Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2 Timothy 1 - Fan Into Flames

2 Timothy 1 NIV
Paul exhorts Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God." We all ought to be on fire with zeal for
sharing the gospel.

I have been in many small and large groups when the conversation has turned to lamenting that the government and society are steadily taking away our religious freedom in this country. On a very rare occasion, I might be able to agree with this assessment. Most often; though, my response is more like "how can a government or society take away from us what we have already relinquished?" "It is not the state; but, the church who is responsible."

The burning desire to proclaim the gospel is rarely to be seen in society. Love and adoration of God is only a Sunday morning thing (sometimes). I hear that a root of some of our societal problems is that the Bible has been abolished in schools. Hogwash! Your children and grandchildren can bring their Bibles to school and they can read them on breaks. No one can stop those who have the burning desire to read them at lunch. At Christmas every year, I hear complaints that another nativity scene was not allowed to be placed on a courthouse lawn someplace in the United States. Yet, if I drive by the homes of those who complain, what I will find on their lawns during Advent, is Santa Claus or snowmen - no nativity scenes. I hear complaints that our public schools organize sporting events on Sundays so our children don't show up for worship. I don't get that! Christian children and parents have the right to choose what they will do on Sunday morning. They can worship if that is their priority. We can't blame others for our choices. And, usually, at least here in the U.P., it is not the public schools who are organizing these youth sporting events. The schools allow these parent/community run sporting organizations to use the gym. The parents (many whom are Christian) organize these events to include Sunday mornings. It is not the government or secular society who makes these choices.

Every Christian has the opportunity to decide what they or their children will be doing on Sunday morning. If the church is in decline, it is our own fault for not fanning into flame the gift of God within ourselves. Quit blaming the government. Quit blaming society. Proclaim the good news!

And, once I am on this subject, let me advise anyone who would bring their children to worship with us at Zion. Our main focus will not be teaching your children morality (how to behave). Unless they come to know Jesus, those good works amount to nothing. We unabashedly teach Jesus crucified, risen and ascended in order to fan into flame the gift of God. We believe that the knowledge of God's love in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit will reveal to all of our children (young and old) His will for us. The Holy Spirit will empower those who hear and believe to do His will. Faith comes by hearing the Word and we will subsequently proclaim the gospel. Good works will naturally (by the power of the Holy Spirit) follow those who know and love the Lord. We will not be ashamed to faithfully witness to His great love publically, no matter where we are or what we are doing at any given moment.

May the Lord our God grant us power, love and self-discipline so that with the fire that burns in our hearts we will witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Use it or lose it!

Monday, March 30, 2015

1 Timothy 6 - Love of Money

1 Timothy 6 NIV
Seek not the pot of gold at the end of
the rainbow; rather, receive the Tree of Life,
who is Jesus the Christ.
It is not money that is the root of all evil; rather, as Paul puts it, "...the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (vs 10) God has indeed blessed many of the faithful with riches in this world. We are not to disrespect those whom God has so blessed. They are faithful in using their blessings to bless others and to glorify God. They are not arrogantly serving themselves. And, if they are then we might want to discern whether they really serve God or themselves before we listen to them.

We should not so desire wealth in this world that it detracts us from the love of God. There are many false prophets in this world who would tell us that if we just do this or that God will bless us. There are many who would teach that godliness  is a means to gain.

I received one of those letters the other day encouraging me "to plant a seed" and God will make me rich. If you receive letters like this, I encourage you to destroy them immediately. Have nothing to do with these false prophets. Those letters are not being sent to help you get rich. They are being sent so that the senders may prosper even more. It is for their own wealth that they are concerned. They have little knowledge of the true riches of God. They use the name of God for their own glory here in this world. They do not seek the kingdom of God; but, riches in this world which are very temporary.

Money can be used for good purposes by the faithful. But, be careful that your love for it does not trump your love for God who was willing to die for you. The love of money can bring great destruction to a person; to a community; to the world.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 29, 2015

1 Timothy 5 - Christian Charity

1 Timothy 5 NIV
Zion's Youth Choirt
at Toys for Tots Benefit Concert
In a time when the state was not expected to support the elderly or anyone else, St. Paul exhorts families to care for their elderly relatives, especially their parents, before they are put on the list for the church to care for them. His list of who gets assistance is pretty narrow. He focuses mainly on widows. They are not to be put on the list for assistance unless they are over sixty years old, has been faithful to their husbands, and have been known for their good deeds.

It is, of course, the Christians duty and privilege to care for those in need. Today, we help all in need. Yes, there are definitely those who would take advantage of the church's assistance. There are those who go from one congregation to the next asking for assistance. There are those few who make a career of exploiting Christian charity rather than working themselves. It depletes the funds that could be used for those who are truly in need. In order to help those in genuine need sometimes we have to say no to those who would steal the support we have to offer from the one in real need.

There is an old saying that "charity begins at home." This is not to say that we should indulge ourselves and care only for ourselves; rather, we should look to our own relatives, the aunts and uncles, parents, and grandparents who are in genuine need and care for them so that they do not suffer. If we cannot, then churches or other charitable non-profits such as St. Vincent DePaul should be called on for assistance. Lastly, I believe, the state is there. It seems like we've turned this around a bit today.

Paul gives a list for discerning who is in real need in his letter to Timothy. Then he adds: "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (vs 8)

We are not saved by our good works; rather, the joy of our salvation inspires us to be merciful and caring to those in need. The joy over what Jesus was willing to do for us, inspires us to reach out to others in need. "The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever." (vs 24-25)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 28, 2015

1 Timothy 4 - Reading the Scriptures

So, you say you believe? What is it that you believe? I do not dare consider how many who say they are Christians are actually following the deceiving spirits that St. Paul advises Timothy to watch out for in today's reading.
We can have all the "spiritual" feelings that we want; we can follow all the traditions that are thrown at us; but, without Christ crucified, we cannot be saved. To say "I believe" does not necessarily mean that you know Christ. You say that, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2:19) A lot of people say they believe. The question we should ask ourselves is not so much do we believe; but, do we know the one who died for us? Have we taken the time to get to really know the one who died for us? Or, is saying, "I believe," good enough?
Paul wrote to Timothy, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (vs 13) In the pages of the Holy Scripture you will find the knowledge of who God is. In those pages, that have been left unopened for so long, you will find a greater understanding of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus. You will not glean a closer relationship with Jesus by accepting the teaching on the History Channel or by the many self-proclaimed prophets on the television who promise you riches by sending them your riches. In order to know who this Jesus really is; in order to know Jesus, God has provided you His word. If someone says to you, Jesus said this or that; Jesus wants this or that from you; unless it is can be supported by the Holy Scriptures, do not believe it. If you want to know Jesus, who is the living Word, hear and study the word of God.
And, please, be aware: Spirituality and Christianity are not necessarily the same things!
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 27, 2015

1 Timothy 3 Elders Shine!

1 Timothy 3 NIV
No, not everyone within a congregation should be on the slate of elections as an overseer (council member, elder, etc.) of the congregation or denomination. It is not always easy to find potential willing candidates for some of these positions of leadership; but, that does not mean that we should not be discerning in whom we choose to lead and serve our communities of faith. They must be faithful to God, willing to set aside their personal desires and ambitions in this world. Jesus comes first, always!

St. Paul outlines some basic guidelines for Timothy to use in his position as a leader of the church at Ephesus. They must be faithful to their spouse, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not given to drunkenness, not violent but, gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.

It is necessary for our servant leaders to be able to conduct their personal lives in a way that the light of Christ and not deeds of darkness is seen by others. We are not; after all, a social club. We are the Body of Christ. Let your light so shine!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1 Timothy 2 What's A Church To Do?

1 Timothy 2 NIV
"Gathering for the Sake of Others"
Prayer, Praise and Proclamation
for the glory of God
to benefit St. Vincent DePaul
What's a church to do? Paul's letter reminds us that "petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (vs 1-4)

God wants all people to be saved. God wants all people to come to the knowledge of the truth. As a church we come together to pray to God, in the name of Jesus, with that purpose in mind. As a community of saints we ought to gather together often to praise God for all that He has done for us and for the world. We come together so that we might hear and be fed by His Word proclaimed so that we might be better equipped to leave our places of worship and proclaim His Word of life to a hungry world.

We congregate in one place often, not for our own sakes; but, for the sake of others; out of love for God who has given himself for us and for all people.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1 Timothy 1:13-20 Confronting False Doctrine

1 Timothy 1:13-20 NIV
Zeba Camp Meeting
Paul urges Timothy to stay in Macedonia so that he might command people not to teach false doctrines any more. I am a little nervous about this word "command." Have you tried commanding anyone to do anything lately? Personally, I find that it is productive only a very small percentage of the time. Sometimes people listen, often not. Sometimes, it ends up in endless and wearisome debates over things of the law. Sometimes, it ends by having to shake the dust off of my feet and move on (Matt 10:15) in order to share the good news of Jesus with others who have not heard.

Recently, I have had to talk to more than one person about the false things that they believe regarding the Sacrament of Baptism. It seems that more than one person I know wants to be re-baptized. They can reaffirm their faith often; but, I will not officiate at the re-baptisms of anyone. Doesn't matter how old you were or what congregation you were baptized at. We are not baptized into a church, but into the "Church" which is the Body of Christ. I also remind them that baptism is not our work; that it is a gift from God and to be re-baptized is to deny the gift that has already been given by God. I hope that I present the truth with enough grace so that they will not turn away but will continue to grow in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit received at their baptisms. Since, it is the Holy Spirit that works in them, I am confident that they will.

While it is necessary to confront false doctrines and myths, it can be very time consuming and wearisome work to which at times there seems no end. We have to be careful about how we confront false doctrine and blatant lies about Jesus. Constant arguing or commanding people to believe and teach the truth is not always the best way to confront false doctrines. Civil discourse is necessary; otherwise, confronting false doctrine can become a testimony of divisiveness in the church to the world; when we should be proclaiming unity in Christ to the world.  Confronting false doctrine is necessary; but, if we are busy proclaiming the truth of the good news to all people there will be less false doctrines to confront. May God help us to spend our energies in proclaiming the truth even as Paul put it to Timothy: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (vs 15-17).

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1 Tim 1:1-2 - Grace, Mercy, Peace

1 Timothy 1:1-2 NIV
Falls River, L'Anse, MI
"Hey, dude!" In years gone by one of my granddaughters would greet me like that. I would remind her that I am not a dude. Regardless, "Hey, dude!" was just another way of saying "good to see you." It is always good to see her, too.

Paul generally begins his letters with a blessing. I sometimes wonder how it would change us; how it would change the world if we would all greet one another with a blessing, with words, like Paul used: "Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I often greet people I haven't seen in awhile with the words, "God's peace." The response is usually just a smile. But, sometimes I get a surprised look like "hey, we're not in church, where did that come from?"

The reality is that except for sharing the peace during worship many of us do not share God's peace or pray God's blessing upon others when we're outside of the "designated" times or places. In fact, I rarely hear anyone talk about Jesus even at the church, unless we're in a group that is designed to do just that. Not long ago, the discipleship group at Zion decided that we needed to try to become more intentional about trying to greet others in a way that would bless others; in a way that would remind them who it is that we worship. We get lots of smiles when we greet others, both inside and outside of the church, with "God's peace be with you."

We're seriously hoping it catches on.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Monday, March 23, 2015

2 Thess 3 - Disruptive Believers

2 Thessalonians 3 NIV
When was the last time you told anyone about the blessings that God has given you? I find that very few people talk about Jesus (not even at church). When I am out and about, I sometimes hear about people's church affiliation and what people's churches have or have not done for them. But, I rarely hear anyone talk about what God has done for them. I try not to think about this disconnect between believers and their witness to what they believe too often. Professing to be a Christian; yet, not professing Christ gives me heartache.

But; apparently, idle and disruptive believers are not exclusive to our day and time. St. Paul warned the Thessalonians to stay away from those who are not busy; but, are busybodies. There are very good reasons for this warning. First of all, we must be careful not to endorse these unfruitful lifestyles by our silence and cooperation in their unfaithfulness. Secondly, we put ourselves in danger of becoming idle ourselves.

St. Paul reminds us that we are not to regard them as enemies. We are to warn them because they are our brothers or sisters in Christ and we do not want them falling of the path. We ought to be good examples of children following in the way our Father would have us go so that others might be encouraged to get back on track, as well.

As always, I remind you that good works will not save you. But, good works naturally follow faith because the Spirit of Christ abides in you. If you are one who is idle, get back on track and live as an example of one who follows Christ. May the Lord direct our hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance so that we might live life in a manner that God is glorified in all that we say and think and do.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2 Thess 2 - Man of Lawlessness

2 Thessalonians 2 NIV
I cannot count nor ever remember how many men have been publicized as possibly being the lawless one (the anti-Christ) that was prophesied to come. Most often those who were accused of being the anti-Christ have been in positions of power in the world. They have been world political leaders.

I cannot help but wonder if this anti-Christ is actually going to be a leader in the secular world or will that personality be someone from within the visible church on earth. There are many; after all, who are teaching false doctrine and yet are quite popular personalities; leaders (not servants) in the visible church. They have been popular because they please the itching ears. They are popular because they tell people what they want to hear. They have led many astray as they have lifted themselves up in the eyes of the people they teach.

I am convinced that the most dangerous false teachings do not come from those outside the church who deny Christ. These allegations are a distraction and have kept us from looking within ourselves and acknowledging the lawlessness that abides within us. Those most dangerous lies are those lies propagated within the church that are being passed down and expanded upon to succeeding generations. It is quite possible (probable) that the man of lawlessness will be revealed to be one who spread the lies from within the visible church. The man of lawlessness may well come from within the church, itself.

Do not let anyone deceive you; not from outside the church or from within. Jesus is our only salvation. May God help us to remain faithful to His Word.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 21, 2015

2 Thess 1 - Trials Then Glory

2 Thessalonians 1 NIV
Toksovan Lutheran Church, Russia (2002)
A church, then communist meeting hall,
now a church. There is always hope for
those who persevere.
In the face of persecution by friends, family, community; how easy it would be to just give up and follow in the ways of the world! But, for those who are confident in the Lord and in His justice, we do not give up. Our hope is in the Lord and in His promises. We know that in the end God will work all things out for the good to those who love Him and He will be glorified.

Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians begins with words of encouragement. He commends them for their perseverance and faith. They are enduring many persecutions and trials; yet, they remain faithful.

We are tried, daily, in many ways. We suffer many injustices here in this world. Yet, we know that our trials will bear fruit for the good of all of God's children. May God help us to persevere in faith 'till the day that we will see His glory in all its fullness.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 20, 2015

1 Thess 5 - Live in the Light

1 Thessalonians 5 NIV
Paul's closes his first letter to the Thessalonians reminding them that should be diligent in serving the Lord and doing His will. We ought not be thinking that we can slip away into the darkness for secret rendezvous and no one will know. God will know. Be prepared always, for the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. It will come at a time when we are thinking "all is well with the world" even though all might not be well with our souls.

We are children of the light, so we must walk in the light. "... since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." (vs 8)

And... may "the grace of our Lord be with you." (vs 28)

God's Peace - Pr.  J

Thursday, March 19, 2015

1 Thess 4 - Believe and Live!

1 Thessalonians 4 NIV

Do you live in order to please God or your or maybe someone else? Those who live in Christ have no fear of death for we know that all who fall asleep in him will rise from the dead even as he rose from the dead. Abide in him as he abides in you for all eternity. Eternity includes today. God is with you and for you. Trust Him and not the work of your own hands or the work of another.

Because he lives, so shall all who believe in him - so shall all who put their trust in him!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

1 Thess 3 - Stepping Back and Letting God

1 Thessalonians 3 NIV 

Faithful teacher receiving Communion with his students. He no
longer teaches; but, continues to pray that they will remember
what he  has taught them and continue in faith even in his absence.
We pray for good things for our children and for all whom we love. But, more than that we pray that they will know the joy that comes in following Jesus. We pray that they might know and share God's love. We pray that their faith may increase.

When Paul could not be with the people of Thessalonica, he was just a little worried that they might be backsliding without him there to encourage and teach them so he sent Timothy to check it out. The people were fine. They continued in faith to love the Lord and one another. They continued in His way. The Spirit of Christ continued to work in and through them.

I have found that, sometimes, distance from people we care about might be a good thing. Sometimes, once we have taught someone (especially our own children) all that they can learn from us, that it might be best to put a little distance between us so that we are not meddling in or trying to micro-manage their lives. Sometimes, the best think we can do is step back and pray for them, giving thanks to God for His work in and through them. Stepping back and trusting the Spirit of Christ to continue working in our loved ones is not always the easiest thing to do. But, sometimes it is the best thing. It is always a good thing to entrust their lives to God. He does a much better job at guiding them than we can.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

1 Thess 2 - Persecution For The Good News

1 Thessalonians 2 NIV
The gospel is not always received well. There will be opposition to the good news of salvation through Jesus the Christ. St. Paul continued to proclaim it for the sake of others in the face of much opposition. The truth can be quite offensive to those who follow in their own ways. The light of truth can bring us to rejoice in in Jesus; but, for those who reject the truth it sometimes sends further into the darkness in attempts to hide from the truth. The truth sometimes stirs up fear and hatred and with that persecution of those who believe. In spite of hardship and persecution, those who follow Jesus will continue to share the good news with others so that all might know the joy of living in relationship with God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

May God grant us the knowledge, wisdom, courage and strength to speak the truth no matter what the opposition might be so that we might all know the glory of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 16, 2015

1 Thess 1 - What Are You Thankful For?

1 Thessalonians 1 NIV
Give thanks for Christ is our hope
and salvation!
Paul opens his letter to the Thessalonians by telling them how thankful he is to God for them. Paul is thankful that their faith, love, and hope is evidenced by their witness and service to the living and true God.

What are you thankful for this morning? What or whom do you celebrate? Are you excited because the snow is melting? Or maybe you are thankful for that you get to go shopping rather than work today? Or, maybe you just bought a new "toy"? Or just maybe, you are thankful that you get to live and witness to God's glory today in what you say and do? Are you thankful for the opportunity to serve and glorify God?

In spite of much persecution himself, Paul did a lot of thanking God for the faith and faithfulness of others. He prayed for them. He encouraged them.

My sleep was interrupted last night with dreams of suicide bombers and images of the dead and dying. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, hunted down, and murdered around the globe, the latest atrocities being committed by suicide bombers at a Roman Catholic and a Christ Church in Pakistan. There are many hate filled groups around the world that are bent on exterminating those who don't agree with them; those who are not like them; those who do not worship as they do. I think we've seen this before and it seems the world has learned nothing from the experiences. Although, not to the degree as in some countries, it appears that hate groups are rearing their ugly heads here in the United States, as well.

We have a lot to be thankful for. This morning I thank God for the faith and faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe who are ready to be witnesses to the love of God in Christ Jesus in the face of much persecution; in the face of even death. What are you thankful for?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Col 4 - Prayer and Proclamation; Don't forget Praise!

Colossians 4 NIV
Young Evangelists - Youth Choir
Say it! Sing it! Just do it!
Share the Good News!
Prayer, praise, and proclamation; that is my evangelism strategy. As Paul closes his letter to the Colossians he reminds us to be diligent in prayer and proclamation. Devote yourself to prayer. Pray that God will open doors for the message so that mystery of Christ may be proclaimed. We don't need a program. We just need the grace of God in order to do His will.

Years ago, my congregation was involved in a multi-congregation effort to do more evangelism. We met quite a few times to talk about evangelism among ourselves. As I drove home with two of the congregations "delegates" to this consortium, we discussed the fact that we were driving quite a distance and spending an awful lot of time talking about evangelism and not actually doing any evangelism.

The truth be told we had these many meetings and had come to the conclusion that we were not of like minds. Leaders from various congregations did not trust one another; everyone seemed to have different and personal agendas, and we were not working well together. We talked a lot at every meeting; but, we never actually got to the point of proclaiming the mystery of Christ. We never got around to doing any evangelism. We had been too busy trying to figure what kinds of evangelism programs would work best. We agreed on that drive home that evening that we already knew in our hearts what we needed to do.  That we would quit wasting time, energy and financial resources talking about evangelism. We were determined to get back on track and put our time and energy into doing the ministry we had received from the Lord. Rather than just talk about it, we would get on with the business of evangelists: praying, praising God, and proclaiming the Good News through both word and deed. We presented this to the council. The motion was approved. By the grace of God, we continued to grow both in Christ and in numbers.

The growth that happened though, did not happen because of one or two or even three people. In this closing section of Paul's letter; he reminds us that he had many co-workers in the gospel. They proclaimed the Good News with one heart and mind. They served together. There were no special programs. They did not discuss strategies. By God's grace, they prayed that God would open doors and proclaimed the mystery of Christ clearly to the glory of God. And... the church grew both in Christ and in numbers.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Col 3 Be Kind

Colossians 3 NIV
Compassion, kindness, gentleness,
A friend recently tried to do a favor for someone; even though he had no clue as to who it was that he was trying to help. He was just trying to do the right thing. He was trying to help someone in need. For trying to do the right thing he was majorly disrespected. We live in a world where people can really be ugly to others even when they are being served with the best of intentions by others. Compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience are often greeted with anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. I am confident that this will not stop this friend from doing the right thing in the future nor should it ever stop us from living life according to the love and peace that we have received in Christ.

St. Paul reminds us that whatever we do we should do at it with all our hearts, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. He reminds us to say and do all that we can to promote peace among us; to respect and to love one another. Do not let the haters in this world stop you from living life in Christ, pray for them. And, whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 13, 2015

Col 2:16-23 Angels

Colossians 2:16-23 NIV
St. Paul wrote:  "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you." (vs 18) So what about angels? Every now and then I am jolted by the reality that someone I know depends on angels more than they depend on Jesus.

Just because something or someone exists in the spiritual realms does not mean that we should worship them or put our trust in them. We do not worship the creature. Rather, we ought to worship and put our trust in the one who has charge over the spiritual realms; the one who created the spiritual realms; the one who created all things.

Angels have many purposes. Some are messengers. Some have been deliverers of God judgment. Some are ministering spirits. Angels ministered to Jesus after his temptations by the devil in the wilderness. Angels are beings created by God to serve according to God's will.

We are not to worship angels. We cannot serve two gods. Angels did not create you. They, themselves, are created beings. Angels did not die for you. Jesus did. By worshipping and honoring angels; by lifting them up more than we lift us Christ, we lose the connection we have with the head, from whom the whole body grows, who is Jesus the Christ. We are to worship the one who has charge over angels and not the angels.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Col 2:9-15 Confession and Forgiveness

Colossians 2:9-15 NIV

St. Patrick's Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland
The list of sins that I recall during confession every day can get long at times. Sometimes, it is a lone sin that plagues me to the point where it is most difficult to rid myself of the feelings of guilt because I know the potential damage that the words of my lips or my actions can cause unless God will intercede on the behalf of others. There is nothing I can do about it once something is said or done; except to repent and ask God to protect others from my sinful words or actions. I cannot go back and undo the damage I have done. I can go back and apologize and ask forgiveness. I can trust that God is with those whom I might harm (intentionally or unintentionally) and accept that on the cross my sins were forgiven.

Our sins are forgiven. They are washed away by the blood of Christ. However, in spite of this awesome gift from God, we continue to sin. Martin Luther was well aware of this war within us. That old sinful man keeps rearing its ugly head in spite of the fact that we have life in the body of Christ. Martin encouraged us to daily repentance and renewal. In the Small Catechism Martin Luther answers the question:

"What does Baptism mean for daily living?"
It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever.
St. Paul writes in Romans 6: We were buried therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
There are none of us who is without sin. May God help us to remember that it is not just others who might be in need of daily repentance; but, each of us should recognize what our sinful natures are capable of; repent; and be renewed by faith in the one who lived and died and yet lives for and through us.

When your sins plague you with feelings of guilt; remember that Jesus died so that your sins might be forgiven. "He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (vss 13-15)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Colossians 2:1-8 Pray For All People

Colossians 2:1-8 NIV 
St. Paul was not just concerned for the people immediately around him. He prayed for and encouraged everyone. He was concerned that all people's heart would be encouraged and united in love; that all people might know the mystery of God. He was concerned about the false prophets who had or might sneak into the church; turning people from Christ to human tradition and spiritual forces of this world for their lives and salvation.

Each day, as I read the world-wide news I am reminded of how great our need is to pray for and encourage all people who would follow Jesus; not just those within our own congregations and community. There are many whose very lives are in danger for daring to proclaim the mysteries of the Gospel. We must also pray for and sometimes, as God leads us, even confront, with the truth, those who teach falsely so that they eyes and minds and hearts might be opened to know and proclaim the truth.

May God protect us all from fine-sounding arguments and worship in Spirit and truth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Colossians 1 Life In This World Is Short

Colossians 1 NIV
From my Community of Saints file (2012)... Some of our
awesome young people, for whom I am always thankful,
on a multi-generational 4-wheel trip into the mountains.
Yesterday was a very sad day. I had no sooner walked through the doors to officiate at the funeral of one friend and follower of Jesus when I heard that another had just died. I have given thanks and prayed for both of them often over the years. I will miss the fellowship and partnership in the gospel of both. I am consoled only in the knowledge that according to their individual gifts they were both vessels of Christ's love and truth. I am consoled that they were rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son, through the Son. It was and is a sad day to lose such friends and fellow servants of God. But, even while I grieve, I am most thankful for having had the opportunity to share their lives in Christ; to walk with them on their journey, for a time. 

Yesterday was a sure reminder to me that our time on earth is not permanent. We are temporary residents of this place. We have only a short time to do what we are called to do and then we are called home. When I woke up yesterday morning, the power was off in my home. I reset the breaker switch not knowing what set it off. Following the funeral, my husband and I came home to figure out why the breaker had tripped and why the kitchen light was not working (the bulb was not burned). Close examination revealed scorched areas on paneling and ceiling. What had tripped the breaker switch had been an electrical fire within the wall and ceiling of my kitchen. Somehow the fire had gone out on its own. It burned only a small area; but, there was enough damage that one wall had to be torn out in order to replace wires that had melted. I had slept soundly through the night. It was yet another reminder that life in this world can come to an end when we least expect it and then we go home. But, while we are here we ought to be using our time wisely, doing what God has called us to do; bearing fruit in Christ so that others may know God's grace and also enter into the Kingdom of the Son.

Paul appreciates and is thankful for the work of Epaphras, his fellow servant in Christ, to the Thessalonians. God does not work through Paul alone. He does not work through any of us alone. We serve together faithfully and joyfully, giving thanks for the partnership of all the saints who would reveal the mysteries of God; proclaiming the good news of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, whose doors have been opened for us through His own Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I give thanks for having been partners in Christ with both Richard and Alta. Let us not neglect to give thanks always for the faithful partnership we have with others in Christ Jesus. May God grant us the time to let them know that we appreciate their walk in the way of the Lord with us.

Life is short - live it well for the sake of the gospel - live it in such a way that others may come to know Christ - live it to the glory of God

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 9, 2015

Philippians 4 Stand Fast and Rejoice

Philippians 4 NIV

Standing Fast.
He (she) was not moved by my presence.
There are many times in this world that we become disheartened. Depression may even get the best of us for a time. St. Paul reminds us today as he did the Philippians to stand fast in the Lord and rejoice! St. Paul endured trial after trial; yet, he continued to stand fast and rejoice in the Lord.

Think for just a moment about the problems you have encountered through life. Did God not see you through them all? Was He not with you? Those problems are now nothing more than a memory. Rejoice then that any trials and tribulations you may be encountering today will also pass. Continue on in the way of the Lord. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (vss 6, 7)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Philippians 3 Focus on the Goal

Philippians 3 NIV
Focus on the Goal; Stay on the Path
So much time and energy wasted striving after things of this world. Of course, we all need to work for basic necessities. St. Paul had written to the Thessalonians, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thess 3:10) But, often our focus is so centered on "stuff" that we forget that we are to focus on the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. We think that our worship and service can be relegated to one hour per week and the rest of the week is to strive after and, yes, even worship and glorify "stuff" of the world. We lift up powerful people and even sports heroes and musicians and other such celebrities. We envy and strive to be like those who have earned much in this world; after all, they have done so much for themselves and look how happy they aren't! In this world it is a sign of success to have earned much "stuff."

But, "stuff" that you've been striving after will not save you. "Stuff" will only drag you down. It will require your focus and energy to obtain and maintain. "Stuff" will not save you. The world will not save you. You cannot save yourselves by your own power and might. Only Jesus saves. Put, aside those things which have puffed up your ego and set a new course. Strive for the goal; life in Jesus' presence, in his Kingdom. Press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of for us. Set aside egos and desires of this world. Set aside your confidence in your own flesh to earn anything worthwhile. Because, I can attest that lots of stuff is not worthwhile. It is a waste of time and energy. Trust Jesus and live life in him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Philippians 2 Humble Servant

Philippians 2
It is not easy! A war often wages within our very beings. Although we may desire to be more Christ-
like, we find ourselves looking after our own interests rather than the interest of others. This world offers a lot of enticements and encouragement to be all that we can be for ourselves. But, that is not the way of the cross. That is not the path that Jesus took.

Jesus, who being in very nature God, was willing to humble himself, even to death on the cross for our sakes. He took on the nature of a servant putting our lives before his.

Likewise, St. Paul reminds us that being united with Christ we are to humble ourselves and to serve one another with like minds. We are to love one another.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." (vs 3-5)

It is not easy, this following in the footsteps of Jesus. Our egos often get in the way. But, for his sake and for the sake of all our brothers and sisters in Christ, we ask God to help and guide us to love as He loves.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Philippians 1:15-30 Fear of Death

Philippians 1:15-30 NIV

Cemetery at Old Sheldon Church, Beaufort, SC
At a pastor's conference, years ago, the speaker informed us that everyone is afraid to die, including Christians. I was offended by this revelation. I know many Christians who are not afraid of death. St. Paul certainly was not. He wrote: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gainIf I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." (vs 21-24)

As a pastor and hospice chaplain I have sat beside more than a few who have been breathing their last breaths in this world. I have indeed witnessed the fear of death in the faces of some. But, I have also witnessed the peace and the joy of those who know that their hope to depart and to be with Christ is about to be fulfilled. In those latter times, I was reminded of St. Stephen's martyrdom. "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:55-60)

Stephen saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus. Up until his very last breath, Stephen followed in the footsteps of Jesus to further the gospel as he prayed, even as Jesus had prayed with his last breath, for the forgiveness of those who were putting him to death. Not long after Stephen's stoning, St. Paul, who is this same Saul who stood and watched the murder of Stephen, met the ascended Jesus on the road to Damascus. His whole life changed. He became a willing and ardent follower of Jesus; living his life as a testimony for Christ. He was not afraid of prison. He was not afraid of death. He longed to be with Jesus; yet, he was willing to do whatever God's will was for him. He was willing to be attacked and persecuted in this world if it would advance the gospel.

No, we are not all afraid of death. Those who believe that Jesus lived and died; rose from the dead; and now reigns in the Heavenly Kingdom look forward to the day when we will see the full glory of God even while we understand that it might be necessary for others that we stay here in this world a while longer. While we live we will give testimony of all that God has done for us, to His glory.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Philippians 1:1-14 Chains

Philippians 1:1-14 NIV
Paul continues his ministry while he is in prison and not just to those who are around him. He writes this letter to the church at Philippi reminding them that he loves them and how their partnership with them in the gospel brings him joy even in his chains. This exuberant love that he has for them and for the gospel helps to embolden those in Philippi, as well as those around him, to also proclaim the gospel. In spite of persecution; in spite of imprisonment, Paul is joyful and full of love toward others. He knows that his chains are a means to further the gospel.
Today, around the world, there are countless Christians in chains for the sake of their faith in Christ. Some are facing possible execution. Some have recently been executed. But, most will never renounce Christ. They will keep the faith even to death. May their deaths not be in vain. Their chains will advance the gospel as we hear of their great love for our Lord.
As we remember them today and every day may it be a reminder to us of the great love others have for our Lord. May God grant that our love abound more and more in knowledge and understanding so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. May God grant that we be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
God's Peace - Pr. J


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Eph 6:10-24 News or Slander?

Ephesians 6:10-24 NIV
I tried to watch the news last night. I don't do that very often. I find that it is much easier for me to read the headlines online without all the editorials than to watch it on television. Broadcast news is now something different than what it was even a couple of decades ago. It appears to be more opinion than truth - a lot of negative opinion - even slander! It is bad enough that so much sin is committed; but, to hear people demonized to such an extent gets more than a bit tiring. There is enough trouble in the world without the news media attacking individuals so judgmentally and aggressively and usually it is to suit their own political purposes or egos.

St. Paul wrote "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (vs 12)

Rather than constantly attack others, I would find it a bit refreshing if we spent a little time praying for them. It might be a bit more fruitful to pray that the evil one have no power over them. St. Paul reminds us that in order fight this battle we are to put on the full armor of God. God's armor does not include ego or slander. When injustice is done we must certainly speak the truth in love. But, we ought not respond to injustice with more injustice. Slander is a grave injustice. It would be good if news reporters would just report the truth and then the world would know exactly what we are really battling.

We are not fighting mere humans. We stand against the powers of a very dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. We cannot win the battle by our own strength. Without the full of armor of God; without God, we can do nothing. Therefore; pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Keep alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray that whenever we speak, words may be given us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. Pray that we will all speak the truth in love. Pray also for the world's news reporters that they might also speak only the truth!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eph 6:1-9 Honor or Exasperate?

Ephesians 6:1-9 NIV
Serve one another as if we were serving Jesus;
even as Jesus serves us.
There are times in life when loved ones; bosses, even the government just totally exasperate us. There are times when we are asked to do things that we would just prefer not to do. Some of these things might trouble our consciences so much that we must take a stand and say no.

But, most of the time we must reexamine our motives for saying no. Will our "no" really glorify God? Will the "no" really be service to God? St. Paul reminds us that we should honor and not exasperate others. We are to serve others wholeheartedly, as if we were serving the Lord and not people.

There are definitely people that come into most of our lives that we would rather not be around and  not wish to serve. In times like these I remember the love of God and how Jesus served all people. He ate with sinners. He said he came to heal the sick not the healthy; the sinner not the righteous. (Matt 9:11-13)

He would also remind us:
     "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
     "The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matt  25:35,36,40)

As we approach Holy Week another incident that resounds in my heart and mind is when after Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus asks him if he loves him. Peter says, "Yes, Lord." And, Jesus responds: "Feed my sheep." (John 21:17) 

There are definitely times that we must say "no" because we know that our "yes" would cause more  harm to others by sending them down a wrong path even further away from Christ. But, it would be most beneficial to make sure that our "no" is motivated by our desire to serve Christ and not our self-centeredness or our personal judgments of what is right or wrong.

Honor, respect, love others as though they were Christ. God does not discriminate. It is probably a good idea that we don't either.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ephesians 5:21-33 Marriage

Ephesians 5:21-33 NIV
Just as we are one in the body of Christ so when a man and woman marries they also become one. Each member brings gifts (talents, knowledge, wisdom, etc.) that complement the gifts of the other. In marriage, two people bring separate gifts to the union; gifts to enhance their union; gifts that are meant to glorify God.

In the beginning, God created woman to be a helper for man. (Gen 2:18) He created her to walk beside and work beside her husband. I have been married for 43 years. I can verify that marriage is not always easy. It requires much commitment on the part of both the husband and wife. We have made many mistakes and hurt each other on way more than one occasion. But, we are husband and wife. We are partners. We are help-mates. Much to my chagrin, I have found myself submitting to his authority often whether I agreed with him or not and he has continued to love me whether I was all that loveable at times or not. We both understood when we made our vows before God that marriage was a life-time commitment. There were times when remembering this commitment we made before and with God was about the only thing that held us together. When God unites two people in marriage; when He makes them one, they are one forever.

So many today do not understand the nature of this union. Yes, you can get a legal divorce in the world. Yes, there are times that divorce is even necessary. But, the two will always be connected through that bond made in Holy Matrimony. It is a mistake to enter into the relationship with the idea that if it doesn't work out; well, then, you will just get a divorce. Know that divorce only separates property and dissolves the relationship that is visible in this world. The spirit of man cannot be separated from woman once they are bound by God's promises. In years to come even though that former spouse is not physically with you, they will always be with you. For better or worse, you will continue to carry them with you. For in marriage the two become one.

Marriage takes commitment from both parties. St. Paul reminds us that it also takes love. Even as Christ loves us, we are to love one another.

And, please don't think the way out of this sometimes difficult journey is to not marry and just live with each other. Not making that commitment to love one another before God is simply that: not making the commitment to love. Do you really want to spend your life with someone who does not want to love you and is not willing to be beside you throughout your life no matter what happens? It is better to be alone than to live with someone who will not make the commitment to love you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. To parents of confirmands: This is, in part, what your children hear when I teach "Thou shall not commit adultery."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ephesians 5:1-20 Wake Up Sleeper.

Ephesians 5:1-20 NIV

Sunrise over Huron Bay;
Mouth of Silver River
I have a grandchild that likes to sleep very late. She often gets to hear variations of Ephesians 5:14 from me.

"Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you."

Yes, she gets that I mean this in two ways. First off, don't sleep away the time you have to live the life God has given you; and secondly, fill your life with the love and light of Christ. Follow the example of Christ and love as he loves us; giving of yourself so that others might also learn to live in the love and light of Christ.

My grandchild is not the only one I would share Eph 5:14 with. It is Sunday morning. In a few hours we will see who was able to get out of bed this morning, in the light of day, to worship God and to allow the light of Christ might shine on them. It might also be evident who was dwelling in the darkness into the wee hours last night so they are not able to rise this morning and receive the love and light of Christ. 

Rise, oh, sleeper from the dead and let the light of Christ shine upon you!

God's Peace - Pr. J