Monday, September 30, 2013

Ezekiel 26 - Check the "Aha"; God is Watching You

Consider Tyre, they too laugh at Jerusalem, saying "Aha!" (Ezek 26:2 NIV) They are glad for Jerusalem's fall at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. They now have a little less competition. They think that because Jerusalem has fallen, they will now prosper even more. But, they will not be glad for long. God will send this same Nebuchadnezzar to ravage Tyre. They will no longer be the great city that they were.

Consider, again those whom you would laugh at and rejoice over when they fall because you might now have an advantage. Consider your boasting when you prevail over a friend or foe. Does God not hear? Will He come to their aid and take all that you thought you had won away?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ezeliel 25 - Trouble Begets Trouble

So when your enemies falls it probably not a good thing to laugh about it.

Israel is in trouble for their sins against God. But, so are all those enemies of Israel. Seems like everyone is in trouble. Trouble begets trouble?

Actually, from experience, I am thinking that is probably a good thing to avoid trouble. I am not saying all conflict is bad. Some conflict can be very good especially when it corrects an injustice or reproves a sin so that the person confronted has the opportunity to change his/her ways for the better. We can rejoice if they are returned to the LORD. But, we do not laugh or rejoice when an enemy falls. It's a good thing not to stir up trouble for trouble may come back to haunt you.

May God help us to learn to love our enemies so that we might engage in more fruitful discourses with them.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ezekiel 24 - We All Grieve In Our Own Way

Everyone grieves in their own way. In today's lesson Ezekiel's wife dies. He is commanded by God not to show any outward expression of grief. He can groan within. But, he is to go about the day as if it was just another day. This is to be done as a sign to Israel that the sanctuary will be desecrated and when their own sons and daughters will die by the sword they will not be afforded the opportunity to grieve them openly. Instead they will waste away as they are left to grieve within themselves.

Everyone grieves in there own way. Funerals and Memorial Services are more so for the living than for the dead. We need a way to begin to grieve and we do this by sharing the stories of our loved one. We do this by sharing stories of their faith and faithfulness. We do this openly. Even if one does not openly participate in the sharing of their stories or visible signs of their grief; they are listening. They are hearing. They are grieving.

It is not always so; but, often, those who are not allowed free expression of their grief in whatever manner they personally grieve will internalize it and begin to waste away. The wasting away may not be physical. Rather, it might be spiritual or emotional. So often after the funeral, friends disappear. They do not want to hear and share in the grief of spouses or children or parents. They want to get on with life and they want the person who is grieving to get on with life. Living life is a good thing. But, remember, that we all grieve in our own way and grief can very well be a life-long experience. If you love them, allow them the stories, the memories. For in remembering, we are re-membered (re-connected) to the loved ones we have lost.

Can you imagine how much Ezekiel's wife endured just being married to Ezekiel? You don't get to hear much about her, only her death. And... even her death is not allowed to be publicly grieved.

We all grieve in our own way. May God help us to be a comfort to others in their times of loss.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ezekiel 23 - The Tale of Two Cities

The tale of two sisters presents a pretty colorful picture of prostitution and whoredom. It is an allegory that presents idolatry and adultery as one and the same. The two sisters are in actuality the two cities of Samaria, which is the capital of the northern kingdom and Jerusalem, which is the capital of the southern kingdom. Both cities have fallen under condemnation for their idolatrous ways. These have lusted after and played the harlot with foreign men of power. They have prostituted themselves in that they have allied themselves with other cities and countries that do not worship God. They have been unfaithful to their Husband, who is their Creator. (Isa 54:5) Ultimately, they will fall for their unfaithfulness.

How often do we play games with men and/or women of power to get what we desire? Maybe it is for riches or maybe it is for more power and prestige for ourselves. The tale of two sisters or the tale of these two cities should remind us that there is only one God, who is our Maker and Redeemer. He is our all. There can be only one first love and from Him we should not stray.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ezekiel 22 - Judah's Sins; Our Sins

Ezekiel outlines the sins of Judah. They are quite lengthy! The LORD promises that He will refine the people, as fire refines metal. They will be refined with fire, so that they might turn to glorify the LORD.

As I look at the list of Judah's sins, they don't look all that unfamiliar. Maybe, we fail to learn from history. Maybe, we're just hard-hearted and need a bit of refining ourselves. As I look at this list of sins, I am thankful that Jesus was willing to take our sins upon himself; that all who believe in Him might not perish; but, receive eternal life reconciled to God our Father through the blood of Jesus the Christ.

Thanks be to God for His mercy, for His grace, through Jesus Christ, our LORD. Amen!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ezekiel 21 - Who Shall Wear The Crown?

We have, this morning; yet, another warning that Jerusalem will be overthrown by Babylon. Ammon will be overthrown, as well.

"It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low." (Ezekiel 20:26 NIV)

God has a way of turning everything around. Those who think too highly of themselves will be brought down. The humble will be lifted up. That is not the way it works in this world; but, that is God's way. 

The LORD promises, through Ezekiel, that the one to whom the crown rightly belongs will ultimately wear it. The one who wears the crown was raised up in humility and reigns in glory at God's right hand. Jesus, who came to serve humankind, was willing to lay his life down, to wear the crown of thorns, and to be lifted up on the cross for our sakes. In this act of sacrifice, he was lifted to the heavenly realms, to ultimately sit at the right hand of God, our Father. The lowly has been exalted...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ezeiel 20 - Just a Parable or Fairy Tale?

"Then I said, “Sovereign Lord, they are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just telling parables?" (Ezekiel 20:49 NIV)

Do you want to be like your forefathers? Do you really have to worship false idols? You want to rebel against me and follow in the ways of the world? This, says the LORD, He will not allow to happen. They will be sent into the wilderness. They will be purged of their unrighteousness.

The word of God comes through Ezekiel, the prophet, for the LORD will not allow these rebellious children to speak to Him. Yet, they mock Ezekiel. They ignore the word of God. Saying to Ezekiel, "Isn’t he just telling parables?" (vs 49) Isn't he just telling us nice stories? Very few things frustrate me more than to know that someone claims to be a Christian; yet, thinks that the Holy Bible is nothing more than a good or nice book. We can take out of it those things that will help us live better lives according to the world's standards. But, those things that don't fit the modern world we live in today, can be thrown out. It has, for some, become a book of law with good teaching or laws that we are to follow or not. All it takes is a vote of the church to get rid of what doesn't suit us. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. The Holy Bible is not just a book which presents a nice outline on how to get along with our neighbor or not depending on the individual or even the generation. It is a book of grace. It brings us the good news of life in the promised land - His Kingdom. And... it is definitely the word of God. We don't get to pick and choose which words are merely cute stories and which ones we might choose to take to heart.  Quit writing God's word off as fairy tales. If we expect God to listen to us, then let us listen to Him.

"Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Have you come to inquire of me? As surely as I live, I will not let you inquire of me, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 20:2-3)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ezekiel 19 - Today Is For Proclamation Not Lamenting

“Take up a lament concerning the princes of Israel." (Ezekiel 19:1 NIV)

Today I want to tell you about a sermon I heard yesterday. It was long... by most Lutheran standards, but every word was worth listening to! Pr. Jay Weidner of the Apostolic Lutheran Seminary, Hancock, MI was the preacher at the Suomi Conference Michigan Word and Song Fest at Bethany Lutheran in Covington.  Pr. Jay exhorted us to quit lamenting! It is time to proclaim the Good News and indeed he did proclaim it! He is an amazing, spirit-filled and led preacher!

It is, indeed, not the time to lament the state of the world; the world has been in chaos for as long as there has been history! Today is not the time to cry about our minor aches and pains. It is not the time to be worried about what we cannot do or do not have. Focus on what we have: the grace of God; the Word of God! It is time to quit lamenting about our own minor suffering and get on with alleviating the suffering of a world that lives in darkness by proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom through the blood of Jesus Christ to all people. Reach out to your neighbor with grace, as God, Himself, reached out to all people from the cross, with grace, that we might be reconciled to him.

I could not help but smile as I was reminded how so often congregations, synods, entire denominations use excuses like demographics or economics as excuses for the decline in the visible church. I do not think that God buys into those excuses. There were a whole lot less people on earth when Jesus and those first disciples walked the earth. There were multitudes of obstacles; yet, the church grew. The church grew because those early Christians were busy, not lamenting, but celebrating and sharing the Good News that the Kingdom of God was open to all who believe that Jesus died for their sins. Their/Our sins are forgiven by this gracious gift of God's own Son's life. We are justified by the grace of God through faith alone.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph 2:8-10)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ezekiel 18 - Sins of our Parents

 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die." (Ezekiel 18:19-21 NIV)

“You shall have no other gods before me.
 You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:3-6)
Whether the children are punished for their parents sins comes up every time we discuss the ten commandments in confirmation classes. Yes, sometimes, the young people, discuss their parents sins! They are not as secret as you might think or hope. Your children know and others know as well. The youth are concerned about your sins; for your sakes as well as for their own. They become especially worried when they hear that they might be punished for something they have not done. I always reassure them that they will not be punished, according to the word we've received through Ezekiel. But, what we have to be careful of is that we do not inherit, by learned behavior, that which is wrong. God has given us His Spirit of Truth, by which we can discern the difference between what is right and what is wrong. We do not have to follow in our parents' footsteps if they have chosen a path which leads us away from God's will for us.
Likewise, I think we often tend to blame parents for the sins of their children. Sometimes, the case may be that they have learned these sins from their parents. But, just as often, they may have learned them elsewhere. In today's society there are a lot more adults than parents that children are learning from.
Be careful then what we teach our children and our neighbor's children. 
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:12)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ezekiel 17 - Promises and Treaties

Ezekiel uses a parable of two eagles and the shoot of the cedar tree for his prophecy today. It is reminiscent of the parable Jesus told of the seeds being sown on a path, in thistles, on rocky ground or in good soil. (Matt 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

But, unlike the parable Jesus told, the vine that was planted in Ezekiel's parable in good soil, may grow, but it will be uprooted. It has been given all the good gifts so that it may thrive. It is planted in good soil by an abundance of water. But, it will be uprooted. "Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it—wither away in the plot where it grew?" (Ezek 17:10 NIV)

Israel was struck from the east. They were uprooted by the King of Babylon for their unfaithfulness to the covenant they had made with God. To make matters even worse (if they can be worse), Israel's King breaks a treaty with Babylon, thinking that the King of Egypt is going to be able to help them. He can't. What God ordains, God ordains and God is not happy with these covenant breakers.

When one gives his word, when he makes a covenant with God or another, he would be wise to keep it. He would be better off not making a treaty than to make one and break it. A man's (or woman's) word ought to be trustworthy.

Unfortunately, we all make promises that we do not keep from time to time. I have tried to get in the habit of not making promises to my grandchildren. I can tell them I will do this or that for them on a certain day or a certain time. But, it doesn't always happen that way. Things come up. Emergencies come up. Somebody throws another iron into the fire. The grandchildren pressure me to make promises to them. If I must promise, I can only promise to try, with the help of God. I do not know what tomorrow may bring.

Humankind is a pretty untrustworthy lot. Sadly, promises and treaties are broken all the time. But, God promises to make a new covenant, a new treaty.

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish." (Ezekiel 17:22-24 NIV)

Ezekiel, chapter 17, ends with these words: “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” Unlike humankind, God does not go back on His Word, on His treaties. Thanks be to God for the prophecy of Good News has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our LORD!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ezekiel 16 - Idolatry and Adultery

Yesterday, a dead branch; today the LORD compares Israel to an unfaithful wife. I find it most interesting that these two words seem almost interchangeable in Scripture: Idolatry and Adultery.

God blessed the people. He gave them life. He gave them beautiful gifts even as a husband would give to his beloved wife. Yet, the wife turned to others in a idolatrous relationships that God's refers to as adultery.

One of my favorite verses from the Old Testament is:
"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." (Isaiah 5:6 NIV)
Think about it, when we put anything before our Creator and Redeemer, be it things or people, including ourselves, we are committing idolatry, and we are being unfaithful to our Maker, who is our husband.

This can be applied to our relationship with others as well. Whenever, we decide that something else is more important than the people we have committed to share our lives with, we are not only committing idolatry with the thing that is more important than our spouses; we are committing adultery, as we are being unfaithful to the commitment that we made in Holy Matrimony.

Included in my explanation to confirmands on the commandment "You shall not commit adultery" and when I meet with couples preparing for marriage, I make every attempt to help them better understand that adultery is not just have a sexual liaison with another person. Adultery includes any time we put our commitment to our spouse behind our false idol; whether that false idol is a sports event, a night out with our friends, addictions, or maybe even our jobs.

Your creator is your husband. May God help us to love Him even as He loves us. May we always be faithful to the God of all the earth.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

P.S. It is so very sad that so many are missing out on the blessings of God, an abundant life lived in Christ, by their idolatrous relationships.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ezekiel 15 - Useless Branches Burned

Ezekiel continues to warn Israel. They, as a whole, no longer worship God. They are likened to a dead vine that ends up being burned in the fire. It is good for nothing except to be used for fuel.

We have just finished a small remodeling job in our home. A lot of old wood that ended up as starter for evening camp fires. It was no good for anything else.

We spent last evening cleaning out our son's shed of old tin and other metals. We dropped a truck load off at the church's recycling bin. It will all be hauled to the recycling center soon. Not sure where it goes from there or the exact steps that will be taken in the recycling process. This much, I know, in order for old metals to be made into something useful, they will have to put into the fire for refining. They will be melted down so that what was, no longer exists and something new and fruitful can be created.

Faithless = Fruitless = Useless = Heading for the recycling bin and will someplace along the line enter into the fire.

The useful and fruitful branch stays connected to the vine, who is Jesus, the Christ. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:5-8 NIV)

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ezekiel 14 - Turn And Be Saved

 "Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!" (Ezekiel 14:6 NIV)

It did not matter who they were, the LORD warned the people that he would cut them off from Him if they continued in their idolatry. Over and over again, idolatry is the issue. The prophets continually warn against idolatry; they warn against worshipping anyone and anything other than the LORD, God. Will they ever learn? Will we?

God's whole point to warning the people and cutting them off is so that they and we will return to Him with our whole hearts and minds. He does not desire that anyone be separated from Him. That desire is in the hearts of mankind, as we are so determined to set up our own gods, in our image, rather than the other way around. God promises that those who repent of this sin; that those who return and worship Him; those who would put their trust in Him, will be saved.

"They will be my people, and I will be their God, declares the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 14:11)

May God bless you with great faith.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ezekiel 13 - Peace When There Is No Peace

“‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash,  therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth." (Ezekiel 13:10-11 NIV)

God's peace be with you. Every Sunday morning we greet one another with words similar to this. When we do this, we are breaking down any walls that may have stood between us and the persons we share this peace with. Ezekiel likens false prophecies of peace to a poorly constructed wall. This false peace will break down walls, as well. But, instead of truth and the genuine heart felt peace of God; it will open up the gate so that false idols might enter in.

These false declarations of peace, when there is no peace, does not actually create unity. It divides as it creates more victims. This false sense of peace whitewashes the injustice that is being done so that the doer of injustice is given a free pass to continue persecuting others; to do what is not right in the eyes of God. I'm OK. You're OK. Everything and everyone is OK. But, everything is not OK. There are still multitudes who are hungry, multitudes who do not know justice, multitudes who are lonely and afraid, multitudes who live without the knowledge of God and His great love for them, and the list goes on.

There is only one way to everlasting peace. That way is through Jesus the Christ.

May His peace be with you always. Pr. J.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ezekiel 12 - Ezekiel's Exile

"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people. 'Therefore, son of man, pack your belongings for exile and in the daytime, as they watch, set out and go from where you are to another place. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious people.'" (Ezekiel 12:1-2 NIV)

"Son, of man, you are living among a rebellious people." Now, if that isn't the truth! It is truth not just for the days of Ezekiel, but for today, as well. With eyes that do not see and ears that refuse to hear, we continue on our own path, refusing to follow in the Way that has been set before us, frustrating more than one pastor, more than one shepherd.

The LORD tells Ezekiel to dig a hole in the wall and act like he's going into exile. Did it work? Did it change the people's minds about whom they should worship? Would it work today? Perhaps, but probably not. I've seen more than one Pastor go into exile (leave) and the people cheer. They celebrate because the one who left had been so adamant about proclaiming the Word of the LORD and would not please their itching ears is gone. He/she had not been interested in the people's agenda, only God's. The people lament that they cannot keep a pastor; that they go through pastor after pastor, one every two or three years; yet, they cannot begin to imagine that maybe they had something to do with it. It must be the Bishop's fault for sending them pastors who just don't have a heart for the congregation.

Well, Ezekiel doesn't really leave. He pretends to as a sign, as a warning, that the people will go into exile. They will lose God's temple because of their closed eyes and ears. May God open our eyes and our hearts and our minds, that we might see and hear His truth that His people might desire to worship only Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ezekiel 11 - God's Glory With Us

The glory of the LORD is on the move. "The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it." (Ezekiel 11:23 NIV) Ezekiel, in his vision, sees the cherubim, along with God's glory leave the city of Jerusalem and move to the mountain east of it.

The people who were not sent into exile to Babylon; those who were left behind, continue to do evil. Their leaders give are giving them bad advice. They do not follow in the ways of the LORD, but according to the ways of the nations around them.

The word that comes to Ezekiel is one of warning and of hope. Those who are left behind will be driven out; but, those who are in exile will return, They will remove all the false idols from Jerusalem and worship the LORD. He will give them undivided hearts and put a new and right Spirit within them. (vs. 19)

Those who have been tried and refined during their exile will return to the LORD and to their homes. Those who were left behind to live and worship in Jerusalem have only learned to think higher of themselves than they ought and have their only their demise to look forward to.

There are times for all (most?) of us when our lives get a little rough. Those who love the LORD will return to Him. Those who think too much of themselves and love only themselves will not return. The road will get a lot rougher for them. It is God's good will that none should be lost. Let us all rejoice and be reconciled to Him. May the glory of God be present with us, to be seen by all.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ezekiel 10 - In God's Glory

"Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim." (Ezekiel 10:18 NIV)

Ezekiel describes the movement of God's glory to the outside of the temple. This movement occurs in concert with the cherubim, the four living creatures, of Ezekiel's visions. These cherubim were amazing creatures. "Each of the cherubim had four faces: One face was that of a cherub, the second the face of a human being, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle." (Ezekiel 10:15) Four faces, wheels whirring in multitudes of directions beneath the; yet, amazingly, they all move in one direction. They all move in the same direction at the same time. They do not deviate from the course. They leave the temple with the glory of God in unison - together.

They leave the temple in order for the man clothed in linen that sits above them can scatter burning coals over the city. "The Lord said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.” And as I watched, he went in." (Ezekiel 10:2)

He went in among the wheels and one of the cherubim handed him the fire. They worked in unison, they went straight ahead, all with one mission, according to God's will, in the glory of God.

May it be so for the church on earth, that whatever God wills for His people, it is done, for His glory.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ezekiel 9 - Beginning At The Temple

God sends out his appointed to execute judgment. Those who grieve the detestable sins of the people receive a mark on their foreheads. Those who do not lament the sins against God are destroyed.

Ezekiel is horrified at this vision. I am horrified at his vision. After it is over, will all of the remnant be gone?

Of course, we realize that the whole of the remnant is not destroyed. I find it most interesting, though, that the judgment begins at the LORD's sanctuary. We need to beware that just because we say we are God's people, His chosen ones, does not always mean that everything we say or do finds favor with him.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’" (Matt 25:31-41 NIV)

Our actions and our inactions; even our inmost thoughts, may not all be seen by our neighbor, our loved ones, or our enemy. But, God sees them. We cannot hide them from Him. It is, of course, that we are saved by faith, not by works. But, let us consider if it is not our faith (or lack thereof) in the One True God that determines the way we live. Do we serve the LORD or some other false god of our own making?

Just because the LORD seems to delay, does not mean that He will not come. He has come. He is present, even now. He will come again.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us all.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

P.S. Note: I find it most difficult to consider some of the prophetic warnings, especially when it is sometimes so difficult to see the bigger picture when we are reading the Bible one chapter at a time. Some of these visions and actual events can really be horrific. I find so little grace in some of them; grace which I depend on to see me through each day. But, it is there (even if hidden) and I have promised to continue through the whole Holy Bible, so I will do what I can to complete what I have promised.   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ezekiel 8 - Danger! Danger!

He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.’” (Ezekiel 8:12 NIV)

Ezekiel is given a vision of God's people, even His elders, bowing down and serving false idols. God is not happy!

It sure gets wearisome warning people about false idols. It's as though, the ears are closed. They cannot hear the dangers that are involved in getting goofy and all excited (idolizing) their favorite, singer, or television star, or sports figure. And, sometimes it's not a person, but, a "thing" that is worshipped. I feel like that robot on "Lost In Space," constantly having to shout "Danger! Danger!" There is great danger in putting anything or anyone before God!

I read another one of those articles about Miley Cyrus this morning. Remember, when not too long ago, parents did not have a problem with their children idolizing Miley Cyrus? Do you think they are thinking the same thing now?

Like the elders of Israel bowing at the shrines of their own idols, sooner or later what is done in darkness will come to light. Take a bit of time each day to examine and re-examine where you are putting your time and talents. Are they being used to glorify and worship the One True God or to exalt humans who, themselves, have gone astray. How in the world can they lead you, when they, themselves, have lost the way?

There is only One God! Worship only Him!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ezekiel 7 - Syria

Sadly, I have been watching the news of lot lately. So, it has been difficult for me to keep world news out of this blog. Today, is the day I no longer contain myself. As I read Ezekiel 7, I read that the LORD will unleash His anger upon the land! The LORD will do it. The land; the people; will be devastated for their sin. That is the whole land, everyone, for all the people have sinned. Sometimes, I think we need to keep a closer watch on our own sins, rather than the alleged sins of others.

We keep threatening war. Well, not actually war. We continue to threaten to spank the Assad regime if they do not confess, repent, and turn over their chemical weapons. We will assist Al Qaeda supporters in bringing down those in power in Syria. We will assist those who attack; who would attempt to destroy every Christian in the land. At least, that is my take on it. President Obama has decided to wait and see if President Putin's diplomatic intervention works, before we decide for sure if we will spank Assad.

I'm not so sure who needs to be spanked here. First off, Assad has pretty much admitted that they have chemical weapons. But, he has not admitted to using them on his people. So, where is the evidence that it is he and not the rebel forces that need a spanking? Are we so sure that the rebel forces do not have and did not use chemical weapons and try to pin it on the government to glean support for their side? Another part of the problem that I see is: who put us (U.S.) in charge of administering spankings to those whom we "think" may be responsible? I am not even so sure if the horrific deaths are actually our government's real and first concern. Is the trouble in Syria or if it just a ruse to redirect our attention from all the troubles we have at home; that would be our own sins. Although admittedly not as horrific as the massacres by beheading or the dropping of deadly chemicals upon the people; they are very real issues that need to be dealt with. But, how do we decide who is guilty in a country where there is such violence? Is any party not guilty?

Today, I am praying that President Putin's diplomatic efforts pay off and we can avoid getting involved in any more civil wars; that we can avoid supporting any more groups that will come back and attack our cities here in this country once we have given them more power (today is the anniversary of 9-11). That we can totally avoid helping those who belong to the very same groups that we have been fighting (how many of our troops have died fighting rebel forces of the same ilk?) in other countries in that region.

If all of the news reports are half-way true, Syria is one major mess. There are very few who can claim innocence. I just do not understand who or what we would be aiming missiles at. Certainly we wouldn't be dropping missiles on chemical weapons stores that would kill even more people, would we? Then what? Airstrips, where there are more civilians working? How many more people would die with this spanking?

The LORD will deal with us all according to our conduct. May we not hear this word from him:

“The end! The end has come
    upon the four corners of the land!
The end is now upon you,
    and I will unleash my anger against you.
I will judge you according to your conduct
   and repay you for all your detestable practices." (Ezekiel 7:1 NIV)

May God bless President Putin's efforts toward peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ezekiel 6 - Calamity Not In Vain

"And they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them." (Ezekiel 6:10 NIV)

It is sometimes (no, most of the time) difficult to find any good news in the prophecies of old. The prophets warned the people over and over again to turn to the LORD and worship only Him. But, they did not listen and suffered greatly for it. In today's reading the LORD reminds us that there is a reason: that the remnant might realize that He is the LORD and return to Him.

Sadly, we do not listen to God's word and often we have to learn the hard way that when our feet follow paths we should not follow, destruction follows those footsteps. It is when destruction happens, when we are brought low, by the worship of our false gods, that we realize that we have to turn to the LORD for help. He is our help in every time and need.

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ezekiel 5 - God Have Mercy On Us All

 “Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you." (Ezekiel 5:6-7)

Ezekiel is still laying around on the ground in front of the people as a sign that God is against them. As I read this indictment (prophecy) against God's people, I wonder about us. I wonder about the whole world. Does any country actually exist that is truly "one nation under God?" If we say there is then I think we're not being very honest with ourselves. Is there any country wherein the people do not worship false idols and even encourage it? Is there any country that truly respects, not only the rights of its citizens; but, the rights of the citizens of other countries around the circle of the earth, as well?

Seems to me we have different standards for different people, even for different countries. We rebel against God's laws and make our own and our own definitely show partiality for some and not for others. We expect others to live by our standards and the truth be told; we are not always right. The truth be told, none of us are without sin. May God have mercy upon us all.

And... may His peace be with you. Pr. J.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ezekiel 4 - What Would The LORD Have You Do?

Today, is the 16th Sunday after Pentecost. I will be preaching on "taking up our cross" - that is - being willing to do anything the LORD asks of us, following in the footsteps of Jesus, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

In our reading this morning, Ezekiel 4, the LORD calls Ezekiel to deliver a prophecy against Jerusalem to the people who are now living in Babylon. The people have not listened to the words of the prophets, maybe they will understand a visual better. Ezekiel, himself, being the main visual. He is to lie down beside a model of besieged Jerusalem that he erects. But, that's not the hard part. The hard part is that he is to lie there in front of the people for 430 days. For 390 days, he will lie on his left side to symbolically bear the sins of Israel. For 40 days, he will lie on his right side to symbolically bears the sins of Judah. He shall turn his face toward the model of the siege of Jerusalem that he has created and prophesy against her. Did I mention that in all this time, he will have a total of 20 shekels (about 8 ounces) of food to eat and a 6th of a hin (a little better than a pint) of water to drink. This is quite a fast!

Ezekiel was most faithful in being able to share this visual prophecy. But, I imagine the people probably didn't get the visual any better than they got the word. Besieged Jerusalem is to come under some extremely hard times. There will be an extreme shortage of food. Rationing will be great.

Look around! Listen! What is the LORD telling you? Where would He have you go? What would He have you do to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ezekiel 3 - Proclaim God's Word With Boldness

"At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself." (Ezekiel 3:16-19 NIV)

Ezekiel goes through some strange stuff in order to proclaim God's word to God people. They are and always have been a pretty hard bunch. They just don't care to listen. But, that does not matter to the LORD. Ezekiel is sent to speak God's word to them. If he does not, he will suffer the consequences just as those who will not listen will suffer. If he does as the LORD commands and they refuse to hear, Ezekiel will be saved, but they will not.

We (all who profess to be followers of Christ) have been made stewards of His Word. We, too, have been called to share the Word of God with others. It is not always easy. People will turn a deaf ear to us. They will even despise us and avoid us. They might even gossip about us; but, in this country (U.S.) they do not put you in prison or kill you for proclaiming the Gospel as they do in some other countries. So what is stopping you from doing what the LORD has called you to do? There is no reason, no excuse, for one who professes Jesus as Christ, to not share this Word of God with the world, that others, too, might be saved.

The early followers of Jesus proclaimed the Good News. There very lives were in danger. But, they did not fear, they proclaimed God's Word, anyway. "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!" (Acts 28:30-31)

Let us go and do likewise!

God's Peace - Pr. J


Friday, September 6, 2013

Ezekiel 2 - Do Not Be Afraid

Do not be afraid to speak to the people... This was God's word to Ezekiel when He called him to be his prophet. Well, I guess not! Who would be afraid of people once you have come face to face with God; once His Spirit has filled you and stood you up on your feet; when God has sent you?

Do not be afraid to tell the world of our awesome and mighty God; to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. God is with you. In baptism, He has anointed you with the Holy Spirit. He has called you as His child and sends you to proclaim His love and His desire for all people to be, to live life, in His presence. Do not be afraid. God is with you! Proclaim the Good News!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ezekiel 1 - Ezekiel's Vision

Ezekiel's vision.... Just wow!

"This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell face down,  and I heard the voice of one speaking." (Ezekiel 1 NIV)

Ezekiel's vision... Just wow! (I sure hope you read today's chapter). Even if I were to see a vision like the one Ezekiel saw, I'm not sure if I would actually see it. I am afraid that I would not only fall face down, but I would probably have my eyes shut as well. As much as I think and say that I long to see the glory of the LORD, I am not sure if I would be fully prepared.

Are we prepared to see His awesomeness? So often God, the Father, is portrayed as a friendly old grandfatherly figure; Jesus Christ is portrayed as a friendly brotherly or neighborly person who loves little children and His sheep; the Holy Spirit is a gentle wind touching us softly as it blows over us. These images cannot begin to capture the awesomeness of God. Ezekiel's captures a whole different perspective. It is enough to make anyone and everyone fall prostrate, with their eyes to the ground or shut.

God is so much more than a father or grandfather figure. He is even more than a brother or friend. He is more than the gentle, blowing wind found in creation. He is more than any human can imagine and when we truly realize His presence; when we finally see His face, every knee will bow. (Rom 14:10-11) We will all bow with our faces to the ground when we encounter Him face to face on our judgment day.

May His peace be with you on that day! May God, the Creator, grant that you are reconciled to Him; through Jesus Christ, the Redeemer; by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the Sanctifier, on that day.

God's Peace - Pr. J


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lamentations 5 - Prayer of Jeremiah

"The Prayer of Jeremiah," a lament, confession, and plea to restore God's children to Himself.

"Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
    look, and see our disgrace.
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
    our homes to foreigners.
We have become fatherless,
    our mothers are widows.
We must buy the water we drink;
   our wood can be had only at a price." (Lam 5:1-4 NIV)

As I read the first few verses of chapter 5 this morning, I thought that it sounded familiar. It sounds a lot like us, today. There is a difference, though. We think that buying water to drink and purchasing fuel for cooking and warmth is the way it should be. It is definitely common practice. Our children are fatherless and/or motherless. In many cases; they have no parent at all; at least none that act like parents. We have many, many homeless children in this country. And... we don't even have enough sense to know that this is a disgrace.  

Since, we don't know that we have been disgraced; we also can't figure out that we need to repent and be reconciled to God and to one another. That, in itself, is a shame.

With the "Prayer of Jeremiah," let us pray:

"Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
    renew our days as of old.
(Lam 5:21)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lamentations 4 - Prophets and Priests to Blame

The lament continues. The people suffer. They are suffering, the lament tells us, because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests.

"But it happened because of the sins of her prophets
    and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed within her
    the blood of the righteous." (Lam 4:13 NIV)

What were the sins of the priests and prophets? Simply put, they spoke falsely, in the LORD's name, to please the itching ears of God's people. The consequences were bad... really bad! Don't forget to read chapter 4 of Lamentations today to get a better idea of how bad things got for God's people.

Lutherans, as well as other denominations in the U.S., typically call their pastors. They meet each other; they hear him/her preach; they pray for God to help them discern whether He is calling the pastor to that community to serve; and, then the congregation votes. I cannot begin to tell you how tragic it ends when the people of God do not take seriously this discernment process. They must  listen to this man or woman they are considering calling to see whether they truly proclaim God's Word or if they speak to please the itching ears of those who call. I cannot begin to imagine how many congregations actually listen for and call those who are willing to serve their itching ears before the Word of the LORD. It is not good!

And, a word to the pastors and priests, who are called to serve: consider the consequences to the people that you are teaching falsely. Is your paycheck and retirement really worth the devastation that false proclamations will bring to the people, to the land? Consider the consequences, for all people, of your decision to proclaim the truth or not. Sure, some of them may not like you for speaking the truth. But, speak it anyway so that they might have life!

Let us part with a bit of good news: even in our reading today, God promises that the sorrow will pass.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lamentations 3 - His Compassion

"I am the man who has seen affliction
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
    in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
    again and again, all day long.
For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone." (Lam 3:1-3,31-33 NIV)

The LORD has indeed shown us compassion. Although, we have turned our backs to Him and followed in ways we should not go; He has shown us compassion in that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for our sin. In spite of the fact that His people have turned against Him, He desired that we might be reconciled to Him in His Kingdom. His will is that all should live in His presence. May God help us to follow in His way that we might know His loving mercy, through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lamentations 2 - No More Killing

The wall has been torn down (vs 8).  God's children willfully turned their backs on Him and He has withdrawn His right hand from the approach of their enemy. (vs 3) The enemy has overtaken them at the LORD's hand. There is nothing, no One, to protect them.

And... what is their response? They cry! They blame God!

“Look, Lord, and consider:
    Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
    the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed
    in the sanctuary of the Lord?" (vs 20 NIV)

That women should eat their offspring, is this God's fault? That a government would use chemical weapons on their own people or anyone; that a government should invade the airspace of another and target those we suspect (key word - suspect) are our enemies with drones; that a court should find guilty and put to death an innocent man; that a parent could murder his/her own children; is this God's fault? Maybe, we should consider that because we would disrespect His creation with such atrocities against one another that God might withhold His hand of protection from us. Maybe, we should quit blaming God for what we do in His name and take a little responsibility for not caring for those things in this world that God has given us.

Yes, lament, grieve, the losses. But, we need to put an end to blaming God for the consequences of our own actions and inactions. We need to be able to stand up and confess our sins that we might receive forgiveness purchased for us (for all) through the blood of Jesus Christ, our LORD; otherwise His death has been in vain.

No more killing.... “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

God's Peace - Pr. J