Thursday, April 30, 2015

James 5:1-6 Justice in Labor

James 5:1-12 NIV
Justice in regards to pay can be a balancing act. On the one side there are those in this world who get rich off of the unfair wages and labor of others. There are those who do not get paid fair wages for an awful lot of work. The rich get richer on the backs of the poor who get poorer. However, on the other side there are also those who would have everything given to them without a fair days labor given for those wages.

As some employers get rich while paying their employees minimum wages; others lose their businesses because they cannot keep up with the continual rising costs of having employees. The cost of unemployment taxes, workman's compensation, and other insurances can be prohibitive for many small businesses, eventually leading to not only loss of jobs for employees; but, for the employer, as well. I know more than one small business; although their employees do not get rich, the owner actually makes less than their employees while contributing more time and work. Just because someone owns a small business we ought to be careful not to consider that they are getting rich on the backs of their employees. Some suffer in order to provide their employees employment.

At a small group study yesterday, we reflected on how many of the first immigrants came to this country in the pursuit of freedom of religion. Today, the gods that bring people to this country are often more economic in nature. They come for many reasons. Some because of religious persecution. Others also come because of economic oppression in their own countries. Say what we will about the economic conditions of this country, we are still one of the richest in the world. We thank God for this economic freedom; but, at the same time we must beware that this economic freedom does not become a god in itself for us. As individuals, as Christians, we must strive to pay fair wages in exchange for fair labor. As individuals, we ought to strive to provide fair labor for the fair wages we are paid. We need to try to ensure that our corroded gold and silver don't become testimonies against us.

Whether we are employers or employees; whatever we do, we do it unto the Lord; so that God is glorified. Do justice for your employee and your employer so that all may eat and none should suffer.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

James 4 Fights, Quarrels, Injustice

James 4 NIV
I watched the news, the unpeaceful protests in Baltimore, late into the night last night. Sadly, that is just a tiny fraction of the unrest in the world these days. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people will use the excuse that they seek justice to commit more injustice. Breaking the law and throwing rocks and bottles at cops is not going to promote anyone's agenda for the good. How can looting and setting other people's property on fire be justice in anyone's mind? Yet, there are quite a few who think that it is.

There is so much dissension in this world. St. James asks: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (vs 1-3)

We are taught by scripture that we are to love our neighbors and that doesn't mean just the people in the church. We are to love even our enemies. We are to care for them. To unjustly attack our neighbors or even our enemies is sin. To cause harm to them whether it be intentional or unintentional is sin. What we do or what we ask God for should not be for our benefit alone; because it might be pleasing to us; but, for the good of all people. 

"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." (vs 17) "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (vs 7,8)

May God help us to learn to better trust that His will is for the good of all of His children.. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

James 3 Teachers

James 3 NIV
Youth praying with and for their teachers.
"We who teach will be judged more strictly." (vs 1) Although, my major was in education, I do not consider myself much of a teacher. It is included in my call; therefore, I teach. I teach cautiously and with the help of God. I pray that I do not damage anyone by teaching falsely. There are many others in my congregation who are more gifted at teaching than I and I thank God for them. This blog is, in a way, an attempt at teaching. However, I also attempt to keep the blogs short. They are mostly the first things that come to mind as I read the scriptures one chapter at a time. I cannot possibly cover everything that is possible to be taught each day in a blog. While they are meant to stimulate the readers thoughts, I am well aware that I have no immunity against making mistakes.

I confess that as this daily blog gets closer to the end of the Holy Bible and closer to the book of Revelation I am getting just a little apprehensive.  Revelation is something quite different. It is a vision and as such is full of symbolism, which should not be taken literally and about impossible to interpret since many of the events have not yet transpired. John's vision has already been interpreted in so many ways. They simply cannot all be right. I do not ascribe to the notion that there are opposing interpretations of  scripture; all equally valid. So, I have been praying for the last month or so, through a couple of books already, that God will guide me and I will more carefully listen through that upcoming and final book of Holy Scripture.

As teachers, we must be very cautious as to what we say and write. We are warned that teachers will be judged more strictly. As we do not wish to offend God or steer others in a way that they should not be going; we will be much more cautious in what we say as well as in what we do that others may come to know the joy of their salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, April 27, 2015

James 2:14-26 Works Follow Faith

James 2:14-26 NIV
It appears that Martin Luther had a bit of a problem with James. Given the state of the church that he belonged to, it was not unreasonable for him to worry that some might misunderstand James to say that we need faith plus works for salvation. This is not the case. The only good work that can save us is the work that Jesus completed on the cross for us. We are saved by faith in Christ alone!

However, if we truly believe that he died for our salvation, we will love him. We will love him so much that this love will overflow to us in service to others even as his love was so great he was willing to give even his life for us.  Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me." "Yes," Peter responded three times. Jesus said simply: “'Feed my lambs.' 'Take care of my sheep.' 'Feed my sheep.''' (John 21)

We are not saved by our works. But, we will care for his sheep if we truly love the one who gave himself for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, April 26, 2015

James 2:1-13 Favoritism and Discrimination

James 2:1-13 NIV
To show favoritism to one means to discriminate against another. James warns against showing favoritism. Sadly, we see this way too often. People are discriminated against for their race, their sex (that includes both males and females), age, where they work or if they don't, how they dress. The list goes on and on.

I admit that there have been times in the past when I have purposely dressed down just to see if security would follow me around through particular stores. They do. In fact, I have been followed around even when I thought I was clothed all right. Not sure why; but, every now and then someone thinks that I might look suspect. On the other hand, if I wear my clergy collar, I almost always get a lot of friendly greetings no matter where I am.

Years ago, when kayaking the shores of Lake Superior, I pulled up on the shore of a town that I had visited often in the past. They had known me as a pastor and had been very friendly to me when they had welcomed me in that capacity. This time; however, they apparently did not recognize me. I had been on the water for about a month and was wearing an old pair of Marine fatigues over my swimsuit. My hair was a ratted mess hanging out from under a baseball cap. I looked pretty forlorn. I needed to use a phone as there was no cell connection. I was not welcomed well. It took forever to find a pay phone as no one apparently had a phone that I could use to let my family know where I was.

When encountering others, it would do us all well to heed the words written by St. James, "If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" (vs 3-4)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, April 25, 2015

James 1:18-27 Slow to Anger

James 1:18-27 NIV
Sully: The gentle giant...
Not many people care to be around bullies for too long. It is not pleasant to be around someone who can become angry at the drop of a hat. They may say they are standing up for what they believe, But, in fact, usually, their outbursts are attempts to justify their (or someone else's) self-centered desires and lifestyles.

James reminds us that "everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (vs 19) Anger does not produce righteousness. It produces unrighteousness. It produces drama, anxiety, and all kinds of other evils. "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (vs 21)

We, who look to Jesus who is our righteousness, ought to consider the needs of others before we speak or act so that, with the help of God, others may be blessed.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, April 24, 2015

James 1:1-18 Perseverance and Tests!

James 1:1-18 NIV
Testing produces perseverance. Without perseverance we will not grow into maturity.

It is that time of year when many of our young people will complete another year of school. Some will graduate from High School or College. There will be using what they have learned throughout the preceding years to establish their lives as adults. Many have rejoiced as each challenge, each test, was conquered. They grew in knowledge and wisdom through perseverance. They matured. They will live full and fruitful lives. 

Others who may not have any desire to face these tests and rather than persevering in their studies just ignored them or ran may well find that they have more growing left than they bargained for. Simply put; they will not be prepared for the day that they have longed for so deeply. They will, one day, realize that there was a reason for all those tests.

James, the brother of Jesus writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

When a Christian faces tests, we are to persevere with joy. We accept the challenge. We prepare for it. We don't try to ignore it or try to run from it as we know that it will help us to learn and to grow to maturity; to the fullness of Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hebrews 13:20-25 Equipped for God's Glory

Pr. Mark Westie's Installation at Wainola Lutheran, 2013
Front: Mark Westie (Wainola Lutheran); Carole Neitzel (Our Redeemer, Champion),
Mark Vander Tuig (LCMC Service Coordinator), Len Gilley (NALC retired),
Back: Les Niemi (ELCA retired), Peter Suomela (Bethany Lutheran, Covington),
Judy Mattson (Zion Lutheran, Skanee
and Aura Lutheran)
Hebrews 13:20-25 NIV
If God equips you with a gift; He will also call you to use that gift in service to Him and His children. If He calls you into service; He will equip you for that service.

Last night I met with twenty brothers and sisters from four LCMC congregations in the U.P.. We are all small, very rural (more like remote) congregations. We gathered over dinner and to share the stories of what God has done and is doing in our communities. I heard how God has called and is calling each one to do His will according to the gifts He has given us. I heard with joy the love these children of God have for the Lord and for one another.

I listened with humility (and pride if that is possible or permissible) to the youngest pastor present, Mark Westie, who was called by Wainola Lutheran, from among them, to be their shepherd. Wainola Lutheran is way out in the woods even further than my own congregation. Their pastor is also a full-time truck driver. He could not shepherd these sheep without a lot of help and support from members of his flock; without each of them using the gifts that God has given them to do His will; sharing their faith in Christ Jesus with others.

Also present were brothers and sisters in Christ, from Our Redeemer Lutheran, Champion. They are confidently entering into the process of discerning who shall be their next shepherd as their pastor, Carole Neitzel, has received another call. She will be missed; but, they and I are confident that they have been equipped to meet this challenge and they will continue to grow in Christ.

Brothers and sisters from Bethany Lutheran, Covington, were also with us. They will be planning our next gathering in Covington for this fall. They are a very unique congregation, which I had the privilege of serving as an interim a few years ago, until they called their present pastor, Peter Suomela. I have had the privilege of watching him (and them) grow in service to the Lord over many years. They use their gifts that they have been equipped with to serve God and the whole community as they grow in Christ.

And, then there was Zion Lutheran, Skanee, my own congregation. I have been serving here for almost seventeen years and the faithfulness and love of God of the people has never ceased to amaze me. Prior to attending seminary and being ordained, I served here as a Lay Pastor for about ten years. I cannot thank God enough for the patient and loving members of this congregation who have taught me much. They are eager to share their love of God with others. God, through all of them, helped to equip me to do His will.

There were two things that I heard last night that I will remember always. First, how much everyone present loves the Lord. Second, how much love they have for one another.

We are all small congregations in very rural and small communities. Our numbers grow slowly simply because of lack of population. But, that does not mean that we cannot grow. We grow in Christ because of the gifts that God has given each of us for doing his will. May He continue to work in all of us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (vs 20-21)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hebrews 13:1-19 - Unaware of Angels

Hebrews 13:1-19 NIV
Oh my! To do any justice with these verses one would have to take them one at a time. But, that is not the intent of this blog. Read the scripture linked above!  

The author is winding down his letter and reminds the readers to love and respect one another and to live honorably in every way.  I am particularly partial to verse 2. "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Whenever I read or hear that voice I am reminded of "Michael on The Way." Michael was a visitor to a congregation that I served years ago. I had only been there a couple of month. Michael was homeless, traveling, on his way, from North Dakota to Florida for the winter. (These northern states are really not good states to be homeless in the winter.) He stopped to worship with us, coming in after the service started with his paper bag and guitar case in hand headed straight for the front pew - definitely not Lutheran. I was a little nervous. No, not because of him. But, because my sermon repeated verse 2 "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Would we see the sermon lived out by the congregation that day, I wondered. Michael fidgeted a lot and during the sermon got up. It appeared that he was leaving. I stopped and introduced myself and asked him to stay so that we could visit after the service. When he told me his name was Michael, I got even a bit more anxious given the context of the sermon. My first thought on hearing his name was "archangel." He stayed. The congregation had proved to be very welcoming, indeed. He got lots of hugs during the sharing of the peace! He and I went out to breakfast afterwards to a place he had been asked to leave a couple of hours earlier. He had also visited another congregation in town that morning; but, only for a few minutes. He had not been welcomed there. I brought him down to the main highway after breakfast that morning so that he could continue his journey to places much warmer.

I asked the council at our next meeting if we could pray for Michael's journey. They agreed to also add him to our prayer list where he stayed for a few years. Not all of the council had been aware that Michael was really a homeless man. Since, they did not know me that well; they had thought I had set the whole thing up to go with the sermon. But, only God can mastermind events that well! It was a good lesson for me. I learned that day that the congregation I was serving truly did love and respect their neighbors, even the strangers. I also learned (again) that God is truly in charge and works things out for the good of those who love Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hebrews 12:14-29 - Mountains of Fear and Joy

Hebrews 12:14-29 NIV
One of my facebook friends posted that she was a bit tired of the nit picky complaints of people this morning (and it was only 5 am!) I often hear "nit picky" complaints and, in wonder, muse, "That's it! That's all they have going wrong in their lives?" Humankind tends to make mountains out of molehills. We fear things that ought not be worthy of fear. It is as though we love to live lives filled with negative drama. We search out reasons to be angry with or blame others for our problems. We search out reasons to fear.

We are sojourners on the mountain of fear even while our home is the mountain of joy. We live amidst fear in the world. Yet, we are not of this world and do not have to live in fear for our lives; for our futures. We are of the unshakeable mountain of God, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.

The mountain of fear and sorrow will be destroyed; but, the mountain of joy, the city of the living God cannot be destroyed. As residents of the Holy City, rejoice. Hear God's voice and follow so that you may know everlasting peace and joy. Do not cast aside His Word; but, follow. Do not turn away from the path which leads to the mountain of joy.

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,  for our 'God is a consuming fire.'" (vs 28-29)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hebrews 12:4-12 - A Father's Discipline

Hebrews 12:4-13 NIV
A father who loves his children will discipline them when needed. No matter how difficult it may seem, he will not turn his eyes the other way and ignore it when his children are on a path of self-destruction. He will also continue to support them and love them just as our heavenly Father loves all of His children.

It can be difficult for a child to receive discipline or reproof from their parents. It causes many to feel as though they are no longer loved. It can be just as painful of an experience for a parent to discipline their child. Yet, it is sometimes necessary. Loving parents will discipline their children as they think best. Sometimes the discipline of earthly parents turns out not so much for the best. But, even then, it is usually because it is the best that the parents know and can give. It is what they have been taught. Most try to discipline lovingly and justly. Human parents make mistakes and sometimes with wrong motivations. However, God does not. He disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

Life can be tough. Yet, through all the lessons we must learn, we will grow in Christ. We will grow up as children of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hebrews 12:1-3 - Keep Your Eyes Fixed on the Goal

Just about every year we have at
least one (sometimes more) who affirms
their faith and faithfully enters the race.
Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
Have you ever tried to walk a puppy on a leash? They tend to want to go in many directions. Puppies and little children can get distracted very easily. Children of God must discipline themselves if they are going to run the race marked out for us. It is very easy to be distracted if we don't keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (vs 2).

It is almost time for our group of young people to affirm their baptisms with the Rite of Confirmation. They have not finished any race. They have simply been in spring training so that they can be prepared for the race. Sadly, we will not see many of them again, except for possibly at Christmas. Many will lose site of the goal. All that training and no race! Those who choose to actually run the race seem to be few in number. Some will return, but not all. There will be too many distractions and attractions in the world for them to ever see the cross of Christ clearly, again. But, thanks be to God for those who will continue on to reach the goal.

Lose site of the goal and you will fall out of the race... May God help us to always remember the joy that comes with finishing in His Kingdom; in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hebrews 11 - Faith Is Confidence In What We Do Not See

Hebrews 11 NIV
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (vs 1-2)
Read all of Hebrews 11! And, remember the courageous the acts of these ancients who lived by faith in the promises of God. Much was accomplished by them as they followed the will of God rather than what the world would expect of them. They were not striving after things that they could see. They were reaching out to serve a God whom they could not see. In Moses' case, as well as others, they were reaching for a promised land. They sought the kingdom which God had promised. By faith they set forth into a barren wilderness so that they might, at the end of their journey, receive the promise of God.

"These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (vs 39-40)

We, too, search for the promised Kingdom. We know it is there because we have God's promise. We have not seen it with our eyes; but, we have seen glimpses of it with the eyes of our hearts by faith. We push forward through a sometimes very barren and hostile wilderness so at the last our faith will be most fully realized (even more fully than our faith can fathom) in the Kingdom that has been promised us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hebrews 10 - Gather Together

Hebrews 10 NIV

Photo of a Maundy Thursday Service. Although, some may
consider too much joy at Worship inappropriate; at Zion, we
encourage God's children of all ages to gather together to
worship and serve the Lord that they might know the
peace and joy that only He can give.
During Holy Week this year I was told by a couple of people that people today just don't care to go to church anymore and that it doesn't mean that they are not Christians. You can be a Christian and not gather together with other Christians. Oh, yeah? How is that really working for you? Do you actually know the peace and joy that comes from a relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you live in the reassurance that God is with you or do you live in turmoil, chaos, drama? The author of Hebrews writes: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (vs 24-25) Why not give yourself the opportunity to be encouraged by other Christians in your journey of faith?
Decades ago, I figured out that if I did not attend public worship at least once a week to worship God and to receive Him in the Word and Sacraments I would become a very ugly person by the end of the week. So ugly, in fact, that I could barely stand myself. I am a sinner. I need to hear what the Lord has done for me and for all people. Without Him I can do nothing good. If I avoided corporate worship; gathering with other Christians to hear God's Word and being reassured that I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, the world would see how sinful I can really be. I don't think anyone really wants that.

The gathering together of Christians encourages each of us present to continue in "The Way." Christians are not islands unto themselves. We are joined together by the blood of Christ. We are one in Christ. So what would make anyone think that a Christian can live and continue in "The Way" without the rest of the Body?

I pray that you will consider gathering with the Christians at your local place of worship the next time they meet so that you can be reassured that you are a beloved child of God; a child born, by the blood of Christ who loves you and gave himself for you. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hebrews 9 High Priest Enters the Sanctuary

Hebrews 9 NIV
Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
St. Petersburg, Russia
Under the first covenant God directed that a tabernacle be set up. This sanctuary made with human hands was only a copy of the true sanctuary of God. Within this sanctuary was an inner room in which only the high priest could enter. He could not enter this Most Holy Place without blood. With fear and trembling he would enter to offer the blood of animals for the unintentional sins of the people. This imperfect ritual had to be repeated over and over again for imperfect people.

But, when the Christ who is the high priest came he, himself, was the lamb that was sacrificed. The sacrifice did not take place in an earthly tabernacle. He went through the greater and most perfect tabernacle in heaven itself. He entered into the Most Perfect Holy Place willingly shedding his blood and giving his own life for the sins of the people. This most perfect sacrifice in the most perfect place needs no repeating. He died once for the many who would believe.

We live under a new covenant established for us by the great high priest, Jesus the Christ. Through the offering of his blood our sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God we need have no to fear to enter into the heavenly tabernacle which has been opened to us by the blood of the lamb. We have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb; by the blood of the Great High Priest, himself.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hebrews 8 - Covenant of Love

Hebrews 8
The New Covenant in Christ gives life!
Jesus established the new covenant making the old one obsolete. The old covenant consisted of law. It consisted of what we must do. In following the law; although, we often try, we all fail miserably. So, in His wisdom and love God, sent His Son, as high priest, to make the ultimate sacrifice for us establishing this new covenant between God and man.

This new covenant is not about what we must do; but, what God has done for us.

Thanks be God for His love and mercy is great!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hebrews 7 - Redeemed by the High Priest

Hebrews 7 NIV is not just the King. He is thee High Priest. He has paid for our sins and through him we have been reconciled to God our Father. Do we get that? Do we understand the implications? We have been reconciled to God our Father. That is the goal of one who would follow Jesus. Being reconciled to God, our Father, through the sacrifice of the great High Priest, Jesus, by the awesome power of the Holy Spirit, is the goal. Is there anything more awesome than that?

It appears (from watching televangelism) that not everyone is aware of the goal nor of the gospel (good news of the Kingdom). There are many other goals. One of the most abhorrent goal is that of doing good works, supposedly godly works, so that one might become wealthy in this world. It is a counterfeit faith. It tells us that if we do this or that, God will bless us with riches, million dollar homes, expensive cars, airplanes, etc.. That is law; albeit counterfeit law. It is not the gospel. When did riches in this world become the first goal, the focus, of a Christian?

By his blood we are set free from bondage to the world. The pursuit of this world through the law over the kingdom throws us right back into bondage to things of this world. Any priest or pastor who teaches that Jesus came to make us rich in this world is not one we should be listening to.

Please, excuse my rampage this morning. I cannot count the times just in the past month I've encouraged people to be more discerning in what televangelists they're watching; even to just skip those channels altogether. And... then last night I found myself watching one. I did not sleep well because of the blasphemous things I heard.

I am not saying that it is a sin to be rich. There are many wealthy Christians. But, it is definitely wrong to promise that God will make someone rich if you send them your money. By doing that, the only one you're making rich in this world is the televangelist. The gifts of God cannot be bought.

Remember this, you were purchased with the precious blood of Jesus, not with silver or gold.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hebrews 6 - Move Past Elementary Teachings

Hebrews 6 NIV
We have just passed through the season of Lent and those last days that we call Holy Week. Each day we follow the path that led Jesus to the cross and then we watch him die. Each year, during this season I find myself grieving. I am grieved that there seem to be so few who observe this season and learn from it a more complete picture of what Jesus did for us and for our salvation. Each and every year, I grieve for those who have turned away because as the writer to the Hebrews tells us: "To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Note that he writes, "to their loss." And... so I grieve over their loss. I grieve that the one who gave his life for us is loved so little and taken so for granted.

We cannot go from Christmas to Easter without something happening in between. Although both great and glorious events, Jesus did much more than be born to a virgin mother and then be born again from the grave. Jesus had a life between birth and resurrection. Let us move beyond these very elementary teaching so that we might understand all that Jesus did for us and why he did it.

May God help us to move beyond just a knowledge and acknowledgement of the glory events and realize the life he lived as true man included a life of loving and humble service. The temptations; the sufferings, the persecution, the execution, he endured were quite inglorious and there was so much more. Let us not subject him to further public disgrace by not moving past the elementary teachings that even the secular world knows.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hebrews 5 - Infant Christians

Hebrews 5 NIV
Years ago, there was a young man whom I had been teaching about Christ. We had seen each other almost every day for close to a year. I was going to be leaving and would probably never see him again so I attempted to explain to him about the peace and joy that comes with the indwelling Spirit of Christ. I could see a dazed look in his eyes. He finally said, "I just don't understand." I realized that he was still too new to Christianity to get it, yet. He was still an infant. He had much to learn. I smiled and told him that I understood that it was hard to grasp; but, that I was teaching him all this so that in years to come, when I wouldn't be around, he might remember my words and understand.

The author of Hebrews begins to explain the significance of Jesus being called as a high priest in the order of Melchizedek, offering up prayers and a sacrifice for the people. The author understands that readers will not understand. They are still infants to Christianity. While, by this time they should be teaching, they still have much to learn. The problem the author sees is that they do not really want to learn. They no longer try to understand.

There are things that are beyond our comprehension. But, that should not stop us from trying to understand. It should not stop us from listening. It should not stop us from studying God's Word. I sometimes hear the excuse that someone does not attend community worship because they just don't understand scripture. They don't understand the lessons read or what the pastor's sermon is about. That is not a reason to stay away. If you don't understand, that is all the more reason to hear it. To know Christ and him crucified; to grow in Christ one must be fed with the Word.

See you at Worship where you can hear the word and grow in Christ!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hebrews 4 - Rest in the Promised Land

Hebrews 4  NIV
Let us enter God's rest. What is this rest? There are those who would use this chapter to remind us of the law of keeping the law of resting on the Sabbath day. But, this is much more than that. It is a promise that all who believe will live in God's rest. We will live in peace; reconciled to God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. In these troubled days there is only one place to find real rest; real peace, and that is in the presence of God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

We receive God's rest when we trust Him. We receive God's rest when we receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and understand that there is no work that we can do to save ourselves.

We receive His rest as we live in His presence; in His Kingdom, even today. Just as many of the Israelites received the promised land and promised rest even while they were still alive, so too the promised land, the Kingdom of God, is at hand, for you; for all who believe.

May God open our hearts and minds so that we might enter into His rest, into the promised land, even today.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hebrews 3 - He Leads Us

"For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 'Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,' bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." (vs 4-6)

We are his house. He is faithful to us. May God help us to be faithful to him. God saved His people from the Egyptians. He delivered them from bondage. They followed him into the wilderness. But, once there, they began to rebel. They complained against God. They were not happy following in the way that He lead them. Those who rebelled perished in the wilderness. They never got to see the promised land.

God has delivered us from our own sinful nature by the blood of His Son, Jesus. He leads us through the wilderness. What shall we do there? Shall we rebel? Shall we complain against Him because the way is not always to our liking?

"Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house." We are his house. We are his children. Will we be faithful to him and follow through whichever wilderness he would lead us to the promised land?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hebrews 2 - Pay Attention; What Is Mankind?!

Hebrews 2 NIV
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
 You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor

    and put everything under their feet.” (vs 6-8)

What indeed is mankind that God would so favor us? Why would God do that? Rest assured there is nothing so great about us. We are favored simply because God chooses to favor us. He chooses to bestow His grace and mercy upon us.

He chose to send His only begotten Son, born fully human, to live among us. He chose to send Jesus to die so that we might live. It was not for His sake or even the sake of the angels that this was accomplished. It was that mankind might inherit places as children of our heavenly Father; as brothers and sisters to Christ. We have done nothing to earn this family status. In fact, we have turned our backs on our Father; our brother, Jesus; and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ a multitude of times.

He invites you to a family gathering. Come and hear the stories of all that our marvelous Father and brother have done for us. When was the last time you joined your brothers and sisters in Christ at the table our Father has set for His children? Come and eat at the table that He has prepared for us. Don't miss the family reunion at your local congregation. By His Word, He calls you to be reconciled to Himself; to live as a member of His holy family.

May we all pay attention to our heavenly Father so that we would not neglect His Word that He has given us in Jesus Christ; so that we will not reject our Father's will for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hebrews 1 - Ministering Angels

Hebrews 1 NIV
One of my most often used prayers for little children is that the Lord would send his warrior angels to guard and protect them. As I lay my hands on their heads and pray for them, I can see their little faces just light up with hope. Their parents' faces usually light up as well. You see, the world can get pretty yucky for adults; but, for many children it can be most horrendous. Children need protection. Many live in fear, sometimes in fear of their parents. All it takes is to watch or read the local news and we see verification for their many fears. Most of them probably do not even understand the whole reality of the dangers that are out their lurking for them. Am I a pessimist when it comes to the world? In some regards, most probably. But, I have hope in the Kingdom of God and the one who rules that Kingdom, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

There is hope. We have hope and salvation, spoken to us by God's firstborn Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Included in that universe are the angels, whom He made to be ministering spirits, sent to serve all who would inherit salvation.

First and foremost we have the Son who lives and reigns at the right hand of the Father. He is with us always, overseeing all that goes on in our lives. He sends his angels to minister to those who believe. And... by the looks on the faces of the little children, they believe. Even as the angels ministered to Jesus (Matt 4:11), they are sent to minister us. We do not pray to them. Our trust is in not in the angels; rather, it is in God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus the Christ who has directed them to minister to all of God's children.

May all God's little children be protected from the evil, harm and trouble that surrounds them as they are filled with the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Philemon 1 All Brothers and Sister in Christ

Philemon 1 NIV

Brother, sister, home... Paul uses these words when writing to Philemon regarding the slave Onesimus. Philemon apparently hosts a house church. That is, his home is where their brothers and sisters in Christ gather to share the good news of Jesus with one another and to worship. He makes a point of calling both Philemon and Onesimus brothers as he appeals to Philemon to accept the runaway slave back, not as a slave; but, as a fellow servant of Christ; as a brother in Christ.

Whether we worship in a house church or a more traditional sanctuary, we should never forget that we have been born again through the waters of baptism into the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ; children of the heavenly Father. We are to treat one anther like beloved children of God; with love and respect, even as we would wish to be treated. One is not above the other. There are no slaves and masters for we are all servants of the most high God.

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." (vs 25)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, April 6, 2015

Titus 3 - Do Good; Live Peaceably

Titus 3 NIV
Paul encourages Titus to remind the people to live peaceably and do good. There is enough trouble in the world without causing or being involved in foolish controversies. Do not waste away your life enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures or in malice toward one another.

God has given us life; eternal life. "He has saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (vs 6-7) This is a good work of God. Why should we throw it out and exchange it for life-draining drama? Christ died on the cross so that we could exchange our sinful drama for new life in him. Will we ignore that gift to us?

When I hear of some of the foolish disruptions to lives around me, I think of those who are in real trouble. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are dying for the name of Jesus. Many have illnesses that cannot and will not overcome. There are problems that really need help. There is a gospel to be proclaimed. All of these foolish controversies are distractions of the devil to keep us from doing the real good that we could be doing.

Paul encourages us to do good rather than waste our time on that which is not productive. He wrote: "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives." (vs 14) There are plenty of genuinely urgent needs in the world. We have been renewed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. As children of the living God, let us not be distracted by those things that could well be avoided by striving to live in peace and respecting and loving one another.

God's Peace - J

Sunday, April 5, 2015

TItus 1:2 - He is Risen

Titus 1:2 NIV
We are to be eager to live lives that reflect our faith. "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (vs 11-13)

He is risen! It is Easter morning. I am looking forward to seeing so many at worship this morning. Lent and especially the Great Three Days can be particularly difficult. Throughout the season I am reminded how unworthy we actually are. This Jesus the Christ suffered greatly for us; yet, over and over again we deny him. We turn our backs on him. We find better things to do than worship and praise him; to proclaim the good news. 

Without his death, we would be lost. We would be doomed for all eternity. Yet, do we remember the death? Do we remember the suffering? Or do we remember him only on Easter morning. He is risen! But, in order to be risen, he first had to die. He could have turned his back on us and not faced the persecution and execution. He could have gone the other way. But, he didn't. He did what was good for you and me. He died. And... yet, he lives and because he lives so shall we!

May God bless us with open ears, hearts, and minds so that we might begin to comprehend all that He has done for us and turn, living lives that will reflect our faith in the one who died and yet lives for us.

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Titus 1:1 - Elders, Overseers, Council Members

Titus 1 NIV
Paul's letter to Titus ministering in Crete, will sound very much like the ones we just read to Timothy. He outlines the qualities of an elder. What Paul considered an elder would be what most of us know as council members. They are overseers who manage the household of God. They cannot be overbearing, nor quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. They are to be hospitable, loves what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Above all, they  hold firmly to the message as it has been taught, so that that they can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Not everyone should be a council member. So often, congregations, will choose the closest warm body who has the most available time and will volunteer or sometimes they will choose a prominent leader of the community or successful businessman thinking that he or she will be a great leader. There are all kinds of reasons people are called to serve on the council of elders. Above all, we must strive to ensure that they are faithful people. They are to know the truth of Jesus Christ and can and will be willing to promote the spreading of the gospel; as well as, able to correct those who would teach another gospel in order to ensure the flock that is under our care are not led astray.

It is necessary that they be powerful believers that they might be a witness to the mighty works of God in Christ Jesus. There will be, in every congregation and community, those who will stir up dissension; who will promote false doctrine. You will be able to recognize them easily. "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him." (vs  16) You will find them within the congregation and community, even as weeds spring up with the wheat. (Matt 13:24-30) Continue with them in your midst; lovingly correct them and encourage them in "the way." But, do not elect them to the council of elders.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, April 3, 2015

2 Timothy 4 - Preach The Word No Matter What

2 Timothy 4 NIV
Monastery at Valaam, Russia
Paul is anticipating his death and so closes this letter to Timothy encouraging him to come quickly to even while he gives Timothy instruction on ministry. "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction," he writes. (vs 2) 

Just as the many deserted Jesus in his last hours, Paul finds that many have deserted him. He warns Timothy to especially watch out for Alexander who did him great harm. There are those who have and will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths. They will listen only to what will please their itching ears. They will come up against you for proclaiming the truth. Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all duties of your ministry. (vs 3-4)

It is not easy to proclaim the message of God in Christ Jesus. There will be many who will want you out of their lives, even dead. They do not want to hear the truth. The Word of God, is after all, a two-edged sword: one edge to stab the conscience; the other to heal the wounded soul. Be aware of those who would attack you for the truth. But, do not worry unduly about them for God is with you and for you. With patience, continue to proclaim the good news to all who would hear.

"The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all." (vs 22)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2 Timothy 3 - Believe Only What Can Be Supported By Scripture

2 Timothy 3 NIV
Paul tells Timothy that "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (vs 12) When I was a young Christian I had a hard time figuring out what this meant. As a much older and hopefully a bit wiser Christian, I now have a better idea. It can be quite a challenge, at times, to live in a society where God is placed on the bottom of the list of his children's priorities, if He's even on that list all. It's difficult to be surrounded by so many people are in love with themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to the parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. (vs 2-5) Paul's not talking here about unbelievers. He's talking about those who profess to believe in God. He's talking about some of the Christians at Ephesus. Paul says simply, "Have nothing to do with such people." (vs 5) That can be most difficult as some of those who would teach and believe such lies are our friends, our neighbors, and often our own family. That, sadly, is a reality.

We live in an age when many who profess to be Christians have heard and believe many false teachings. There are those who profess to be Christian who do not actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead; that He is God. There are those who believe and teach that everyone is saved and that Jesus is not the only way, quite contrary to his word. These denials of the faith must be refuted to protect those who are being led astray by those who would worm their way into homes and gain control over the gullible. We must also pray for those who have been led astray by those who teach and preach to advance their own agendas.

So, what can we do? We can get to know God's word and loving will for us and for all people. Paul encouraged Timothy and the church at Ephesus to "Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (vs 14-17)

We cannot confront lies unless we know the truth. Be diligent, then, in hearing and studying the Word of God found in the Holy Scriptures. You're odds of hearing the truth on television are pretty slim. You must open your Bibles to find it.

Don't forget to click on the link at the top of this page to read the scripture that this blog is based on. You should not trust even my words, unless they can be supported by scripture.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2 Timothy 2 - Support Those Who Struggle In Their Journey

2 Timothy 2 NIV
Most of us; but, I am aware not all of us, have spent of our youth in pursuit of evil desires. That does not mean those who did not pursue evil desires did not sin. They just did not pursue it as others have. But, just as we age with each passing day, we ought also to be growing mature in Christ with each passing day.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (vs 19) That is not always the easiest thing to do. Once we fallen off the path, sometimes it is very difficult to get back on it. Sometimes, it takes a while. It can be a long process. It behooves the mature Christian to support and faithfully witness to those who are set on pursuing a life more befitting a Christian witness themselves.

They are to be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Those who are mature in their faith must persevere in their witness to Christ. We cannot be sidetracked by unduly worrying about or following things of this world. St. Paul asked Timothy to "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding office." (vs 3-4) "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (vs 15)

As Christians, we serve the world by being faithful to Christ as workers who are not ashamed of the gospel and who correctly handle the word of truth. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with all people. Support those who are struggling on the journeys. In this way, others will hear and believe and grow in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J