Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Acts 3:11-26 God Will Provide The Opportunity

Acts 3:11-26 NIV
Peter used the healing of the blind man as a spring board to proclaim that the prophecies of old had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

I sometimes hear from people that they are too timid or too shy to share the Good News of the Kingdom for all who believe in Jesus Christ. They say that they wouldn't know how or what to say. Listen for it. Watch for it. God will provide us with the words to say. God will provide us the opportunities. Those opportunities are all around us. So often we are not afraid to share bad news. We are not so timid when it comes to that. Do not be afraid to share Good News with one another so that others may hear that even though we are deep in sin, God our Father loves us and has forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid to share the Good News of the Kingdom so that all will hear; believe, and be reconciled to God the Father, through God the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in His Kingdom. After all, there are none whom we would not wish to see inherit eternal life, are there?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 29, 2014

Acts 3:1-10 Reaching Out So Others May Praise The LORD

Acts 3:1-10 NIV
We may not be wealthy, but we all have something to give. We can give generously of the gifts that God has given us; helping our neighbor up when they cannot get up on their own. Although, it often appears to be difficult for those who do not believe; for Christians extending our hand to actually help lift and support in their time of need is indeed possible. All things are possible through Jesus Christ, our LORD, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray when they ran across a lame man who was going to the temple gate to sit and beg. Peter reached out to him and gave him something more precious than money. In the name of Jesus Christ, he reached out to the man and the lame man was healed. The lame man was made whole. The man believed that it was by the power of God, Himself, that he now had the ability to walk. He jumped to his feet and went with Peter and John into the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God.

What a difference reaching out to someone can make; from sitting at the temple gate as a beggar to praising God within the temple. What a difference faith in the name of Jesus Christ can make; from not being able to walk to being able to run with the testimony of what the LORD has done for us.

Reach out your hand to your neighbor so that all may rejoice in the temple of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Acts 2:22-47 Change

Acts 2:22-47 NIV
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles proclaimed the Good News that Jesus was the Messiah, the one whom David had prophesied would come. Peter warned them to save themselves from the corrupt generation. The multitude heard all of this. Many received the good news of salvation through Jesus and repented of their sins. 3000 were baptized that day.

I have said it myself, even as I have heard it thousands of times: "Change doesn't happen over night." Yet, these 3000 changed in one day. They believed and their lives were turned around. They wanted to lead a new life in Christ. And, so they did... They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. They were filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They met together daily, breaking bread together, praising God, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

If we are going to try to change ourselves, without the help of God, it indeed may take a very long time and it may never happen. But, with the help of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be changed even in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Repent and live life as a member of the family of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Join us in a couple of hours as we break bread together and praise the LORD!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Acts 2:13-21 Get To Know The Holy Spirit

Acts 2:13-21 NIV
No, the disciples were not drunk with wine at 9 a.m. on that day of Pentecost. They were filled with the Holy Spirit just as is was spoken of by the prophet Joel. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and the Spirit did.

“In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy." (vs 17-18)

I've never quite been sure how it is that the day of Pentecost is taken so lightly in so many congregations in the United States (and probably around the world). It is the day that the power of the Holy Spirit was given to the followers to do the will of God; to proclaim the Kingdom of God, through Christ Jesus. No wonder it is so difficult for so many to understand the Trinity. We teach so little about who the Holy Spirit is. Just as we are to be in relationship with God the Father and God the Son, so we can also be in relationship with God the Holy Spirit.

I remember the day I finally got to know the Holy Spirit. I don't mean know who the Holy Spirit is; but, really "meet and greet" the Holy Spirit. I smiled for at least a week straight. The joy within me simply could not be extinguished. I was almost like a drunk person walking around; except, that I wasn't doing really stupid things. It was a very hard time in my life; yet, the Spirit of Christ led me and comforted me, giving me strength when I needed it the most.

"Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which
leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord..." (Eph 5:17-19)

Ask the Lord to help you know the Holy Spirit. "For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matt 7:8)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 26, 2014

Acts 2:1-12 The Gift of Hearing

Acts 2:1-12 NIV
When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, how was it that each and everyone one of the people in the crowd heard them in their native language?

Rev. Karlo Keljo was an amazing teacher. He was one of my all-time favorites. I still think of him often. He once posed this question to us. "How is it that every one heard in their own language, after all there were a multitudes of different speaking people present? If those disciples were all speaking at the same time in different languages how could anyone have heard anything at all?" Scripture tells us that the disciples received the gift of speaking in tongues. Karlo taught that at that same time the disciples received this gift, the people received what Karlo called the "gift of hearing." No matter what language was spoken, he proposed, everyone still heard it in their own language and understood.

I speak English and yet there are times that I am absolutely astounded that there are some people who listen that just don't seem to hear what I am saying. There are also others, who hear something other than what I meant to say. Usually, the understanding is prompted by the Holy Spirit; but, not always. When I first began my ministry, I was interning under three different clergy at a multiple of sites. After preaching at one particular congregation so that one of the pastors could evaluate my preaching; he called to say that one of the members of his congregation had requested that she get my notes as the sermon had helped her so much with a terrible difficulty she was facing. I asked him how she said that they had helped. What did I say that had helped her so much? When he told me, my response was that I should not give her my notes because I hadn't said that. Whatever she thought she heard was purely a gift from God and my notes might ruin that message for her. I attributed it to the "Gift of hearing." From my lips to her ears, the Holy Spirit was at work so that she received the message that God knew she needed to go on that day. I cannot explain the work of the Holy Spirit. I just know that it is the Holy Spirit who opens our ears and our eyes and our hearts to a greater understanding of God's Word and His will for us.

Receive the Holy Spirit and know God more fully.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Acts 1:12-26 A Sad Thing; Deserting Jesus

Acts 1:12-26 NIV
It is a sad thing when one would turn their back on Jesus. But, that is what his friend and follower, Judas, did. There was nothing left to do for the disciples after his death, but to replace him so that there would be the twelve to witness to what they had seen of Jesus' life; from his baptism to his ascension. Two men were nominated; Matthias was elected by casting lots. Casting of lots helped avoid biases and divisions among the people. There were no great debates as to who the better candidate was. There were no expensive campaigns. There were no recounts. They simply trusted that God would guide the results of the lots; whatever those lots might be.

Even today, we encounter those who would turn their backs on Jesus; betraying him; deserting him and his church. Often they find themselves disillusioned because the church is not what they want it to be for them as individuals. When they choose to leave, like Judas, they also find themselves without hope. Our hope is found in Jesus Christ. Without him, we can do nothing. It is a sad thing for all involved when we lose a brother and sister in Christ to worldly desires. Hear the witness, of the many generations, that speaks of Jesus' gift of life and salvation for you. Receive it and live life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Acts 1:1-11 Power To Be Witnesses

Acts:1-11 NIV
The Acts of the Apostles begins with a summary of the Gospel of Luke. Before Jesus ascends into heaven, he promises the disciples that they will receive power by the Holy Spirit. They are to await in Jerusalem until this power comes upon them and then they are to go to the very ends of the earth as Jesus' witnesses.

We, too, have received power by the Holy Spirit. We who have been called to be witnesses have received the power of God. When a person is bestowed authority or power in the secular world they normally use it, don't they? Sometimes it is used for the good of all; sometimes for their own personal good; sometimes for the detriment of everyone concerns. Power can certainly corrupt. But, it is not so with the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is to be used to be Jesus' witnesses. It is to be used to proclaim the Kingdom of God through Christ Jesus. It is to share the love of God. It is to glorify God. Yes, I know that sometimes it may seem like this power has been used to hurt others. But, it is not the power of the Holy Spirit that does that. When God's children; his servants, are given worldly authority and power (for example in the visible church); sometimes they might put their will over the will of God and people get hurt. It is not God's will that does this. It is not the power of the Holy Spirit that enables this. It is our sinful natures that take over.

We have received the power of the Holy Spirit so that the Kingdom might continue to grow and be edified; not for our own personal power or glory. We have received the Holy Spirit so that we might have the faith and the courage to be witnesses in all the earth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

John 21:15-25 Feed My Sheep

John 21:15-25 NIV
If you love me, feed my lambs... feed my sheep... feed my lambs. If you love me, follow me.

Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times. Now, he is called to affirm that he truly does love Jesus the same number of times that he denied him.  What is more, Jesus tells him to feed his flock; show the world that he is his follower by feeding his lambs, feeding his sheep. Go forth, following in his footsteps, doing the things that he has done. Feed his people both physically and spiritually. He is to follow Jesus and take up his cross, even to death.

We too, have denied Jesus in many ways and for most of us many more times than Peter did. What will we do to show the world that we truly love the one who was willing to die for the sins of all people?  How will we testify to this great love? Will we take up our cross? Will we follow, feeding his sheep along the way?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 22, 2014

John 21:1-14 Fishing For Men

John 21:1-14 NIV
Sometimes things that happen to us will remind us of something that happened in the past. I often run into people who I know that I know; but, their names or even how it is I have come to know them slips my mind. Then they say something or do something and it all comes back.

After he had risen from the dead, his disciples did not recognize him when he called to them from the shore. When then let down their nets on the right side of the boat and were unable to haul the catch in because it was so large; they remembered that this had happened before. It was when Jesus had first called them to follow him; when they had first met him, that they had been instructed to let down their nets. When the catch was so large that they could not haul it all in, Jesus told them that he would now teach them to fish for men. (Luke 5:1-11)  He did just that. For three years, they followed him learning all that they needed to know to fish for men and now that Jesus' work is over; with the help of God, their work of fishing for people is just beginning in earnest.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 21, 2014

John 20:30 Journals

John 20:30 NIV
Many people write journals about their lives. They can help us to remember where we've been; who we are, and why we are who we are. I've started a few journals a few times; but, never got too far with them. The bottom line for me is not who I am; but who God is and what He has done for me through Jesus Christ. I can remember that without a journal and I doubt my journals would help anyone else understand who they are, anyway.

But, the recorded testimony of the witnesses regarding the signs that Jesus performed will help others. The "word" will help others to believe. Read it; listen to it and live life in the joyful and peaceful presence of God now and for all eternity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 20, 2014

John 20:24-29 You Don't Have To See It To Believe It

John 20:24-29 NIV
Well, some people really have to see it to believe it. You can warn them; you can advise them; you can give them the Good News, but until they see it with their own eyes, unless they can touch it or taste it or hear it; unless they can experience something with one of their bodily senses, they simply will not believe it.

Sadly, today we do not have the opportunity as Thomas did to see the nail marks in Jesus' hand. We cannot see Jesus as Thomas did on that day so long ago. But, we can see him. We can see him and experience him in our neighbor, in all who abide in him and he in they. We don't need to see Jesus face to face as Thomas did in order to believe. We have the witness of many who saw him risen from the grave. Hear the Good News so that you, too, might believe and be saved.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 19, 2014

John 20:19-23 Peace Be With You

John 20:19-23 NIV
"Peace be with you!" "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." How and why exactly did the Father send Jesus so that we might know how it is the Father sends us. He sent Jesus into a broken world; a world full of sin, of anger, hatred, self-centeredness and of violence. He sent Jesus into the world that by his sacrifice the world might be forgiven; might be reconciled to one another and to God the Father through him. He sent Jesus into the world to proclaim this Good News of the Kingdom. And, so He sends us promising us peace, breathing on us the Holy Spirit, that we might go forth proclaiming the Good News of reconciliation with God and with one another. This will not be without hardship. It will not be without pain. Jesus suffered much in order that we should know our Father in heaven; so shall we suffer if our brothers and sisters are to know and love Him. But, knowing that God can and will work all things for the good of His Kingdom gives us the peace of heart and mind to be able to continue in His way.

God's Peace -Pr. J

Thursday, September 18, 2014

John 20:11-18 Jesus Speaks To You

John 20:11-18 NIV
I ran into one of our local law enforcement officials the other day. I have known him for about 16 years. For some reason, I thought he was someone else I have known, just as long, in the law enforcement community. That same day, I received a call from a family member who I haven't heard from in awhile. At first, I thought she was one of my parishioners with a similar name. It took a few seconds to figure out who she really was.

It has been a very busy wseek. No, it has been a very busy and hectic summer. I was tired and had my mind other things; things that I was actually suppose to be doing at the time. When this happens, I sometimes forget names of people and I am just a bit slower in "connecting all the dots." It doesn't mean I can't connect them; just that I am a bit slower at times. Times of grief; whether it is my grief or someone else' grief can be particularly strong impetus toward my having a poor memory.

Mary was grieving when she met Jesus in the garden. She did not know what had happened to her beloved Jesus. His body was not in the tomb. Where could he be? Who could have taken his body? She was grieving and anxious when she turned and talked to the man in the garden. She did not recognize her beloved Jesus. She did not know him until he spoke to her, calling her by name.

Sometimes, grief or anxiety will cause us all kinds of problems with daily living. We may be so focused on what we are going through; we fail to realize the reality of what others are going through. We may fail to see Jesus living in and through others. We may fail to see the hand of God using our grief and/or anxiety for the good of us or others. Be assured that God can and will use all things for the good of all people. According to Paul's letter to the Romans:8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Jesus call you. He calls you by name. Answer him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

John 20:1-10 The Empty Tomb

John 20:1-10 NIV
None of Jesus' followers really expected a resurrection. They really had not understood what Jesus was talking about when he said things like, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16) When they found the empty tomb, they began to have a clue.

Some, even the most faithful, have to see; have to experience, something in order to believe. It was that way for the disciples. It is that way for many today as well. You can warn them all you want that something is about to happen; but, they will not understand what you have told them until that something happens and they actually have to experience it and live through it.

It took the disciples awhile to get a clue. It took a face to face connection with the risen Jesus before the disciples understood. What will it take the world today? We do have the witness and testimony of those first followers. It has been written down for generations to read. But, there are those who refuse to believe their eye witness statements. There are those who refuse to read or hear those statements. They refuse to be enlightened because they love the darkness that they have become accustomed to. 

The grave is empty. Why do you linger in the darkness of the tomb? He is risen. He is with you. Believe and live life in the light of Jesus Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

John 19:38-42 Secret Friend and Follower

John 19:38-42 NIV
Nicodemus, a secret friend of Jesus, and Joseph of Arimathea, who had kept the fact that he was a follower of Jesus a secret for fear of the Jews, buried Jesus.

As I consider these verses from John today, I am reminded of the decades that Russians had to worship in secret, sometimes in graveyards, lest they be arrested and suffer the consequences for their faith. It reminds me that even today, multitudes must try to hide their faith in order to save their lives so that they might continue to share the Good News even if it must be done clandestinely.

May God help us, who are free to proclaim our allegiance to Jesus, to proclaim it freely.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 15, 2014

John 19:28-37 Witnessing To The Truth

John 19:28-37 NIV
 "It is finished." Jesus' last words on earth were a declaration that his life; his work here on earth, was complete. He had fulfilled the prophecies of old.

There were witnesses to his death. The soldier who pierced him with a spear saw that he was already dead. There was a witness who testified that he had seen water and blood flow from the wound made by the spear. This man saw this and testified to them so that we might also believe. It is upon the testimony of this man and many others that we have the truth of what happened to Jesus. The testimony of this man has been passed down for generations so that all might believe.

I know that this testimony will not be stopped. The Spirit of God has empowered generations to speak the truth about Jesus. Even in the face of much persecution, themselves, the truth has been proclaimed to generations and will continue to be shared with those who do not know him.

I pray that you will be a witness of all that Jesus has done for you, for all humankind. Be not afraid; rejoice and share the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

God's Peace - Pr. J  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

John 19:17-27 Were You There; Would You Have Been

John 19:17-27 NIV
Who was there? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Who had the courage to witness the crucifixion of Jesus. The two criminals who were crucified with Jesus were with him. The soldiers who nailed him to the cross were there. Many of the Jews may have witnessed his crucifixion, from a distance, as Golgotha was not too far from the city. They were able to read the sign. Did they read the words "JESUS OF NAZARETH. THE KING OF THE JEWS" as he struggled to carry his cross to his death?

The three Mary's were there to witness his death; Jesus' mother, Mary, and her sister Mary and Mary Magdalene were there. Where were the close disciples whom he had called? Peter was probably still in hiding. But, John was there. John, the disciple who loved Jesus, was there.

Every year at Good Friday, a very small crowd gathers at Zion to remember our Lord's death with a Tenebrae Service. We sing a verse of "Were You There?" with the snuffing out of each candle. It causes me to wonder how many would have been there at his death. Would we have made it to his crucifixion had we been there? Would we have been too afraid of being found a sympathizer to be found near him at his death? Or, would we have found something more pleasing to ourselves to attend instead?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 13, 2014

John 19:1-16 The State Listens

John 19:1-16 NIV
He tried but he just couldn't do it. The religious leaders kept insisting that the state do something about this Jesus who had broken their religious law. Yet, their accusation against him is that he opposes Caesar by claiming to be king. Pilate is in a bind. If he frees him; he goes against Caesar himself as the religious leaders claim this man claims he is greater than Caesar. Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus; yet, he cannot allow the crowds to make him (Pilate) look bad in the eyes of Caesar, either. That could be major trouble for him with Rome. He wants no trouble with Rome. It is apparent that the religious leaders want this man to disappear from the face of the earth and Pilate must and will do their bidding.

So, as hard as Pilate tries to reason with the crowd; he ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified. There are times when we may feel thoroughly tired of reasoning with people, as well. Not everyone will bow before the King of Kings (at least not, yet). Many will worship false gods, things and/or people of the secular world. There are many who wish this Jesus and his followers would just go away so that they might not be reminded of their sin. They do not wish to be reminded that Jesus died to take away the sins of the world; their sins because they'd rather think that they have not sinned. They will make many loud pleas to the state to take away this reminder from their sight. In some cases the state has surely listened.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 12, 2014

John 18:28-40 Religion and Politics Crucify Jesus

John 18:28-40 NIV
Religion and politics don't go very well together. The Jewish leaders used politics to their advantage in order to rid themselves of Jesus.

On the one hand, they would not enter the palace of the governor as the praetorium had been and was still a place of contention between the Romans and the Jews. It was considered an unclean place and if the Jewish leaders had entered it they would not have been able to participate in the Passover Meal, due to being unclean. So the governor; Pilate comes out to them.

The Jewish leaders have no charge to bring against Jesus. Instead they respond arrogantly to the governor when asked what the charge was. "If he were not a criminal we would not have handed him over to you." That sounds to me as if there is a bit of hostility on the part of the Jewish leaders toward Rome. In effect, what difference whether they are inside or outside of the palace? Their contentious attitudes have made the whole area, themselves included, unclean.

The Jewish leaders manipulate and intimidate Pilate into having Jesus executed. They are willing to have a convicted murderer released in order get rid of the truth that Jesus has been busy proclaiming. They want Jesus gone and they will use even the tradition of the Passover as an excuse to get rid of him.

Yes, certainly, it is every Christian's right and responsibility to become politically engaged. We must, at times, speak out. We must speak the truth. But, it is very dangerous for a church to start mixing religion and politics. When the state becomes involved in your faith; you might just forget who your true God is and what His will is for all people. It is very dangerous, for everyone, when church leaders manipulate people into supporting specific political agendas or politicians. All I have to do is take a walk back in history to have that affirmed. Take a look at the world news of today; at the unrest (the killings and massacres) of countries where political parties are religious parties. Take a look back to Nazi Germany where even the churches supported Hitler. And... don't forget the unrest of the even earlier church when church and state were one. Priests and Popes were disposed at the whim of the state in order to be replaced by someone who was more in line with the state's leaders political and religious views. Our reading today brings us to the trial of Jesus at which we find the religious leaders manipulating and intimidating the Roman Governor, Pilate, into crucifying an innocent man.   

Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. All who believe in him are a part of that kingdom; even though, we live in this world. We live in both and must be responsible citizens of both. But, let us not confuse the two. A final thought:  Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's and don't be playing one against the other. That, my friends, has been the source of many wars. Religion and politics don't go very well together. Remember, the Jewish leaders used politics to their advantage in order to rid themselves of Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 11, 2014

John 18:15-27 A Rooster Crows

John 18:15-27 NIV
Jesus had told Peter that he would turn his back on him before the rooster crowed. He told him that he would deny being one of Jesus' followers. Peter loved Jesus. He did not believe that he would ever deny him. But, he did.

We often come up with deceptions in order to protect ourselves. It really doesn't matter who we might hurt; as long as we protect our own skins. We do it, just as Peter did, without any real forethought. We don't always plan it. We may not even want to. It just happens. The denial comes slipping out between our teeth and it is done before we realize what we are doing. The denial of who and what we are or have done is a dangerous thing. It endangers others as well as ourselves.

I remember a saying that I use to hear a lot (probably when I was more closely related to the U.S. Marine Corps): "If it is worth doing, it is worth dying for." I would change or add to that a little: "If it is worth believing, it is worth dying for."

Peter was out to save himself that early morning. He was afraid. Jesus was out to save the world. He died doing what he believed was right for you and me, according to the will of our Father. In the end, Peter, too, died for what he believed. Peter's love for Jesus overcame his fear of persecution and death.

Before the sun rises and the rooster crows ask yourself if (how) you have betrayed Jesus lately? Have you betrayed Jesus by keeping silent? Have you betrayed him by denying him? Have you sat back and done nothing while others are persecuted? There is a quote (by I believe Edmond Burke) that says: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Peter was a relatively good man in the eyes of the world. But, he hid in the darkness while Jesus stood trial. He stood back and watched while Jesus was crucified for him. May God help us all to step out into the light, who is Jesus the Christ. May God grant us the wisdom and courage to proclaim the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

John 18:19-24 Speaking the Truth

John 18:19-24 NIV
Every now and then when I question my grandchildren (as well as other children in the community) as to what has been going on, I get the run-around. They won't answer me directly. They will say things like "I don't know. Ask so and so. They should know." Or they will say something like: "You already know, anyway." Honestly, it makes me want to slap them. I don't and haven't. But, there are definitely times that I consider it, as these kinds of responses just make me think all the more that they've been up to something they ought not have been doing and then I have to take the time to go and find witnesses or corroborating evidence to be able to confront them more directly and to the point. It's really a lot of work when telling the truth would have worked a lot faster and easier.

Jesus was slapped by one of the officials for talking to the high priest like my grandchildren talk to me when they are trying to hide something. But, Jesus' purpose was not an attempt to hide anything. Since, he is on trial for breaking the religious laws of the day (mainly his claim to be the Son of God); he calls upon the high priest to follow the law and get witness testimony as the law requires.

Jesus reminded them that he had spoken and taught openly. He testified that he had not been doing anything in secret. If his life was on trial then witnesses were required.

My grandchildren are not on trial for their lives. As of yet, they are still in the living stage; that stage where Jesus spoke the truth openly and not in secret. It would be well for all of us if we said or did nothing that has to be hid so that witnesses don't have to be found.

Have a blessed day and may God help us all to speak the truth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

John 18:1-14 Father's Will

John 18:1-14 NIV
After he had finished praying, Jesus was arrested. His friend, his follower, his betrayer was at hand. He told the cohort who came to arrest him that he was the one that they were looking for. Yet, they were reluctant to arrest him. He had to remind them that they had come to arrest him before they actually did. Whether they knew it or not, they do not appear to impressed with having to do the Father's will. Somehow, it seemed a bit distasteful to them.

We are often called to do things that we might find distasteful. We do not always understand why God would allow or not allow something to happen. We don't quite get where He's going and leading all of the time. He sometimes calls us to do things which we would rather not do based on our own traditions, personal desires, or sense of right and wrong. But, Jesus had to die for the world (it was His Father's will) and in order to do that, someone had to arrest him. The lot fell to this detachment of soldiers. It was their job. It was their duty; however, distasteful they found it, to take their part in the death of the one who would die for their (our) sins.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 8, 2014

John 17:6-26 Praying for God's Children

John 17:6-26 NIV
Yesterday, we prayed for all of our children. On the first day of Sunday School every fall, at Zion Lutheran, we put the names of all of the children (newborns thru college) in the offering plate. The plate is passed around and congregants, who are willing to commit to praying every day for the next year for a child, draws a name(s) out of the plate. We pray for those little ones who know and believe in Jesus. We pray for their lives in this world and in the Kingdom of God. We pray that they would continue to grow and abide in Christ and he in them.

In his last hours, Jesus also prayed for those who believed in him. He prayed for the disciples who were with him and followed him as well as for all who would believe in him through the disciples.  He prayed that we would be one. He prayed that the Father's love would be in us. He prayed that through faith in him, he would abide in us.

He abides in all who believe. May God grant that Jesus should abide in us that the world might know him and our Father.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 7, 2014

John 17:1-5 Glory through Sacrifice and Death

John 17:1-5 NIV
Children love to look good in their parents' eyes. In fact, probably a more than a few are willing "exaggerate" about the good they do and the evil their brothers and sisters do in order to be "glorified" in their earthly father's eyes.

But, when Jesus prayed to be glorified he also knew that:
     1. as he is glorified; the Father is glorified. It was not for selfish reasons that he prayed to be glorified. It was to do the will of His Father and that His Father in heaven be glorified.
     2. That in order to be glorified he would be lifted up on the cross and put to death. Glory doesn't come by deception that makes others look bad or us look better than we are. Glory has nothing to do with deceit. It has everything to do with being lifted up as a sacrifice to death for others. God was glorified in the suffering and death and subsequent resurrection of His Son, Jesus the Christ.

If one feels the desire to pray for God's glory to come upon them, it is the same as praying: I am willing to die; I will give up everything, even my life, so that you, Father, may be glorified.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 6, 2014

John 16:16-33 Grief; Then Joy

John 16:16-33 NIV
Jesus warns his disciples that shortly they will no longer see him. Then, after a while, they will see him again. They will grieve and then they will rejoice? They are confused. They haven't a clue what he is talking about. He appears to be talking in riddles, again.

Lest we forget what we've read in preceding chapters let's review. Jesus tells his disciples these things in the Upper Room on the eve of his crucifixion. He is about to be betrayed. He is about to be put to death. Emotions will run high in the coming days. They will run and hide in fear as they grieve his death. Yet, in just a few more days they will be rejoicing when they find him risen from the dead.

Jesus likened what they would be going through to a woman giving birth. First, pain; then, when the child is born there will be rejoicing. It is this way with many of the trials we go through. It may feel as the world is coming to an end for us. We may even think that we do not want to endure another day on earth. But, as we journey through the dark shadows that we must endure, we find at the other side a beautiful rainbow and the Son shining. We rejoice.

Do not be afraid for God is with you. Take heart. Even though you will encounter trouble in this world; God has a good plan for you. Rejoice, for He has overcome the world and in Him you will know peace.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 5, 2014

John 16:1-15 Killing Christians

John 16:1-15 NIV
Jesus' prophecy has been fulfilled and is even now being fulfilled. He warned that there it come to pass that there would be those with the false belief that if they kill Christians they will be doing a service to God. That is what happed to his many of his first followers, including most of the original disciples. There are many, even today, who are killing Christians with this false belief that they are doing a service to God.

The cross is not so easy to bear as some would think. It is more than just putting up with annoying people. It is not having to show up at church on Sunday or helping your neighbor. If we think our crosses are those annoying little interruptions of the day, we should think again. As we take up our cross and follow him, we will find that at the end of the path is death. (And... then, thanks be to God is eternal life) But, Jesus told us many things that would help us to bear up our crosses and follow him. He warned us of the hatred that would come toward his followers so that we would not be unprepared for it. We would know, in advance, what was coming. Then, he did even more. He sent the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth will guide us in the way in which we should go. Trust the Spirit of Christ. Do not be afraid. He is with you now and always - through life and death and life!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 4, 2014

John 15:26-27 Disciples Share The Truth

John 15:26-27
We've been discussing discipleship at our Wednesday evening Worship for a few weeks now. There are a lot of marks that distinguish a follower of Jesus from those who merely believe that he existed at one time. Disciples testify to the truth. They share the Good News of the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus with others.

Are you truly a disciple, a follower of Jesus? When was the last time you witnessed to what Jesus has done for you? I know it can be difficult to step out and speak a word that the world rejects. But, do not be afraid, for the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of truth is with you and in you. Trust the Spirit of truth to give you the words to speak when you don't know what to say or maybe would rather not.

God is with you. May He help us to be disciples; not in name only; but in reality, sharing His truth with all who need to hear.

God's Peace - Pr.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

John 15:18-25 Bullied for Jesus

John 15:18-25 NIV
It is tough for Christians who desire to be faithful. You may have friends. But, you will also in all likelihood have a lot of enemies as well if your first love is Jesus. The world did not (does not) love Jesus and will not love his followers, either.

When my granddaughter was in elementary school (about 3rd grade) she had a friend who belonged to a Christian group that thinks females should wear long dresses or skirts all of the time.  Wearing a dress has actually become a symbol of faith in Jesus for that particular faith community to the people in the larger community. A woman who dresses in this manner is easily recognized as a dedicated Christian. This young girl wore dresses to school all of the time. To put it bluntly; she was bullied quite a lot because of it. Now, my granddaughter is not a big fan of dresses. She usually only wears them for special occasions. One morning she donned a dress for school so that her friend would have "company." My granddaughter thought this might help others to accept her friend. When she got home that day I asked what the kids in school thought about her dress. She replied that when she got off of the school bus some kids pushed her in the snow bank along with her friend. But, she was ok with that. She was in good company.

There will be those who definitely don't like you if you don't conform to the standards of the world around you. Even the tiniest hint that you might be a faithful follower of our Lord, Jesus Christ, can get you bullied and persecuted.

May God help us to not judge other Christians based on adiaphora; but support them in their desire to serve; as they strive to be reflections of Jesus to the world. If the world hates them; if it hates you; remember that the world hated Jesus first for no reason. You are in good, real good, company.

God's Peace - Pr. J  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

John 15:9-17 Love Each Other

John 15:9-17 NIV
"Love each other." It is as simple as that. Love fulfills the law. If we have love; then we will do all that we can not to do anything to hurt the people around us. If we have love; we don't need to know and memorize every minute detail of every law; because the law is written upon our hearts. (Psalm 37:31, Jer 31:33, Heb 8:10, Heb 10:15)

In giving his life for us, Jesus showed us how much he truly loves each of us. If we remain in his love we will love even as he loves. Love isn't going to worry about who is going to make it in first at anything. Love tells us it is not only good to be the last in line; the last to receive; sometimes, it is way more preferable for all of our sakes.

Be a friend. Be a good neighbor. Do nothing that might cause any harm or danger to come to others. Do all things for their good that God might be glorified. Love each other. This is the command of Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Today is the first day of the school year; may God help our children to love one another and to leave the bullying behind them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

John 15:1-8 Branches Don't Bear Fruit Alone

John 15:1-8 NIV
My gardens have been a mess this summer. Very little time to care for them. My flower garden and raspberry bushes look especially unkempt. This is my fault. Much to my husband's chagrin, I have allowed a family of raccoons to eat, play and rest there. But, I do live in the woods and I figure they live there, too. No one hardly ever sees the garden beside me and I do enjoy watching the baby raccoons as much as I enjoy the flowers and raspberries. Consequently, I have had a lot of broken flower stems and broken raspberry branches to gather and burn. No, hollyhocks this year; they stand alone and when one is trampled it dies. But, there have been a lot of raspberries. It is as though they have been pruned; yet, not destroyed. After all; the branches of the raspberry bush do not stand alone. They are connected to one another.

Lately, I've been noticing that there seem to be a lot of another kind of branches not connected to the vine or at least they appear not to be. Maybe, I am mistaken. But, it does appear that many who claim to be members of the true vine, who is Jesus the Christ, don't actually appear to be connected to him or to the other branches via the vine. Consequently, they appear to bear little or no fruit. Jesus said, "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (vs 4)

When we are connected to the vine, we are connected to that vine with other branches. Together, we bear much fruit. Alone we can do nothing. Or do you suppose the gardener, our Father, has cut off every branch besides our self? That would be a strange looking vine with only one branch and not very fruitful, at that.

Every branch needs the vine. Remain connected. Remain in the word that you might bear much fruit, showing that you are his disciple to our Father's glory.

God's Peace - Pr. J