Saturday, November 30, 2013

Jonah 2 - Begging God

"From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
'In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.'
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." (Jonah 2:1,10 NIV)

Here's what happens when you go in the opposite direction of where God is leading you: you end up begging Him to save you from your very poor decision.

Been there... Done that... Prayerfully and hopefully, I won't do that too often in the future. But, being the sinner that I am, it is highly probable.

Thanks be to God that He loves us enough to have mercy and to keep calling us to Himself!

God's Peace - Pr.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Jonah 1 - Just Do It!

The story of Jonah... Guess what? I believe the story! That is the bottom line... Anyway, the point of the story is not to give us a reason to debate whether a great fish is able to swallow a man and then spit him out later; rather, it is about this man who was called by God to serve Him and His people and decided to go in a different way.

How many of us have done that? I've known that I was called to serve as a pastor since I was about eleven or twelve years old. It took me decades to follow in the Way He would have me go. I heard the call many times. Repeatedly, I rejected it and put my priorities and the priorities that others set for me before His priorities. Repeatedly, I went the wrong way and found myself frustrated and unhappy and in more trouble than I anticipated - way more than I wanted!

My point is this: If God is calling you; if He is sending you somewhere to do His will; just do it. You most probably will in the end anyway; because, He will keep calling. Just trust Him and go for it!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Obadiah 1 - What Is Done To Others; Will Be Done To You

We won't be lingering many days studying Obadiah. It is the shortest book of the Old Testament with only one chapter containing twenty-one verses.

It is a prophecy concerning the fall of Edom (Esau) for not having his brother Israel's (Jacob) back when they were under siege. It was not that they, themselves, attacked. But, they stood by and did nothing as their brothers were taken into captivity.

"On the day you stood aloof
    while strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
    and cast lots for Jerusalem,

    you were like one of them." (Obadiah 11 NIV)

Our sins encompass more than what we have done; but, what we have left undone, as well. How much of what we have done and left undone have led to our brothers' harm? And.. if you care not for your brother than consider Obadiah's prophecy:

“The day of the Lord is near
    for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;

    your deeds will return upon your own head." (Obadiah 15)

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. BTW - today is the National Day of Thanksgiving in the U.S.. Do you have a neighbor who is alone, today? A family that cannot afford dinner? What will we do for them so that they are not so all alone? What will we leave undone? 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Amos 9 - God's Promise Thru Amos

After many warnings of destruction to those who do not listen to God, Amos ends with a promise.

“In that day
'I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
    I will repair its broken walls
    and restore its ruins—
    and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
    and all the nations that bear my name,'
declares the Lord, who will do these things.
'The days are coming,' declares the Lord,
'when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
    and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
    and flow from all the hills,
    and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.'" (Amos 9:11:14 NIV)
God's awesome promises - the Good News of His Kingdom - is for all nations who will bear His name. Shall we then bear His Holy Name - proclaim it to all people - that all might live in His loving grace?
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Amos 8 - Famine

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
    and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,

    but they will not find it." (Amos 8:11-12 NIV)

Always searching, never finding... So many seekers out there... hungry... thirsty... but, never being satisfied. The word of the LORD is available. But, it is not available in every church, from every pulpit. It is there. But, sometimes it is difficult to find.

Just as in the days of Amaziah the temple is used for worldly proclamations. In chapter 7, we heard Amos declare that the temple was his and that Amos was not to be proclaiming God's word in it. The same applies today. The church, it seems, belong to the people, a worldly people, who want their "ears itched" and pastors who are reluctant to say anything that will not scratch those ears. This causes a lot of thirsty and hungry people to wander, searching for the water that will quench their thirst. Jesus is that living water. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can satisfy the thirsty or hungry soul.

I rarely get a chance to attend worship services other than at Zion or Aura Lutheran. However, when I am away from the pulpit, I attend worship services wherever I am. Some of the messages leave me excited and fully fed with the word and the Word. Others do not. They leave me empty and actually wanting to run out and find some real nourishment. Not long ago, I attended a funeral service for a Christian man. There was no proclamation of life in Jesus Christ! It was a very long eulogy (not a sermon). Only one time was Jesus' name mentioned during the sermon and that was in reference to Jesus approving of the man; not because of Christ's work on the cross but because of the man's life, itself.

The days of famine have come. Not a famine of food or water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Jesus' instruction to those who claim they love him was to feed His sheep. Feed them... Feed your neighbors, your friends, your family, with the Word of God... Share the love of God, who in Christ Jesus, was willing to die that we might live abundant lives in His Kingdom, reconciled to God and one another, beginning even now!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 25, 2013

Amos 7 - Microphones and Hearing

"Then Amaziah said to Amos,  'Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.'” (Amos 7:12-13 NIV)

The king Amaziah does not want to hear the word of the LORD. He does not want the people to hear it, either. His desire is that Amos not speak it any longer at Bethel, lest the people turn and hear the word and worship the LORD, rather than him.

A few months ago, I quit using my lapel mic. I just started speaking louder and using the mic on the pulpit more during worship. You see, every few weeks, someone would turn the mic down and I wouldn't find out until after worship that very few had heard anything I said. I would go back into the sound room after worship and turn the volume up, again. A few weeks later, the volume would be down again, but only on the lapel mics. So, I decided not to keep fighting it and just keep my own volume turned up by speaking louder.

In September, after a summer break, our Sunday school resumed helping to lead worship more often. They pray the prayers of the church every Sunday and on the last Sunday of the month they also read lessons, gather the offering, and usually provide an offering of song as well. They do this mostly from the pulpit so that everyone can hear. During the sharing of the peace, one of our members who wears hearing aids let me know that he couldn't hear a thing. I asked him if it was just the children that he couldn't hear, as they do speak much softer than I do. He replied that he couldn't hear me, either. So, I went back to the sound room. Sure enough, someone had turned the volume on the pulpit microphone down to almost nothing. Nothing else was touched, just the volume on the pulpit mic. I am not sure why whoever is doing this, is doing this. This is not the first time the sound has been turned down when our Sunday School was helping to lead. It has happened more often than I can count. A couple of years ago, it was during their Christmas program. Since, I was sitting in the congregation that time, I realized what was wrong and was able to get up during the middle of it and get it fixed.

Yesterday; though, I felt, for a moment, like we had been speaking to a brick wall; after all, there were many at worship, yesterday, who had not heard the word of the LORD during most of the service. They had not heard the scriptures read. They had not heard the sermon. They had not heard the prayers of the church.

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." (Rom 10:17)

Amaziah's intention was that he be lord of all the people. It was, he professed, his temple and the people would hear and listen to only what he wanted them to hear. I can't help wonder why anyone would want the voice of the LORD, His word not be read, by His littlest children.

May God help us to understand why anyone would persist in closing the mouths of the children. May God help us to pray for such a person and proclaim His grace to them.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Amos 6 - Complacent?

"Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
    and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria..." (Amos 6:1 NIV)

We probably all get a little complacent from time to time. Complacency is when we get too satisfied with the way things are and don't care for or want anything to change. But, is that a good thing? Is it good to go through life without making any changes; with ourselves or the things around us?

We all need change. When I was young, I use to hear this quite often: "When you quit learning, you die." Everyone of us needs to keep learning and growing. St. Paul wrote: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:11-12 NIV)

We cannot remain babies forever; not, in this world and not in the Kingdom of God. One day, we will all know the truth fully. That day has not yet come. But, it does not mean that we should be complacent and not strive to seek the truth or seek His face.

You think you know Jesus? How well do you know Him? Have you become complacent with a Sunday morning (or less) relationship?

 "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Eph 1:17-21)  Amen!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Amos 5 - "Seek Me And Live!"

“Seek me and live..." (Amos 5:5 NIV)

One of my goals during CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) was not to enable the perpetually needy who refused to seek the LORD. There are those who would have their or someone else's pastor fix everything for them. I (as many other pastors) sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time helping people who absolutely refuse to worship and trust the LORD; who absolutely refuse to make any changes to their physical and/or spiritual lives. They can take up so much time that there is not time for the soul care of others; there is no time to feed the hungry. I am not saying that the first group doesn't have genuine needs. They do. But, they need to understand that others can't fix everything for them all of the time. Our help comes from the LORD and, yes, often that help comes through other people. Pastors can help others spiritually; but, they are not a replacement for a genuine relationship with God our Father, God who is Jesus the Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. Genuine, abundant life comes from being reconciled to God; from being in a loving relationship with His Son, Jesus; by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I cannot fix you. I cannot give you a better life. I cannot save you. Jesus saves. I can, of course, help feed you and find you a warm place to stay and provide warm clothing. But, those things are only temporary and helping one person week after week and month after month is only enabling them to continue in a way that is hurtful to themselves and to others. There are many hungry people in the world. They all need feeding - both physically and spiritually. And... my resources are limited as are most peoples. Those who refuse to seek the LORD and follow in His Way; but, depend on the Christian to provide for them, take the food out of the mouths of those who are willing to listen; willing to follow; and desire to seek the LORD and live life more abundantly. Thanksgiving is next week and I'm reminded of the lepers that Jesus healed. Only one was made whole. He was the one who turned around in search of the LORD to give Him thanks. He sought out the LORD.

Where am I going with all of this? Decisions have to be made by me and all Christians. Sometimes we have to decide whether we are genuinely helping someone or enabling them to live in dysfunction as they seek the ways of this world and their own desires. Seek the LORD and live...!

God's Peace - Pr. J.

P.S. Here at Zion, since we live in a small community whose needs are not extreme in regard to financial assistance, have decided that we would help take care of individual physical needs by budgeting and actively raising funds for and support agencies throughout the county like St. Vincent DePaul's (a local Catholic charity), Toys for Tots (Marine Corps League), Baraga County Shelter Home. These and other agencies are better equipped than we are to discern how best to help those in physical need. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Amos 4 - Prepare To Meet Your God

More warnings... this morning...

"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
    you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
    and say to your husbands, 'Bring us some drinks!'
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
    'The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
    the last of you with fishhooks.
You will each go straight out
    through breaches in the wall,
    and you will be cast out toward Harmon,'

    declares the Lord." (Amos 4:1-3 NIV)

And.. the warnings go on. The people bring their offerings and brag about them. Yet, they do not worship the LORD. They spend their time doing as they please; that is to please themselves. They put themselves before God and before their neighbors. No matter what God does to try to wake them up to reality, they do not listen. They do not turn to the LORD. So, in turn, they are told, "Prepare to meet your God." (Amos 4:12)

Advent is a little over a week away. Are we prepared to meet our God. I know that in our minds we have this picture of a God who simply ignores all of our sins. Does he? Does he not see those who pay no heed to His name? Does He overlook those who oppress the poor and crush the needy? Does He overlook the sins of those who spend their hours in drunken stupor? Does He overlook the sins of those who will not repent and live in fellowship with Him and one another?

For, those who believe desire to walk in His Way. Those who believe that Jesus died to save them, will indeed love as He first loved us. It is not an option for the believer because the Spirit of the Living God abides in you and through you and all around you.

Whether you like it or not; whether you seek His face or not, one day we will all meet our God. Are you prepared to meet your God and live eternally in His presence; in His love?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Amos 3 - Straight to the Point

"It's not snowing!" That's one of the replies that I get from my husband, every now and then, as he responds to some of my queries about a plan for the day. This answer does not make sense and rather irritates me. I would much rather my questions are answered in a direct response; one that is understandable to me.

Today we read that God reveals His plan to us.
"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
    without revealing his plan
    to his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7 NIV)

However, we read some pretty strange questions from the LORD in this third chapter of Amos. They are the kind of questions that make me a little frustrated and wishing that whomever was speaking like this would just get straight to the point.

"Do two walk together
    unless they have agreed to do so?
Does a lion roar in the thicket
    when it has no prey?
Does it growl in its den
    when it has caught nothing?
Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
    when no bait is there?
Does a trap spring up from the ground
    if it has not caught anything?
When a trumpet sounds in a city,

    do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
    has not the Lord caused it?("
(Amos 3:3-6)

It takes a while for the prophet, Amos, to get around to it; but, the point is that God has spoken against all of His people and there is going to be a consequence for the sins of His children.

Thanks be to God for Jesus the Christ, who, on the cross, bore our sin and the consequences of our sin for us. That is not confusing. That is straight to the point. Jesus died for us. Jesus died that we might live reconciled to God our Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Amos 2 - Prophets and Prophecy a Gift; Listen!

"'I brought you up out of Egypt
    and led you forty years in the wilderness
    to give you the land of the Amorites.

I also raised up prophets from among your children
    and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?'
declares the Lord.
'But you made the Nazirites drink wine

    and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.'" (Amos 2:10-12 NIV)

God has saved His people time and time again; yet, they (we) continue to do what we ought not do. We will not listen. We will not listen to those whom He sends to warn us or lead us in the way that He would have us go. Like little children, we go wandering off in our own directions, not taking any direction from our Father; not listening to the word of admonishment or advice that He would give us.

Just as in the days of Amos, the words of the prophet today go mostly unheeded. Sometimes, we attempt to justify our lack of hearing by denying that God would send a prophet in these latter days. However, St. Paul wrote:

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Cor 12:7-10 NIV)

These gifts, including prophecy, are gifts from God for the common good. Shall we suppose that God the Father is now not desiring our common good, our common growth in the Body of Christ? I think not! By the power of the Holy Spirit, all of God's children receive gifts for the growth and edification of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

May God open our ears that we might hear not just the mighty deeds that He has done for us; but, that we might hear and understand the Way in which He would have us go.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amos 1 - Three Sins and Four

Amos, the shepherd was not a timid man. He warned people vehemently of the coming disaster. He prophesied about the same time as Hosea and Isaiah did. If those two were disliked, Amos was most hated. You will hear very little good news from Amos. He just declares what is going to happen and it's not good. For three sins and for four sins... there will be consequences. He's not talking about different sins. He's talking about the fact that after one sins once; rather than repent, they continue sinning.

How often do we sin and not only not repent; but, make excuses for ourselves as though the sin was not a sin; rather it was something good? I'm thinking probably all too often. Just as no one wanted to hear Amos in his day, no one would probably listen to him today, either. We just don't want to be reminded that we could possibly do anything wrong

Turn to the LORD for He is God and there is only one God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 18, 2013

Joel 3 - Valley of Decision

Joel 3 brings us a picture of something many of us are quite familiar with. It is the valley of decision. It refers to the day when God will judge all nations. He will try all nations for what has been done to His people.

"Multitudes, multitudes
    in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near
    in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon will be darkened,
    and the stars no longer shine.
The Lord will roar from Zion
    and thunder from Jerusalem;
    the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
    a stronghold for the people of Israel.

“Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
    dwell in Zion, my holy hill.
Jerusalem will be holy;
    never again will foreigners invade her.
“In that day the mountains will drip new wine,
    and the hills will flow with milk;
    all the ravines of Judah will run with water.
A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house
    and will water the valley of acacias."  (Joel 3:14-18 NIV)

For those who persecute God's people, these words should bring a sobering thought. But, for God's people these words provide hope. The same Word brings condemnation to those who refuse God's word and good news to those who receive it (Him).

God is our refuge and strength...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Joel 2 - Straight Ahead; Never Swerving

The words of Joel paint a pretty graphic picture of the day of the LORD. On that day every one who lives in the land will tremble, as they ought to be now in preparation for it.

I find the picture of the army advancing all in a straight line is particularly intriguing.
"They all march in line,
    not swerving from their course.
They do not jostle each other;
    each marches straight ahead.
They plunge through defenses

    without breaking ranks." (Joel 2:7b-8 NIV)
I can only begin to imagine what it would be like if we, all who profess Jesus the Christ, could advance straight ahead, doing the LORD's will. Can you imagine? Never swerving from the path... Working in unison?

May God help us to be so faithful.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sorry... I missed a day

It's not too often that I miss a day and on the occasion that I have, I've usually gotten the blog done later that evening. My granddaughter is in the hospital about 70 miles away, so I have been with her. I will try to get some daily blogs done in case I don't have time later :) God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 15, 2013

Joel 1 - Hunger and Poverty

The prophet Joel takes a slightly different approach than the other prophets. He is a gentler prophet. As he reminds them of their poverty, he begs them to repent. In sorrow, for a starving people, he reminds them that their only help is in the LORD.

But, will they? Will they listen to Joel any better than they listened to any of the other prophets?

So many hungry people in the world today, both physically hungry and spiritually. Entire regions starving as crops will not flourish. Economies have been devastated. Self-proclaimed prophets, exalting themselves, have proclaimed words that leave the soul both hungry and thirsty.

Will we turn to the LORD who is our only hope and salvation?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hosea 14 - Repent and Be Blessed

This last chapter in Hosea has a little different tone than the preceding. The preceding chapters were mainly warnings: fall away and suffer the consequences. Today we hear that all who go to the LORD with repentant hearts will be blessed; will be forgiven.

God does not wish for any of us to be separated from Him and from His love. He calls us to turn again (repent) to Him so that we might be made whole.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hosea 13 - Follow Ephraim Into More Sin

"When Ephraim spoke, people trembled;
    he was exalted in Israel.
    But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.
Now they sin more and more..." (Hosea 13:1-2a NIV)
I've said it. You've said it. Our children and our grandchildren have said it. We've told others that the times have changed. This is how we do things today. Everyone does it. It starts with one or two people. We might call it a fad. It explodes and it appears that half the world begins to do what they ought not do. Ephraim was exalted. People listened to him. They followed him. He built worshipped the false god, Baal. The people followed and turned away from god to trust this worthless idol.

I'm not just talking about one thing. I'm talking about all the worthless idols gods we have built up for ourselves. Sports figures, actors and actresses, musicians, politicians; the list goes on and on, even to inanimate objects like money, and television. In many cases we, ourselves, have become our own false gods. Yes, we are one of our biggest false gods.

How much life has been lost in the pursuit and the worship of these false idols? How has our relationship with God and one another been damaged by our pursuit of our own happiness according to our own desires. Happiness, even joy, cannot be found in false gods. It cannot be found searching endlessly after things. It can only be found in a right relationship with God and with one another through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hosea 12 - A Reprieve From Violence, Please?

Ephraim and Judah are in a bit of trouble with the LORD for stirring up trouble with others. According to Hosea:

"Ephraim feeds on the wind;
    he pursues the east wind all day
    and multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a treaty with Assyria
    and sends olive oil to Egypt." (Hosea 12:1 NIV)

Soap operas, drama queens, whatever, whoever... There are some, it seems, that just cannot live without stirring up trouble for others. For what reason, no one knows. Maybe they've watched too many soap operas and can't control the desire to create drama. They multiple lies and violence. They cause a lot of trouble for themselves as well as others. But, they don't seem to care. That's the way you play the game - hoping against hope that they will win the game - hoping against hope that they will come out looking like a star. How much life is wasted away contending with those who multiply lies (gossip) and violence rather than living life?

What does the prophet have to say about all of this?

"But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger;
    his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed
    and will repay him for his contempt." (Hosea 12:14)

May God grant all who are wrongly gossiped about, to the detriment of the church on earth, a reprieve from these vicious attacks. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hosea 11 - Help Us To Love The One Who Loves Us

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images." (Hosea 11:1-2 NIV)

I'm thinking there are a lot of parents (and grandparents) who can relate to this. Sometimes, the more you love a child, the more they pull away. It's as though they honestly don't want to be loved. I don't get it. But, sometimes, it seems, that is the way it is. They wander off seeking love from those who do not, cannot, or will not love them instead of living in the warmth and love that is being freely given to them.

God loves us and calls us to be His children. So what is so difficult in living in His love?

May God help each and everyone of us to realize the great love He has for us. Open our eyes, Lord! Open our hearts, LORD! Help us to receive the love you have given us through Jesus Christ, our LORD. Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hosea 10 - God Brings Forth The Fruit

Israel was doing well. "Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself." (Hosea 10:1 a NIV), but "As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones." (Hosea 10:1b)

Israel did not credit their growth to God. They had become reliant on the work of their own hands and often they gave credit to false idols. God wants them to repent and turn to Him. But, they do not recognize Him or the gifts that He has given them. They will fall.

So often in the church we lift up the good works of others, those who have been busy helping the church to grow. I know that I am often thanked for all the work I do. But, that is very dangerous business. I get a little uncomfortable with talk like this. For it is not we, who grow the church, but the Spirit of Christ who does, working in, through, and all around us. It is not we, but God who should get the glory for all things.

Remember to give Him thanks and praise for the fruit that He provides for us and all people.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hosea 9 - Rejoice in the LORD

"Do not rejoice, Israel;
    do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
    you love the wages of a prostitute
    at every threshing floor." (Hosea 9:1 NIV)
It's not looking for Israel. Their celebration will turn to mourning because they have been unfaithful to their God. We have been unfaithful to our God.

So many out there seeking enjoyment in all the things that will eventually lead them to destruction. When will we turn to the LORD? When will we worship Him with our whole hearts and minds? When will we stop pursuing those things which only lead us to separation from God?

The LORD promises good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28). Why would we go on serving and loving other gods that do not love us, that can bring us no joy? "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." (Psalm 118) and "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil 4:4) Let us always keep our hearts and minds focused on the love of God through Christ Jesus that we might have reason to rejoice.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hosea 8 - Sin and Consequence

"They set up kings without my consent;
    they choose princes without my approval.
With their silver and gold
    they make idols for themselves

    to their own destruction." (Hosea 8:4 NIV)

In just about every verse in today's reading, God reminds the people of their sin and warns them what the consequence will be. Somehow, for the last couple of weeks during our Wednesday Bible Study at Zion, we have managed to wander to a discussion on how to deal with church discipline within a congregation and specifically the direction of Jesus found in Matthew 18:15-17. 

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

That can sound pretty harsh and hard to follow through with, but there is a purpose for it. It is so that those who are following and promoting their own false gods can be returned to the LORD. It doesn't matter whether the false god is money, power, prestige, or a calf made of gold, when someone in the church is promoting their own agenda above the LORD's will, there will be problems and it needs to be dealt with so that the focus can be turned back to the God who created us and sustains us.

Zion actually has these steps built into our constitution just in case it will be needed one day. The council knows how hard it is to confront anyone who is causing problems that may be dividing the church and turning our focus away from the LORD and His goodness to following other ways. They are our neighbors and family members, after all. But, in order to restore the mission of the church, that is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, sometimes what the LORD did through Hosea by declaring a sin a sin and warning that if they did not return to Him there would be consequences. Sometimes, sadly, that is the only way to get someone's attention and restore peace - that is reconciliation  between God and His people and within the community of saints.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hosea 7 - Hunting Season - Yooper Holy Days

I spent Monday evening at my husband's hunting camp. He is preparing for the Yoopers' (a person who lives in or is from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) grand holy days - that is deer hunting -firearm season. People come from all over to celebrate those last two weeks of November. I find the whole season quite confounding. Men, women and children miss worship services as they are sitting in their blinds and you cannot even begin to imagine how full our taverns get after the sun sets! Lots of drinking and carousing going on... Just a warning: Drinking or drugging and hunting do not make good companions. Stuff happens - bad stuff happens - when sites are not set on the Kingdom of God.

Right now, it is bow season. Not so many participate in this sport.

"They do not turn to the Most High;    they are like a faulty bow." (Hosea 7:16 NIV)

Like a faulty bow that cannot hit a target, so too are all those who refuse to keep their eyes on the goal of the Kingdom. A warped bow is almost impossible to use and one whose faith is skewed will struggle mightily in their journey through the wilderness. Like a bent arrow, we might be aiming for the target, but the slightest wind will cause us to stray.

May God help us all to keep our eyes the Most High and on the target He has given us, which is His Kingdom, through Jesus Christ, our LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

P.S. Just a note to thank God for all of the hunter's who are from out of our area (seasonal residents)somehow manage to make it to Zion to worship during firearm season even while sometimes local members cannot manage it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hosea 6 - Return and Abide with Him

"Return to the Lord. He has torn us to shreds but he will bandage our wounds and make us well. In two or three days he will heal and restore our strength that we may live with him." (Hosea 6:1-2)

Hosea reminds us today that if truly want to live in God's presence it would be most helpful to quit walking away from Him. I have never quite figured out why anyone would want to and actually believe that they would enter the kingdom of God after physical death if they do not desire to abide with him now. I'm thinking it's probably the fear of death rather than the love of God that would motivate such faithless faith.

Our heavenly Father wants you to abide with Him now - even here in this world. Wouldn't life be more pleasant now if you would only open the door instead of slamming it in His face?

"Let's do our best to know the Lord. His coming is as certain as the morning sun; He will rephresh ice like rainrenewing the earth in the springtime." (Hosea 6:3)

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. On my smartphone so hope this is readable. It is hard for me to write on such a small space and wkeyboard real keyboard.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hosea 5 - Rebels Knee Deep

"The rebels are knee-deep in slaughter.
    I will discipline all of them.
I know all about Ephraim;
    Israel is not hidden from me.
Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution;
    Israel is corrupt.

“Their deeds do not permit them
    to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart;
    they do not acknowledge the Lord." (Hosea 5:1-4)
Sadly, it seems, I think a lot about and pray for rebels who are knee-deep in something... And..., again, sadly it is not in building up the house of the LORD, the Body of Christ. False gods stir up a lot of trouble in the hearts and minds of mankind. Worship of self, of ego, of anything and everything; but the LORD, brings about a lot of strife within the church on earth and indeed the whole world.

Even if we think no one knows, God knows. He sees the prostitution that is in our hearts. He sees how we love ourselves more than we love Him. He sees how we love and follow after our false gods even if it means the destruction of the church. Well, hears a bit of good news... The Church, which is the Body of Christ, cannot be destroyed. It's been tried. He is Risen! He lives! The Body of Christ is alive and well!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hosea 4 - Hear the Charge of the LORD....

"Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
    because the Lord has a charge to bring
    against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
    no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed." (Hosea 4:1-2 NIV)

God, through His prophet, reproves the people. When I read this chapter this morning, I couldn't help but be reminded of how so many things are today: no faithfulness to God; no love, except for self; so very little acknowledgment of God in the land; and lots of cursing, lying and murder. 

Our young people don't even know what it means to curse. You can teach them. But, they refuse to learn. "Everybody does it," I am told. "It means nothing. It's just a way of talking." I've heard lies which we justified later with these two letters "JK." They were Just Kidding! And... adultery! No one even seems to have a clue what adultery is because so many participate in adultery that it is common practice and is "just the way it is."

Where has this all left us? In turmoil and chaos, looking for something. Always hungry. Always thirsty. Put aside your false idols that cannot satisfy and turn to the LORD who loves you; then you will be satisfied and will live in His peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hosea 3 - Live in the Love of the LORD

Hosea is to take Gomer, his adulterous wife, back as a sign that the LORD will receive back all who are faithless to Him.

We wander and stray, but thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, we are always welcome in His arms. We do not have to be alone. We do not have to be constantly seeking love or acceptance from other sources; sources that never truly satisfy. The LORD love you and desires that you should be His own.

Take a break, already. Live your days in the love of the LORD.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hosea 2 - God Leads You To The Wilderness

His beloved turn their backs to Him seeking other lovers; but, they will not be satisfied. Seeking one after another that will satisfy their longing, they will come up empty, returning to the One who loves them.

The sinful natures leads us away from the beautiful promise; but, the LORD will turn the hearts of the people to Him.

The LORD, Himself, will help us to return to Him. We do not go alone. We are like the wife who strays, whose heart is empty of genuine love, always searching for that which will fill her. But, we seek in all the wrong places. Out of love and mercy, the LORD, Himself, will come to us. He will lead us into the wilderness to make us His own.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

“In that day,” declares the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master." (Hosea 2:14-16 NIV)
"I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.'" (Hos 2:23)
Finding yourself in the wilderness is not a time to be seeking after comfort and protection from those who do know and you do not know. It is not a time to seek other love. It is a time to rejoice for the LORD, who is your husband, is with you. He led you there that you might know Him!
God's Peace - Pr. J