Sunday, June 30, 2013

Isaiah 59 - Shun Evil, Shake The Dust Off Your Feet

"Truth is nowhere to be found,
    and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The Lord looked and was displeased
    that there was no justice." (Isa 59:25 NIV)
It is a very sad thing that those who shun evil often become the prey. Looked upon by much of society as misfits, outcasts, religious zealots, those who look to speak the truth with integrity and shun the shenanigans of those who want to stir up trouble for the faithful; they become fair game, targets; as though they had VICTIM imprinted on their foreheads. Sadly, that is the lot of many faithful Christians... to be persecuted for what they believe. This includes even within families. How many couples do you know, where one spouse belittles and derides the other for their faith? How many brothers or sisters attack another because they strive to live in the truth? And... even in the church... How often have you heard that one is not a Christian because they don't/won't go along with everything that others within the church say or do? Love is the ultimate word. We have to love and accept everyone. Love is great. It is the greatest! (1 Corinth 13:13) But, love sometimes calls us to do the hard thing. It does not call us to accept evil as something good. Love sometimes calls us to confront those who would persecute others with their evil tongues. I'm ok, you're ok is not the truth, anything and everything goes is not ok. We are only ok; we are only saved, by the blood of Jesus. That is a love that calls us to do the hard thing. It calls us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt 10:38, 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23), not in the world's way of persecuting those who follow Him, but in His Way.

There are times when we must shun evil even if it means we will become someone's prey; the target of their gossip or other persecutions. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all advise us to : "And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:11, see also Matt 10:14, Luke 9:5)

One of my most difficult lessons in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) while in seminary was to learn to shake the dust off my feet. That is: to not focus so much attention on visits to those who refused to listen and to focus more time on those who want to hear God's promises. Pastors often get called to crisis'. Sometimes, though, answering every (repeated) call to those one or two who need help; yet refuse to actually listen even as they are receiving financial or other aid repeatedly from the congregation, sometimes takes away from the ministry of the people who actually want and need Pastoral care and other assistance; away from those whom who desire and need the help of the LORD. Is there justice in supporting the persecutor and ignoring the needs of the persecuted? Sadly, sometimes, you just have to shake the dust from your feet as you walk away from those who would continue to deride the name and the power of God to save. Sometimes, you just have to walk away; as pastoral care can sometimes become enabling rather than empowering. Sometimes, "tough love" is the only real love that can be applied to do God's will.
Sound harsh? I thought so and  I still think so. But, the truth is that there is a whole world of people in need out there and there are only so many hours in a day. To whom shall we go; to those who will listen and be made whole or to those who repeatedly reject the truth, the Word of the LORD; to those who have turned their backs on Him and make no bones about doing that? To whom shall we bring a word of comfort; those who persecute or those who are persecuted?
In order that you don't misunderstand me... I am not saying that we should not visit or share the Good News with those who persecute others. They, too, need to hear the promises of God for them. Jesus, in fact, encouraged us strongly, to visit those in prison (physical or spiritual). They are indeed hurting and in need of care. I am saying; however, that once you have planted the seed, if the Word is rejected, move on. Saul (St. Paul) had been one of the persecutors who made a career out of making Christians his prey. Once the Word came to Him, he was saved. But, it took only one hearing of the Word! Once Jesus introduced himself to him, Saul repented and was saved. And... then what happened, he, himself, became one of the persecuted for proclaiming the Truth, who is Jesus the Christ!

A hard word today, but there is a great promise in our reading, a comforting promise, for all who believe, for the prey who shun evil, for those who are persecuted, and it is this:
"“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord." (Isa 59:20-21 NIV)
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Isaiah 58 - Fasting Is About Giving and Living

I don't know too many Lutherans who actually fast, today, except for many during Lent. We give up chocolate or soda pop or some other consumable. Some give up other bad habits, at least for the season. But, what is fasting?

Isaiah suggests fasting is not so much what we don't do (eat), but about what we do and ultimately how or why we do it. Fasting is not so much about what does or doesn't go into our bodies, but what comes out of them. Fasting is not so much about starving ourselves, as it is about giving of ourselves. It is about giving our lives in service to God and to others - dedicating our lives to helping other - to feeding others - rather than feeding our own egos.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday." (Isa 58:6-10 NIV)
Fasting is about using our time and our resources to help our neighbor, rather than our own selfish desires, so that God might be glorified. It really would not hurt many of us to do with a little less so that others might have enough. It really would not hurt to give more of our time to help a neighbor in need... to visit the sick, those in prison, those who are alone and lonely, those in need. It would not hurt and we might even find joy in these relationships.

Fasting is not so much about what you don't do, but about what you do. It's not about living in the dark as you walk about "bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes" (vs 5), acting as though you are humble, starving yourself. Fasting is about living - living in the light of the LORD, rather than the darkness of world. It is about living, even in the darkness, as you "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  (Matt 5:16)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 28, 2013

Isaiah 57 - Peace, Peace

Worshipping false idols, mocking, sneering at God and at His prophets....  All these things are done. Yet, God continues to be there with us to lead us in His Way. He is with us. "And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”  For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy:  “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."" (Isa 57:14, 15 NIV)

He is with us always and if we are to know His peace, then it would behoove us to follow in the Way that He shows us with contrite hearts.

This morning I read some posts regarding the Syrian rebels massacring an entire village that was predominantly Christian and the execution of orthodox Christians. It reminded me that not long ago, they had also taken captive two orthodox Bishops. It is disheartening to hear or read about Christians being targeted and persecuted and even executed. We remind ourselves that the righteous in Christ shall live forever, as they are heirs of the Kingdom, even as we wonder how such atrocities could occur. It is also very wearisome to listen to those who say they are Christians who constantly deride the church on earth. God speaks through Isaiah: 

"The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.

“But you—come here, you children of a sorceress,
    you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
Who are you mocking?
    At whom do you sneer
    and stick out your tongue?
Are you not a brood of rebels,
    the offspring of liars?"  (Isa 57:1-4)
Who indeed, do you mock? God? His servants? His children? You can feign self-righteousness all you want, but the only one that really matters, God, Himself, knows what secrets we hold in our hearts and what it is that motivates us. God promises to bring healing (peace) to His children. Verses 18-21 remind us of His promises:
"I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
    creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
    which cannot rest,
    whose waves cast up mire and mud.
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” (Isa 57:18-21
God's Peace be with you all.  Pr. J

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Isaiah 56 - Justice of God

"This is what the Lord says:
“Maintain justice
    and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed." (Isa 56:1 NIV)

God's justice is not like our justice. If we refer back to Isaiah 55 we remember that His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We like to think or pretend they are. We like to twist scripture so that even our unfaithfulness can make us look righteous. But, God knows the truth. He sees.

His justice blesses those, no matter who they are, who are faithful, with eternal life. Isaiah 56 reminds us that He will bless even the foreigner and the eunuch who choose what pleases God. According to today's reading, God blesses the foreigner, the stranger; but, many shepherds He accuses. The very ones who are called to protect His flock are accused of being self-indulgent rather than caring for the flock that the LORD has entrusted us with.

"Israel’s watchmen are blind,
    they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
    they cannot bark;
they lie around and dream,
    they love to sleep.
They are dogs with mighty appetites;
    they never have enough.
They are shepherds who lack understanding;
    they all turn to their own way,
    they seek their own gain.
“Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine!
    Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today,
    or even far better.”  (Isa 56:10-12)

I'm thinking that it will not be far better for those shepherds who desert their flock to feed their own desires.

The stranger and outcast should not think that God does not hear them. Have faith. Trust that He is with you and that He hears and He sees and He will bless all who listen to Him and follow in His Way.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Isaiah 55 - His Ways

There are days when I wonder what the world is coming to. There are times when there just seems to be more trouble than normal. Where are we going with all this mess? If I allowed myself, I could get pretty worked up about some of the stuff that goes on. When times like these happen, I remind myself and others to: 
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; 
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
     so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”" (Isa 55:6-13 NIV)
It would be easy to give up and let the world have it's worldly way with you. But, the Word of the LORD reminds us to seek Him and His Way. God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. And... it may also be a good thing to remember that no matter how bad things get, God is still in charge. He can turn the greatest tragedy into the most marvelous triumph. From the most troubled time, He can lead us out in joy and lead us forth in peace - the peace that only He can give.
So seek the LORD and come to the waters that will satisfy.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Isaiah 54 - Your Maker Is Your Husband

Now, here is one for those who find themselves alone a lot. At least I relied on it, a lot, in my younger years, when my husband spent more time away from home than he spent at home. We figured it out once. In 21 years, he was gone at least 3/4's of the time. That is, he was either in the field, on a ship, in training in some other country, or on an 18 month (or longer) deployment somewhere. We didn't even begin to count the overnight duties he pulled. The life of a military spouse (and their children) can get pretty lonely. Fortunately, I had two sons with me. Any other relatives were about a thousand miles away. I turned to the church so that our sons and I would have family. It was by wading (or waddling) through those years, that I have come to believe and know that there is a blood that is thicker than blood. It is the blood of Christ that is shed for you. I believe that it was this alone time that opened up the door to my seeking the LORD on a closer and more personal basis (or maybe it was finally opening the door and letting Him in). It was during one of the loneliest times that I finally came to know Jesus as my Redeemer. It was in preparation for an even lonelier and most desolate time that I finally met the Holy Spirit (face to face, so to speak). I spent a lot of time over the years affirming Isaiah 54:5-8 (NIV) for myself. It brought much comfort and ultimately, it helped me to learn to love and trust in the LORD more fully. Maybe it will help at least one of you, so I share it.

For your Maker is your husband
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.

The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
    I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
    I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord your Redeemer.

God's Peace - Pr. J.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Isaiah 53 - Jesus Died For The Sheep Who Had Gone Astray

We typically hear the reading of Isaiah 53 every year during Lent, on Good Friday, along with verses beginning at verse 13 of the 52nd chapter of Isaiah.

It is a reminder of why Jesus had to die. That is, for us, because of our own sinful ways... "We all, like sheep, have Gone astray, each of us has turn to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa 53:6 NIV)

Jesus took upon himself our pain and he bore our sufferings. He was crucified for our transgression and for our iniquities. It is by his wounds that we are healed. It is by his sacrifice for us that we are made whole!

We may hear this lesson on Good Friday, but I am reminded of it often. For, I, like all of you, often act like a sheep that has gone astray. Whenever I mess up big time (that is sin), God's gentle Spirit reminds me why Jesus had to suffer persecution and such a cruel death. He died bearing our sins, those sins we commit today and will commit tomorrow. Through faith in him, our sins (of even today and tomorrow) were crucified with him.

May God help us to more faithful to the one who was and is faithful to us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Don't forget to read Isaiah 53 - you will recognize it immediately if you've ever attended at Good Friday Service at Zion or most congregations anywhere.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Isaiah 52

Israel will be brought out of bondage by the hand of God. They will not have to hurry. They will not have to sneak away. God will prepare their way. He will prepare their safe passage. Even as He has prepared our way to the promised land, the Kingdom of God. There is no sneaking away in the middle of the night. There is no rush. There may be a few bumps in the road, but we complete the journey, because God is with us.

Returning to the promised land was good news for the people of Israel. There is no better news, today, than the news that all who believe will be delivered from bondage to the promised land, that is the Kingdom of God, through Jesus Christ, our LORD. 

"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”"
   (Isa 52:7 NIV)

Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, through Jesus the Christ. Nothing could be more beautiful to the ears than that! Nothing could be more beautiful! Do not doubt, but trust that your God reigns! He has delivered you to His Kingdom!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Isaiah 51 - Corner of Eden

Sunrise over Silver River, Huron Bay, Aura, MI
"Listen to me..." (Isa 51:1,4 NIV) The LORD reminds us to listen to Him and we will be comforted. By listening we will know joy and gladness. We will know justice when we listen and hear His instruction.

The LORD promises us blessings, if we but listen to Him. Listen to His promises; listen to His direction and we will know the way that we should go. We will be comforted no matter what befalls us. The LORD will provide a place of comfort and peace where we can and will recognize His awesome presence. It will be as if the Garden of Eden is restored.

I think that I have finally been settled down to the place where I will die (of course, I thought that about Jacksonville, NC at one point, too - who can tell what God wills for us). Every now and then I think, maybe I have been here too long. For most of my adult life, I have averaged a move every two years, so at times it seems strange not to be moving. But, this place would definitely be hard to leave. Our home is quite small and we have looked at larger places across the bay. But, the looking doesn't last long. God has found the perfect place for me. Not too far out, but far enough. It's definitely not crowed here and the people in the community are really great. Wildlife and lots of trees surround me and sunrise over the bay is most generally awesome. Our own little corner of Eden right here on earth...  There is rarely a day, after work, that the drive on the winding road home does not inspire me to thank God for this place of peace.  It doesn't matter what season it is. Winter, spring, summer, or fall; it is all good and brings joy and gladness; peace to my heart and soul. It is a place of rest.

Listen to Him... The LORD knows what is good for you and even what you desire. He will provide.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 21, 2013

Isaiah 50 - Set Your Face Like Flint

Included in today's reading is one of the various descriptions or prophecies of the suffering servant, who is Jesus the Christ. It is found in verses 4 thru 9 and is generally one of the readings that is used on Passion Sunday as we begin our journeys through Holy Week and to the cross and ultimately the resurrection.

"The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.

He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up." (Isa 50:4-9 NIV)

Jesus did not turn his back on us, rather he offered it to those who would beat him, even us. He was willing to suffer at the hands of those whom he would save, for our own sake. He set his face like a flint, knowing that in the eyes of our Father, he would not be put to shame. Humankind might laugh and taunt him, but God, our Father and the Spirit, will bring him through it all. He will not be shamed. He will live! And.... He does! He is Risen! He lives!

Setting his face like flint... interesting concept. Lately, I have noticed that I have been intentionally trying to wipe the flint-like attitude off my face. There are days when I am way too serious, probably because I am way too tired of witnessing people that are following in a way that has nothing to do with "The Way" that Jesus set before us. We do have freedom to choose to reject "The Way." But, if you've done that, admit it. Don't pretend. It deceives others. Pretending is just another word for lie. Don't pretend that you are a follower of Christ, if you are going off on your own path. The path which Jesus journeyed led to a cross. It led to death and ultimately eternal life. Want life? Then, expect death - death to yourself - death to your own ego and live for and in Christ.  This last Sunday we heard one of my favorite scripture verses:  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20) In order for Christ to abide in you, there has to be some room in there. Let the ego go...

Jesus suffered and died for you, for us. In the face of mockery, false accusations, and even death on the cross, Jesus set his face like flint. He was quite resolute in following the plan of God to die for our sins. Yet, we, sometimes, seem quite resolute in insisting that his death was in vain by rejecting Jesus' sacrifice for us, by setting our faces like flint, refusing to follow in "The Way."

God has not divorced you; rather, He has done everything to reconcile you to Him. If your face is going to be set like flint; let it be resolute in being reconciled to God our Father, through the blood of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Isaiah 49 - Can A Mother Forget Her Child?

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. (Isa 49:15, 16 NIV)

Most of us cannot even begin to consider that we might forget our children. However, the sad reality is that there are many mothers who do. There are many mothers who prefer not to have children and live as though they don't. Once, again, I consider that the court systems in this country still tend to give preferential treatment to mothers over the fathers. And... if and when the courts do grant a greater proportion of the custody of a child to a father or other person due to gross neglect or abuse by the mother, society tends to want to say that the courts were unfair - that they should never take a mother's children away from her. They need her. What they really need is a mother who will love them. She will love them as God loves her. She will put their lives before her own even as God was willing, in Christ Jesus, to give his life for us.

Isaiah 49 was read by me often when my own children were teen-agers and beginning to stretch their wings beyond what was good for them. Those years are long gone and I had almost forgotten the reassurance they gave me. Now, that I have grandchildren hitting those teen years, I suspect I should probably be reaquainting myself with these verses:

"Your children hasten back,
and those who laid you waste depart from you.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
all your children gather and come to you.
As surely as I live,” declares the Lord,
“you will wear them all as ornaments;
you will put them on, like a bride.

“Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing,
‘This place is too small for us;
give us more space to live in.’
Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who bore me these?
I was bereaved and barren;
I was exiled and rejected.
Who brought these up?
I was left all alone,
but these—where have they come from?’”" (Isa 49:17-21)
God's Peace - Pr. J  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Isaiah 48 - Peace Like A River

Silver River, Aura, MI
"This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea
.”" (Isa 48:17-18 NIV)

The hymn "When Peace Like a River" or "All Is Well With My Soul" is a favorite among many. It is one of my favorite hymns. It was one of Pr. Bob Manthei's, who served here before me. It was written by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873. Not long before, his four daughters had died in a collision with another ship as they crossed the Atlantic. His wife survived and sent him this message, "Saved alone." Later, as he, himself, crossed the Atlantic and neared the spot where his daughters had died, he was inspired to write this hymn. The LORD, in His mercy has taught us that no matter what befalls us, it can be well with our soul. All who abide in Christ will know the peace that only He can give.

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Today, Isaiah reminds us that we are to turn from worshipping false gods, and to trust in the LORD, our God, and all will be well with our soul. Our peace will be like a river. But, for those who turn their backs on Him, there will be no peace. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”

When will we turn from our stubborn, stiffnecked ways to live in peace? To live wholly for and in Christ? "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Eph 2:14-18)

And... all is well with my soul! May it be well with your's.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Isaiah 47 - Mercy

God had delivered his children into bondage in Babylon so that they might repent. However, Babylon showed no mercy to His children that He had delivered to their hands. Rather, Babylon became even more secure in her own power forgetting that it was God who had done this thing. And... Babylon will pay for her ego. There will be consequences for not doing God's will even to those who are not God's chosen ones - consequences for those who have shown known mercy and persecuted His children.

Actually, what first came to my mind this morning as I was reading chapter 47 was the egotistical and self-righteous false proclamations of the prosperity gospel. Do not be deceived. It is a false gospel. When multitudes of God's children are in need (hungry, homeless, dying) for a preacher to be holding himself up as an example of how good works will make you millions or billions is pretty much what that Virgin Daughter Babylon did. They used others to ensure their own riches and security. Just because God sent His children into their hands does not mean that they are allowed persecute them. Rather, they (and we) should show mercy as God has shown us mercy.

Those who preach another gospel - a gospel that promotes their own prosperity, from their own good works (in this world), rather than God's good work in Christ Jesus - will fall as assuredly as Babylon fell. Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus in His Kingdom know that Jesus did not live so that we might wealthy in worldly goods, but rather we will be rich in things that are eternal - things like: inner joy, love, and peace of heart and mind. We are rich simply because we live in God's presence, in His Kingdom, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, June 17, 2013

Isaiah 46 - God's Will Will Be Done

False idols are burdensome. They do nothing but add weight to the burdens of the animals that carry them and the people that worship them. But, the LORD carries our weight, our burdens. He bore the weight of our sins on the cross for us.

So which is preferable to you to bear the weight and the burden of a false god or have the one true God lift you up and carry you? "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."" (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

Remember too, that there God is God. There is only one and no matter what false gods you choose to worship, it will be God's will that will be done and not ours, not any will of the false gods that we might worship. Of course, truth be said, false gods have no good will for you or anyone else. They can help no one.

“'Remember this, keep it in mind,
    take it to heart, you rebels. 
 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
    from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;

    what I have planned, that I will do." (Isa 46:8-11)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Isaiah 45 - A Grandfather Creates Woe

"I form the light and create darkness,
    I bring prosperity and create disaster;
    I, the Lord, do all these things." (Isa 45:7 NIV)

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." (Isa 45:7 KJV)

"I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe,
I am the Lord, who do all these things." (Isa 45:7 RSV)

I'm pulling out one lonely verse from this chapter of many verses this morning. I do it because it reminds me of a ecumenical Bible Study I attended in 1996. This verse was topic of a very heated discussion. Among us were Methodists, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Lutherans of the LCMS, ELCA, and the Apostolic brands and all using various English translations of the Holy Bible. There were some who thought that someone, somewhere, some how in the transcribing of scripture years ago a mistake had been made. God could not, would not. create disaster, evil or woe! After all, God is good all the time!  But, then again... what is good? Do we decide what is good or do we let God decide that?

According to some, it is the devil who creates all evil. It is the evil one who creates disasters and woes. It was/is unimaginable to some that this friendly, loving, grandfatherly figure sitting in a rocking chair on high would ever do anything that would cause us stress. But, what if it were for our own good - for the good of all people that there is a bit of stress in our lives? Would He do it then? What do you think? What does Holy Scripture say?

Today is Father's Day in the United States. Do not earthly father's sometimes make decisions that seem to affect the lives of their children in a negative manner? Sometimes things, that may not be so comfortable for us, have to happen for our own good, for the good of all creation. In many circles it is called "tough love."

And while I'm thinking about it.... I can not begin to count the times that I have been told by someone I was sharing the Good News with, that they simply can't buy into the whole bearded grandfather figure sitting on his throne in the sky type of god. I usually smile and tell them that neither can I. God is more than that. My God creates light and darkness. He makes peace and creates woe. God is a whole lot more than a detached, old (decrepit) bearded man, sitting on a throne or in a rocking chair, as he watches from a distance cloud, the antics of His children and their children. God is active in our lives whether we want Him to be or not. He is not out there in another universe. He is with you, even now, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Isaiah 44 - Our God, Not Idols

"Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
and will take the name Israel.

“This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God." (Isa 44:5-6 NIV)
Herein, we find the promise of God to call people who were not his people. He will save those who belong to Him. He promises to bless them and their descendents, pouring out His Spirit upon them. 
Through the lips of Isaiah, God once again reminds us that He is God. He is the creator of all things. He reminds us again how worthless false idols are. They are fashioned, created, with the minds and hands of mere mortals. How, then can the created create something greator than God who created the world and all that is in it?  It's a puzzle, that man could delude himself so, But, he often does.
Worship the Lord Almighty, our Kind and Redeemer and only Him!
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 14, 2013

Isaiah 43 - I Am With You.

The LORD tells Israel, He tells us: "Do not be afraid, for I am with you..." (Isa 43:5 NIV) He promises release from bondage. He promises redemption. He promises salvation.

"Do not be afraid, for I am with you..." How often we need to hear those words! Do not be afraid. God is with you. We often find ourselves in bondage to a variety of issues we are struggling to figure and work out for ourselves or someone we love. Maybe it's financial difficulties or an illness that may not have a known remedy or one that can't even be diagnosed that makes us feel like we are bearing a yoke too heavy to bear.

It sometimes feels as though we are lost in a thick forest with no signs of a path to lead us out. We find ourselves journeying through the wilderness and feeling like we are making that journey quite alone.  Be not afraid. You are not alone. The LORD, who created and redeemed you has not deserted you. He is with you. The word of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, promises this.

God is with you and may He help you to know and recognize the peace that is with His presence (that is His presence). God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Isaiah 42 - The Light Is With You, Even Now

"I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." (Isa 42:6-7 NIV)

Isaiah prophesied the release of God's people from captivity. This prophecy relates not just to release of the Israelites, but all whom He loves. For generations, God's faithful people waited for this coming Messiah. According to the New Testament, the prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus the Christ.

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:25-29)

A light for the Gentiles has come. Jesus Christ is that light. He is our way. He is our truth. He is our life. (John 24:6) He was, He is, and He is to come. He is with us now. He is with us always. Follow in the way that the light reveals to you so that you might live life and live it abundantly.
I find it most uncomfortable when I hear people talking about the light which we are to follow to the Kingdom of God after we die physical deaths. I am uncomfortable with unbelievers who come back from near death experiences, having seen a light, proclaiming that there are many paths to the Kingdom. As I remember the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in his second letter to them (vs 14) "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."  We must ask ourselves, was this a trick of evil one? Will the light really be revealed to us only after we die physical deaths?
St. Paul died a spiritual death in his encounter with Jesus. He died to self on the road that day so that Christ might live in him. He became blind so that His eyes could be opened to see the true light. Once having seen the light, St. Paul was no longer concerned with his death. He was willing to sacrifice his whole life so that he could proclaim the light that reveals the path to the Kingdom of God. That light is Jesus the Christ.
The light has come into the world. You do not have to wait until you die physical deaths to see the light and to to follow in His way. In fact, it would be foolhardy to think that you can wait until after death to know the light that has come into this world. I think there is something key to remember in those words: "Light has come into the world." St. John wrote (John 3:19) "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." The light has come into the world. Is there something better in this world that we would seek first something other than the light in the here and now?
Simeon saw the light, who is Jesus the Christ, before he died. Once seeing it, Simeon was ready to die. He was prepared to die in peace.
May God open our eyes to see the light of Jesus who has come into the world to shine upon and for and within us.
God's Peace - Pr.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Isaiah 41 - False Gods Cannot Even Stand Alone

The metalworker encourages the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer
spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.

I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’
I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
I look but there is no one
no one among the gods to give counsel,
no one to give answer when I ask them.
See, they are all false!
Their deeds amount to nothing;
their images are but wind and confusion.

(Isa 41:7, 27-29 NIV)

The word of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah warns the people that their false gods are useless even while comforting those who trust in the LORD.

I love it! One man stands back and looks at the god false made of gold and admires it; even as someone else nails it down so that it will not fall over. That's about par for the course. False gods cannot even stand under their own power or strength, let alone help anyone. While false gods cannot do a thing for you, whether good or bad, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can and does. He brings comfort to those who are afflicted and yes, He afflicts the too comfortable (those who worship false gods that cannot even stand without being nailed to the floor) that they might turn to Him. He sends the good news! Listen to Him and live! Live in His presence, in His kingdom.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Isaiah 40 - You Worship A What? A Piece Of Wood?

One of my favorite scriptures....  It includes the scripture that predicts, the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist's coming:

"A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God"" (Isa 40:3 NIV)

As well as a reminder that the LORD will tend His flock like a tender shepherd and the verses that the favorite hymn "On Eagle's Wings" comes from.

"Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." (Isa 40:28-31)

The LORD is the everlasting God. As I was reading this chapter anew this morning, it struck me how we have this awesome God who created and cares for all things. He is God! Yet, much of humankind prefers to make their own gods.

 "With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?
As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
A person too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
to set up an idol that will not topple." (Isa 40:18:20)

It is quite unimaginable to me to consider building (creating) a god to worship and neglecting to worship of the One true God who created us. Why in the world would anyone worship an image made of metal or wood made by their own hands. No matter how well it is made, it is still an inanimate object and can do nothing for you. If you have to create it, it is certainly no god! It can do nothing for you!

Worship then the One who can. The One who gives strength to the weary. The One who created you, who created all the world and all that is in it. Worship the one who can and will not only give you strength when you are weary, but peace when you are troubled.

God's Peace - Pr. J