Monday, June 30, 2014

Luke 21:1-4 The Widow's Mite

Luke 21:1-4 NIV
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

One of my least favorite things that happens within congregations is the public recognition of designated gifts to the congregation. It occurs very rarely at Zion. The gifting occurs, for sure; but, we don't normally publically lift up a person(s) who gives large gifts. The last large gift that was recognized happened years ago at the dedication of the addition to the church building; which included a library, office, three Sunday School rooms, and an elevator. The addition was a gift from someone who had never even attended Worship at Zion. The giver of this very large donation desired to remain anonymous. But, as he wished, we recognized God who gave this tremendous gift through him. We thanked God for the gift and for him, whom He used to give the congregation this gift.

The reason we don't normally recognize gifts or givers publically can be found in the parable of the widow's mite. First off, we are a small congregation and simply don't have the resources (time, energy, talent) to be able to track and recognize all of the gifts, both big and small. And... big and small is where the real problem comes in. Does there have to be a specific amount for the gift to be recognized? What about the person who gives less; but, their less is more? What about the one who gives a dollar or two; yet, they will be fasting in order to give that gift? Do we ignore their gift? Are we not thankful for every copper coin that is given for God's mission and His glory?

It is good to give; but, we should give to the glory of God and not ourselves.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Luke 20:41-47 Enemies of Jesus

Luke 20:41-47 NIV
The enemies of Jesus will be made a footstool for His feet; they will be punished most severely according to our reading today. So who are these enemies of Jesus? Some of them appear to be those who profess to be followers; servants of God. But, they only spew the law and forget God's grace.

May God help us to remember the law; but, to trust in His grace always. May He help us to find hope in the Good News of the Kingdom.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Luke 20:27-40 The God Of The Living; My God

Luke 20:27-40 NIV
He is the God of the living; "the god of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the god of Jacob;" my God.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection so they tried to trick Jesus into backing them up with the question about who would be married to whom in the resurrection. They failed in their pursuit in trying to get him to deny the resurrection. The resurrection is not about temporal things. It is not about being united or reunited with our spouses. It is about brothers and sisters in Christ being reconciled to God our Father. Being united with God is what life in the Kingdom is all about. Could there possibly be any greater joy than attending the marriage feast of the Lamb?

Even as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live, so shall all who believe in Him. We shall live in the Kingdom, even as we die to this world. He is the God of the living. Because He lives so shall we.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 27, 2014

Luke 20:20-26 Give To God What Is God's

Luke 20:20-26 NIV
The summer property tax bills are coming in. Earlier this month, I paid our Estimated Federal and State taxes. Over the course of a year, I write at least ten checks to cover some kind of tax and that is not even considering all the taxes that are paid at the cash registers. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. We owe them, so we pay them. After all, it is God who establishes governing authorities. "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." (Rom 13:1) 

If we are "to give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," then what is it that we are give to God? What then belongs to God? According to Malachi 2:15: "Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit." Would it not then follow that if we belong to God that we should give ourselves wholly to Him?

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Luke 20:9-19 Inheritance Through Faith Alone

Luke 20:9-19 NIV
The tenants refused to give a portion of their harvest to the landlord to pay the rent. They assaulted the collection agents, so the landlord sent his son thinking they might respect his son. Yeah, right! They rejected the son, too. They killed the son! They killed him thinking that they would then receive the land as their inheritance. It just doesn't work that way.

God sent many prophets to help guide the people in loving and serving the Lord. They didn't want to hear it. They wanted what they wanted. They killed the prophets. God sent his only begotten Son. We killed him, too. Rejecting the Son doesn't get us what we want. It doesn't earn us any inheritance. In the end, anyone who rejects the Son will be crushed.

There is only one way to the Kingdom of God, into the inheritance promised by the Father through the Son and that is by grace alone through faith alone.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Luke 20:1-8 Answering Questions

Luke 20:1-8 NIV
Years ago, I worked for an insurance company. My boss liked to get more personal than I thought he ought to. Whenever he asked me a personal question, I responded with a counter question. I didn't even realize I did this until he pointed out my habit of answering questions with questions. It came naturally. I didn't plan my responses. I guess it may have been a way to protect myself, my privacy.

Jesus' responses were not always direct answers to questions, either. He skirted the questions. In Luke 20 we hear him ask a question in response to a question that the priests and teachers of the law had asked as they tried to back him into a corner. They wanted to know by what authority he did the things he was doing. "He replied, 'I will also ask you a question. Tell me:  John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?'” (vs 3-4)

The priests and teachers of the law could not answer Jesus' question. No matter how they answered, they, themselves, would be in trouble with someone, so they simply answered "we don't know." (vs 7)

Answering questions with questions will sometimes end the conversation when we are being grilled about something that is simply not for the other person to know. Sometimes, the best answer is "I don't know." The truth is we don't know a lot of things. There is nothing wrong in admitting that truth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Luke 19:28-46 Peace Not Drama

Luke 10:28-46 NIV
There are days when I accomplish much less than I would like to. There are some things that just wear me out faster than others. One being "drama." No matter how large or small, everything seems so dramatically enhanced in the lives of many people around me. Little problems, little lies, and sneak attacks turn into big problems, big lies, big drama.

The Pharisees seemed to love drama, as well. They were always stirring up trouble, even if they tried to do it discretely without discrediting themselves. Their drama and ours just disrupts the peace that Jesus brings. So much drama! So much chaos! In spite of the fact that we cry out for help; we keep stepping right back into the drama. Same old... Same old... No, need for change...

Well, actually there is. That is, if you are really tired of the drama then the "same old" isn't going to get it. There is a way that leads to peace. In fact, the God of peace has come to you. Recognize His coming; His presence with you. Live in the peace of God. Cling to His Word. Walk through the door into the Kingdom that has been opened for you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, June 23, 2014

Luke 19:11-27 Stewards of God's Gifts

Luke 19:11-27 NIV
Today we have one of my favorite stewardship lessons. Those who take care of and use wisely the gifts that they have been entrusted with will be given even more responsibility regarding the gifts. Everything that we think we own does belong to God. He gives good gifts. He can multiply them or He can take them away. Use what your gifts wisely that our Father in heaven is glorified.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Luke 19:1-10 Come Down From Your Tree

Luke 19:1-10 NIV
"Zacchaeus was a wee little man." I have no clue how many children I have taught the words of this song to; too many to count. Personally, I prefer the words from the KJV over the NIV, "And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature." (vs 3)

Zacchaeus was of little stature not only in physical height; but, in social stature as well. He was a tax collector and had made himself wealthy by cheating his own people. Therefore, he was not a popular fellow. No one in the crowd that day was going to move out of his way so that he could see Jesus so he climbed a tree to get a look from a distance. Jesus knew of his desire to see him and so he arranged to make it up front and personal. He told Zacchaeus: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." Today, (and every day) Jesus wants to be welcomed into your home. If you want to see Jesus, just climb down from whatever tree that you've chosen to watch Jesus from and welcome Him into your life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Luke 18:35-43 That You Might See Jesus

Luke 18:35-43 NIV
What did the blind man see when Jesus healed his sight? Why, he saw Jesus, of course. He saw Jesus and followed him.

My list of people who I pray might see Jesus is pretty long at the present time. So many people in trouble and pain. So much of it simply because they cannot see Jesus and do not know Him. I pray that their eyes might be opened so that they might see him and follow him; that they might be healed. Some of them, I have been praying decades for; others, not so long. But, the prayer is pretty much the same for all: that they might hear the Word; see Him and, in faith, follow Him into the light of His love.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 20, 2014

Luke 18:31-34 Do You Get It?

Luke 18:31-34 NIV
I don't know if you've noticed; but, the disciples often didn't understand what Jesus was talking about. He had to explain things to them in more detail and even then sometimes they didn't really get it. Some of us still have that problem today. Sometimes we have to actually experience something to really understand it. We endure many things before we completely understand things like empathy; even before we can know what really love, joy or peace is. 

Today, we read that Jesus tells the disciples about his impending execution and resurrection. The disciples don't quite get it. But, they will; once he has risen from the dead.

He is risen! He is risen for you! Do you get it?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Luke 18:15-30 Get Rid of the Baggage

Luke 18:15-30 NIV
According to Jesus, the way to enter the kingdom of God would be like a little child. That would be unencumbered by the riches of the world; free of all the baggage that we pick up in this world. A little child owns nothing (although some of them think they do). Get rid of the baggage and follow Him into the Kingdom. You cannot get into the kingdom carrying all of your stuff in packs on your back. It would be like a pack camel fully loaded trying to get through the eye of needle. Some have surmised that this "eye of the needle" refers to a very narrow gate in Jerusalem.

Leave the stuff behind you, your sins have been washed away by the blood of the lamb, that you might walk freely and unencumbered through the gate into the eternal kingdom.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Luke 18:9-14 The Exalted Shall Be Humbled

Luke 18:9-14 NIV
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled.... I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Sometimes, it seems, there are those who just think they have to put others down. They justify their own sins by blaming others or they switch the focus off of their own sins as they point out someone else's supposed or imagined sins. Those who do this; those who falsely accuse others so that they can look good; in the end, will be humbled. The truth will prevail. And.. as for those innocent children of God who are falsely accused, they will be exalted.

Therefore; don't think too highly of yourself. Rather, humble yourself and take care of your children and the children of others rather than persecute them. Pray, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" and He will answer.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Luke 18:1-8 Persistent Prayer and Justice

Luke 18:1-8 NIV - Judge Delivers Justice...
LOL (laugh out loud)! I laugh because God is absolutely amazing! I have seen Him deliver up justice when none thought it possible. Surely, He answers the prayers of the faithful. He listens and He answers! Don't give up! Keep on praying for those in need. Keep on praying for justice and it will be given you.

Justice is definitely included in His will for mankind. If earthly judges will deliver it up; surely our God will deliver it. Blessed are those who believe this and woe to those who are the adversaries of justice. God is good. He will deliver you from your adversaries. But, it would be good to make sure that you are not the adversary that is trying to deny justice to one of his little ones...

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, June 16, 2014

Luke 17:20-37 - Kingdom In Your Midst

Luke 17:20-37 NIV
Luke 17:20-21 was one of those "aha" moments for me. I first encountered it about 30 plus years ago.

"Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

These two little verses changed my whole way of thinking about what the Kingdom of God is and when we actually enter into the Kingdom. This Kingdom is not a place far away. Through Jesus Christ, it has entered into this world. All who believe live in that Kingdom even now.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Luke 17:11-19 - Whole?

Luke 17:11-19 NIV
God answers prayer and he answers it abundantly. In the story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers only one was made only. His faith made him whole.

What have you been asking for? What have you been receiving? When God heals you or when you get exactly what you want; ask yourself this:  Have you actually received the whole blessing that God gave you or only that little portion that you wanted and asked for? Sometimes, I think, we truly don't want to be made whole in His sight. We only want what we want and we get it we go about our merry way satisfied with less than God would have us receive.

Give thanks to the LORD and receive and live in His abundant grace!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Luke 17:5-10 Increase Our Faith

Luke 17:5-10 NIV
If we had the faith as small as a mustard seed, we could do anything!

So here is how it seems to go... We don't accomplish much for the Kingdom because we simply don't have enough faith. Since we lack faith; we don't even try. Yes, we do our duties. We show up in church on Sunday (sometimes). We make some offerings (sometimes). We try to feed the hungry - that is if we have enough left over after we've taken care of all of our wants as well as our needs.

We are like the unworthy servants who have only done only what is required of us as servants (sometimes). But, Christ came that we might be His brothers and sisters, that we might be reconciled to Him and to one another, in the Father's glorious Kingdom. We are heirs of that Kingdom! So, do we want to live like servants or heirs. Heirs will take care of the Kingdom. They will go the extra mile to grow that Kingdom. Do you believe that you are an heir of that eternal Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ? Do you have faith that the Kingdom is yours - to live in it, now?

Lord, increase our faith!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, June 13, 2014

Luke 17:1-4 Jesus' Way

Luke 17:1-4 NIV
Only four verses and so much in them!

Jesus warns the disciples and us that we are to be very cautious on how we treat others. We are not to cause any one to sin. In other words, don't be teaching others to sin, either by word or example. And, if someone sins against you, forgive them. Actually what Jesus says is: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (vs 4)

Please note that Jesus does not tell us that we are to accept everything that everybody does. Everything is not ok or beneficial. Sin needs to be addressed in order for others to not stumble; in order for us not to stumble. Christians sometimes get accused of not being very Christ-like because they will not accept sin simply as an alternative and acceptable way to be. There is only "One Way" for the Christian. Jesus is "The Way." To teach or approve of any other way is to set up a stumbling block. To close our eyes to sin or say that there is no sin is setting up a stumbling block for ourselves as well as for others. The consequences will be devastating. But, if a brother sins against a Christian, the Christian will bring it to their attention and when they repent will forgive them in order that neither of them will suffer consequences worse than have a millstone tied around their necks and thrown into the sea.

I'm ok.
You're ok.
When Jesus is "The Way." 

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Luke 16:19-31 NIV - Dire Straits

Luke 16:19-31 NIV
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the rich man had been provided every opportunity to reach out to Lazarus in brotherly love. He did not. Once the rich man died and found himself alone and in extreme distress, there was no one to reach out to him. How different it would have been if he had allowed that poor beggar into his life while he was still living! He would have a friend now. Maybe, he would not be in the dire straits he found himself in, now.

From Hades, he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to warn them so they don't end up like he has. For some reason the rich man thinks his family might listen to Lazarus even though he, himself, had paid no heed to him while he was alive.

No, Father Abraham replies. Your brothers will not listen to Lazarus. They did not listen to Moses or the Prophets. They will not even listen if someone rises from the dead.

Sadly, that is the way it is for many. They will not take the time to pay heed to the stranger at the door, the hungry at our gates. They will not take the time to pay heed to the warnings of Moses or the prophets. They pay no attention to the one who has risen from the dead. Like the rich man, the lives of many are spent focusing on their worldly, day to day, pleasures as they pay no heed to the things that are really important; that will last for eternity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Luke 16:16-18 Law and Kingdom

Luke 16:16-18 NIV
Until the time of John there was only the law and hope for salvation to come in the future. But, John brought more. He brought the Good News of the Kingdom at hand. Yes, it was still hope; but, the realization of the fulfillment of that hope was closer than ever before and the people were excited. Jesus was/is the fulfillment of that hope. No, not one law has disappeared from the books. But, it has been fulfilled in Jesus. The one without sin died for us sinners. He was the living sacrifice so that we might receive mercy through trusting that through Him we might receive forgiveness for the laws that we have broken.

After John the Baptist the good news of the Kingdom of God was preached. In Jesus Christ, it is definitely at hand. It has come near. Now, that is something to be excited about!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Luke 16:1-15 Love of Money

Luke 16:1-15 NIV
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (vs 13)

This is not to say that if you have a lot of money that you do not love or serve God. In fact, maybe you are one whom God has richly blessed and you use what He has given use wisely and for His glory. He is your first love, the riches are merely a tool to reach out to others, glorifying His Holy Name. Be wise; though, and understand that the pursuit of gaining money and things can quickly take over your life and in the end you may realize that it was not God (the one who blessed you) that you loved; rather, it was riches in this world.

Use the gifts that God has given use in a manner that might glorify Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, June 9, 2014

Luke 15 Return

Luke 15 NIV
It saddens parents when they lose their children; even if it is only because they have graduated from school and move on with their lives as we've spent years preparing them to do. But, what a reunion when they come home! Nor does God rejoice in losing one soul; rather, he rejoices when they are found and return to Him.

Return to the LORD, for He is good and His mercy endures forever....

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Luke 14:25-35 - The Cost

Luke 14:25:35 NIV
"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

Everything will not be handed to you. The path you take following Jesus may be very hard, indeed. Just as the disciples dropped everything to follow him, you may also have to leave everything behind in order to carry your cross and follow him.

One must plan for the future. One doesn't build a home without first figuring out the cost. There is a cost to following Jesus into the eternal home, the Kingdom of God. Your old life must be left behind in order to live the new one.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Luke 14:15-23 Come, The Feast Is Spread

Luke 14:15-23 NIV
We all have excuses. Everyone, it seems, wants to be present at the great banquet table in the Kingdom of God after they enter through physical death. But, not so many realize that the banquet table of the Kingdom is prepared just about every Sunday (sometimes more; sometimes less). This feast of Jesus Christ is for you. He invites you. The one who died for you and has prepared a place for you welcomes you. Yet, what is the response? Do you have other things to do this Sunday?

The Kingdom of God is at hand. The table has been prepared for you. You have been invited. "Come, for everything is now ready."

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Luke 14:1-14 Place of Importance

Luke 14:1-14 NIV
Jesus associated with everyone. On one Sabbath, he went to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee. If you recall from our previous readings, the Pharisees were not exactly fans of Jesus. But, he didn't care. He did not have a problem associating with anyone who welcomed him.

Jesus gives us some rules of etiquette for dining that can be used whether you are at someone's home or at a wedding reception. Take the least important place so that you will be honored when asked to move up. Do not sit in a seat of honor or you may be humiliated when the host asks you to move to a place of less importance to make room for another.

The last shall be first and the first last.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Luke 13:31-35 Threats Do Not Dissuade

Luke 31-35 NIV
Run! Herod wants to kill you, some Pharisees had warned Jesus. Oh well! Whatever! Jesus had a mission and he was not going to run from Herod. He would continue driving out demons and healing people until he reached his goal. His goal was the cross. He was going to die, so what difference did it make whether Herod was looking to kill him or not. He wasn't about to let a few threats dissuade him from continuing the work he was called to do.

Personally, I get a bit weary of the threats. I am not Jesus. But, he is with me and gives me strength to continue onward wherever he will call or send me. He has led me this far. He will lead me home. I know that even though Jesus' journey took him to death on the cross; it also took him through death to the Kingdom of God. So, threats may wear me down a bit, but they will not strike me down completely. I will continue toward the goal, even if it includes a journey to the cross (which it will).

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Luke 13:22-30 Narrow Door

Luke 13:22-30 NIV
I understand that sometimes the door seems too narrow and it's hard to fit through with all one's baggage. You know that the baggage needs to go and one of these days you plan to get rid of it. But, not now. When you retire. When you get old and near death you plan on cleaning your house and focus on The Way to our Father's home.

Jesus reminds us today that once the door is closed, it will not be opened again. Now is the time to free ourselves of the load that bids us pass by the door that is open because the junk you insist on hanging on to won't fit through with you. You must strip yourself of those things that keep you from entering through the door is that is open for you now. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Luke 13:18-21 Seeds Planted

Luke 13:18-21 NIV
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grew and became a tree. It is like yeast mixed into flour. It becomes something other; something greater, than it was. It grows.

The Word of God is the seed which is planted in the hearts of man. As it is planted, the Kingdom grows. Likewise, when seeds which are not the Word of God are planted, they will probably grow. Be careful then what kind of seeds are being planted within your hearts.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, June 2, 2014

Luke 13:10-17 Bound and Free

Luke 13:10-17 NIV
I often wonder about being in bondage. I wonder how much I should allow myself to be bound to things of this world if indeed I am free in Christ. We are indeed free in Christ to serve God and one another. However, we (most of us) are bound to something here on earth. Work schedules, bosses, family members, friends and acquaintances regulate what we do and when we do it. Not long ago, I went with a tour group to Ireland. Even the vacation regulated so that at times I felt like we were chained to a schedule. I also have to be very careful about making plans with my grandchildren. I have to give them a lot of maybes or we'll see... If I agree to do something, they expect me to do it. No matter what else might come up, they get pretty upset if the schedule ends up changed. They insist on me being bound to my word, even if it was not a promise, but a suggestion.

Now, commitments are usually good things. A commitment to worship God on Sundays (or any and everyday) is an excellent thing. But, in our parable today of Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath, Jesus reminds us that there is more to worship and honoring God than keeping Sabbath law or traditions. When someone is in need, the schedule must be flexible enough to help them.

In Christ, we are free to be bound to love and serve. By his blood, we have been set free to worship and serve our God and to love and serve our neighbors, as well.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Luke 13:1-9 Repent; Bear Good Fruit

Luke 13:1-9 NIV
In the parable of the fig tree that refused to produce fruit, Jesus sounds a bit harsh. He says, "Cut it down!" (vs 7) But the man's whose vineyard the fig tree was living in intercedes with Jesus for the life of the fig tree. Give it another chance. Give it one more year.

It may well be time to consider and give thanks for all those people who have interceded for us throughout our lives. There have been times when we have been totally unfruitful, deserving of no more chances. Yet, we have been given what seems to be unlimited opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom. But, the opportunities are not quite unlimited. I officiated at another funeral yesterday. The death of a loved one is a reminder that our days are indeed numbered; a reminder that our opportunities on earth to bear fruit are indeed limited.

Repent and bear good fruit for the Kingdom of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J