continue for as long as the earth exists.  There will come a day, though, when we will no longer groan upon our beds as we pray for those who have gone astray. The earth and all that is in it will vanish, but God is forever.  His children and their children are promised that we should live in His presence forever.

In the meantime, we pray with confidence: We give you thanks O' LORD, for in your mercy, you have heard our prayers and answered.  You have delivered your children from all bondange and bless them with your eternal presence.  Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Psalm 101 - The Wicked Silenced

"Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord." (Psalm 101:8 NIV)

The LORD is tired of the evil that people do to one another.  He promises to put an end to the evil.  I pray that those who are unjustly persecuted will find relief in Him.   It is a sad state that so many have to endure injustices by others who simply like to do injustice, who simply like to harass and bully others, whether it is in the school systems or in a job.  It is just plain crazy that this happens.  Can you imagine going to work and being able to do your job well, because no one is harassing you.  There are a lot of people in this country and world who live under these circumstances and it kind balloons out on us.  Someone makes you miserable and since you're miserable others around you end up being miserable, as well.  Seems like it is just human nature.  But, when will it stop?  When will the greed, selfishness, the self-centeredness stop?  When will the anger and hatred stop?  When will the unjust back-stabbing stop?  I guess, the best answer to that is when God will put a stop to it.  Humankind doesn't seem capable of loving, of caring.

It just amazes me that people don't get that if people treated one another with open minds and justice, we'd all live a little better.  The sad thing is that so many in our governments as well as the public sector claim to be Christian.  Do they not know that it is the faithful, those who do not do wicked and deceitful things to our neighbors, that will live in God's presence, in His House, His Kingdom?

And... if there is to be vengeance for the ill done to you, trust that to the hands of God. He promises to cause the wicked to be silent.  You will only help wickedness to grow in this world and in your own life, by thinking that vengeance belongs to you. The LORD is just, trust in Him to defend and deliver us.  Trust your lives to His hands. 

Speak no evil of your neighbor. Do not persecute him. Rather, spend your days, singing God's praises; singing of His love and justice.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 21, 2013

Psalm 100 - Thanks Giving!

A reason to shout for joy.... God is good. We were provided with an abundance of snow - enough to finally bank the house over the last few days.  Snow is good.  It waters the earth and in the frigid temperatures that sometimes happen up here in the U.P., it is an insulator.  So after Worship, yesterday morning, we got out and piled the snow up against the house.  This morning, I am walking on warm floors.  The cold winds off Lake Superior are no longer blowing beneath my home.

So this morning, as I reflect on yesterday, I am thankful for:
     the snow to keep us warm and the utility bill down.
     the exercise I received moving the snow (I don't get too much exercise in the winter - could - but -
     for the opportunity to worship.
     for the fact that the annual report was finished and distributed to many for review.
     for all the children who helped serve at worship yesterday.
     for the fellowship at Zion afterward.
     for being able to cook supper for our son and granddaughter and visit with them for awhile
     for waking up this morning.
     for being able to work serving the LORD this morning.

The list is actually pretty endless, but I think you probably get the idea.

The LORD is God.  Give thanks to Him for all of His gifts.  "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."  (Psalm 100:5 NIV)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Psalm 99 - Speak To Him And Listen!

The misdeeds of Israel did not go unpunished.  But, they continued to call on and exalt His name and the LORD continued to speak to them.  He led them through the wilderness.  They called on His name and He led them through the wilderness to the promised land.

We are all guilty of misdeeds.  That does not mean the LORD has turned His back on us.  Speak to Him and listen, for He will guide us on our way.  Pray to Him and He will answer. Bow down and worship the one true God.  God will forgive us our sins against Him.  He will lead us on our journey through every wilderness, every dark valley.

Take a lesson from the Israelites who wandered in the desert for so many years because they were afraid to take the land the LORD had promised them.  Do not fear to follow in the way He would have you go.  Listen to Him.  For He is just and merciful.  Do not turn away from Him, but follow wherever He may lead. 

How many times have we found ourselves in an anxious place, a dark place where we cannot seem to find our way out?  There is a way.  Speak to the LORD, ask Him to show you the way out. The LORD our God will lead you out of bondage.  It may take a little time in the wilderness, but you will enter the promised land. God will do what He has promised and He has promised justice and equity.  In Jesus Christ, He has promised you peace that surpasses all understanding.  Speak to Him and listen, for He will guide you on your way. 

"Great is the LORD our God. He is exalted over all the nations. Worship Him and only Him for the Lord our God is holy."

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Psalm 98 - Make A Joyful Noise

This past week I was introduced to the music of a young man that really impressed me.  He grew up here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.), in Ishpeming.  He is a pop singer and quite good! His name is Adam Whittington. It made me think of all the young people that I know who make "joyful noises." 

The congregation of Zion Lutheran, Skanee, where I serve, loves music. We have two annual music fests every year, both fund-raisers for other non-profit organizations: St. Vincent DePaul and Toys for Tots. In the tiny community of Aura, MI where I live we also have an annual Fiddler's Jamboree with people flocking from all over the mid-west to join in the music, either playing or just enjoying.  We have a lot of musically gifted people right here in the local community.  I especially enjoy hearing the young people.  There have been some extraordinarily gifted young people who have contributed gifts of music to these various Music Festivals - making joyful noises, singing to the LORD, proclaiming His love for us through their music.

Some of them, like Jessica Dakota, have grown up and have moved out of the area. She was/is a number one fiddler, as well as pianist and flutist. Although, a member of another congregation, she was always willing to play at our special activities and at the Jamboree.  After she left for college, I lost track of her, but I still listen to her Native Flute CD. 

Courtney Clishe has been singing praises to God for as long as I've known her, probably about 14 years and she is still a teen! What an awesome voice she has!  She also plays piano and guitar.  She volunteers at both of our music fests every year to help support the local charities.  More than once, have I visited a Nursing Home and she was there singing to the residents. 

Lately, we've had a young lady, Kinsey LaFernier, singing special music for Worship with her mother, Missy LaFernier, as well as solos as a member of our youth choir at our Music Festivals. She's also been singing at the Aura Fiddler's Jamboree for a few years.  She too, is awesome! 

We have some tremendous musical gifts given to our young (and older) people here in this area. They work hard at their craft. I mention just a few.  They use the gifts that God has given them to "sing to the LORD a new song." (Psalm 98:1 NIV).  God indeed has done marvelous things through them!

As I read Psalm 98 this morning, I thank God for all the young people who are willing to share the gift of music that God has given them, making joyful noises, proclaiming all the deeds that He has done, proclaiming His Holy Name.

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s hornshout for joy before the Lord, the King." (98:4-6)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 18, 2013

Psalm 97 - What Is Evil?

"Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 97:10 NIV)

So what exactly is this evil that the faithful ones hate?  This morning, as most morning, I'm going to have to go for anything that separates from the love of God. Any false idol, any motivation that is self-serving, that turns our love away from Him and to something else would be evil.  Being separated from God is evil.  Being reconciled to Him is a good thing!

I can think of lots of evil things that turn my stomach this morning.  Evil is not always blatant and in your face.  Sometimes, it is those little things we do, the sneaky little things to undermine our neighbor and that do not glorify God, that is the evil that confronts and confounds us.  Evil comes sliding out from under the rock, mostly unnoticed by humankind.  But, it is there and we often fail to recognize it as existing around us. We fail to recognize it and end up accepting it as a normal part of life. 

I am always amazed when someone declares something as the epitome of evil.  It's like we're saying that thing or that person is evil, but I am not.  It's always good to say something is more evil than we are.  It makes us feel righteous.  Actually, what it makes us is self-righteous and the only one that is truly righteous is God.  In Him is our righteousness and in no other. 

"Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name." (Psalm 97:11-12)

God's Peace - Pr. J


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Psalm 96 - Praising God For Completed Annual Reports

"Sing to the LORD, praise his name!" (vs 2 NIV) 

Today is a marvelous day.  January tends to be one of the most tiring months for me. There is so little sunlight up here and it is usually really cold.  But, so far we haven't had any frozen water pipes.  Thanks be to God! 

January is that full month after the Advent and celebration of Christmas and before we begin Lent.  One would think we would slow down and take a break at the church.  One would think that I might get to hibernate - like an old bear - crawl into a hole and hibernate for a couple of weeks.  But, no.  January is tends to be even busier and more hectic than either Advent or Lent.  It is the month that all the annual reports have to be done.  They are due to the congregation this Sunday.  And... here's the good news!  I am down to filling out the total expenses for the year 2012 in the Budget Report.  Then that's it.  The office secretary will finish it up on Friday and everyone will have them on Sunday morning when the come to Worship.  Thanks be to God!  I sing to the LORD and praise His name for it is almost finished for another year!

It is not the annual meeting that is difficult. We always have an awesome turn-out for the meeting and for the pot-luck fellowship following.  It is the preparation for the meeting that is so very time consuming. I am a very poor proof-reader so I am constantly wondering what it is that I am missing.  Thanks be to God for a council secretary who is a great proof-reader and has a better memory than mine!  She is able to catch my and everyone else's mistakes and omissions before they go to print.

Today, I give thanks to God and praise His name, for my part of these reports will be done before noon. No matter what the season, there is always something to be thankful for.  God has given us many precious gifts to enjoy even in this world.  So sing always to the LORD, praising His Holy Name. "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among the peoples." (vs 3)

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Psalm 95 - God Was Angry

I wonder how many "Christians" know the story of the Israelites escape from Egypt.  If they have heard it, did they really listen?  I think we like to forget the part that the Israelites wandered through the desert for forty years because God was angry with them for not trusting Him. They were not wandering around just because they were lost.  Well, I guess they were lost in a sense because they did not trust nor listen to God. 

God was angry!  How many of you, does that surprise?  Isn't God suppose to be an all loving, all giving, just an even-tempered, all gracious God.  Indeed, He is all loving.  But, scripture also tells us that God can be angry when His children refuse to listen to Him, refuse to trust Him, refuse to follow in the way He has led them.  Indeed, He is quick to forgive all who turn to Him in the name of His Son, Jesus the Christ.  But, he is not overjoyed knowing that there are those who would forsake Him or His Son who was willing to die so that all people might be reconciled to Him in the promised land, the Kingdom.  Make no mistake, when you sin and willfully follow in the ways that would lead you away from the kingdom of God, you are separating yourself from God and the promised land.  God wants you to be reconciled to Him in His Kingdom.  Why would He be happy if you chose another way and rejected the promised gift?

The Israelites feared entering into the promised land in the way that God would have them go.  They feared and chose another way.  They rejected God's full promise to them, at least in the way that He would give it to them.  And... God was angry. The consequence was to wander around outside the promised land for forty more years. For sure God was with them as they continued their journey through the wilderness.  And... God is with you.  You have no need to fear following in the way that God has prepared for you through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. If you're having problems remembering the story, read again the story of how the Israelites decided, out of fear, that they would not enter the promised land as God directed them. It can be found in Numbers 13 and 14.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Psalm 94 - The LORD Sees

Again, the psalmist reminds us that there are no secrets from God.  He who fashioned the ears, hears.  He who formed the eye, sees.  No one can hide the injustice that they do from God.  It can be hidden from man for awhile, but it cannot be hidden from God.

Young people always amaze me.  I was young once (a very long time ago) and I still remember.  For some reason when we are young (and sometimes when we are old) we think that we're going to get away with doing the things we ought not do.  That rarely happens.  There are usually consequences to our negative actions in this world.  Even if others don't see what we do in secret places to harm others, God sees.  "The LORD knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile." (vs 11)  The One who created all things; the One who knows all things; He is the judge of all the earth.

Take care that what you do and say is according to His will - God sees. His judgement will be founded on righteousness, and the upright in heart will follow it. (vs. 15)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 14, 2013

Psalm 93 - The Seas Lift their Voice

I live on a bay off of Lake Superior.  I have never lived more than an hour away from either Lake Superior or the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.  Most of my adulthood has been spent living within fifteen or so minutes from a great body of water.  But, even an hour away, I always had at least a creek running some place near the house where I could go and sit and pray. 

The water, for me, is a huge reminder of creation and re-creation.

Of creation:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:1,2 NIV)

"And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:9,10)

And... of re-creation:
"Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”" (John 3:3-8)

Water is a reminder of God's power.  Never underestimate the power of the Great Lakes. Never undestimate the power of the ocean.  Yet, the power of these waters can't even begin to compare with the power of God.  Remember how God delivered Israel from bondage to Egypt.  The waters of the Red Sea swallowed up Pharoah's Army, even as the waters separated so that the Israelites could walk on dry land to their freedom and to the promised land.  There is only One who can perform a feat like this.  There is only One who can subude the waters in this manner.  That One is God, the LORD God who, robed in majesty and armed with strength, established the world and reigns over it. 

Even the seas listen to God and they lift up their voice to the One who is mightier than they.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Psalm 92 - Sing Praises All Day Long

These psalms just seem to run together.  One enhancing what was said the day before and will be said tomorrow.  So "ditto" yesterday's blog...

So, give thanks to the LORD for He is good.  He blesses those love Him. He makes us glad by the works of His hands.  We praise Him morning, noon, and night.  I use to sing God's praises a lot.  It didn't matter where I was.  If I felt like singing a hymn, I sang. But, not everyone appreciates my singing, so now it sounds more like I'm mumbling under my breath. I'm thinking it's probably foolish of me to let what others think of my singing, stop me from singing.  It is time to start singing, again.  I do not care who smiles at me like I'm someone to be pitied.  I do not care who thinks I'm embarrassing myself or them.  The LORD is good and it is good for us to proclaim His love in the morning and His faithfulness at night! There is never a time that we cannot sing His praises.

Let the wicked shake their heads in dismay at those who praise the LORD.  They will perish in their lack of understanding. But, let all God's people praise Him and declare His glorious deeds!

God's Peace - Pr. J 

P.S. It is Sunday morning.  See you all at Worship where we can sing His praises together!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Psalm 91 - Shelter of the Most High

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty!" (Psalm 91:1 NIV)  One of my favorite Psalms!

I think I pray at least one of these verses almost every day and it's not always the same one.  God is our refuge and fortress.  We can find refuge and rest, under His wings, no matter what kind of storms ravage around us.

The enemy may attack, but we have no need of fear, for a thousand will fall at His side, by His right hand ten thousand will fall. Ten thousand will fall...  This part of Psalm 91, I confess I pray quite frequently.  That the enemy will not be able to come near or conquer, but by the hand of God, the enemy will be stopped in their tracks.  And... the enemy is.

What comfort it is to know that all who call on His name are afforded the love and protection of the Most High, our Almighty God, the most magnificent that ever was, is, and ever shall be.  We are His!  Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 11, 2013

Psalm 90 - Substance Abuse - God Sees Our Secret

"You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." (Psalm 90:8)

Yesterday, I attended a local clergy council lunch.  We discussed substance abuse issues in our county. Baraga County has a reputation for not only being one of the highest in unemployment, but also one of the highest with substance abuse problems in the State of Michigan.

It appears that a Substance Abuse Coalition has been formed in Baraga County. The secret of Baraga County's substance abuse problem has come to light!  That would be funny, if it weren't so sad. Every few years this secret is revealed and then it is swept under the carpet, again... 

 And... that, I think, is partly due to the fact that there is another secret that is still hidden from the eyes of much of the population.  But, it is not hidden from God.  He sees what we would hide.  That secret is who it is that is involved in trying to hide the whole problem.  I don't mean hiding the meth heads...  I mean who is still in the dark and would keep the county in the dark regarding addictions, period.... 

Example:  heavy drinkers who haven't had to face legal consequences promote drinking among our young people.  How many graduation parties have you attended where there are underage drinkers?  Think about it.  There's a few of them, aren't there and not just in Baraga County.

Most people who know me, know that I am somewhat of a prohibitionist.  I do not drink.  I quit completely, years ago, when I realized that people were using me for an excuse to drink.  "Well, Judy, drinks, so it must be ok."  I'm not sure why I should be the morality thermometer, but statements like that were enough to make me want to quit. I did not want to be anyone's excuse for abusing alcohol!

Here's the rub.  There are still many adults (old adults - including church council members and elected officials) in this community and others throughout this country, who are using illegal drugs, or abusing their prescriptions drugs in a manner that makes it illegal. You think it's a secret?  Maybe, not everyone knows you are doing this.  But, there are enough of us.  There are many young people who are using you as an excuse.  "It can't be that bad...  Look, even the _(title of upstanding so-called upstanding citizen) smokes a little recreationally.  It's not recreational if it's illegal.  It is illegal and it is substance abuse.  What an example we make for our young people!  And, then... there is God.  He knows all that we do in secret. 

One more thing...  Those of you who have medical marijuana growing.  Please, quit selling it to your neighbor.  And...  please, keep it secure enough so your children and your neighbor's children can't keep stealing leaves off the plants!

As a former substance abuse counselor, one of the things I learned was that we never have the problem.  It is always someone else who has a problem. As long as someone else stays in more trouble, has a more messed up life than we; we don't have a problem.  As long as someone else can be looked down upon for getting caught in the mess, we can feel good about ourselves.  It's as though we draw an invisible line that if we cross we fear we will have to recognize that we have an addiction.  For example:  I only go to the casino once a week and never spend more than $20.00.  Then it is $50.00.  Then it is $100.00.  Then it's only a couple times a week.  Then what?  You lose your home, your business, your family?  Or... I never drink before 4 p.m.. Then it is before noon.  Then it is only occasionally I'll have a Bloody Mary for breakfast.  And, then there are those who use illegal drugs.  Ever think this one:  as long as I don't use a needle, I'm not an addict. Prescription drugs (including marijuana) are legal. That will be where I draw the line.  Who are you kidding?  Certainly, not God! Be filled with the Spirit of God.  You will never know more peace and joy than that.

Substance Abuse is not a secret.  Even if we choose to pretend it is.  It is time for this county to actually do something about it.  My suggestion is a greater effort in three areas:  Prevention through Education, Law Enforcement, and Treatment.  We need to have a greater understanding of all the dangers of substance abuse so that it might be curbed.  We need to also have real consequences, because often the addict cannot, because of the nature of addiction, recognize that they actually need help until they hit bottom.  We need to have more treatment programs available.  Programs that will not send people away from the community for help, but, keep them here so that they can face the challenges of the community while they grow toward wholeness.  We need more programs that can be tailored to the needs of individual.  One program does not work for everyone.  We are individuals and we all fall and then grow in different ways. All three of these areas are sorely lacking. Approaching one area is not going to do it.

It wouldn't hurt if we actually approached the problem from a spiritual vantage point, as well.  Real wholeness happens when we walk in the presence of God.  It's not advantageous to us to try to hide ourselves and our sins from Him.  He knows all that we do in secret.  There is a life that goes beyond the temporary "highs" and "crashes" in this world.  Live Life!  Carpe diem! as a child of God.

May God help us to show His splendor to our children and may the favor of the LORD our God rest upon us.  (vs 16-17)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Psalm 89 - Son of God and Son of Man

There are days when I wonder what it is really all about.  Everything seems to be going so smoothly, so peacefully along, and then blam.... chaos enters.  I have to admit, that there are times when it really feels like God has turned His back on us.  How, I wonder, can the same people keep making the same mistakes?  Why do they keep doing the same things that have bad results over and over again?  They hurt not just themselves, but throw a clinker into every one's lives around them, as well.

And... I remember... as Psalm 89 reminds us today that he has made a covenant with His chosen one. He swore to David his servant to establish His line forever.  Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are members of that blood-line.  We have become God's children, heirs of the covenant through Jesus Christ, descendant of David.  Son of God, begotten of our Father in heaven and son of man, descendant of King David, Jesus is the one through whom we have received an eternal place in our Father's, His Father's home. Through Him, we have inherited an eternal home.  As Matthew:22:41-45 NIV (see also Psalm 110:1) reminds us:

     "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the      Messiah? Whose son is he?”
     “The son of David,” they replied.
     He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
           “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
           “Sit at my right hand
          until I put your enemies
          under your feet.”’

      If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions."

God has not turned His back on His children, his sons or his daughters. His promises are fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is the one through whom the covenant with David was promised.  God has not turned His back to us, rather He welcomes us into His heavenly home, through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. Blessed are they who have learned to acclaim Him, who walk in the light of His presence! (vs 15)

"Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen." (vs 52)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Psalm 88 - Low Pits and Dark Depths

You've probably been there. Maybe, you're not now. But, most of us have been in that low pit, the darkest depths at one time or another. The last thing you feel at night is loneliness and grief and the first thing you wake up knowing is the same loneliness and grief.

We pray, "How long, LORD, before you save us from this miserable state that we have entered into?" We know that only the LORD can save us. Yet, in our deep despair, the recognition that God has not turned His back on us, humanity has turned its back on God often eludes us.

Most of us know what it is like to be in the darkness and we can empathize with those who are there now and so... we keep them in our prayers.

May the LORD grant faith to all who find themselves in this dark and lonely pit. May God grant you eyes to see His light shining in the darkness of the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Psalm 87 - Zion

God establishes His Holy City.  He decides whose name will be written as a resident of Zion.  He records the names of people who acknowledge Him on the register and they will dwell in His Kingdom. 

The Bible records this city as Zion.  I remember, a great-uncle of my husband's who passed away many years ago.  He was a wonderful character.  In his last years his main topic of conversation was Holy Zion.  He could not wait.  He was anxious to live in that city.  It was kind of amazing to me that not everyone around him understood what he was talking about.  They had no clue what this Zion was. Sadly, these people were Christian.  A Christian without  hope of Zion?  Can that be? 

As I visit many elderly today, often our conversations are directed to that Holy City, Zion, the place of God's habitation, the place that has been prepared for all who believe, no matter who they are or where they are from, through the blood of Jesus Christ, our LORD.  These visits are most pleasant to me.  It is good to hear that I am not the only one who has this hope of eternal life.

Rejoice! Make music and sing aloud for the promise of Zion is for you and for all who would believe!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, January 7, 2013

Psalm 86 - Paradox

It strikes me that the psalmist sometimes might think more of himself than he is. He claims to be faithful to the LORD and trust in Him.  Yet, his prayer is for the LORD to teach him His way and to give him an undivided heart.

It is a paradox.  On the one hand we love the LORD.  We know there are no other gods greater than He. We put our trust in Him.  On the other hand, we also know that we are sinners.  We know that our hearts are divided and the world pulls our hearts toward other things, people, places, etc. all of the time.  We know that there is no god like our God.  Yet, we do not always put the LORD above all things.  We do not worship and serve Him as we know we ought to do. It is as St. Paul wrote: 

Who shall save us from this miserable condition?  Who shall bring joy to our hearts?  It is as St. Paul wrote:  "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:21-25 NIV)

Thanks be God!
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Psalm 85 - Love and Faithfulness

"Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other." (Psalm 85:10 NIV)

Verse 10 caught my eye this morning as I was in Shopko last night and noticed they have the Valentine's stuff out already. Love and faithfulness...  I have seem some wonderful examples of it in the people around me. I have also seen some marriages that have neither.  Oh, for sure, most of the partners in these marriages will tell you that they really love each other, especially when they are caught in an act of out right unfaithfulness.  But, the evidence of love is not there.  Faithfulness is not there. 

The evidence of love and faithfulness is seen when one spouse would do anything for the good of the other.  Faithlessness to a spouse is not only about not "being with" other people.  Whenever, we put our own selfish desires above the others to the point that we separate ourselves from them, we are being unfaithful.  If you have to go fishing with your buddies every weekend or out with the girls, bowling, every Saturday night, you are being unfaithful to your spouse. You can tell me and you can tell God all you want that the other spouse does not mind. But, I've witnessed it enough and I am telling you that one or both of you is probably lieing to yourself or the other. You have chosen activities and other people rather than being with your spouse, rather than sharing your life together. You are breaking your marriage vows. You have chosen to separate what God has joined together.

There is no better example of love and faithfulness than the union that God chooses for us in the Body of Christ.  That, my friend, is a marriage made in heaven. He loves us so much that His whole life on earth was given so that we might be united with Him forever in His Kingdom.      

 As a reminder of how we are to treat our spouses; how we are to be loving and faithful: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Eph 5:25-33)

"Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other." (Psalm 85:10)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Psalm 84

I am reading from the CEV this morning because it is the only Bible  at the hunting shack. I am blogging from a smart phone. It is not working real well:-)

Some things can be a challenge - like learrning how to use a smart phone. But, whether the challenge is in this world or the Kingdom, those who live in the house of the LORD thank God and sing His praises for all that He his done, through the challenges that He has provided us with.

And... may the LORD God All-Powerful continue to bless all who trust in Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, January 4, 2013

Psalm 83 - Let The Enemies Growl

Enemies growl and foes rear their heads.  But, those who trust in the LORD know that the LORD will overcome all His enemies.  In fact, He already has.  On the cross the enemy was defeated.  Sadly, it appears that the enemy isn't always aware of that and he keeps on growling.

It can be tedious living in a world where the enemies of God and God's people keep on growling. It can be most wearisome. A day does not go by when I don't encounter someone, many someones, growling against God and His people.  But, God's people will continue to pray as the psalmist prays and their hope renewed and strengthened through faith. We are confident that the enemy will not overcome us. Those who think they might will find themselves ashamed and dismayed for their sin against God.  They will, in the end, know that the LORD, alone, is Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:17, 18 NIV)

Let the enemies growl.  The LORD God is our God and He is rules over all the earth!  Thanks be to God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Psalm 82 - gods know nothing

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken." (Psalm 82:5 NIV)

The gods know nothing. So, isn't it about time to turn from our false gods and turn toward God, who does?  I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "I believe." But, what is it that you believe?  In whom do you trust?  Are you waiting for the big pay-off at the casino or the lottery?  Is a machine your god?  If that's where you are putting your hope, then that is your god.  You have a party planned for this week-end.  A little fooling around? A lot of drinking or drugs? Well, then that is your god.  Whatever it is that you put your trust or your hope in, wherever your heart is that is your god.  If you should say, "I trust no one, nothing, but myself," then you are you own god.  Can you save yourself?  Are you really happy trusting in these gods that know nothing?  That are nothing? That have and can give you nothing, but the earth shaking heartaches that accompany the darkness?

Turn to the Lord, our God. He will judge the earth and all the false gods in it. Get out of the darkness and live in the light of God's love for you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Psalm 81 - Stubborn Hearts Need Listen

Again we hear and are reminded that those with the stubborn hearts should listen to God.  I guess we have to keep being reminded to listen to Him, because we are so stubborn.  We refuse to hear God's Word.  We refuse to remember and sing for joy for what God has done for us.

If only we would listen! If only we would hear!  So many people who go from one crisis to another.  They don't remember what God did to help them through the first crisis.  They off don't remember what they did to get them in the mess in the first place.  They do remember something, though!  They remember all kinds of things that others supposedly did that brought the crisis upon them.  They falsely remember and blame others for their sins.  The burden cannot be removed from their shoulders until they take the burden of their sins upon their shoulders.  God cannot remove their foes, if the foes that they have live only in their own imagination and they are their own enemy.  I take that back...  God can remove the strongest foe, even if that foe is our self. 

Through recognizing that we are our own worst enemies, by recognizing that it is we who have sinned against God, humanity, and ourselves; by recognizing these things and turning to God, we are forgiven. The burden is removed. "You would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” says the LORD. (Psalm 81:16 NIV)

May God help you to listen and to hear so that you might turn to the LORD and not be stuck in crisis', following our own devices, created by our stubborn hearts. (vs 11,12)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Psalm 80 - Restore Us - Grant Us Peace

"Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (Psalm 80:1, 19 NIV)

It is New Year's Day.  This is a good prayer for the new year.  Make your face shine on us.  Restore us. Save us from our own iniquity.  The walls, indeed, have been broken down and sin seems to run rampant.  We don't even know what sin is any more.  The walls between good and evil have been torn down.  What is evil is seen as OK or even good and what is good (worship of the one true God) is seen as adiaphora, even a nuisance.

I worshipped with a United Methodist congregation this past Sunday.  The preacher spoke about living in God's peace this coming new year.  He spoke about the peace of God being the answer to the ills of this world.  I'm also re-reading St. Teresa's "Interior Castle." She speaks of inner peace, as well. 

A whole lot of the world's ills do seem to come from people not having this inner peace. We are an anxious people. People anxious to have everything our way. People who do not know peace because they have allowed the walls between good and evil to be so demolished that they know longer know what is good or evil.  And... when evil (envy, greed, anger, lust, etc...) seeps into your life then their is an internal battle.  There can be no peace within, when we've allowed evil to exist within ourselves.  There can be no peace when sin is no longer sin and we all strive to have the most, the best, to have it all, our way.

And... when you have a whole community of people (whether it is your neighborhood or Congress) who do not know peace as individuals, you have a whole community of people who live in strife with their neighbor.

"Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (80:1, 19)

May you know the peace of God throughout this new year.  Pr. J.