Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul's Ego

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

1 Corinthians1:18-31 Message Of The Cross

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 29, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Follow Jesus

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

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

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

3. Follow Jesus.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Missing You

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

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

God's peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Romans 16:17-27 Itching Ears

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Romans 15:22-33 Saints at Zion

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

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

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

May the God of peace be with you all. Amen

Pr. J

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Romans 15:1-13 Ramblings

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Romans 14 Loose Lips Sink Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live life in Christ and truly enjoy life!

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Romans 13:11-14 Son Shine

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Romans 13:8-10 Abide in Love

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Romans 13:1-7 Do Not Resist Arrest

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

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Romans 12:9-21 Live In Peace and Harmony

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Romans 12:3-8 Many Members; One Body

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Romans 12:1-2 Transformed Not Conformed

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

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

Be transformed. Be a disciple. Make a disciple.

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Romans 11 The Elect

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Romans 10 Faithful Zeal

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Romans 9:30-33 By Faith

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Romans 9:19-29 God is Patient

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Romans 9:1-18 Speak With Integrity

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Romans 8:31-39 Our Father Loves You

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Romans 8:18-30 Praying In and With Creation

Romans 8:18-30 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 8, 2014

Romans 8:1-17 Child of God

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Romans 7 I Do Not Do What I Desire

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Romans 6 Dead And Yet Alive In Christ!

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Romans 5:12-21 Saint and Sinner

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Romans 5:1-11 Suffering and Peace

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Romans 4 Abraham Justified By Faith Alone

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Romans 3 Faith Alone

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

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

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

God, grant us all this gift of faith!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, December 1, 2014

Romans 2 Circumcision and Baptism

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

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

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

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

God's Peace - Pr. J