Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hosea 1 - God Is Faithful

“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2 NIV)

Yep! The LORD said that. He told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute in order to be an example to the people of the adultery they (we) have committed. Hosea was to be an example of how loving and faithful God is to us, who over and over again have gone whoring after other gods. They have all gone their own way.

Yet He loves them and continues to be faithful to them. He promises: "...the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together..." (Hosea 1:10-11)

"The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." (John 1:9-13)

All who receive Him, all who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God. No matter who you are or where you are or what you have done or even will do, God is faithful to His word. All who believe in His Name, will inherit the kingdom that has been given through Jesus Christ, our LORD. Your sins are forgiven!

Let all God's children say Amen!

God's Peace be with you... Pr. J

P.S. Something to think about further and look up. What did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery? (John 8)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daniel 12 - When Is Not The Priority; The Kingdom Is

"The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” (Dan 12:7 NIV)

Who can know the time of the end? Multitudes have worked on the prophetic numbers here and elsewhere in scripture. It's been nothing more than mere guess work. The date can not be known. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32) So why do so many people spend so many hours trying to figure it out? For me, it's kind of like politics in the church. We have greater things to be about. Namely, we are to proclaim the good news of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Dan 12:1-3)

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” (Dan 12:13)

Not everyone will hear the message; but, that does not excuse us from telling the good news so that all who hear might believe and receive their inheritance in the Kingdom of God. In short: the mission field is way too big to spend time arguing with our brothers and sisters over secular politics or to be sitting around counting the days. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." (Matt 9:37)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Daniel 11 - Apocalytic Dream

Tomorrow will be our last day in the book of Daniel as there are only 12 chapters in Daniel. It has been quite interesting reading about one vision or visitation after another. Today, the angel Gabriel reveals to Daniel what is to come. The events mainly describe wars and alliances between Egypt and Syria. However, verse 36 to 45 describe a time that is not fulfilled in Daniel's time. It appears to be for the end time. Antiochus, it appears, may well be a archetype for the Anti-Christ that was yet to come.

These past days of reading about Daniel's visions have had a definite effect on my sleep and dreams. I don't remember my dream last night except that it was apocalyptic. It was about conflict and war. It was not terribly frightening as I do remember one event in detail. When I began to get a little anxious in my sleep, I suddenly found myself walking with God. He was holding my hand and we were walking through this lush green valley. His hand was wonderfully warm and comforting. An awesome sense of peace came over me. But, being the inquisitive person that I am, I had to wake myself up to see if it was real! The dream was gone, but the sense of peace that I had felt was not. Thanks be to God!

God is with even in the midst of spiritual warfare. And.. be comforted in the knowledge that on the cross, the battle with the Anti-Christ was won for you. Nothing can prevail against the love of God in Christ Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 28, 2013

Daniel 10 - Princes in Heavenly Realms

Who are these princes that this scripture speaks of? It appears that they are angels and the trouble that is occurring is occurring or at least instigated in the heavenly realms. Daniel has been fasting for three weeks (21 days) and on the twenty-fourth day he receives a vision of a really awesome looking man, dressed in linen. This man tells him, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Dan 10:12-13 NIV)

Michael, it would seem, is the archangel, Michael. He is the angel who is reputed to lead God's armies against the forces of evil. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)

There are times, when we just really need to back up and understand that it is not our neighbor who is the enemy, but that it is the great adversary who is attacking. And... understand, too, that the adversary is not just attacking you, but attacking your neighbor as well, through you. Stand your ground, stand on the Word of God, that the schemes of the princes who do not find favor in God's sight may be thwarted. Pray unceasingly for help, for yourself as well as for your neighbor, that the enemy will have no hold over us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Daniel 9 - Focus on Life in Christ

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Dan 9:17-19 NIV)

And... the LORD answers. He promises His belief relief both in relief from the consequences they suffer at the time of Daniel's prayer and in the future. The Anointed One, the Messiah, the One who will be put to death for our sakes will come. Along with the Messiah; though, will be war and desolation. We will endure these things until the end.

There has been much debate about the time frame of all of this. The time frame is not one of the priorities that we should focus on. Jesus tells us, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matt 24:36)

Our priority should not be worrying about the last day, but what God calls us to today. Today is celebrated as Reformation Sunday so it is appropriate that we think about what Luther is reported to have said he would do if he knew the world was coming to an end. "If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Go about your doing God's will; loving Him and caring for the world that He has created and given you. Live life! He wants you to live an abundant life, enjoying the various gifts that He has given us. Do not fret about losing anything; not even your life, but care for those things that He has given you to care for.

And.. the greatest gift He has given you is a restored relationship with Him and with one another through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus the Anointed one; the Messiah.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Daniel 8 - Ram and Goat

I am stumped! I enjoy reading the visions of Daniel; but, this one is difficult in that the commentaries all pretty much say that this prophecy was for the old testament times only. Yet, the scripture itself says: “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” (vs 26)

Does anyone really know for sure? I have been studying this chapter for a while this morning with no conclusions. Attempting to understand it is actually is beginning to feel quite exhausting even as Daniel thought it was exhausting. "I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding." (vs 27)

What I am seeing here is that we have two power players: the ram and the goat. The ram is powerful, but the goat is more powerful. It is a conflict between two earthly kingdoms; yet, in the end even the more powerful goat will be overthrown by the hand of God.

All this conflict in the world and for what? There is only one God and in the end He will put an end to the terror that mankind inflicts upon mankind.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 25, 2013

Daniel 7 - Four Beasts

First, I want to point out that the Book of Daniel is definitely not in chronological order. Two chapters ago, Belshazzar was King; in the last chapter Darius was king following Belshazzar's death; and now we are reading about a vision that Daniel had during Belshazzar's first year of reign.

Just as it is hard to decipher what happened in what order in Daniel, it is also difficult (no impossible) to discern what, if anything, has already occurred from Daniel's dream regarding the four beasts. We cannot tell for sure if some or all of this prophecy as already been fulfilled or how much of it is yet to be fulfilled.

Daniel writes: “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” (vs 28) Even after receiving the interpretation of the dream, Daniel is troubled. It can indeed be very troubling trying to figure out what the interpretation of the dream means. It will not be good. But, then again, it will be very good, because Jesus will reign.

I have heard so many interpretations of the interpretation found in this seventh chapter of Daniel (as well as in books like Revelation), I cannot even begin to count them, let alone sort them out. It is quite troubling to hear these interpretations as though they are fact. There are fiction books out there based on this prophecy and I would ask anyone who reads them to remember this that these books are not Holy Scripture: They are FICTION! Some of it can be quite fascinating fiction; but, it is fiction, nonetheless. No one, but God, knows for sure how the details will be played out. The interpretations that I speak of are those that would put the fear of death and of Hell and not the love of God into your hearts and minds.

But, there is one thing, for sure, that we can take from this dream that will give us hope. Daniel writes: "Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him." (vs 28)

Let not your heart be troubled by the imaginations of men. The LORD is with you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daniel 6 - Tell Every Nation

The book of Daniel is just full of familiar stories - stories taught to our Sunday School youth. In this chapter, Darius the Mede is ruling. The administrators and satraps play to his ego and get him to issue and edict that calls for everyone in the kingdom to pray to no one but King Darius. They cannot pray to anyone or anything else or they will be thrown into the lion's den. Apparently, Darius' ego over-ruled any common sense because Darius signed the edict.

Of course those who coerced Darius into signing this edict had an ulterior motive. They were jealous of Darius and wanted him gone. They caught Daniel praying, who they had known would not stop praying to his God, and turned him in to Darius. Darius had no choice but to keep his word and lock Daniel in the lions' den. Apparently King Darius had at least a little faith in the God that Daniel prayed to. He told Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (vs 16 NIV)
Darius was so anxious that he did not sleep all night.

"At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

"Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”  (vs 19-22)

The king threw the men who had plotted against Daniel, along with their families, into the lions' den.

"Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!
“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.” (vs 25-27)

The king had seen the miracle that the living God had done in saving Daniel and not only did he decree that everyone in his kingdom should reverence the God of Daniel, the living, eternal God; but, he wrote to all the nations proclaiming God's power and mighty deeds.

Now, here is one who has no birthright to the kingdom of God. But, he sees. He knows. He reverences the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And... this King Darius is an evangelist! He wrote to all the nations! What about us? Have we told even our neighbors, our family, about this God, who is above all things; whose Kingdom will never be destroyed; nor will His dominion every end? This is the God who rescues and saves! Have you told anyone this - so that they too might believe and be saved?

Go into all the world... proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Daniel 5 - The Handwriting Is On The Wall

You may have heard the saying: "the handwriting is on the wall." My mother use to use this expression whenever someone was heading in a direction that she and most other people could recognize would lead them on a path to destruction. She used this expression synonymously with this expression, "Their days are numbered." (Dan 5:26) Whenever she used one of these expressions, I knew that someone had messed up "big time!" She meant that she expected that soon and very soon everything would blow up in their face and they would lose everything. Often as she predicted someone's destruction, she would also warn: "What goes around comes around."

The expression "the handwriting is on the wall" comes from this fifth chapter of Daniel. In the midst of a party, King Belshazzar (son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar) leads the group in praising the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone as they drink from the gold goblets that had been stolen from the temple in Jerusalem. "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking." (Dan 5:5:6)

Daniel is called to interpret as no one else can figure out the meaning. Belshazzar was a hard-hearted and an arrogant king. He knew what consequences his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had suffered for his inflated ego, but Belshazzar learned nothing from his father's experience of being mad into the wilderness. Daniel tells him:

"“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin
“Here is what these words mean:  Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.""  (Dan 5:22-31)
There is only one God. Put away your false gods and worship only Him.  Can you imagine the fear that one would experience seeing a hand come out of nowhere and write on the wall? If a simple hand can bring such fear, how would we react to seeing God face to face? The days of that meeting are indeed numbered for all of us. It will happen. The day is coming when every knee will bow before the LORD. Everyone will acknowledge that He is God. It is written:
"'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.'"
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God." (Rom 14:11-12)
The handwriting is on the wall. What does it say?
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Daniel 4 - Babylonian King Glorifies God; Will We?

"At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”
At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Dan 4:34-36 NIV)

King Nebuchadnezzar, mighty and powerful, had been brought to his knees and when he looked toward heaven, acknowledging that no one was before God, no one was more mighty or powerful than God, he was restored to his sanity.

Nebuchadnezzar had another one of those fantastic dreams which Daniel interpreted for him. Nebuchadnezzar, this powerful king, would be brought down to his knees. He would wander around in the wilderness, completely mad. It was as was predicted. He went through a horrible time of trial; but, in the end this great Babylonian king did not shake his fist at God. He thanked God. He praised Him!

What about us? Do we, who profess Jesus Christ, give thanks and praise to God for all things? Do we praise Him when we go through trying times? Think about it; King Nebuchadnezzar had gone totally mad; driven by God from the people to wander about in the wilderness with the wild animals, even eating the grass of the fields with the oxen.

When we are driven to wander aimlessly in the wilderness, what will we do? Will we turn quickly and give praise and thanksgiving to God?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 21, 2013

Daniel 3 - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Standing Inside The Fire

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is read during every Vigil of Easter at Zion. After the first year of me stumbling over their names, others now volunteer to read that story. Every time I hear the story I cannot help but think of Garth Brooks song "Standing Outside the Fire." There are very few country songs that I actually enjoy, but this is one of them.

"There's this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can't abide
Standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire"

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren't into merely surviving. They knew there was something more and because of their desire to love and serve God, they were willing to literally stand inside the fire. They did so without a hair of their head being burned.

Humankind has a tendency to want to take the easy route to nowhere. Christians actually have a goal in mind as we journey in and toward that heavenly kingdom where we live in the light and love of God's eternal presence.

The journey sometimes takes us through some pretty fiery trials. Remember, though, that when your journey takes you through the fire, just as precious metals are refined with fire, so are we.

Live life... don't be standing outside the fire!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Daniel 2 - Jesus is the Rock

Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” (Dan 2:4 NIV)

Not! The king wants his servants to not only interpret his dream, but to tell him what it was that he dreamed first! No king's servant is able to do that. Only God knows what goes has been put into the mind of man whether he is awake or asleep. The LORD comes to Daniel's rescue and shows Daniel the dream so that the dream might be interpreted for the king and the king will know what is to come.

"Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come...'" (Dan 2:27-28)

What has been revealed is none other than Jesus, the Rock; Jesus the King. "They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:3-4)

"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone that causes people to stumble    and a rock that makes them fall.” (1 Peter 2:4-8)

Daniel interpreted the kings dream: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces..." (Daniel 2:44-45 NIV)

Jesus is the rock. He is the King of Kings. His Kingdom is the kingdom, prophesied by Daniel, that will endure forever.

And we will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Amen. (Psalm 23:6)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Daniel 1 - Everything Permissible; Not Beneficial

Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednigo) have found themselves in captivity in Babylon. They have been chosen to prepare to personally serve King Nebuchadnezzar. They don't have a problem with this. They do have a problem; though, with eating from the king's table. The diet is not one that God would choose for them. Daniel convinces the chief official to try feed him and his comrades food that would not defile them. It works! Daniel and company are healthier than those who eat from the king's table. "So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead." (Dan 1:16 NIV) They are not only healthier, they are blessed by God. "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." (Dan 1:17-20)

We eat and drink some stuff that is not always so good for us. Sure, it is permissible; but, is it good for us? Paul wrote: “'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'—but I will not be mastered by anything.'" (1 Corinth 6:12) Sometimes we just need to consider that just maybe God did not give us those dietary laws for His health, but for ours. How many times have we been warned by our doctors to eat healthier? Do we listen? What are the benefits to us if we do? Lately, my memory and my focus have been off a bit. Frankly, some days, it is just hard to keep up with everything. A few years ago, my doctor prescribed additional vegetable protein. It worked while I listened. So, now I find myself going back to concentrating on increasing protein content to my diet so that I can function up to par. Sure, we can eat all the junk food and drinks that we want. Nobody is stopping us. Everything is permissible; but, not every thing is beneficial...

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ezekiel 47-48 - Now God's People

“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel." (Ezekiel 47:21-22 NIV)

We have come to the final vision in Ezekiel. He is given a vision of the restored Jerusalem. In that restored Jerusalem, the land is allotted not only to the Israelites, but to all the foreigners who reside among them who have children. They are to be considered Israelites.

The Book of Ezekiel ends in much the same was as the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. John, too, had a revelation of a new Jerusalem. In both, there is a tree-lined river. In Revelation it is for the healing of the nations. That is, for many people of different nations. In both Ezekiel and Revelation, those people who were not God's people, are welcomed among God's people.

As God desires that we live in harmony with one another, may His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ezekiel 46 - Move Forward; Not Backward

“When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate." (Ezekiel 46:9 NIV)

Sounds like God is even managing the worship traffic... Imagine instructions for getting up to the altar during Holy Communion in your congregation. Go up the middle and back to your seat by going around the side. Stay on the right side of the aisle as you go the altar and return on the left. I'm thinking that crowd control is the basic reason for this direction from God.

Have you ever found yourself on a one way street going the wrong way? It does cause a bit of a problem, doesn't it? It delays your arrival at the place that you were intending to go. God reminds us to keep going forward in the way that that He's set before us. As you worship the LORD, keep moving forward. Do not take side roads. Do not go backwards. Keep your heart and your mind on the goal that has been set in front of you. One step at a time, move forward to receive the Kingdom of God.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

And... may the peace of the LORD be with you on your journey, as you press toward the goal of the Kingdom in Christ Jesus.  Pr. J

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ezekiel 45 - Present A Portion To The LORD

“When you allot the land as an inheritance, you are to present to the Lord a portion of the land as a sacred district..." (Ezekiel 45:1 NIV)

The apportionment of the land... The first allotment is to be for the LORD.

It is October, the month that we (Lutherans) typically set aside to focus on stewardship. I attended a meeting last week in Dearborn where the focus was greatly on stewardship. There were lots of ideas and opinions. Stewardship kind of drives me crazy. We've heard it all before. We already know it in our hearts and minds. I don't get why people just don't get that everything we have belongs to God and He gets the first and the best fruits for His glory. He is the landowner. We are allowed to use and care for His land. It still belongs to God. What is so difficult in glorifying God in the use of His property?

At Zion, we had a table talk prior to Worship this last Sunday on stewardship. Kathy Gobert gave an excellent presentation (at least in my opinion). She basically thanked everyone for using the various gifts God has given each of us in a way that reaches out to others with the love of God. She encouraged everyone to continue to use those gifts that God has given each of us to glorify God. All that we have; after all, is His.

Is it too much to ask to use the gifts that He has given us for His purpose; that His Kingdom come; that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ezekiel 43-44 - God's Glory

The temple is to be made perfectly, according to God's design, and the LORD will fill it with His glory. The people will see and be reminded that even as God is perfect, we are not. Yet, God calls those who are not perfect and sanctifies us. He calls us who were not holy; sanctified through the blood of the everlasting covenant, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to the Book of Ezekiel, the regulations and laws of the temple must all be followed. Those laws include:  “A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, then he may defile himself." (Ezek 44:25 NIV)

All I can say about that is: the position of priest has drastically changed since the advent of Jesus the Christ. Through Jesus the Christ, we are now all members of a royal priesthood. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:8-10)  Who then, if not the priests or pastors (shepherds) would pray with the dying or hold them as they breathe their last earthly breath as they enter through the gateway of death into eternal life?

We declare the marvelous praises of Him who has called out darkness into His light and we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ (for in Christ, all are our brothers and sisters) even as they enter into God's glory most fully.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ezekiel 40 - 42 - Visions of New Temples

We're covering three chapters today simply because I really cannot get into trying to comprehend all the measurements!

In this vision Ezekiel is given a vision of a new temple. Ezekiel is instructed to make sure he relays every detail of the vision including every dimension of everything he is shown. Lot's of measurements to remember, way too many for me!  In any case, God delivers a detailed blueprint of the new temple to the people through Ezekiel's vision.

So we too have been given a blueprint, of sorts, through the vision of St. John: "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." (Rev 21:22 NIV)

The temple of God is no longer just a building made of bricks and mortar by human hands. According to St. Paul: "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph 2:19-22)

The Lamb, who is Jesus the Christ, is the temple and as we are members of the living Body of the Christ; we are the temple of God.  As St. Paul wrote: "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?" (1 Corinth 3:16)

How awesome is that!? God is with you now and always as "there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were calledone Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Eph 4:4)

Now, is that not Good News!?

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ezekiel 39 - Deliverance

God has promised deliverance. He has promised Israel deliverance from Gog and Magog. He will cause so much carnage to the invaders that the remains are declared a great feast for the birds and wild animals.

Through Jesus Christ, God has promised all who would believe in His Son deliverance from the hand of the enemy. Indeed it has already been accomplished for us, as His Son died on the cross and overcame the power of sin, death, and the devil. There are no enemies greater than these. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)

God has promised deliverance. He has freed you so that you can freely love and serve Him and your neighbor as yourself.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ezekiel 38 - God Has The Victory

Gog and Magog will gather with their allies against God's people. This is the word of the LORD. It is apparently being done so that everyone will know that the LORD is God for in the end they will not prevail. God will help His people. He will deliver them from the hand of the enemy.

Just as trial and tribulations have come to the old covenant church, they come to those in the new covenant as well. We should not unduly worry or fear troubles that comes to us here. Jesus promised us this:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

No matter what or who attacks you, know this: God is with you. Even at times when you might think that the enemy is prevailing, know this: God will always have the victory!

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ezekiel 37 - Valley of Dry Bones

"The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  (Ezekiel 27:1-3 NIV)

Can dry, dead bones live? Of course, they can! According to Jesus: "...with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26) In Ezekiel's vision he was told to prophesy to the breath and when he did the breath came into those dry bones. The breath of God, the Spirit of God, gives us life. It was the very breath of God that brought Adam to life. It is His breath that gives us life. It is His breath that gives us abundant life.

So if you're feeling pretty dried out and dead, ask and you shall receive. Jesus told his followers: "Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:23-24)

So what will it be: a dried out life or a life filled with joy and peace in the Body of Christ? So many people running (more like crawling) around filled with depression and gloom and doom when they could live filled with the breath of God, the Spirit of God, united with one another in peace and joy. It is unimaginable, to me, that more will not walk in the way that brings eternal life in Christ, even now.

Dry bones, get up, receive the Spirit of God, and live life abundantly.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ezekiel 36 - For His Holy Name

“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes." (Ezekiel 36:22-23 NIV)

I just returned from the LCMC Conference in Dearborn, MI. I am worn out and frankly quite ill. I was not feeling well when I left and was feeling worse upon my return. Still debating whether to see a doctor or just get some rest.

I do not particularly enjoy large crowds nor have I ever enjoyed conferences or meetings of any kind. They wear me out, rather than refresh me. I was uncomfortable being there and I could not figure out exactly why. But, when Pr. Enrique Estrada spoke the answer came to me. It's about family. It's about caring for the children of God and while I am far away at conferences, I am not with the children of God that I have been called to live among and to care for. I feel like a ship out of water; stranded, when I am not within the community I have been called to serve. Now, this community is actually quite a large community. It covers a few counties so it's not like I'm a recluse. I am most comfortable when I am doing what I have been called to do; when I am out amongst the people, sharing God's love, His message with them. I am more refreshed when I am giving. All this is done not to glorify myself or anyone else. It is done to glorify, for the sake, of His Holy Name.

Many parents have a difficult time leaving their children behind when they have to go out of town. They feel a bit empty - like a part of them is missing. That is how I feel when I have to leave the area for any reason. I worry about the children of God. I wonder if this one or that one is feeling better or worse; if one has received employment or how they might still be struggling to put food on the table. When I am away from the community that I have been called to serve, I feel like a mother who has left her children behind at home or a Shepherd who has left their flock in the field to fend for themselves.

The message I heard from Pr. Estrada was about caring for all of God's children - genuinely putting others before ourselves. All this so that all people might hear and receive and be reconciled to the family of God in Christ Jesus and this for the glory of God's Holy Name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ezekiel 35 - Live Life Not Drama

Today we hear that Israel's enemy, Edom, will fall. Edom has not only come against God's people, but God, as well. They will fall for their sins.

It is a comforting thought to know that God will take care of our enemies. We do not have to.  We should, by all means, pray for our enemies for who knows if God has plans for them to be repent and be our brothers and sisters.

Not reacting to our enemies attacks on us is a hard thing to teach. At least once a week (usually more) I have to tell my grandchildren to let something or someone go; to leave them to God. He will take care of them as well as those who attack them. Why cause more problems for ourselves by reacting in a negative manner, which just begets more negativity and trouble. My grandchildren don't listen very well; therefore, I get to witness a long of teen-age drama!

Trust the LORD and live life (another thing I tell my grandchildren quite often). Live life in Christ and stay off of the path that leads you away from Him. Believe me, drama can quickly take your focus off your life in Christ.

Live life and live in God's peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ezekiel 34 - Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherds?

We often hear how various congregations/denominations are in decline. Many of them are; but, not all! There are many excuses used. We can blame the demographics. We've all heard that our people are aging, we have no children in the community, or even that all of our young people have moved out of the area for more and better opportunities. Some try to blame the economy. But, if we take a look back in history, we will mostly find that when people hit hard times they were more apt to repent and turn to the LORD than to turn away from him. I don't care where you are, there are people who do not know Jesus, share the story...!

I'm thinking that Ezekiel 34 hits the nail on the head:

"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they become food for all the wild animals." (Ezekiel 34:2-5 NIV)

I am at the LCMC Convocation in Dearborn, Michigan. Yesterday, we were asked to consider what we had given up, what we had lost, to follow Jesus; to be his disciples, going forth to share the good news of the Kingdom. What indeed? All around the world people are risking their lives to proclaim the Gospel. But, here in the United States, what are we willing to sacrifice so that our brother or sister might be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ezekiel 33 - Watchmen

A watchman's duty is to warn the people of danger. Ezekiel is called as a watchman. It is his duty to share the word of the LORD with the people that they might repent and be saved. If a watchman does not do his duty, not only he, but all the people are in peril.

We, too, as Christians, are watchmen. We are to watch for impending danger and warn others. If the hearers actually listen and repent, they will be saved. If they do not; well, then... However, if we refuse to warn them of the dangers, then it is on our head. As watchmen, we have failed at our appointed call.

Ezekiel was a faithful watchman. May God help us to be, as well.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ezekiel 32 - Live By The Sword; Die By The Sword

We read, yet, another chapter declaring Egypt's destruction. She has killed many by the sword and she will die by the sword. Assyria will be the sword that causes her such great destruction.

So much killing. So much destruction. Often, I hear how the world has gotten so much worse that we must be near the end of time. But, read the Old Testament and you will see that humans have always been violent. We have lusted after more of everything: more wealth, more power, more military strength. We have always served false gods. We have always tended to be prideful. We have caused our own problems and our own demises. We have not served the one true God. We have not listened to His will for humankind.

May God have mercy and bring to this world a peace wherein we can live together without destroying each other and ourselves. Those who live by the sword risk dying by the sword. Trouble begets trouble. That, my friends, is a no brainer... Be kind to one another so that you might live in peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ezekiel 31 - Trees Falling

"Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon,
    with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest;
it towered on high,
    its top above the thick foliage." (Ezekiel 30:3 NIV)

Pharaoh is warned, even though Egypt stands tall like a tree towering over everything; Assyria once stood even taller. But, for its pride it came crashing down at the hand of God. So shall Egypt fall.

There was a huge pine, over 80 feet tall, not many feet from our home. It was a beautiful tree, towering above the others. It existed until this summer. It had grown so large that we knew if it ever fell that there would be nothing left to our home. It had grown too big and had become a danger. We had it taken down this summer so that it would not come crashing down on us. Sometimes God's people (and governments) get too big... We are in danger of causing others harm and God has to cut us down to size (prune us) or let us crash where we can do the least harm to others. 

Again, those who have ears, hear the warning from Proverbs: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 4, 2013

Ezekiel 30 - Listen But Do Not Hear

Today, we read pretty much the same as yesterday. Egypt and her allies will fall. The Egyptians will be dispersed among the nations and then they will know that God is God.

Sometimes preachers and prophets have to say the same exact thing day after day, year after year, and still many do not hear. They listen but they do not hear.

Open our ears, eyes, hearts, and minds, LORD, that we might know your word and your will; that we might know You.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ezekiel 29 - I Am the LORD

“On that day I will make a horn grow for the Israelites, and I will open your mouth among them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 29:21 NIV)

Israel, had trusted in Egypt to protect and care for them; therefore, not only will Israel go into exile, but Egypt, as well. For forty years, the LORD promises, that the Egyptians will be scattered among the nations for thinking that they, themselves, were some kind of god, in control of even the river Nile.

God's hand extends way beyond just those who purport to be followers of Him. He is the creator of all things and all things are His. He will care for His whole creation according to His will. May He always be with those who have been exiled. May God guide those whom He has sent out into the wilderness for refining or for testing or for whatever reason He has sent us there for so that we might know that He is the LORD above all lords. We are not god. He is!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ezekiel 28 - Pride Goes Before A Fall

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘In the pride of your heart
    you say, “I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god
    in the heart of the seas.”
But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
    though you think you are as wise as a god.
Are you wiser than Daniel?
    Is no secret hidden from you?
By your wisdom and understanding
    you have gained wealth for yourself
and amassed gold and silver
    in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading
    you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth
    your heart has grown proud. (Ezekiel 28:1-5 NIV)

And... because of this the LORD promises that the ruler of Tyre will fall. Ezekiel gives us another reminder, this morning, that "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18)

As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal 6:14)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ezekiel 27 - Mourning Tyre

A lament for Tyre. Tyre who was so prideful is fallen. As it is said, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18 NIV) Tyre did well for itself, but it was "full of itself."

We see it all the time: pride and arrogance. As they grow in a person, others around them tend to want to stay away from them and then the fall. It is not good in a business, no matter what kind of business it is. Pride and arrogance don't do much for relationships, either. They particularly aren't very conducive to a genuine relationship with God. After all, it is He who gives us all good things and when things "go south" it probably has something to do with the fact that we have started thinking that we can manage things better than God, all by ourselves.

Trust in the LORD and give Him thanks for all that He has given.

God's Peace - Pr. J