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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Acts 17:10-15 Agitators

Acts 17:10-15 NIV
It appears that no matter where Paul went the agitators, against him and more importantly against the Word, showed up. He spent a bit of time in prison because of them. Sometimes, he simply left the area.

In Paul's case, it was probably necessary for him to flee so that he could cover as much area as he could with the Good News before his death. I'm not so sure that in this day and age leaving the area is always the best option. In the U.S., we can't be thrown into prison or beaten or flogged for sharing the truth about the Kingdom through Jesus Christ. Yet, we see many pastors who flee the community that they have been called to serve in because of the agitators. Sometimes, it may be necessary because the agitators (antagonists) have managed to switch the focus from Jesus to things of much less importance; in fact, things that cause division and not unity, like egos. Sometimes, pastors simply find it almost impossible to preach the Gospel due to this conflict and leave to go to a community that is willing to hear and then willing to serve the living God rather then their own egos.

Where am I going with this? Well, if your congregation is one that is having to look for a new pastor every two or three years; maybe, it is time to find out if there is someone(s) running these pastors out of the area and if the congregation somehow is supporting this person or persons by ignoring the agitation that they are causing; allowing them to switch the focus away from the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ. It may not always be the best choice to flee an area; but, on the other hand as we are called to proclaim the Gospel; sometimes, we need to go where people will hear it.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Acts 17:1-9 Guilt By Association?

Acts 17:1-9 NIV
I was wondering: Could you be found guilty of associating with Jesus or with his disciples?

Jason welcomed Paul and Silas into his home. Although many people, in Thessalonica, heard and believed the evidence that Paul offered that Jesus was the Messiah; others did not. These others were jealous and encouraged a mob mentality towards Paul and Silas. Not being able to find Paul and Silas, the mob rushed Jason's home and had him arrested. He was considered guilty by association. Again I ask, would any one know that you are guilty of associating with Jesus or any of his followers? How would they know?

May our lives be such that all people might know we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that we are friends of Him and his followers.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Acts 16:16-40 Truth In Prison

Acts 16:16-40 NIV
Paul appears not to dislike prison all that much. If there are times when speaking the truth encourages the possibility of persecution or prison; then Paul definitely encourages it. He does not care that he is going to offend a rich slave owner. He evicts the evil spirit from the slave-girl who is busy making money for the rich man. Paul is not afraid to witness to his jailer. He is not afraid of invading the comfort zones of others when he knows that they are wrong in what they do or say or think. He is not afraid. God is with him. God releases him from his prison; yet, he will not leave until those who had him jailed in the first place admit that they were wrong in the first place.

Paul was imprisoned for speaking the truth. This did not deter him. He was not afraid, even in prison, or after being released to continue to speaking the truth about Jesus.

May God help us all to be so bold in proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and in encouraging others to believe in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Acts 16:11-15 Down To The River To Pray

Acts 16:11-15 NIV

I have always had a very strong inner desire (maybe need) to be near water. I spent most of my married life, until a few years ago, looking for a little piece of land on the water that we could actually afford. But, I finally found it. It is a very small piece, indeed, on a river at the head of a bay. It took a bit to convince my husband that we should purchase it. He doesn't appear to have the same desire to live near what as I have. He referred to it for a long time as the swamp. We purchased it for a get-away camp and ended up living in it. It is small; but, it is ours. I drive down the tree-lined driveway and thank God for giving it to us. Here, I am able to know peace. It is my place of retreat. Here near the water, I have my place of prayer.

When Paul and his fellow missionaries arrived in Philippi, a city with very few Jews, they knew where to look for the local prayer meeting. They headed down to the water to look for the Jews who would be gathered there to pray.

In Jesus' day thee needed to be ten men in order to establish a synagogue. In lieu of this, the people met for prayer near the water if possible. I tried to find out if there was any reasoning behind this meeting being near water; but, my research was in vain. I do not know why the Jews gathered at the water to pray. I know a few of the reasons that I do. First of all, it is very quiet and peaceful here. But, more importantly it reminds me that in the beginning water covered the whole earth and God pulled back the water so that there was land. Then, taking some of that land that had been under the water (mud), He created humankind. We are people of the mud - taken from what my husband would call a swamp... Living near the water I am also constantly reminded of my baptism into the Body of Christ and that my sins have been washed away through the death of my God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Through the waters of baptism, I have been freed from all bondage. So let's all go down to the river to pray...

For a bit of listening pleasure here's one of my favorite songs:  Down To The River To Pray - Alison Krauss  

God's Peace - Pr. J