Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul's Ego

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV
Paul was not an uneducated man. Yet, he resolved to know nothing when he was with the people except crucified. His focus, his thought, his talk was on nothing other than Jesus the Christ. He did not allow the fact that he was indeed a man of learning and of some status to get in the way of proclaiming the one thing that mattered: Jesus Christ and him crucified. Nothing else mattered. His utmost concern was proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus.

May it be that in all of God's church on earth that whatever we say and do, it is done by the power of God's Spirit and not because we think that we are so important that it is we who can accomplish these things. Paul set his ego aside so that the Spirit might work through him. May it be so with all of us, as well.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

1 Corinthians1:18-31 Message Of The Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NIV
Ugh! Frustrating! I wish that everyone would receive our Saviour, Jesus the Christ. But, no matter how much I try it seems to be impossible for me to get some people to understand that the message of the cross is the power of God. It is not just a nice story of a man dying because he loved humanity so much. It is not just a piece of historical fact that we read about and set aside. It is not foolishness as the world would have us believe. Rather, it is foolishness not to believe. The message of the cross holds within it the power to save.

In the end, I always have to go back to another simple fact. I cannot save anyone. I cannot even convince anyone. I can only proclaim the message and trust that the power of God within the message (the Word) saves. Usually, when people tell me that my sermon was great or they thank me for saying something that helped them; I remind them that it is not me; but, Christ in me (Gal 2:20). Sometimes, I will tell them that from my lips to your ears the Holy Spirit is working so that you hear (and receive) what God wants you to hear and have; not what I want.

The world can scoff at the faith of those who trust in the cross of Christ for their life and salvation. But, that, dear friends, is the power of God! Whom will you trust: the world, yourself, or God who created all things and has recreated us in Jesus Christ, our Lord?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 29, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Follow Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 NIV
Good reminder this morning:

1. Only one church. We are all united by Christ, in Christ. We are all baptized into the Body of Christ.

2. We don't need to and should not be worried about who in this world we follow. We shouldn't be following anyone here on earth. We don't need false gods. We don't have time to be arguing about which denomination we belong to. There are differences and that is why there are many denominations. Yet, there is only one Body of Christ. Quit worrying so much about the differences and use the time you would have spent trying to divide to get down to the business at hand and that is proclaiming the gospel.

3. Follow Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Missing You

1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will be attending worship at Faith Lutheran in Beaufort, SC. I have had occasion to worship there before. It is a mission congregation of the LCMS. I always try to attend worship when I am not at home. But, even though it is only a couple of times a year that I am away, I always miss my own congregation. The people at Zion who have been called into fellowship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ are warm and welcoming. I have known and served with them for many years. Even as God is faithful to them; they are eager to be faithful to Him.

God's peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Romans 16:17-27 Itching Ears

Romans 16:17-27 
We've all heard them; those who with smooth talk teach a false gospel. It is not any different today than in what it was in St. Paul's day. There is one way to tell if something proclaimed to you is the truth; know the scriptures, read them and hear them. The message proclaimed to us through the prophets is found in them. The fulfillment is found in them. Do not let your itching ears lead you to believing  smooth talkers whose aim is not to glorify God; but their own egos. It is neither wise nor safe to accept any doctrine that cannot be supported by scripture; scripture supports scripture. Read your Bibles daily and have a blessed day; a blessed life in Christ Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Romans 16:1-16 Greet One Another With A Holy Kiss

Romans 16:1-16 NIV
Paul commends both men and women to the church at Rome; to work with and assist Phoebe in her ministry and to greet other servants of the Lord.

Greet one another with a holy kiss, he tells them. I am a hugger and a kisser. I have gotten pretty good at refraining from hugging people without their permission. I have to admit, though, that on rare occasions I sometimes slip and someone gets hugged who probably prefers that I not invade their space.

I remember when the "sharing of the peace" first became popular during Worship Services years ago. Many people were really put off by this "touching." We have come a long way since that time. Sometimes, I wonder if we've gone overboard. My congregation is filled with very welcoming and loving brothers and sisters in Christ. At Zion, the sharing of God's peace among those worshipping can sometimes take up to five minutes even though we are not a large congregation by any means. There are many holy kisses shared. I wonder, at times, if I should put a stop to it. Not! In these words; "God's peace" or "God's peace be with you" we are asking to have peace continue or in some cases to be restored between us. We are essentially asking for or granting absolution for any sins we may have committed against each other. We are asking that any walls that we may have built, knowingly or unknowingly, between us and others in the community, by our words or actions, be torn down and that we be reconciled to one another in Christ Jesus. The physical action that comes in shaking hands or sharing a holy kiss (or hug) can be likened to tearing down the wall between us even as the void between us is breached. By the time the sharing of the peace is accomplished, I am usually standing at the altar waiting; but, I refrain from stopping this display of Christian love and reconciliation. I remind myself that only God knows who in the congregation may need to be reconciled to one another with the peace of God before they receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I trust that He is doing that while I wait trying not to hurry His work along.

God's peace be with you all.
Pr. J.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Romans 15:22-33 Saints at Zion

Romans 15:22-33 NIV
St. Paul was a bit of a traveler. He would like to have been everywhere and all at the same time. But, that was and is not humanly possible. There are times in our ministry when we all have to prioritize needs. There are times we may have to say no, I cannot come because I have to be elsewhere. No one person can do everything for everybody no matter how much we'd like to. When tragedy strikes I often have to leave whatever it is that I am doing or whomever I am with to minister to others who are experiencing major traumatic events in there lives. Sometimes, I just have to trust others to do some of the things I would normally do. It is called delegating. But, before delegating we are responsible to ensure that they are capable of carrying on the ministry to which they are called. We need to train others to help others in need. We need to make disciples. We really are not in this alone. We have many brothers and sisters in Christ to work with us for the glory of God.

We rejoice, not only when we can finally visit and pray with someone we have longed to see; but, we also rejoice in the knowledge that when we cannot be there ourselves; another saint or saints have been equipped to minister to those in need. I rejoice; because, I am never afraid to leave my congregation when I have to travel somewhere. They are in good hands. The saints (disciples) at Zion know their gifts and are fully capable of using them whether I am here or away.

Thanks be to God! That is how the Body of Christ works!

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen

Pr. J

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Romans 15:14-21 NIV Make It Your Ambition To Proclaim the Good News

Romans 15:14-21 NIV
I woke up this morning, mistakenly, thinking that it was Christmas morning. You see, I have a few services to attend today and for me, Christmas day is the day to celebrate Christ's birth. It just seems natural to me to celebrate his birth on Christmas Day. I've never quite adjusted to these early Christmas Eve Services. Something about them just doesn't seem quite right. For one; those who are traveling on Christmas Eve often don't get the opportunity to worship if there are no Christmas Day services. Being the wife of a retired Marine, I, remember many Christmas Eve's traveling and missing out on many Christmas Worship Services because there were none on Christmas Day. Secondly, I've always had the fear that Christmas has become so secularized that people would rather not spend the actual holiday as a Holy Day; but, more in line with the expectations of the world. I've kind of thought that maybe Jesus was taking a backseat on Christmas day.

I, personally, feel like I'm slacking by not sharing the Good News on Christmas Day. For years, I insisted on both an eve and a day service. However, due to lack of attendance; (the organist, usher, and me showed up), I finally acquiesced. Now, I go out and try to visit all of our shut-ins on Christmas Day, so that I am still able to proclaim:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6,7
I also insisted that we put in a midnight service to replace the service that had been deleted the following morning. We celebrate Christ's birth at Zion, not only at 6 pm on Christmas Eve; but, also at 11 pm. I have a notion that 11 pm might be closer to the time of Christ's actual birth and the service tends to last into the first minutes of Christmas morning.

Despite my personal preferences, it most probably does not really matter when we actually gather to commemorate Christ's birth. We should all be gathering often not only to commemorate his birth, but his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension into the Kingdom that he has prepared for us. In every season and in every place, we should, as St. Paul did, make it our ambition to proclaim the Good News so that those who have never heard will hear and understand. Jesus the Christ was born and lived and died and lives again for you! Enter into his peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. As for me, I will celebrate Christ's birth in community today and tomorrow with those who cannot be with us in community this evening. I hope those of you who will gather as community to worship today, will consider doing the same. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Romans 15:1-13 Ramblings

Romans 15:1-13
Soon and very soon (like tomorrow night, Christmas Eve) our sanctuaries will be filled with people who have come to praise God. It is a pleasure to see so many "Gentiles" gathered together to glorify His Holy Name.

St. Paul encouraged the followers to lift one another up with endurance; that all would hear what the scriptures would teach us. His hope was that God would give us all "the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice we might glorify God." May it be so, not just on Christmas Eve or Easter morning; but in all times and in all places.

We are given the scriptures so that we might learn who this Jesus is. Hear them. Read them. Study them. We are given the Holy Spirit that we might understand and be empowered to follow this one who came down to earth to save us from ourselves (and each other). Have mercy on one another, as Christ has mercy. Love one another, as Christ loves. Enter this Christmas season with a desire to do go to our neighbors; to live in unity and peace that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified in all that we say and think and do.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Not sure what to title this.... It has been a long night and sadly, I have rambled... Have a peaceful Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Romans 14 Loose Lips Sink Relationships

Romans 14 NIV
Many of my family members and friends had already lost their lives in death to causes that were related either directly or indirectly to alcohol or other drugs. Although, still drinking, on occasion, I had already been questioning how it was that so many who had been close to those who died from alcohol and drug related causes would continue to abuse these substances.

Today we have the reading that prompted me to finally stop drinking alcoholic beverages for my own pleasure, once and for all.
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall." (vs 19-21)

Drinking, I found, did not generally lead to peace. In fact, it generally led to disputes and divisions; some big, some small. It did not generally edify anyone. Although, I had by this time learned (the hard way) not to get drunk myself, I would still have a few drinks with family and friends. But, even this usually led to disaster. It was not good. Remember, the saying "Loose lips sink ships" from World War II? Well, alcohol and drugs loosen lips and loose lips sink relationships, as well. It doesn't take too many drinks to loosen lips.

Then, within one week ,I heard two different family members say things to the effect of: "Well, even Judy likes to drink." I was like, "What!? It's my fault they drink? It's my fault their lives are such a mess?!" I decided then that no one would ever be able to use me as an excuse for their abusive use of alcohol again. They could try. But, they would not be able to say honestly again, "even Judy drinks."

The end result was that I do not drink alcoholic beverages. I may unwittingly be a stumbling block to others; but, it will not be because of my use of alcohol. "It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall." (vs 21)

We are three days before Christmas. Many of my loved ones lost their lives during the Advent season. Please, be careful if you are drinking or drugging. We are free to choose what to eat or drink according to our own conscience. But, be careful that you do not become someone else's stumbling block; the cause of their demise. Do not turn anyone's laughter into sorrow because you believe that the way to your own happiness is getting drunk or high. Substance abuse destroys relationships. It destroys and takes away any opportunity to live life. It doesn't give. It takes life.

Live life in Christ and truly enjoy life!

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Romans 13:11-14 Son Shine

Romans 13:11-14 NIV
The sun will not be shining here for a couple more hours; but, whether I am ready or not it is time to wake up. I have been sleeping for the better part of the last couple of days. In spite of the antibiotics I don't feel any better this morning than two days ago. Today will be a busy day and I am thinking that after worship, caroling, and a Christmas Party that I might appreciate the light of day a bit more. Maybe, if I got moving in the light of the Son, I will feel better.

The Son shining on and in and through us has a way of reviving us. May God grant that we should all walk in the light of His Son. Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Romans 13:8-10 Abide in Love

Romans 13:8-10 NIV
Love does no harm. So, then why are so many relationships in trouble?

I would submit that for the most part human beings simply have a difficult time loving others as they love themselves. The ego takes over and we put ourselves before others; before God. What we want is what we will have no matter who it hurts.

But, if we turn and abide in Christ and He in us then Christ' love; his light, will shine through us and relationships will be restored. Christ's love is love that does not harm others. It reconciles rather than divides.

May the love of Christ abide in and through us, now and forever. Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Romans 13:1-7 Do Not Resist Arrest

Romans 13:1-7 NIV
Ok.. I've been waiting for this lesson.

Message for the day: If you are asked by an officer of the law to stop; STOP. Do not attempt to flee. Do not resist arrest. Do not assault the officer in any manner; physically or verbally. Just, don't do it. It's not the way to go. It will not turn out well for you or anyone else.

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience." (vs 1-5)

There are ways to peacefully protest. Harming or attempting to harm police officers or civilians who might get in the way is definitely not the way to go. Looting or damaging the property others have worked hard to obtain or maintain is definitely not the way in which a Christian would go.

May God grant us peaceful resolutions and reconciliation. May He help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember that Jesus did not raise a hand to defend himself nor would he allow his disciples to fight when he was arrested.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Romans 12:9-21 Live In Peace and Harmony

Romans 12:9-21 NIV
Just, be nice and do what is right, already! That's it! Quit playing games! Quit doing what is unlawful! Do what is good for all people and think a whole lot less about what it is that you want.

Paul admonishes the Romans to love one and another and treat one another with respect so that we might live in harmony with one another and in peace. Stealing from your neighbor, selling drugs to their children kind of breaks the harmony. It pretty much upsets the balance of peace in any community.

We are to hate what is evil and cling to those things that are good. But, that does not mean that we are to hate and take personal vengeance on those whom we have deemed to have done evil. That only creates more disharmony; disunity. Leave the vengeance to God. Pray for your enemy, that they will repent and turn to the way of the LORD; then and only then will we live in peace and harmony.

May God open the eyes and hearts of those who would divide our communities by doing what is harmful evil. May all of our children and their children live in health, wholeness and prosperity. May we all live in peace and harmony.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Romans 12:3-8 Many Members; One Body

Romans 12:3-8 NIV
Many members; one Body... When I speak to stewardship, I often refer to this concept of Paul's regarding there being many members of the Body in Christ. Each member has gifts given to them by God to serve God and to edify the whole Body. As Christ served humbly, so we are to use our gifts to serve humbly; acknowledging that without the combined gifts of others, our gifts would come to naught. When one member considers their gifts to be greater than another's (due to inflated ego; rather, than service in humility) and starts micro-managing, controlling the gifts of others, lording over others; then I usually get to see division among the members. The Body must serve in unison so that God might be glorified.

May God grant help us to serve with humility, even as Jesus humbled himself in order to save humanity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Romans 12:1-2 Transformed Not Conformed

Romans 12:1-2 NIV
Do not be conformed to the world. Be transformed in Christ.

Our discipleship small group has been discussing the difference between being conformed and transformed. Many within the church appear to be conforming to certain standards that they feel appropriate for a Christian. This is adds up to nothing more than good works and we all know that works without faith is not worth a hill of beans. Conformation is only an outward action. In order for our lives to be effective witnesses to and for Christ, we must abide in Christ and Christ in us. We must be transformed. We cannot be witnesses to the world; we cannot make disciples for Christ, unless we are disciples first. And, disciples are not those who have conformed to the world's standards of Christianity or anything else. Disciples are those who have been transformed by the loving, living, abiding presence of Jesus the Christ.

Be transformed. Be a disciple. Make a disciple.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Romans 11 The Elect

Romans 11 NIV
Exactly who are the elect that shall be saved? This is beyond my comprehension. Only God knows. The decision as to who will be saved is up to God, not me or you. According to St. Paul, the elect are both Jew and Gentile. The Jew because they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (vs 28, 29). The Jew by faith in the promise given to the patriarchs. The Gentile because of faith that these promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ has also received God's grace and mercy being ingrafted into the Body of Christ.

Whether, Jew or Gentile, we live by faith. Whether Jew or Gentile, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

Thanks be to God! To Him be all glory, now and forever! Amen!

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Just a reminder that the whole purpose of this blog is for you to read the Holy Bible. Some of our members at Zion had expressed a desire to read the whole Bible; but, confessed it was difficult. It was decided that I would write this blog with the hope that it would help others to focus on reading scripture one chapter at a time. The blog itself is not the point. It is hoped that you will read the chapter or portion of a chapter that each daily blog refers to. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Romans 10 Faithful Zeal

Romans 10 NIV
Many years ago, I was in sitting in a "religious" class and I responded to a question with this: "Faith comes by hearing by the Word." The response from the Pastor/teacher was no it does not and he moved on. That was that!

Paul wrote to the Romans: "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." (vs 17) And... no, not everyone who hears the word will receive it and accept it. Not even everyone who claims to be a Christian accepts Christ. I know that's hard to believe. When taking instruction or receiving guidance from someone who does sit in a place of Christian authority, listen. Listen to whether they testify that Jesus is Lord or not. Discern whether their zeal is based on real knowledge of Christ or if there zeal comes from someplace else. It may be that their zeal comes purely from the fact that they feel they have been elevated to some high seat in the church or because they get to do "good works" for the world around them to see. There zeal could come purely from their own ego.

Maybe you noticed and wondered why I put "religious" in quote marks above. This word is used in many ways today. Often, I hear it used in a derogatory sense pertaining to all who would profess Jesus as Savior. Spiritual tends to be applied to those who do not know Jesus but have made contact with their inner selves. That is often presented as the preferable way to go. I believe the opposite is true. It appears to me that those who profess to be spiritual are actually "religious" as they tend to have all kinds of rules as to how to conduct ones life (a certain, personal, morality to keep some sort of balance in life) and those who profess Jesus as Lord are spiritual as they live with zeal in the knowledge that Jesus is Lord. They follow Him and not personal ego-made rules to live by.

Beware! Not everyone who would be self-described as Christian is Christian. Some are indeed "religious;" teaching things not found in scripture and denying things that would open hearts to the message of Jesus; denying the very truth that would save us.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Romans 9:30-33 By Faith

Romans 9:30-33 NIV
What is it that saves; faith or works? It is faith alone that saves. Works will not do it. Faith will inspire us to pursue a life of doing good; but good works do not inspire us to faith. It was by faith that the prophets of old were saved. It was by faith in the promise that they were willing to put their lives on the line to proclaim God's truth.

It is indeed good for the world around us when we all pursue good works; but, it will not save a soul. Only faith in the one who lived and died and lives again for us; only through a living relationship with this One who saves us, do we inherit our place in the Kingdom of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. I haven't quite figured out why anyone would want to live in the Kingdom of God after they die if they don't want Him in their lives completely, now.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Romans 9:19-29 God is Patient

Romans 9:19-29 NIV
God, indeed, has shown us much patience. My patience wears thin at times. It sometimes just boggles my mind that so much bullying occurs. The love of God is rejected. The love of God through others is rejected; insults returned instead of love. When things don't go our way; when we don't get to be the center of things; we don't consider that maybe it is God's good will for us for that moment in time. We consider it an affront to us and do everything to get our own way even if it means negatively affecting others.

We are sinful human beings. Yet, God is patient with us; way more patient than we deserve. He does not want to execute His judgment upon us. But, ultimately the day will come when it will be done. In the meantime; let us consider His patience with us. We still live! We still have the opportunity to repent (to turn around) and follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God where there will be much more joy and peace than can be found by following in the ways of the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Romans 9:1-18 Speak With Integrity

Romans 9:1-18 NIV
"I am speaking the truth in Christ - I am not lying..." (vs 1) This verse never fails to bring a smile to my face. It reminds me of some young ones whom I know and love.

It is good when we can say with Paul I am speaking the truth, my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit. But, sadly that is not always the case. It is difficult to know when someone is truly speaking the truth and so we must depend upon the Holy Spirit within to help us discern the truth.

Paul's truth in Christ, sometimes hurt people. The truth is not always pleasing to hear. May we always speak with integrity for the good of those whom God loves.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Romans 8:31-39 Our Father Loves You

Romans 8:31-39 NIV
The love of a parent for a child is beyond comprehension. Most human parents will go to all lengths to protect and guide their children. There are even times when, because we are human, a parent's love actually enables our children; harming their futures. There also may be times when something comes between a parent and a child; but, that does not mean that the parent stops loving them no matter what their children may have done.

As I have witnessed this love between parents and children, I have often thought; so how does our Father in heaven feel when we go astray; when we do what we ought not or fail to do those things that we ought to be doing; when we turn our backs on Him; when we reject His good gifts and receive worldly favors of false gods? No matter what influences might come into our lives that would estrange us from our Father in heaven; Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Of course, God knows you personally, because He is your Father and He will always love you. May He help us to love Him more, because He loves us so.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Romans 8:18-30 Praying In and With Creation

Romans 8:18-30 NIV

Wolf Point, Keweenaw Peninsula, MI
Years ago, I took a three month sabbatical on Lake Superior. I paddled about 1/3 of the southern shoreline, sleeping in a tent on sometimes some pretty rocky and isolated shorelines. It was very cold and rainy that summer. The ice did not leave the lake until a week or so before I left. There were times when I did not leave the tent much due to the weather. The theme for this sabbatical was "Praying with Creation" from these verses in Romans 8. During the evenings (and when it was storming), I read and studied the life of Bishop Frederic Baraga, an early Roman Catholic missionary to the region. While out on the water, alone, I spent a whole lot of time praying within the context of God's beautiful creation. I prayed the Small Catechism - many times! I prayed for the people who lived in the homes I paddled by. I prayed for the members of my congregations; as well as my family and other friends. I prayed for God's creation; that as stewards of the God's creation, we might begin to do a better job of caring for it. The Spirit groaned within me when I knew not what or how to pray. And, it was indeed in those moments that I was reminded that God is still in charge and He has a plan - a plan that is for the good of all who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.

A very strange dream woke me the other morning. The sky was dark. It was filled with falling satellites. Satellites used to provide us with television, telephones, internet, radar, gps, etc., etc., literally blackened the sky and they were falling; crashing to the earth, endangering everything on the planet, including humankind. It is not only the earth and all that is in and on it that humankind is using up for our own pleasure and convenience; but, even the skies...

I am well aware that many theologians would have us know that the creation in Romans 8 refers to fallen man, ourselves. There are those who refuse to see that the living things around us actually live. However, that said, I cannot read Romans without also being reminded that the whole creation that surrounds us is indeed groaning under the stress we have put it. It grieves me to know that we so unjudiciously use fossil fuels to the detriment of the land, sea, and skies. I wonder how wise it is to be filling our skies with satellites for our convenience? Our waste pollutes the whole creation.

I do not find it so unbelievable that the whole of creation is groaning for our redemption. Why would it not, in light of the fact that until fallen man is redeemed we can not fully comprehend what we have done and continue to do to God's whole creation? We will most probably continue to abuse and destroy it.

May God help us to be better stewards of His whole creation; not just for the sake of the creation around us, but for the sake of humankind.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 8, 2014

Romans 8:1-17 Child of God

Romans 8:1-17 NIV
"To all believe in Jesus Christ, He gives the power to become the children of God, bestowing upon us the Holy Spirit." I say words similar to this just about every Sunday as I remind you, following confession, that you are forgiven your sins by God's great mercy. Paul writes to the Romans: "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."

By faith, we are the children of God. We are heirs of God; inheriting the blessings; inheriting the Kingdom that He has promised. The Spirit of Christ dwells within all who believe. Just as he prayed "Our Father;" as Jesus called God "Father;" because the Spirit of Christ abides within us, we, too, call out to "Our Father who art in heaven."

Rejoice, for you are forgiven your sins. You are a child of God!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Romans 7 I Do Not Do What I Desire

Judy Mattson
Baptized into the Body of Christ
Huron River, MI
Romans 7 NIV
Saints, yet sinners; justified by the blood of Christ, daily we continue to struggle with sin. You and I are not alone in this. Even Paul, who was marvelously converted when he met the ascended Jesus on his way to persecute more Christians, continued to struggle with his sinful self. He wrote:

     "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
     So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vs 15-25)

The fight with sin is an ongoing battle within us. We confess and ask forgiveness for those things that we have done as well as for those things that we have left undone. We confess and ask forgiveness daily even as we remember our baptisms into the Body of Christ; giving thanks to God who has delivered us from even ourselves.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Romans 6 Dead And Yet Alive In Christ!

Romans 6 NIV                                                                        
Judy Mattson's photo.
Died in Christ and yet we live! Live life!
Photo: Old Sheldon Church, Beaufort, SC
There are those who think that because we believe, we can keep on sinning; because we are confident in the promise that God has forgiven our sins.  Paul addresses this problem in Chapter 6 of Romans. "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" This attitude that God's grace will cover everything we can do, whatever or whenever we choose, without worrying about it's consequences is (at least in part) what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. What is cheap grace? Cheap grace is no grace!

We, who have been baptized were baptized into his death. As our old self was drowned in the waters of baptism; we were raised to new life in Him.  We have died once to sin; how and why would we continue in that sin. Assuredly, we will all continue to sin. While we are still in the flesh, we will continue to struggle with the desires of this world. We will struggle as simultaneous sinner and saint. But, those who abide in Christ and He in them will not willfully sin. To willfully sin is cheap grace and then to keep repeating the sin just because you think you enjoy it is to spit in the face of Jesus and actually reject the gift of life given to us in his death.

The old self was crucified with him, so that we might live life in the kingdom of God. Live Life in Him!

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Romans 5:12-21 Saint and Sinner

Romans 5:12-21 NIV
Through Adam, sin came into the world. His trespass resulted in condemnation for all people. There is no way around it. We are sinful human beings. We are sinners. Yet, through Jesus Christ, we have received God's grace. Through the righteousness of Jesus Christ we have received forgiveness. We have received life.

As confusing as that may seem to some, we are both sinners and saints. It is obvious to all (or at least should be if our eyes are open) that we sin daily. Who can question our propensity to sin; to turn our backs on God's will as Adam did? Yet, at the same time because of Jesus' righteous sacrifice for us, we have been justified. We are holy in the eyes of God.

Thanks be to God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Romans 5:1-11 Suffering and Peace

Romans 5:1-11 NIV
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of sufferings, we can know the peace that comes with being reconciled to God through faith.

There are days when I just shake my head and think "Wow! Again! I thought we had this all worked out. The enemy just doesn't give up." Then, I am reminded that we too were once God's enemy. Yet, He manages to open our eyes and hearts and minds to a greater understanding of the love He has for us; even as He poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Yet, we are aware that there are those who have rejected the love of God. There are those who have rejected the Holy Spirit. We are aware because it is often through those who reject His love and His peace that the church endures suffering. But, we remember that God can work all things for the good; that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. We have hope that even those who cause suffering to others will receive the love of God through Christ Jesus and know His peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Romans 4 Abraham Justified By Faith Alone

Romans 4 NIV
There is nothing in the world that we can do to earn the promise of salvation. Not a thing! It is by faith alone, in the Son of God who gave Himself for us, that we receive this gift of life.

No matter how hard we try; no matter how well our good intentions; without faith we have nothing. Paul reminds us that it was Abraham's faith that was credited to him as righteous. Abraham's faith was not based on something that he already had or did. His faith was based purely on a promise from God. Abraham believed God and he was counted righteous for that faith. He trusted God! Because he trusted Him; Abraham was willing to do God's will no matter what it was.

It is as simple (and maybe as complicated) as that. Trust the Lord with all your heart and soul and you will know and receive the promise of eternal life in His Kingdom; in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Romans 3 Faith Alone

Romans 3
It is difficult to break these beginning chapters of Romans down into bite-sized portions. They must be read in context. The jist of chapter 3 is this: Jews and Gentiles, all people, are found righteous in the eyes of God by one thing; that is by faith alone.

We all fall short. We are all sinners; yet, by faith we are justified by God's grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. We are declared righteous through faith in the righteous one who willingly shed his blood for us. All the good works in the world will not make us righteous. Faith alone does this.

Yet, because we are saved through faith, that law is not nullified. We don't do whatever it is that we want; whenever we want. Rather our faith, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, inspires us to uphold the law.

God, grant us all this gift of faith!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 1, 2014

Romans 2 Circumcision and Baptism

Romans 2 NIV
Truth is not always what we see or hear from the lips of others.

It is my perception; whether conceived by the Spirit of God or otherwise, I am not always sure, that often we judge others by our own misperceptions. Christians, too, are often judged by what the world and the people around them perceive to be the truth. The truth is not always what we perceive it to be. What we see is not always what is. Paul uses the example of circumcision. Circumcision only proves that the person was involved in the ritual of circumcision. But, Paul, insists that to be a Jew takes more than an outward ritual. Circumcision also involves the heart. He wrote to the Romans: "A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code." (vs 28)

It is a sad reality that in Christianity today, there are many who have received the Sacrament of Baptism; but, have later rejected their place in our Father's kingdom. They have performed the ritual; but, the reality of being a child of God is not within their hearts. These are the ones that the evil one will use to point fingers at and persecute those whose hearts are on fire for the Lord. They will search out the sins (the outward actions or inactions) of those who love the Lord and use it in attempts to thwart the proclamation of the Gospel. I am speaking of that charge of hypocrisy that is often lodged against the Christian. Yet, how hypocritical is it for one who has turned their hearts against the Lord to bring a charge against one who loves Him? It is by the judgment that we bring against others; that we are judged.

May God help us to seek out the truth and speak the truth. May the truth that is in us always be that of the Spirit of God (which is love and most lovely) and not merely the outward face of the law (which most often is quite ugly). May God grant that our perceptions always be Spirit led.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Romans 1:18-32 You Know the Truth; Quit Ignoring It!

Romans 1:18-32 NIV
Those who know the truth and ignore it tend to make be just a bit crazy. They get into trouble because they have ignored the truth of God. They get into trouble for following after and spending their time and money worshipping false gods. They not only do this themselves; but they also approve and teach others to reject and/or ignore God to everyone's detriment. They get into trouble and they wonder why.

The why is because they follow trouble. They worship it. Chaos and drama are a way of life. For those who want peace; there is a way. God has given us a way. Quit ignoring Him. Stop rejecting the Prince of Peace, for peace can be found only in living in relationship with Jesus the Christ, who is our peace. You want trouble to go away; then depart from doing what is evil and glorify God. Evil begets evil. Steer clear!

You know the truth. You know the way. You know how to live life. Willful sin is not the way. Willfully ignoring and rejecting the truth of God is not the way. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Quit suppressing the truth and embrace it; that you, too, might have abundant life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Romans 1:8-17 I Love To Tell The Story

Romans 1:8-17 NIV
I was having a hard time falling asleep last night so I turned the television on and flipped through the Christian Evangelist type stations. That "fluff and stuff to please itching ears" is usually enough to put me to sleep. However, I ran across one that seemed to be making sense. In that, I mean that he was actually proclaiming the gospel and not soliciting money for the program to make you rich! What initially caught my attention was that he was asking: why, if we all like to sing the hymn, "I Love To Tell The Story," then, why don't we tell the story?

Why isn't it told more? Why isn't the story of Jesus shared with everyone? Are we, are you, ashamed of the gospel?

Paul, even in the face of death, was not afraid to share the gospel with everyone, both to Greeks and non-Greeks, to the Jew and to the Gentile. Paul wanted the whole world to know that righteousness that comes by faith in God; by faith in the one who loves the world so much that he was willing to die in our place, in your place. If you love your neighbor; if you love your family; then for their sake, tell the story of Jesus and his love.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 28, 2014

Romans 1:1-7 Bound and Free

Romans 1:7 NIV
We have finished reading the book of the Acts of the Apostles and have heard much about Paul. Paul is the accepted author of this Epistle to the Romans. We have to back track a bit from where we were yesterday to being Romans. The letter was written before his bondage by the Romans. Paul begins the letter by stating that he is a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God. It is through Christ that this Roman Jew has received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name, among whom we are also the called of Jesus the Christ.

Paul is a bondservant of Jesus Christ. He has been call apart from the world to proclaim the name of Jesus to the world. So have we. So have all who believe. By the grace of God we are bondservants to Christ; bound by faith to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. We are bound to Christ. Even while we are free in this world; we are bound to the Word of God. Thanks be to God!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Acts 28:23-31 Eyes, Ears, And Hearts Be Opened, Please!

Acts 28:23-31 NIV
The Kingdom of God has been proclaimed. Who has heard? Who has listened? Who has understood?

Today we celebrate the national holiday known as Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is that the Kingdom of God has been opened to us through the loving sacrifice made by Jesus, for us. But, how much thankfulness do we really get to see? Sure, there are the platitudes. But, is it a reality in the every day lives of the world around us? Can we see it in the actions around us? The world seems to be in a pretty big mess. People disrespecting people. People killing people; not just in body; but, in spirit; emotionally, as well. People disrespecting themselves. People disrespecting God. Oh, my! Some days the vulgarity seen in this world is just a bit much. It would be a good thing for us to slow down just a bit and give thanks rather than disrespect.

"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." (vs 27)

In need of a healing? May God grant that your eyes, ears, and heart be opened so that you might know the great love that He has for you and turn to Him for healing; for hope of a life filled with peace. Oh, that's right... There's not enough drama in peace. And... that's no fun. May God grant us a desire and the will to live without the drama.

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Acts 28:11-22 Accepted or Rejected

Acts 28:11-22 NIV
Forever and ever... It seems like there were always be those who support the servants of God and there will also always be those who will do anything and everything to subvert the message brought by God's servants.

Paul has finally made it to Rome under guard. The believers from the area went to meet him when they heard that he was there. The local Jewish leaders also want to hear from him. But, they want to hear because they have heard only bad things about this Christian sect. Whether it is accepted or rejected, Paul, the prisoner, is still  provided opportunities by God to proclaim the message of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ to many people.

Sometimes, we will share the Good News with people whom we think might be open to it. At other times, we will keep our lips closed for fear that the message (and we) will be rejected. This was not the way that Paul followed. It was definitely not The Way of Jesus. The Good News is for all people. Do not be afraid to share it.

We are called and sent to share the message of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Kingdom through the sacrifice of Jesus. Maybe we should ask ourselves what news it is that we share most often with others. Is that message about our favorite sports team or politician or maybe television star or musician? Or maybe what we talk about is the latest blow-out or party favor (the illegal kind)? Hmmm... We humans tend to place a lot of emphasis on false gods. What about sharing the message of peace - the peace that is received in the knowledge of what Christ has done for us? For the Christian, there can be no greater focus than on sharing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord with those who do not know him. Do not be afraid to do that! Whether the message is accepted or rejected, it is still the message that saves lives. Give them a chance to know it and know Him!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Acts 28:1-10 Paul on Malta

Acts 28:1-10 NIV
Snakes have never bothered me, too much. When my sons were young, they were always bringing home different sorts of creatures to care for. They were usually allowed to keep and care for them when my husband was deployed. He wasn't too big on creatures in the house. I felt it was good for them to learn about God's other creatures. My eldest son brought home a slew of baby water moccasins when he was in Jr. High. We kept them for a while in a covered bowl on the kitchen table; at least, until the day I came home from work and they had all escaped. I rounded them up and released them into the National Forest behind our home. No more snakes. I also drew the line at the bats he tried to bring into the house... But, most other creatures, slimy, scaly, feathered, or furry were welcome.

The people on Malta figured that Paul was as good as dead when a snake latched onto his hand. But, no. Paul merely shook it off into the fire and he was unharmed. Opinions change. The people then wonder if he is a god. How much more they must have thought that when he prayed and laid hands on Publius' father and the man was healed. No, Paul was not a god. But, God was with him on Malta as He led him to Rome to stand trial. The power of God continued to minister to others through Paul to the day of his death.

Paul was not afraid. He was calm as he shook the snake off his hand. He did God's will without hesitation as he prayed for and healed the sick man. May God help us to serve Him and His people, one day at a time, one step at a time, wherever he will lead us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 24, 2014

Acts 27:13-44 Hear the Storm Warnings

Acts 27:13-44 NIV
Sometimes, when we make mistakes we learn from them.

Stormy day on Huron Bay, U.P.
The sailors did not listen to Paul when he warned them that it was to dangerous to set sail, in the first place. Now in the midst of the raging storm that he'd warned them about, they are ready to listen to him. They ran their ship aground and ultimately their lives are spared. God is with them. He has plans for Paul. He wants Paul to stand trial before Caesar in order for him to testify about Jesus.

When we find ourselves in the midst of storms because we failed to heed the warnings about the direction we were heading in, it is not too late. Listen to God. Listen to where He would have you go and what He would have do. God has plans for you! He will do all to ensure that His plans are carried out. But, listen to Him!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Acts 27:1-12 NIV Listen to the Voice of Wisdom and Reason

Acts 27:1-12 NIV
Sometimes, the majority needs to listen to the voice of wisdom. Often, it does not. The church on earth is often set up like a democracy. Everyone gets a voice. In January the council at Zion will take a look at the voting member roster and establish who must be removed from voting member status to the inactive baptized roster. Those who have not worshipped with us in the last year will no longer have a vote at our congregation meeting later that month. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves having to this is. But, it is necessary. Our constitution requires a 20% quorum at congregational meetings. Sometimes, it is difficult to get to that number in light of the fact that we have so many voting members who attend only a couple of Sundays a year; usually Christmas and Easter. It is also not always wise to have people who are not involved in the ministry of the church voting. When we vote, it is helpful that those who are voting have a big picture of what it is that we're voting on. Just as in government elections, we need to try to look at not just what is going to serve us as individuals; but, what is the greater good.

At our last annual meeting, the question of what time we should hold worship services came up at the congregation meeting. It was added to the agenda at the last minute. Some wanted to change the worship time to an earlier time, at least during the summer so that they would have more "play" time following worship. I advised against this as we have families who travel about 20 miles to worship and some of our seniors have a very difficult time getting there that early. But, the vote passed. The consequence was that our attendance dropped once the new time hit. Even those who wanted the time change didn't attend as often as they had before. And.. once, the time changed back to what it was when school started, some of those who quit coming during the summer never made it back. The majority had indeed voted; but, without actually putting much fore-thought about the long-term consequences of the vote the whole congregation suffered.

If there is to be a vote; sometimes, (always would be better) the majority needs to listen to the voice of wisdom. Paul warns about sailing toward Italy so late in the season. They had already been battling the storms and had sought shelter in a safe harbor. But, they took a vote and they are about to sail on treacherous seas. We will find that in upcoming days that there were consequences for this vote. They will realize they should have listened to the voice of wisdom and reason.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Acts 26 Door of Opportunity

Acts 26 NIV

Ft. Boonesborough, KY
God will provide opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Some opportunities come in gentle ways; others, not so gentle. Even while Paul is imprisoned he manages to tell others about Jesus. He is able to tell the story of Jesus to rulers, even kings because of his bondage. In fact, he seems to relish the idea as he has asked to be sent to Caesar for trial. In spite of the fact that King Agrippa finds him innocent; to Rome he will go, simply because Paul has asked to go.

Paul has chosen the not so gentle way to get the Word out there. Yet, even in the face of more false accusations and more bondage, he freely gives his life so that others might be saved through faith in Jesus the Messiah. There will be plenty of opportunities for each of us to share the life saving message of Jesus the Christ with others. When opportunity knocks, open the door, and enter in. God will be with you.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Acts 25:13-27 Settling Petty Disputes

Acts 25:13-27 NIV
We see it all the time. People are falsely accused publically. So called News Reporters do it all of the time. They judge situations before all of the story is actually in. The stories explode without the truth ever being uncovered. By the time the accusations get to court, everyone has their opinions about guilt or innocence based on biased news reports. Innocent men and women's reputations are drug through the mud without any good cause.

Paul is still in custody. The Jews are still accusing him of things that really are not even criminal. He has challenged them to send him to Caesar to be tried since it is his right as a Roman citizen. But, Festus can find no charge that he can bring to warrant sending Paul for trial.

There is enough real crime in the world to have to deal with. Why waste anyone's time with petty disputes? Petty disputes can be taken care of without going to court. All it takes is a little bit of empathy and the willingness to listen to and to talk to one another (without attacking them). All it takes is a desire to love God and His children.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Acts 25:1-12 Appealing to the Court

Acts 25:1-12 NIV
It is best when things can be resolved out of court. But, sometimes it is necessary to appeal to the state so that things can be straightened out; so that the innocent one might be protected; so that peace (at least some semblance of it) might be restored.

Paul's message intimidated the Jews. His message was one of grace for all people who would follow Jesus. The message of the Jews who despised Paul was one of strict adherence to the law. But, Paul was out of reach, he was in the hands of the state in Caesarea. The Jews really wanted to get Paul back in their own territory so they would be able to manipulate the local courts. But, Festus would have none of that. Paul would have none of that. Paul appealed to a higher court. He appealed to Caesar. The request was granted. His life was prolonged with this request. His ability to continue to proclaim the Good News to those around him continued.

According to Matthew 5:25, Jesus said:“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison." 

The Jews who persecuted Paul had no intention of settling matters with Paul outside of court. They wanted him gone for good. They wanted the message he carried gone. The chaos that comes with falsely accusing someone seems not to have bothered them much. Paul, with his message of forgiveness in Christ Jesus, really seemed to be a thorn in their side; a thorn which they wanted to remove by removing Paul from this world. There was no reconciling. They were right. Paul was wrong. So they spent their lives angrily chasing after Paul. What a way to live! Is it not been better to discuss things rather than attack those who disagree with you? It appears that the imprisonment the Jews suffered in the hardness of their hearts may have been worse than Paul's imprisonment by the state.

The continual persecution provided some obstacles for Paul's ministry; but, he was still able to continue to testify in spite or maybe even because of his imprisonment. Hardships may come; but, God's will, will still be done. Is it not better to resolve things before they go too far? Sitting down and talking or praying together might be a good start before one's life is wasted away; before one is imprisoned by their our misplaced anger and fear.

May the peace of God be with you all and may we be reconciled to one another in Christ Jesus.

God's Peace -  Pr. J

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Acts 24 Truth

Acts 24
Have you ever been in the position where no matter what you say to defend yourself; what you believe or what you have done, you continued to be attacked? It seems that there will always be those who just always have to be right and refuse to hear the truth. They refuse to accept the truth and they will go to all lengths to persecute those who desire to speak the truth. Jesus was not found guilty; but, he was crucified. Paul is tried over and over again. He has not been found guilty; but, his accusers are always ready to accuse him in their attempts to be rid of him. Paul, an innocent man, spends an inordinate amount of time under guard as the Jews continue to attempt to discredit him.

Paul is locked up and one would suppose that this would keep him from speaking the truth about the resurrection through Jesus. At least, that's what the Jews want; for the truth to be silenced. But, no, it does not have that effect. In fact, the bondage enables him to testify over and over again to the truth. There are still jailers and judges as well as the Jews, themselves, who accuse him who must listen over and over again to the truth of Jesus the Messiah.

I know I'm repeating this; but, let me say it again.... God knows what He's doing. He has a plan. Speak the truth. Testify to His goodness through Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid. He is with you now and always and works all things for the good of those who love Him according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

May God grant us the strength and the courage to speak the truth in love, always, for His glory.

God's Peace - Pr.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Acts 23:12-35 Oaths

Acts 23:12-35 NIV
Wow! What a good example to not go making vows that you're not going to be able to keep!

Some Jews formed a conspiracy to have Paul killed. They vowed not to eat or drink until he was dead. Their plot was thwarted by the Roman guard as Paul was transferred to Caesarea to protect him. A few years actually transpired from the day they made these oaths until Paul's death. Although, I cannot see where scripture says they broke this oath; I have a strong feeling that they broke it not too long after they made it.

God had plans for Paul. Even as a prisoner, he would continue to share the Good News with others. No one can know all the plans of God. It is really not in our best interest to make oaths that are contrary to His will.

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matt 5:33-37)

May God help each of us to refrain from making oaths or promises that we will not be able to keep. May He guide us so that we refrain from persecuting those whom He has called and sent. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 17, 2014

Acts 23:1-11 Upset By The Truth

Acts 23:1-11 NIV
The truth has a tendency to upset people who insist on living their own truth, which is no truth at all; but, a justification for our sinful beliefs and lifestyles. They will rebel and this will attack those who speak the truth in attempts to make themselves look good and right.

With much turmoil, Paul testified to the resurrection of the dead in Jerusalem. The uproar that accompanied it was so horrific that the troops got Paul out of there for his own safety. "The following night the Lord stood near Paul and told said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'” (vs 11) And, so he will. Under guard Paul will be taken to Rome to testify to the truth in Jesus Christ again. He will witness to the resurrection and eternal life in Christ even as he makes that journey.

Where is our journey taking us? Along "The Way," will we be witnesses of the love of God in Christ Jesus; regardless, of how many might attack us because their lives are upset by the truth? How many lives will be changed by hearing the Word?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Acts 22 The Lord Said

Acts 22
Because, the Lord said. The Lord said to Paul, "Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles." (vs 21) This was Paul's defense for proclaiming the Good News. Of all the people in the world, Paul's history was such that he would be the last one that anyone would expect to be a follower of Jesus, doing the Lord's will. He was both a Roman and a Jew. He persecuted Christians; standing by and approving of Stephen's death. But, the ascended Lord, Jesus, came to him. The Lord, Jesus, sent him to proclaim the Good News.

So what do you do when the Lord sends you? Do you go as Paul went, even in the face of hardship, persecution; even if you might have to face death? Or, is your reaction more like Moses' first reaction when he made excuses and tried to reject God's call to go to the people to save them. Moses did not want to God; but, he ultimately went because the Lord said.

God knows who is capable. God knows who and how He has been preparing those whom He will send. Paul's history made him an unlikely candidate to be sent by God according to human understanding. But, it was exactly his history that prepared him for that mission. God knows what He is doing. He does not send unless He prepares us first.

Those first disciples were ordinary men. They were not perfect. They were not all highly educated. But, God prepared them. They followed Jesus around for three years, learning, being disciple. The Lord is preparing you. The Lord said, "Go and make disciples of all people." Will you listen? Will you go?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Acts 21:37-40 God Chooses Whom He Will Choose

Acts 21:37-40 NIV
God chooses whom He will choose. He calls whom He will call. If you hear Him call; answer Him. No matter what you think; He doesn't make mistakes.

Paul is a prime example of this. He was one of the greatest persecutors of the Christians; yet, God called him to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ to all people no matter who they were or what their heritage was. He was both a Roman citizen and a Jew so he was able to be all things to all people. When others would have been crucified without a second though; Paul was able to call on his citizenship; his heritage, to save him; to prolong his life so that he could continue to serve as God had called and sent him to serve.

If God is calling you; answer. God doesn't make mistakes.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, November 14, 2014

Acts 21:17-36 Saved By Grace Through Faith

Acts 21:17-36 NIV
They all claim to serve the same God, the one true God. Yet, there is an uprising against Paul in the city. The Jews are pretty excited about what Paul has been doing among the gentiles. The words that come through him have turned the gentiles to the worship of God. Yet, the Jews are zealous for the law. They are so zealous that they are not at all happy in their perception that Paul undermines the law.

Christians, beware that you do not follow in the footsteps of those Jews who persecuted Paul. The law does not save. It is only by God's grace through faith that we are saved. Be careful not to become a stumbling block to others by insisting that they do or don't follow certain rituals or traditions attributed to the law. There is only one God. May God open our eyes and hearts to His great love for us so that we might in unity love and serve Him as well as all of His children.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Acts 21:1-16 Bound

Acts 21:1-16 NIV
One of the greatest hindrances that I have seen that keeps those who profess to be Christians is the fear that they may offend others with the truth. If they offend others, then they might not be as well liked as they would desire. Paul didn't worry about this. The truth was more important that popularity. Salvation of those he met was more important than whether they like him or not and Paul had more than a few enemies.

He knew he was headed for trouble when he headed for Jerusalem. He, himself, had so much as told the people at Ephesus that he was willing and even desired to move toward his death. His only concern was advancing the good news and ultimately the Kingdom of God. Here in Tyre, the prophet Agabus, warned that he would be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The people, again, pleaded with Paul not to go. But, his heart and mind were set. He responded: “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (vs 13)

Are you willing to speak the truth? Are you willing to tell how much our Lord, Jesus Christ loved; was willing to die for us? Or are the things of this world like popularity more important to you than your neighbors salvation?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Acts 20:13-38 The Way Is Not A Walk In The Park

Acts 20:13-38 NIV
Is it not the hope of any parent, whether physical or spiritual, that those whom we have taught will follow in The Way? To bring them up in The Way so that they too might revel in the love of Jesus to the degree that their heart's desire is to share the Good News of the Kingdom with others. The primary work of a disciples or a follower of Jesus is to make more disciples; more followers, of Jesus.

Paul has taught the people of Ephesus. He has discipled them. But, now on his way to Jerusalem to face much persecution he calls the elders of the church in Ephesus to himself. It is pretty much his permanent earthly farewell to them quite like Jesus warned his disciples of his impending death. But, Paul is not concerned for himself. His only goal is to finish the task the Lord Jesus gave to him. He has gathered the elders to encourage them to continue in The Way; shepherding the people; making disciples, when he is gone. He knows that he will in all probability be put to death; yet, his life is nothing to him compared to preaching the Kingdom through Jesus. Nothing has nor will stand in Paul's way of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

Paul faced many hardships. Those who are faithful to testifying to the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus will face hardships. The Way is really not a walk in the park. It can be most difficult. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. There will be those even among the flock who will make it most difficult for this testimony to be heard. There will be wolves in sheep's clothing to confront. There will be persecutions. But, God is with you. The Spirit of God will guide you in the way even as the Spirit led Paul.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Please remember to read the scripture of the day. Just click on the scripture link at the top of the blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Acts 20:7-12 Preaching Till Midnight

Acts 20:7-12 NIV
When my sons were young teens, they would attend the Lutheran Church that we belonged to on Sunday mornings with me. In the evening the oldest son and sometimes the younger would attend Worship at a Non-denominational Church where some of their friends attended. I think they preferred the music and the fact you didn't have to try to follow a bulletin or any order of Worship. They weren't old enough to drive so I would drop them off and pick them up. (Yes, I did attend with them on a couple of occasions.) The problem was that one could never tell how long the services would last or when to pick them up. More than once, I found myself waiting in the parking lot until close to midnight. They did not have stained glass windows so I could see inside the church through the clear panes. The front pews on those late nights usually had children sleeping on them. On one occasion, at least, the children resting in the pews were my sons.

Many Lutherans have a pretty low tolerance for a service that last longer than hour. I have found that my own tolerance for sitting in the pew for long periods is directly related to how well the preacher can proclaim the Gospel. Does he/she actually know the Law and Gospel? Does he/she actually believe it?

Paul could be a little long-winded. In fact, I am amazed at how long-winded even some of his letters were in light of the fact that there were no typewriters or computers. On one particular Sunday, Paul was preaching in an upper room where a young man was apparently sitting on the third-story window ledge. About midnight, this young man fell asleep and fell out of the window. Don't worry. He lived. They went back upstairs; broke bread and Paul continued to preach until daylight.

Seem a little extreme? When one is hungry for the Word and another is eager to share it so as to make disciples nothing is too extreme. Go and make disciples...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, November 10, 2014

Acts 20:1-6 Mission Field Is Large

Acts 20:1-6 NIV
The mission field is large. It is where you are. It is all around you. It is world-wide. There was an awful lot of area for those first disciples to cover; a lot of people to reach. Paul spent his ministry trying to reach all of them with the Good News of the Kingdom. After encouraging the disciples who served with him in Ephesus, he left them and set out to encourage others with the Good News of the Kingdom.

I was in a small group not long ago when the question was asked what we should do if our attempts to share God's peace with someone are rebuffed. Here is the answer that I hear from scripture: shake the dust off of your feet; shake the dust out of your clothes (Mark 6:10-12, Acts 18:6); and thank God that for the blessing of peace that has returned to you (Matthew 10:12-14) even as you move on to share the Good News with someone who needs and will hear it. The mission field is; after all, quite large. Sharing the Good News is a win/win for those who share it. If it is received, we have gained a brother or sister. If it is not, we have the peace of God which we have tried to bless others with. Do not fear to share the Good News. Do not be afraid to be rebuffed. The Lord is with you. His peace is a blessing to you.

The mission field is large. There are still a lot of people to reach. Our mission is not something that happens just in the sanctuary of our churches where we feel safe. Our mission will take us out into the world sharing the Good News of the Kingdom in Christ Jesus and encouraging others in the faith.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Acts 19:23-41 False Gods Big Business

Acts 19:23-41 NIV
Here's the truth of the matter. False gods are big business.  They provide somebody something and that somebody that receives something is not usually the worshipper. I could name a few, but you already know where your loyalties lie. You already know who is getting rich from you loyalty to those things that you have set above the LORD. And, yes, if a false god is going to be exposed for what it really is then somebody is going to get upset. If as a worshipper of a false god you heard the truth that you don't have to purchase a god; but, that God has freely given himself to you wouldn't you set aside a false god? You well may, and in doing so you may be depriving someone of their ill-gotten gain.  You may find yourself in the midst of a riot created by the ones whose evil has been exposed.

That is exactly what happened in Ephesus. A silversmith upset that the missionaries of Jesus were exposing the gods he made with silver as false gods started a riot among the other false god makers and the worshippers of the goddess Artemis.

Maybe a question to ponder this morning might be: What gods are you supporting and which ones are supporting you with the treasures that one true God has given to you? Set aside your false gods and worship the one true God who is really there for you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Acts 19:1-22 Paul In Ephesus

Acts 19:1-22 NIV
Some amazing things were going on in Ephesus when Paul was there. People were coming to faith; they were receiving the Holy Spirit, the sick were being healed and demons were being exorcised. Paul was a busy man or maybe it would be more correct to say that the Holy Spirit was mighty active in and through Paul?

How active is the Holy Spirit in your life? In our life together? Think (really think) about the amazing things God has done for you and share those stories with others. If you can't think of any amazing things, maybe it's time to take a closer look at what it is that we really believe. Do you believe that the God who created the heavens and the earth can do all things?

Pastor J.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Acts 18:18-28 Go Out

Acts 18:18-28 NIV
The message of the kingdom is spreading. Paul is busy going from community to community encouraging disciples so that when he leaves the sharing of the Gospel will continue to grow and edify the church, giving glory to God.

I also heard this story from some of the speakers here at the NALC Mission Festival over the last day. It was a good reminder that some of us are definitely not called to be chaplains to a congregation; but, evangelists. It was a reminder that we are called to go out into the world proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom in Christ Jesus to all people. If we think that going to Worship on Sundays whether it is in a traditional building or a house church, let us all think again. Being a Christian, is being a follower and disciple of Christ. We need to leave those safe sanctuaries and share the Good News that all might inherit their place in the presence and Kingdom of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Acts 18:1-17 Truth In Corinth

Acts 18:1-17 NIV
Paul does relatively well in Corinth. That is; he is able to testify that Jesus is the Messiah for about a year and a half in relative peace. I say relative because at one point he shook out his clothes in protest against the Jews who opposed his teaching and told them that from then on he was going to the Gentiles. The truth was not without opposition, even in Corinth.

Have you ever been in a debate that is pretty much one-sided? No matter what you say the other person shouts you down? They might even scream at you or threaten you if you don't shut up? They are adamant that their way is right and are not open to hearing any other truth. There are times when we must shake the dust off our shoes and move on. When, no matter what we say, we run up against bullies who will reject you and the healing word that you bring, then it may be best to quit wasting our and their time and move on to those who will hear and if they have doubts or questions will ask with an open heart and mind; desiring to hear and understand.

Debate is good. Discussion is good. But, both sides must be open to empathic listening to the other person. Paul presented the truth with reasoning from scripture. He did this with empathy, understanding where they were coming from. When certain people would not listen to the truth about Jesus, Paul simply moved on. He did not attack them as he had been attacked.

May God soften the hearts of those who reject the truth and who persecute those who are trying to help them follow in a better way.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Acts 17:16-34 Unknown God

Acts 17:16-34 NIV
We encounter many false gods; many idols, every day. Believe it or not they are worshipped all around us. When ever we trust in any thing, even ourselves, before we trust the one made the world and everything in it, we are worshipping a false god.

While Paul was in Athens, he encountered many false gods. There were many altars and images throughout the city which the people bowed before and worshipped. One particular altar had the inscription "To An Unknown God" written on it. He took that opportunity to tell them about the one true God that they knew nothing about. This unknown god that Paul taught about is not made of earthly materials and cannot be contained in any earthly structure. He is bigger than all the false gods put together. He is the one in whom we live and move and have our very being.

There is only one true God. We can either trust Him or we can trust a lesser, false god. I would think it much preferable and beneficial to humankind to trust the one who actually lives.

God's Peace - Pr. J