Monday, August 31, 2015

Rescue Me From Sinking Mire


But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters." Psalm 69:13-14


The Silver River is extremely high again this year. It has invaded the back yard creating a bit of a mess. In order to get to the river's edge, one must trudge through the muck and mire, sometimes sinking up to one's knees. But, the important thing is that we will, in fact, be able to get to the river's edge; to the place of promise. We may have to trudge through some sludge; a bit of muck and mire; but, the goal is well worth it.

Even as we find ourselves journeying through a lot of muck and mire in this world, we know that God hears our prayers and answers. In His time, out of the abundance of His love, He delivers us from our enemies, even if our enemy is our self.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Abandon Your Boat And Follow

"As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed him." Matt 4:18-20

Simon Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets to follow Jesus. I wonder if those who are not fishermen attached to the waters understand how difficult it would be to leave behind their boats and nets to follow after a teacher.

Although, I was never really good at it, I grew up fishing. My family spent a lot of time on lakes and rivers and creeks. I love the water. Today, I live on a river. I look out over the water and am reminded of all the things that Jesus has done for me. The waters remind me of the washing and cleansing we have received through the blood of Christ. The waters remind me of my baptism into his death and resurrection. I have a small boat that sits at the dock and rarely gets used. It reminds me that I have been called to abandon my boat and go fish for people.

Following Jesus sometimes requires that we give up a thing or two that we love and enjoy so that we and others will know the greater joy of living in His presence. Now let's go fishing... for people. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Armor of God

"Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  Eph 6:11-12 NRSV
 
Sometimes we forget that the battle is not against each other; but, against the spiritual forces that attack every one of us. We forget and when we forget we forget to pray even for our enemies that they might change (repent) and receive the peace of the Lord so that we all might live in peace; so that we all might live in the joy of His presence.
 
Yes, the evil one does manifest himself in humankind and we do find ourselves in conflicts and wars. To protect those who cannot protect themselves there are times that we must engage in physical warfare. But, even in those times the spiritual warfare must be paramount. We can never forget to wear the armor that the Lord has provided us. We are to at all times and in places wear the belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, shoes to help us go out and proclaim the gospel of peace, the shield of faith so that the evil one's arrows will be thwarted, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). Even as we venture forth wearing this armor we should always and in all places remember to pray. (Eph 6:14-18) Pray in the Spirit that we do the Lord's will and not our own. Pray that God is with us; that, the battle might be won and that the devil have no power over us or any whom God loves. 
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tossing Sea

Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord;
    and I will heal them.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea
    that cannot keep still;
    its waters toss up mire and mud.
There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.
 Psalm 57:19-21


Always trying to stir up mud and mire; to create dirt and filth, there is no room for peace in the lives of those who plot evil.

Yet, for those who pursue peace; those who assist their neighbor in the pursuit of peace, will live in peace. Those who seek to live reconciled to God and to one another will know the peace that only He can give no matter what storms the evil doers would create for them. They will know peace because God is with them.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

God's Peace

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you." 2 Thess 3:16

One of the most peaceful places I have ever visited was Puerto Rico. The warm winds were blowing as they do all year. We made the journey a couple of years ago to visit a friend who was in hospice. We did not make it in time to visit him as he died before we got on the plane. We were able to visit with his wife and sons.

In spite of the grief, there was serenity surrounding the visit. The wife, a friend of mine, is a very faithful woman. No matter what trials or tribulations she has faced over the decades, she has faced them with courage and with the peace of heart that only God can give.

As we face the winds and waves of various storms, may God grant us peace at all times and in all ways.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Storms

Luke 8:22-25 NRSV
Jesus calms the disciples and the seas. He commands even the winds and the waters. They listen to him. But, there is something else we need to remember. The storm did not begin until they were out on the sea with Jesus.

Following Jesus is no guarantee that there will not be storms in your life. In fact, it might guarantee even a few more. If you truly follow Jesus you will face obstacles and opposition of all kinds. Jesus never promised that we would not have troubling or stormy times. Only that with him, we would weather them. We would live. We can live in peace knowing that the one who has power over all things is with us always.

There is no need to fear the storms. The one who commands the winds and the waves is with you and for you. But, sometimes, you will need to experience a few storms on the sea before you can reach the other side.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Lord Takes Care Of You

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!" (Luke 12:27-28)

The Lord provides! He finds many ways and many people to do this. Sometimes, it is through grandparents. Sometimes, it is through others. But, for those of us with even a little faith, He does provide.

It has always kind of amazed me that often those with very little feel abundantly blessed and those with an abundance sometimes feel and act like they live in poverty. They do not recognize the gifts that God has already given them. They do not treasure what they already have.

Jesus reminds us that God clothes even the grass of the feel with beautiful flowers; He will also clothe us - we who have such little faith. Trust in the Lord and give thanks for all that He has done!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Rock


Be to me a rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress, to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
                                            Psalm 71:3-4 NRSV
 
Sully is a huge English Mastiff. He is a rock. He goes about his business steady and sure. You can nudge him; but, unless he wants to move, it's not going to happen. Fortunately, he is a gentle giant and listens quite well. He is totally non-aggressive; but, if he's standing by your side, most people would think twice about approaching you in any manner other than in a most amiable way. 
 
Jesus is our rock of refuge. He is our fortress. The unjust and cruel will not prevail over those who dwell within the walls of that fortress, which is the Body of Christ. As much as I trust that by Sully's side I will be safe; I only see him a few times a year. But, Jesus is with me always. It is he who will save and keep us for all eternity.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Lord Looks At The Heart



"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7

When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint the next king over Israel, Samuel saw the stature of Eliab and thought for sure this one must be the one. But, the Lord let him know that He had not chosen the next king of Israel by his outward appearance. In the end, it was Jesse's youngest son, just a shepherd in the field, who was called to be anointed to be the next king.

In the spring when the dandelions begin to bloom, my husband is in a hurry to get rid of them. I see the yellow blossoms as doing no harm. They are a sign of spring and I enjoy their presence in my yard. We each have a different perspective on what we see or hear. We see things differently. My husband sees weeds. I see flowers; a gift from God that are, in fact, consumable.

God see things a whole lot differently than we do. So what does God see when He looks into our hearts? Our neighbors may see our hearts as dark as the night. But, what does God see? Does he see a child in pain who has not yet learned how to deal with life around him? Does he see a heart that is aching for only the peace that He can give? 

No one; but, God, can know what is truly in the heart of another person. Whether good or evil; whether a weed or a flower, only God can know for sure.

Who knows? The next weed that you try to destroy just might be a treasured flower; a beloved and chosen child of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Christian Fellowship

Do not neglect to meet together for encouragement.

"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV

We gather together to worship God. As we hear the word and receive the Sacrament, the love of God fills us to overflowing. That overflow pours out into the community around us.

Yet, as we reach out to the community around us with the love of God, there are times that we can be emptied pretty quickly. St. Paul warned in this second letter to the Corinthians (6:14) not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. That does not mean that we should shun unbelievers; for how will they know the love of God if we do not share it with them? However, it does mean that we should make time to gather together with other believers not just at worship, but as often as possible so that we have the opportunity to encourage and support one another in our faith.

May God bless the fellowship of all the saints.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. This was just a reminder to our local community to remember to join us at our back to school picnic in September to fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Light To Guide Us

"To give light to those who sit in darkness
and the shadow of death, to guide our feet
into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79
I have always been fascinated with lighthouses. They stand alone as beacons of safety showing us the way in which we should go and the way in which we should not go. 

When my children were young I had told them that one day I would like to live in a lighthouse on an island. My youngest son told me that he would buy me one when he grew up. He also said that he would bring me to the island in a boat and then leave me there. He was not as fascinated with lighthouses as I was or maybe he was just not too thrilled with me that day.


Imagine being tossed about in a small boat on the water. It is so dark that you can see nothing beyond the boat. Fear for your life grips your heart. Suddenly, you see a light that will guide you into a safe harbor. Your heart calms. You are at peace as you steer for safety toward the light. 

Jesus is our beacon of light. As we look to the light, we will be shown the way in which we should go and the way in which we should not. He will guide our feet in the way so that we might live in his  peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Streams of Water


FIRMLY PLANTED BY STREAMS OF WATER.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:2-3
At the least disruption to life there are those who cause so much drama one would think the world was ending. They are like grass blowing in the wind; mowed over at the landowners earliest convenience.

But, one who loves the Lord and considers the way He would have us go is like the tree that is firmly planted in soil beside streams of water. On the riverbanks on which I live, many of the trees have been blown about by the winds. They are old and have been bent down. But, they continue to grow with their roots connected deeply within the soil. The winds nor the waves have been able to take them down.

Such is the person who delights in the law of the Lord. They might bend from time to time. But, they will not break.

May you drink abundantly of the streams of living water provided by Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Light Shines

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
Psalm 112:4
Some days can seem pretty dark. We all face those days at some time in our lives. When we do, we need to remember that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. (John 18:12)

So, when we wander into dark places that we do not belong, do not fear. Turn back to Jesus, and he will be the light to your salvation. (Psalm 27:1)

Life can be tough and sometimes we make it even tougher by retreating into the darkness. Remember that it is always darkest before dawn. The light is coming.

"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matt 4:16)

May God us all to see and live in the light of Christ.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Peace Beside Still Waters

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Every morning as I pray the Shepherd's Psalm, I am reminded how much God has blessed by providing me with this place of peace near the water.
 
Some days are more chaotic than others. Yesterday was one of them. It had nothing to do with serving the congregation. It had more to do with the world around us. In spite of the fact that we are Kingdom children, we still live in a world that is so filled with "stuff" that we have to take care of that it threatens to steal our peace.
 
So, this morning, I am even more thankful for my home beside the waters that reminds me so much of the peace that only God can give. In the midst of storms in the world, I can look out and be reminded of Moses parting the sea so that the people could escape from their persecutors. The waters remind me of my own baptism into the Body of Christ. I am reminded that it is Christ who leads me beside still waters. He makes me to lie down and find rest in the greenest of pastures. He is with me in the darkest valleys of the shadows of death. The Lord is with me and in Him alone, I know peace.
 
It is a rare day that I turn down my driveway after spending a day out in the world and neglect to give thanks to God for this place of peace that He has given me.
 
May God grant you the peace that comes with knowing that He is with you and for you in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, August 17, 2015

Only One Sign For Eternal Life

"And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red
and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." Matt 16:3 NIV
I was very young when my mother began teaching me some pretty cool things; especially if you live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She taught me how not to get lost in the woods when picking wildflowers by observing the position of the sun or the moon and what side the moss grows on a tree. She taught me how to track, at least well enough to follow my own trail back out of the woods. She also taught me how to forecast the weather by watching the leaves on the trees or the color of the skies. She taught me "red skies at night, sailors' delight; red skies in the morning, sailors take warning."

When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven he told them there would be only one sign for them. That sign would be the sign of Jonah. The prophet Jonah, you might recall, had spent three days floating around in a watery abyss in the belly of a big fish. He had thought at the time that this would be his grave; his final resting place.

The sign that Jesus was referring to was that he, himself, would repeat the sign of Jonah. But, this time it would be for the salvation of all people; for all who would believe him. Three days he spent in the grave. He descended into hell. (1 Pet 3:18-20) And... just as Jonah was spit from the mouth of the fish to go and proclaim God's message to those nasty Ninevites that they might be saved and live; on the third day Jesus rose from the grave so that all who believe him would be saved and inherit eternal life.

God gave us many signs in creation to assist us in our daily lives. But, Jesus, is the only sign that we need for eternal life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, August 16, 2015

With Mine Own Eyes; I Shall See God

"Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were
sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of
faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had risen." Mark 16:14 NRSV
The disciples would not believe that Jesus had risen because they had not yet seen him. When they did see him, the chewed them out for being so stubborn; so bullheaded. They had not believed the witness of Mary or the others who had, in fact, testified that they had seen him alive and walking around.

That is the reason for many not believing it today, either. What they cannot see with their own eyes; what they cannot touch with their own hands, they refuse to accept as truth. In their stubbornness they will not accept what they have not witnessed themselves. Even then, some will continue in the bullheadedness. A man walking on the moon is still a fabricated myth to some. Sadly, some even deem the Holocaust during World War II as a fabrication.

How hard-headed are those who refuse to believe the testimony of those who have seen Jesus! How hard-hearted are they who would follow in their own selfish ways rather than the Way that Jesus prepared for us; for all people, into the Kingdom of God. Their bullheadedness will harm only themselves in the end when before the throne of God every knee will bow.

One of my often used scriptures lately has been from the book of Job. After suffering so much and then being verbally assaulted by his friends, Job makes this statement.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!  (Job 19:25-27)

Job suffered much. He had not seen God with his own eyes, yet. But, he was convinced that he would. He was convinced that he would see him with his own eyes and not just through the testimony of others. Job, too, was in a sense very bullheaded. Although, he suffered much; he never gave up hope in his Redeemer.

May God help us to trust the testimony of the saints before us, as found in the Holy Scriptures, so that we might have hope in the one who died and yet lives for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Continue The Journey In The Way

Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in
heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love
with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in
your way." 2 Chron 6:14 
I began this blog with the book of Genesis four years ago at the request of a couple of members at Zion Lutheran, Skanee. We have journeyed together daily through the whole of the Holy Scriptures and the Small Catechism.

I have contemplated ending this journey and sleeping in instead as I am not really sure in which direction I should go. Attempting to come up with a new devotion, without guidelines, every day, seems to me to be a very daunting wilderness.

However, there have been a few who have asked me to continue this daily as it appears to help them to keep focused on the Word. I also probably need to continue so that I will not get lazy and sleep in. So, I will be continuing; but, in a different manner. I will no longer be directed by the next reading, the next chapter, or verses. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me daily to pray and meditate on and in the way that the Spirit leads.

We will see where our journey in "His Way" leads us. There is only one way. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life! (John 14:6)

Have a very blessed day!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, August 14, 2015

Supporting Widows And All In Need

For Widows.
She that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 1 Tim. 5:5-6.
For All in Common.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Herein are comprehended all the commandments. Rom. 13:8ff And persevere in prayer for all men. 1 Tim. 2:1-2
 
1 Timothy 5 actually outlines who the church might consider a widow for purposes of assisting her. They are women over the age of sixty who have been faithful to their husbands and have devoted their lives to helping others. These were women would probably not be marrying again and have no one else to support them.
 
The reality is that the church then and now cannot physically support every person who thinks that they have a need. We cannot support every person that doesn't feel like working, either. Nor, can the government. Our funds are limited and we have to be good stewards of God's gifts so that we have the ability to help those widows who are in legitimate need. 
 
Serving at a previous congregation, I lived in a parsonage next to the church. It seemed that for a couple of years I was receiving homeless travelers looking for assistance just about every week. A very large majority of them seemed to have been traveling from Canada. After procuring a motel room for one very nice man who was traveling by foot, I asked him how it was that he had to come to me for help when there were so many other churches in the area. I jokingly wondered if there was a sign at the Canadian border to stop at Pr. Judy's in Baraga for help.  He said no. He had stopped by the sheriff's office for assistance and they had directed him to me. 
 
It can difficult o discern who is in legitimate need because they cannot work or cannot find a job and who is just not willing to work to support themselves. As a church, we are concerned that all people are cared for even as we would want to be cared for if we or our children are in dire need. We do the best we can; but, at times we fall short. Sometimes we fall short because resources are definitely limited and we have not always been the best stewards of God's gifts.  
 
Lord, give us this day our daily bread... so that through us your children; the widows, the widowers, the homeless, the forsaken, might be fed.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Choose Wisely Whom You Will Follow

For Young Persons in General.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Pet. 5:5-6.
 
The Small Catechism refers to 1 Peter 5:5-6 in order to remind young people of their duties.
 
"In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."
 
I would add verses 8 and 9 of 1 Peter 5 as part of that warning.  "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."
 
Yes, by all means, in humility, listen and follow in the way your elders would teach you to go. But, when you are getting conflicting directions from elders; when one tells you to go this way and another tells you to go that way; take a good look at the fruits of the one who is trying to direct you. If their actions have led them to lives dodging the law or if they have spent time in prison or even in multiple civil suits. If in order to survive they have to con other people or steal from them, if their pride filled lives are being spent on making trouble for others and ultimately themselves, maybe it would be a good thing to listen to and follow the elder who has learned to live in peace with others and to produce fruits worthy of the family of believers and the Kingdom which has been promised you through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
 
Choose wisely whom you will serve: one who is guided by the devil who wishes only to devour you or one who serves the living Lord who was willing to die so that you might live.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Glorify God In All That You Do

For Male and Female Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Eph. 6:5ff ; Col. 3:22.
For Masters and Mistresses.
Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him. Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1.
 
Whatever it is that you do, do with all your heart. It is not man that we serve; but, God. When we commit to something, let us commit it to God, so that He might be glorified. As Christians, when we say, "Yes, I will go" or "I will do that" and then not keep that commitment because something more pleasing to ourselves comes up, we are definitely not glorifying the Lord; but, lifting up our own sinful natures. When we commit to something, we ought to do it wholeheartedly and not just well enough to get by so that we can say it is finished. We are to do it well; so that the fruits of the work of hands or the words of our lips; whatever, it is that we do, might glorify God.
 
May God help us so that whatever we do or say is done with our whole hearts to the glory of God.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, August 10, 2015

Families Reconciled in the Lord

For Parents.
Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6:4.
For Children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Eph. 6:1-3.
 

It is said that blood is thicker than water. What exactly does that mean, anyway? For many it means that we are to stand by and support the lifestyles and actions of family no matter how dysfunctional it gets. For some it might even mean lying for a family member in order to keep them from being incarcerated. Key words in Martin Luther's admonition to obey your parents are the words "in the Lord." God always is the highest authority in our lives. He is our heavenly Father. If He says not to do something, don't do it. If He calls you to do something then just do it. Parents should never provoke or encourage their children to do something that is wrong in the eyes of our Father in heaven.
 
Family is an awesome gift from God. Families make mistakes. They hurt one another. If the family would turn to the Lord they could and would find a way out of the messes that they have wandered into. In turning to the way of the Lord we can find forgiveness and reconciliation. Family is a very good thing. However, we also know that there are times when parents can become so dysfunctional; provoking their children to wrath, encouraging them to do hurtful things to themselves and others; encouraging them to not follow in the ways of the Lord. What is a child to do?
 
Sometimes, even though the parents have done all they could to bring up their children in the way of the Lord, children will turn against their parents, as well. What is a parent to do?
 
For the parents and children who find themselves in these situations and alone without family, don't stop praying for each other that you might all be reconciled in the Lord. Remember, too, that you are a child of God. There is a blood that is thicker than blood and that is the blood of Christ that was shed for you. Our heavenly Father is always with you to support and encourage you in the way that you should go.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Husbands and Wives

Honor One Another!
For Husbands.
Ye husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet. 3:7. And be not bitter against them. Col. 3:9.
For Wives.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Pet. 3:6; Eph. 5:22.
 
I am not quite sure what Martin Luther meant when he wrote that husbands should dwell with their wives according to knowledge. Was there some specific knowledge he was speaking about or was he merely saying "Don't be stupid! Treat your wives with honor."?
 
Yesterday, my husband and I held a graduation party for our eldest granddaughter. He was setting tables and chairs out. Cassie and I were preparing the meal when my husband pointed out that I didn't make the coffee the way he thought it ought to be made. I have been making the morning coffee for almost forty-four years. Forty years ago, letting me know that he didn't think that I knew how to make coffee would have been fighting words. Yesterday, I let him remake the coffee without saying a word.
 
As we grow old; as we grow in faith; as we grow in love for one another; we find that there are just some things that are not worth arguing about. We remember that we are both heirs of God's grace and mercy. Respect and honor one another that you might live in peace with one another all the days of your life.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pay Tribute To Caesars

What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates.
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. Matt. 22:21. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, etc. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Rom. 13:1,5ff. I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. 2:1f Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, etc. Titus 3:1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors as unto them that are sent by him, etc. 1 Pet. 2:13f ]
 
The Small Catechism today reminds us of pretty much the same as yesterday. Those who are in places of authority ought to be respected. At the very least we need to respect the office. Rather than ridicule and berate those whose policies we do not like. We need to pray for them. Find peaceable means to make your concerns known. In this country, at least, they are available. Use these means, not just for your own sake; but, for the sake of others. Respect the office of the authorities that have been called to serve. Respect it and do no harm to those who hold these offices. Render unto them the honor due to them.
 
In Matthew 22:21, Jesus tells us that we are to "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." This passage deals specifically with paying taxes. Yes, there are problems with the tax laws. They are very complex. They appear very inequitable. The Internal Revenue Service has had and probably still has some serious internal problems. But, the way to change things is not to cheat or lie. We have entered into a time of discernment as candidates for our next president have begun to let us know what they believe. Pay attention. If you want the tax system changed, vote accordingly at all elections. 
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, August 7, 2015

Respecting Civil Authorities

Concerning Civil Government.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For the power which exists anywhere is ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13:1-4.
Small Catechism/Table of Duties:  http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php
 
We see more and more disrespect for our elected officials and public servants as each year passes. Unless, it clearly goes against the word and the will of God there is no excuse for the public to persecute these men and women so unjustly. I am old enough to remember a time when whether we particularly liked our president or not, we still respected the office of the President of the United States and we showed it. It's not all that apparent today. There are peaceful means in place to replace them. If the majority wants someone out of office they will use those means. We do not have to become so ugly that we look like bullies to do it.
 
A person gets stopped because of a possible traffic violation and instead of cooperating choose to disrespect the person stopping them by refusing to cooperate. A neighbor reports unruly behavior and instead of responding calmly to the officers or possibly protective service workers who show up at your door; they are met by all sorts of disrespectful attitudes and behavior. That is surely not God's will. Those men and women responding are there to ensure that you and all of your household are safe and well.
 
It is not God's will that we should set ourselves in such a high place that we think that we are above the law of the land. The law of the land is not just for everyone else. It is for all people. It is not God's will that we should act like uncooperative bullies; but, to use the system that has been set in place for the good of all people. Use the system to try to change the system if it needs changing. Violence against others is not the way to get what you might want. Those who would encourage unpeaceful protests that result in harm to others as well as the property of others are those who go against the will of God. He is the provider of all. We don't get to destroy the property of others and still say that we are doing God's will.
 
God's will is for the good of all people; not just for you; not just for the few.
 
May God help us to live peacefully in the land.
 
Pr. J

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Clergy Duties

Table of Duties
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities
For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.
What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]
 
There are definitely days filled with grief when it should be joy. It is a very sad thing to proclaim the good news and that good news is met with all kinds of obstacles. There are days when I wonder if it is all striving after the wind (Eccl 1:14) as attempts are made to "muzzle the ox." 
 
Today, I read an article about another pastor who is an atheist. I wondered how she got to be a pastor in the first place. I surmise that it was because someone or a lot of someones had "itching ears." They appreciated the humanistic prattle because it appeased their sense of right and wrong. Even as Martin Luther appeals to a sense of good character; he also reminds us that we must hold fast the faithful Word in order to exhort and convince the gainsayers.
 
I heard news yesterday that a friend has received a call to serve out of the area. She will be moving soon. I will miss her. For my ordination she gave me a framed reminder of my call that I keep in my home office. It says "Comfort The Disturbed. Disturb The Comfortable." Doing either can sometimes bring grief rather than joy. Sharing the Word of God, which is a two-edged sword always seems to make someone unhappy and in return the one who shares the Word will receive grief. If one comforts the disturbed that others deem should have no comfort then you're in trouble. If one disturbs those who are too comfortable the pastor is also likely to receive grief. But, it is the job description! 
 
We are not called to make friends of the world. We are called to hold fast to the faithful Word and to proclaim it (regardless of who it offends) so that other might hear and believe.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Teach the Children to Pray

So maybe you don't get how giving thanks and a black bear go together. But, those
who love them do. I do. Found the photo this morning and couldn't help but post it.
He gives food to all creation.
6] HOW THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY
Should Teach His Household to Ask a Blessing and Return Thanks.

Asking a Blessing
The children and servants shall go to the table with folded hands and reverently, and say:
The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord; and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
Note
To satisfy the desire means that all animals receive so much to eat that they are on this account joyful and of good cheer; for care and avarice hinder such satisfaction.
Then the Lord's Prayer, and the prayer here following:
Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts, which we take from Thy bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Returning Thanks.
Likewise also after the meal they shall reverently and with folded hands say:
O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. He giveth food to all flesh; He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.
Then the Lord's Prayer and the prayer here following:
We thank Thee, Lord God, Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all Thy benefits, who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
 
 
An elderly couple that had invited me to dinner. As expected the head of the household asked God to bless the meal that He had provided us with. What I did not expect was that when the meal was over, he again prayed. This time it was a prayer of thanksgiving. That was the one and only time that I have known a family to intentionally pray both before and after a meal.
 
Although; I should, I personally have not made this a habit. What I more often do is conclude my prayers with, "I give you thanks for in your mercy, you have heard my prayers and answered."
 
Setting aside designated times for prayer whether the prayers are petitions or thanksgivings or just plain old conversations with God is a discipline. It takes practice to get in the habit of doing so. We
are to teach our children to pray often; to petition God to take care of our needs and to give thanks for providing us with those things which He has given us. We are to teach our children to set aside designated times to pray so that as they grow older they be able to go to God in prayer whenever there is a need or something to be thankful for. There is so much to be thankful for!
 
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Real Presence of Christ

VI. The Sacrament of the Altar
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.
Where is this written?
The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.
But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words For you require altogether believing hearts.
 
A few weeks ago my granddaughter asked me about the "script" I use at the tiny country church I serve at. I told her I don't use a "script" there as we don't have room on the altar for the altar book and we don't have a book with all the services for the altar. I told her that I know the words and I don't need one. She laughed saying that one of these days I'm going to forget them and then I'll be in trouble. Well, it happened, almost...
 
This past Sunday the church was packed with members and visitors. It was very warm and the doors to the church were wide open so that the very slight breeze could enter. As I lifted the cup, I noticed a woman sitting on the very steep concrete steps outside the church door. Not sure why she was sitting there, a wave of concern for her health flooded me. I totally forgot the words of institution as I watched her for a moment, long enough to see that she was okay and was getting up and coming in to receive the Lord's body and blood into herself. Halfway through the words of institution, I had to grasp to find the right words. They came back to me quickly. I learned them years ago as a teen-ager in confirmation class. Some things one never forgets. 
 
The body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. As we receive this Sacrament, we believe that Jesus is present in with and under the elements of bread and wine. We truly receive his body and blood. In this Sacrament we receive the living presence of Jesus Christ into ourselves. He abides in us. Do not neglect to receive this precious life-giving gift. 
 
St. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 11:29-30: "For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep."  This has a two-fold meaning. First, we ought to recognize that what we are receiving is the body of Christ. This is not just a memorial. He is truly present in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We remember his death; the sacrifice of his body and blood for us. Yet, he is not dead. He lives. He is risen! He is ascended! He is present! Secondly, everyone at the table with you is a member of the body of Christ. It seems that some of the Corinthians had a habit of not thinking about their brothers and sisters in Christ and did not wait for them to partake of the meal. They went ahead, without them, concerned only for themselves. Do not neglect to recognize the sacrifice of our Lord or the living body of Christ in the Sacrament and do not neglect to recognize the living body of Christ that would kneel at the altar with you. 
 
May God imprint the promise heard in the words of institution upon your heart and mind that you might fully grasp what he has done for you. And... may the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you and keep you in His grace.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J
 
P.S. I pray that I have not edited this so much that it has become incomprehensible.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Confession

V. Confession

How Christians should be taught to confess.
What is Confession?*
Confession embraces two parts: the one is, that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
What sins should we confess?
Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord's Prayer. But before the confessor we should confess those sins alone which we know and feel in our hearts.
Which are these?
Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.
 
No, the confessional has not been done away with in the Lutheran church. Yes, we confess our sins corporately and receive absolution every Sunday morning at Zion. Yes, I am available to hear private confessions whenever you feel a need. I assume that all Christians are aware that they are able to confess their sins directly to God. However, I am aware that many Lutherans are not aware that private confession with their pastors is also available. I do not hear many private confessions. Mostly, the ones I do hear are younger people. Some of us are so troubled by our consciences that we need to be able to put voice to our sins and hear with our ears and believe these words: "You are forgiven. God forgives you all your sins."
 
There is no need to be burdened by the sins that trouble your conscience in such a way that it disrupts your ability to serve God or neighbor. Confess your sins so that you might be reassured that you have been forgiven and reconciled to God our Father, through Jesus the Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Confess; Live Life In Christ

Fourthly.
What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.
Where is this written?--Answer.
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 
We all sin. But, that does not mean we should go around carrying that old hurtful, ugliness with us into each new day that we encounter. If our sin is not let go of, that nasty baggage will just keep piling up and steal away our new life. There is only one who can rid us of our sin. He died for that purpose on the cross. In Jesus, your sins are forgiven! They are completely washed away; drowned in the waters of baptism by the Word.
 
Because of our sinful natures, we continue to be tempted and we continue to sin. St. John reminds us, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9) If we do not recognize and confess that we have sinned, it is tantamount to saying that we have no need of forgiveness and that Jesus died in vain.  Therefore; we should daily set aside time and take a good look at how we have sinned against God and others; not to revel in our sinful ways; but, in order that we can bring them before God and have them permanently eradicated. We do not need to carry them into the new day.
 
We recall our sins of yesterday and ask God to give us the strength to not continue in those sins so that we might live life more fully in a manner that will glorify Him. We remember them and then thank God that He has forgiven us through Jesus the Christ with the full assurance that we are forgiven indeed. Our sins are no more. God has forgiven and forgotten them and so should we so that we don't carry that nasty life draining baggage into the new day. 
 
It is very dangerous to cling to our sins. Our sins are like a wall that separate us from God and from one another. The wall gets thicker and taller each day. Because Jesus died for us there are those who would say it doesn't matter what they do and continue to intentionally live sinning and separating themselves from God and one another. They do not and maybe cannot recognize the damage that they do to themselves and the ones they purportedly love around them.
 
You, who have been baptized into the Body of Christ know that you were baptized not just into his death; but, into his life. The old man was drowned in baptism. Your sins were drowned in baptism. They do not need to be resurrected; but, you do. Live life in Christ!
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Baptized for Renewal and Regeneration

Thirdly.

How can water do such great things?--Answer.
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.
 
Baptism is not the same as taking a bath. Water alone may wash the outside of the body; but, it cannot cleanse our souls. Water with the Word received in the Sacrament of Baptism; however, washes us through and through.
 
I am often asked why I would baptize infants. My answer (in short, because this is just a blog) is that first we are commanded to baptize all nations; all people. That does not exclude children. Jesus said we are not to hinder the children from going to him. I have also been told that babies cannot believe so therefore they should not receive this Sacrament. Jesus also said that in order to enter into the kingdom of God we must become like little children. Knowledge or intelligence does not necessarily equate with faith. Just because little children do not have the same knowledge that some adults have we should not equate that with an inability to have faith. Faith, itself, is a gift from God and is not something we work out on our own. Little children have faith and probably more than most adults. They have not been subjected to the doubts of this world.
 
Most importantly, baptism is a gift from God, for the washing and regeneration of all people and for renewing by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. When we are baptized, we are anointed by the Holy Spirit, for regeneration and renewal. I would not presume to withhold this gift of God; His very presence, from anyone, especially a child. Would you demand that a child go through life without this gift?
 
My parents were not church going people. But, they saw fit to have me baptized at home at about age five. I thank God that they did this for me. I thank God that Pr. Leslie Niemi was willing to officiate at our home. I know that it is preferable that baptism take place within the church. But, I thank God that Pr. Les was not willing to withhold this Sacrament from me for any reason. I remember that day; although, it has been so long ago and details are getting a little foggy. I thank God for that washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit that took place so many years ago. I do not want to even consider where and what I would be today if it had not been for the events of that day. Thank you Pr. Les for being a servant of God.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J