Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Body Throughout The World

Preaching in Laskela, Russia; to my left is Rev. Antti Lepisto
serving as Finnish Interpreter; while member of church to my
right interpreted in Russian.
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." Eph 4:1-6

It does not matter where you live geographically; if we live within the Body of Christ, we are members of the same body. We are not separate; but, one in Christ.

Very many years ago, I visited Russian Karelia on a mission trip. I found the region to be very much like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I also found the people to be very much like the people who live here, as well. They were struggling with very much the same issues; except that their poverty level was much greater than our at the time.

It saddens me that as countries and their leaders battle for political supremacy it seems that sometimes we forget about the people there. It is as if foreign countries are inanimate objects; without flesh and blood or the Spirit. We sometimes seem to forget the many faithful brothers and sisters that live throughout the world. The Body of Christ is beyond comprehension. The members are spread throughout the world. They are in: Syria; Russia; Cuba; Iran; Iraq; Africa; India... They are everywhere; and, yes, even here in the United States. There is only One Body. So let us not forget in our prayers the many members of that body who suffer persecution. As we form our personal political agendas; let love and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ; as well as for all people, guide our hearts, minds, and our actions.

Jesus died so that all who would believe; might have eternal life in His Kingdom. As Christians, may God help us to remember the "all" that lives in every country and kingdom even here on earth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Too Much Drama; Too Much Strife

A perverse person spreads strife,
    and a whisperer separates close friends.
The violent entice their neighbors,
    and lead them in a way that is not good.

                Proverbs 16:28-29

Somewhere, somehow, we must take a stand and protect the innocent from slander. There is so much slander, so much aloneness in this world, and so much depression resulting from it. It often comes from one source: the ego or maybe it would be more accurate to say the devil who resides within us. Those in whom the Spirit of Christ does not reside often attack their neighbors; their friends; their enemies unjustly, causing much chaos, pain, and sorrow. Standing idly by because you do not want to become involved or become the next target is not all that helpful. Rather, as most of us confess on Sunday mornings, we end up sinning by what we have not done; by not supporting and helping our neighbor in need. That is not to say that we should not confront sin. We should not support sin. We do need to confront those who would entice others in a way that is not good even while we support and protect those who are falsely accused. 

We teach our children in Sunday School and in Confirmation classes that the eighth commandment; "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." We also teach them as Luther taught that this means: "We should fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, lie or gossip about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them and put the most charitable construction on all that they do." How soon we forget what we have learned!

May God help us to love our neighbors and not cause them to suffer any form of anguish because of our actions or inactions.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Righteous In Christ Shall Flourish

Those who trust in their riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.  Proverbs 11:28

Who are these who will flourish like green leaves? According to the proverbs it the righteous who shall flourish. The problem with that is that none of us can be found righteous by our own merit; our own good deeds. Paul wrote to the Romans (3:9-10): What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one..."

But, God provided us a way to be found righteous in His sight. He sent His only begotten Son to die for us; for our sins; upon the cross. This was for all people.

We are not found righteous by the works of our own hands; but, by faith in the one who died for us. Thanks be to God we are found righteous because of Jesus' work on the cross and will flourish in the Kingdom of God, now and forever.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Marriage: Partners for Life

Partners for Life
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
    for out of Man this one was taken.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:18-24
Someone gave my husband the photo above not long ago. It was taken a very long time ago. We had been married for about ten years when it was taken. We will celebrate forty-four years together this winter. So, we've been together for awhile. The photo reminded me of all the up and downs of married life. Living and serving in Rota was one of our periods together when we had way more ups than downs. It was a very good time, indeed. 
We have not always worked like partners. Marriage can be very hard work as two individuals attempt to live out their individual and mutual callings together. We have, at times, definitely worked against each other rather than with each other. But, no matter what struggles we have gone through; no matter how many times we may have thought that maybe the partnership should end; we have always gone back to the fact that it was God who joined us together. He gave us each other to help and support one another even to the end of our days on earth. 
Our days are getting shorter. We are both too old to spend too much time working against each other. But, it does still happen. Even while we are one in Christ, we still have different gifts; different calls and we find ourselves going in different directions. At times like that, we've found it's best to give each other a little space to grow and serve God in the direction He calls us as individuals. We give a little space even while we continue to help and support one another. 
Marriage can be very difficult; but, it is also a very great blessing. God has given you a partner for life in your husband or wife. May God help us to make the most of this great gift of marriage.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 25, 2015

My Kingdom Is Not Of This World

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”  John 18:36 NRSV

The Lutheran denomination that I was a member of was in a state of political unrest at the time of my ordination. Yes, I said "political" unrest. It seemed that we were debating and voting on anything and everything to the detriment of the Gospel being proclaimed and heard. I had wanted all hints of worldly politics left out of the ordination sermon so asked a dear friend, Pr. John Henry, a United Methodist Pastor, to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom through Jesus the Christ. And.. yes, I did let him know that was what I wanted to hear from the pulpit when I asked him. I had known and served in various capacities with him for years. I had heard him preach the Good News on many occasions and was confident that he would proclaim the Kingdom of God through Christ alone. Thankfully, he was willing and able. The Gospel was proclaimed! I have been called to proclaim this same gospel. Although, I am interested in secular politics; I am careful to not use the gospel to promote my particular political agenda. I believe strongly that through the regular hearing of the Word, the Holy Spirit will speak to each of us; lead us, and empower us to use the gifts that God has given us to serve in whatever manner we, as individuals, have been called. We have been given various gifts. It would behoove us to learn to work together using those individual gifts to glorify God.

I have been called to proclaim the Good News to all people so that all who would believe the Word will be reconciled to God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. In my congregation there are men and women whom I would call lobbyists. They have secular "causes" that they support locally, state-wide, and even nationally from time to time. I truly believe that these secular "causes" are based on their faith and the gifts that God has given each of them. I do not particularly endorse or support all of these causes. Nor, do I chastise them for their political beliefs. None of them have done anything or supported anything that could be viewed as blasphemy.

We are no longer members of the denomination that voted regularly on secular political agendas. We are now free to serve God according to the calls we have received; revealed in His Word; and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As for me, I will keep praying; praising God; and proclaiming the Kingdom of God through Jesus the Christ, our Savior and King.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Adulting; May the Lord Teach Us How

Adulting: Taking on adult responsibilities.
Psalm 143:7-8
Answer me quickly, O Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me,
    or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
    for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.
 Making the transition from teen-ager to adult can be a bit scary for many. Graduation from High School and prospects of either further education and/or learning to care for and support themselves can be daunting.
My granddaughter, who is a teen working on this transition, taught me a new word this past week. It is adulting. I laughed when I first heard her use it. I thought she had made it up. But, I checked the Urban Dictionary and it appears to be a word that is being used today. Adulting is when a young person begins to take on things that would be considered adult-like. These might be things as simple as getting out of bed on time without anyone having to wake them up or filling out a job application without assistance. Of course, this is a process; and, the training of a young person to make this transition should actually begin at birth. But, that jump from teen to adult is not always easy even for those who have been adulting (bearing the responsibilities of an adult) for many years.
My granddaughter is actually a bit shy around people she does not know well. But, she is learning that if she ever wants to be independent of me; she will have to break out of that shell and quickly.
The psalmist prayed that the Lord would teach him the way that he should go. This is my prayer for all of our young people. That the Lord would be with them; guiding them in His Way as they learn how to be mature and fruitful adults. It is not easy to make that transition from teen to adult. Aging is a process that cannot be stopped. Prayerfully, as we all age, we will also all grow and mature in Christ. May God be with our young people as they learn to follow in the way that He would have them go.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gift of Life

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." John 3:16 NRSV

It is difficult to comprehend a love as great as the love God has for the people of earth. Yet, it is there. His desire is not that anyone should die; but, that all should live. It is evidenced by the willingness of Jesus to die on the cross, carrying our sins in his body. It is evidenced by the sacrifice that our Lord, Jesus made for us. Paul wrote to the Romans (Rom 3:21-25) "But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,  since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith."

How great is the love of the one who was willing to die so that all who believe could live in God's presence for all eternity! Thanks be to God for this gift of life!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Real Love Never Ends!

"Love never ends..." (Corinthians 13:8)

Young people have enough trouble growing up without having to endure the heartache of multiple broken relationships. It seems that teens and young adults (as well as way too many older adults) today fall in and out of love as fast you can blink an eye. At least, they will tell you that they were in love. It would be helpful to avoid these heartaches when beginning a new relationship to ask whether it is love or lust. Lust goes away after a time; sometimes after one night. Love never ends.

I totally understand that many are seeking loving relationships because their family relationships are so dysfunctional that they need to have someone who will genuinely show care and concern for them. But, it breaks my heart to see so many young hearts broken because of the misperception that love and sex are the same thing. This is being subversively taught, not just by the media; but, by many adults who ought to know better as their own hearts have been broken many times by this mistaken line of thinking.

Love never ends. Even in many marriages that have ended up in divorce; the cause is not always that they fell out of love. They fell out of like. It is indeed possible to love someone even though you no longer like everything about the way someone has chosen to live. You may dislike (hate) the life that you have been caught up in so much that you see no other way to live except to separate. You may still love someone who uses and abuses you; but, you do not and should not love the abuse. It is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. Real love never ends.

There is One who will not take His love from you. He will not use or abuse you. He will give His all to you. Turn to the Lord for His love is everlasting. He does hate the sin; but, He loves you enough to die for you.

Ask yourself the next time you think you're in love. Would I die for this person? Do they love me enough to die for me? If you would take the time to do this for yourself; you may find that your heart is broken less often.

"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!" (Song of Solomon 2:7 NRSV)

Real love never ends.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 21, 2015

Seasons Change

Daniel said:
“Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
    for wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons,
    deposes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding.
                                           Daniel 2:20-21 NRSV

We are beginning to see the fall colors up here in the U.P.. The fall may be beautiful; but, I do not look forward to the cold season of winter. Whether I like it or not, winter will be here soon. It is inevitable. Change is inevitable. I will live through it.

Who; but God, knows what changes we will actually experience with the next presidential election? We will have to wait and see. Change will come. There is no reason to fear. After that change, other changes will come. They are inevitable.

We experience change every day of our lives. If we do not, we will fail to learn and grow. Some of the changes can be quite scary. But, we should not fear. God is with us. He knows exactly what is happening and will happen. He has a plan. Although, we may not always have the wisdom or knowledge to understand why God would allow some of these changes we can be assured that His plans are for the good of all people. 

Do not fear change. God is with you. He is with us. Trust Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Live In The Light

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:18-21 KJV)

For days I have been seeing articles about Baby Jane Doe, the two-year old, whose body was found in a plastic bag on Deer Island, Boston, MA. It is not clear, yet, who exactly is responsible for her death. But, it has come to the light that drugs were definitely involved. No one wants to take responsibility. No one wants to confess their own sins; although, they appear to be able to confess the alleged sins of others who may have been involved quite readily. The mother, who blames the boyfriend; where was she in all this? Was the boyfriend solely responsible? What about the father who had nothing to do with this child. Did he not even have enough contact with this child over the time she had disappeared to even know that she was gone?

It seems that we have an epidemic in this country wherein parents have chosen drugs (legal and illegal drugs, including alcohol and medical marijuana) over their children. Way too many are parenting in drug induced fogs and they cannot see the light. Consequently, the children are not able to experience the light shining with hope and safety, either. Children are being hurt. They are being sold to support the addiction of their parents. They are even being killed.

There is no known "cure" for addictions in this world. But, there is help. Come into the light of Christ, children of God, that all of our children might grow and live in peace. We only have about eighteen years to raise them in a manner that they might live fruitful and peaceful lives in this world. Let us make the most of this time. May God help us to live in the light and to teach our children the same.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fleeting Shadows

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow

Psalm 144:3-4 NIV

We are most blessed! Why, indeed, would the Lord care for us? We strut about like we are the center of the universe and nothing and no one else matters.

Yet, we matter to the Lord. His love and concern for us is so great that he was willing to die for us.

We fail to recognize that our lives are like fleeting shadows upon the earth. We are here one day and gone the next. Only the most prominent of men will be remembered centuries from now. In the end; by ourselves, we are of little consequence to the world. But, in Christ and with Christ we have hope for ourselves and for others.

Our lives in this world might be like fleeting shadows; but, all who abide in Christ receive eternal life with him. We are most blessed! The Lord, indeed, cares for us; enough to die that we might live.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 18, 2015

Peace Live A River

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands,
    your peace would have been like a river,
    your well-being like the waves of the sea.

                                    (Isaiah 48:17-18 NIV)
Indeed! The Lord does know what is best for us. But, we often think we know better than God. We often choose the wrong paths and find ourselves in chaotic messes trying to figure out what went wrong and how in the world we're going to find some semblance of peace. What went wrong sometimes happens to be is that we rejected the Word of the Lord; we have rejected those things that our Father in heaven has sought to teach us. We have rejected the good gifts that He desires us to have and have chosen to follow in the ways of the world and we ultimately find ourselves wallowing in the depths of despair.
The world is a mess. We've helped to make it that way. But, no matter what kind of mess you find yourself in you can know peace. It is the peace that only God can give to us. In the midst of the storms, we can know peace that flows forever like a river. We can know peace as refreshing as the cool waters of a gently flowing river.
Do not fear! Do not despair! God is with you. Listen to Him and know the peace that only He can give. 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Politicians: Do not take the name of the Lord our God in vain! Do not bear false witness in His name!

Sunrise at the altar of Old Sheldon Church, Beaufort, SC
May the Son of Righteousness shine upon the candidates
as well as all people.
My child, if sinners entice you,
    do not consent.
Proverbs 1:10 NRSV

I spent last evening watching the GOP candidates debating. There was indeed some debating going on. But, there were also a lot of attempts to entice candidates to act and speak rashly against one another. Questions were posed in attempts to get the candidates to speak negatively about one another and to fight amongst themselves rather than actually letting the voters know exactly where they stood on various issues. A few of the candidates managed to not get pulled into the breaking of the commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." They managed to deflect the enticement to sin even while speaking truthfully from their hearts and minds. It seems at least some of them are wise enough to know that they don't need to give fuel to anyone from an opposing party for later debates.

Now, many of the candidates sound as though they are attempting to appeal to a Christian base. However, I did not recognize the Christianity in some of what was said last night. Just because someone says they are a Christian doesn't make it so. I've seen more than one local politician decide it's time to start showing up for worship just prior to elections. Please, don't use the name of Jesus to get elected. Do not consent to sin by taking the Lord's name in vain.

Thanks be to God for those candidates who have managed to not get pulled into breaking the second or eighth commandments and who are not confusing their own (the world's) brand of morality with Christianity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Your Sins Are Forgiven

"For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?"
Matt 9:5

I spent about an hour last night practicing mental math. I often see, posted on facebook, comments about how someone did not have to use Algebra at all that day, insinuating that it is a wasted study on our young people. It apparently was for those people who have to ask me to do some mental math for them. After all, there's no need to learn something if someone else will do it for you. Actually, math problems run through my head sporadically throughout the day, especially when I am sitting around waiting for something. It can be something as simple as counting the tiles on a ceiling or floor and figuring the area of a room. I don't do too many complicated equations; just what I can do in my head. I just like numbers! I enjoy the challenge of solving problems in my head instead of on paper or on a calculator. I taught myself mental math when I was very young and to tell you the truth I sometimes wonder why others have not shown an interest in learning it when it can be so much easier to do than the traditional ways we've been taught. But, there are those who always like to do things the hard way.

The scribes were a bit upset when Jesus forgave a paralytic man his sins. They judged that he was blaspheming. His response was "which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven; or 'Stand up and walk?'" Indeed, which is easier? Four simple words and they are not as difficult to say as one would expect and when said they heal a multitude of wounds. "Your sins are forgiven!" Practice saying them. It is easier to forgive than to be angry or to hold a grudge the rest of your life. Forgive those whom you are angry with; whether, you feel justified in your anger or not. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Jesus died so that this might happen. He worked out the problem of sin. He did all of the work. Don't be trying to work things out according to your sense of justice. That is the hard way and the wrong way. Step out in faith and receive your forgiveness. Step out in faith and forgive others their trespasses against you. Step out in faith and receive wholeness! It is easier than staying angry your whole life. With Christ, it is easier than one might expect.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Be Filled with the Spirit; not spirits

Zion Youth Choir
"Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 5:15-20

Another way that I can say it is this, "Choose this day whom you will serve." (Joshua 24:15) Will you serve the spirits of alcohol and other drugs? Has medical marijuana taken over your life so that you who were not well in the first place have now become dependent on this "miracle" cure; so much that you can no longer even work or play unless you are high (or drunk)? So much that you cannot even get out of bed without one of these false gods? I am not saying that alcohol and even the legitimate use of marijuana don't have their place. But, sadly, these two drugs, as well as a multitude of other illegal drugs, have become the gods that way too many people live for. These false gods are succeeding at destroying families; destroying communities; and are even pretty successful at causing problems within the visible church on earth.  Choose ye this day whom you will serve.

Addiction is a serious ailment in itself. It cannot be cured by the use of other or more drugs. In fact, there are those who say it cannot be cured at all. But, there is relief for those who suffer this sickness. The Lord can make you whole. Turn to Him; for He is your helper. Be filled with the Spirit and sing songs of joy to the Lord, for He alone can save you from the false gods that hold you captive.

I witnessed an amazing thing this past Sunday. During some of the hymns during worship, I sometimes kind of; sort of, dance. Last Sunday, I watched a few of the choir members also dancing during the closing hymn. Yes, in a Lutheran church! Can you believe that? I could not help but smile. I pray that the whole congregation would be so filled with the Spirit that they could joyously sing and dance for the Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. For those locally who need help, I would be happy to listen to those of you who are struggling with addictions and refer you as necessary. Yes, I do have a bit of experience with addictions...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Help Quickly!

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
    do not let me ever be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV

Quickly, Lord; right now; ASAP! I cannot even begin to count the times, just this past week, I have found myself asking the Lord to help and to help quickly!

Whenever we stand on the name of Jesus or strive to do the will of God in opposition to the will of the world, we can pretty much expect to be attacked. There are those in this world who just do not appreciate God's will being done when it interferes with their personal comfort zones. So, I find myself praying for myself, my family, and my congregation a lot. "Rescue us quickly. You who are our rock and our fortress remove the trap that has been set for us. And... Into your hands I commit our spirits."

Thanks be to God! The Lord hears our prayers and has answered! He is our rock and our fortress. His righteousness has delivered us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Love is Patient and Kind

Love One Another
"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Cor 13:4-7

As we seek to find our own places in this world, we sometimes forget that we are more than the sum of our own parts. Family and friends sometimes get hurt as we seek to fulfill our own desires. As we seek our own futures; our own good; we might not even recognize that we are hurting others who love and care for us.  

But, if we truly love someone, we will seek their good. We will be kind and not arrogant or rude when we perceive (rightly or wrongly) that they are holding us back. Love endures all things. Genuine love is patient enough to work through any problems. Real love; the love that emanates from God through us, endures forever.

May God grant us all a love that is patient and kind to one another that we might be reconciled first to God our Father and then to one another through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Keep Alert!

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour." 
1 Peter 5:6-8

We don't have any of the lions like the ones found in Africa or Asia in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But, we do have mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and other such predators of animals who are too small and weak to defend themselves. It is necessary, not only for smaller animals in the forest to keep alert; but, people need to be a bit aware as well when they're out and about, alone.

It is not just in the forest that we need to be alert. When we are out in the public and even home alone we need to mindful of what is going on around us. Yes, our Father in heaven is with us. But, we don't need to be testing His power by getting ourselves (wittingly or unwittingly) into situations that are dangerous to us or others. We ought to discipline ourselves in such a way that we are not stepping into hornets nests or walking into a lion's den. It may be that we will get stung or bit so that we will be more aware and watch where we walk better in the future.

Discipline yourselves. Keep alert. Walk in the way of the Lord so that your adversary, the devil, has no opportunity to devour you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 11, 2015

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Appearances can be deceiving. One of my favorite pets was Izzy the bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are quite easy to care for. You do not have to worry about leaving them alone in the house. They do not make a mess. They enjoy being held. Izzy would even run to the edge of her glass house looking for attention whenever I walked into the house. But, bearded dragons are not for everyone. Some people simply do not like them because they crawl on their bellies like snakes. And... anything snake or serpent-like really doesn't have too good of a reputation.

We often jump to unfair judgments based on appearances. It is not just lizards we jump to conclusions about; but, people, as well, by their outward appearances. But, when Jesus came, he turned all that around. It was the widow who put but two copper pennies into the offering that Jesus said had given more than the rest. (Mark 12:41-43) Tax collectors and other various sinners were chosen by Jesus as his dinner companions. (Matthew 9:10-12) He healed gentiles and even lepers; physically touching, at times, those who were thought by others too unclean to be touched. (Mark 7:24-30; Luke 7:21-23) And... who were the first to be called by Jesus? Fishermen! (Luke 5:1-11) He called mere fishermen, or at least they were mere in the eyes of many of the day. Have you any clue what a man or woman who makes their living fishing looks and smells like after a long day or night out on the boat? Jesus does not call anyone because they look good on the outside or even because they act so good. He calls whom he will call to follow him.

Appearances can be deceiving. There are those who smile on the outside and are happy, happy, happy whenever you are around. But, on the inside are like empty tombs. There are others who may appear to be most ferocious; but, within them dwells the love of God.

Appearances can be deceiving. Do not judge one another by appearances. Take the time to look more deeply into the person or the matter.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sea Creatures Trained Easier Than The Tongue

"For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:7-8

I admit that I have picked up a bit of slang and my grammar is not always the best; but, I tell you there are days that I simply do not understand the English that is being used by many today. What sometimes sounds like insults; derogatory remarks toward or about others, I am told actually isn't! That's just the way people talk in 2015. I am sorry. But, I prefer not to be addressed or hear anyone else addressed in a manner that according to language used as far back as 2000 would be considered verbal assault.

It can be most difficult to control the tongue when one is angry or hurt; but, in general conversation? Oh, my! There are many days that I just want to run back to my little corner of the universe and sit in silence. Of course, I can't turn on the radio or television when I do that because I'd just hear some more of the same.

It is hard to tame the tongue. It is even harder when one does not know the difference between what is appropriate to say and what is not appropriate. Think: treat others as you would like to be treated. So I sit in the sheer silence and listen. I listen for our Father's gentle whisper, "I am with you now and always."

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

He Received Life

"I then, as Paul - an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus - I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me." Philemon 9-11
    I remember the day that I received word that a young friend had "received life." Now in the Christian context you might assume that he has received Christ into his life; that he has received the promise of eternal life. I wish that I could say that this is so. He "received life" in the worldly context. He was sentenced to life in prison, without parole.  When I heard the sentence he had received, in grief, I voiced it aloud:
                      "HE RECEIVED LIFE."
    There is hope in those words. It is my hope that this sentence in this world is the sign to me that he has received life eternal, even though he may not realize it, yet. I pray for him often. I pray that we would be one in Christ; that he would enter into the Body of Christ. It is painful for me to think of one so young living behind bars for another 50 or 60 years. But, it is reality; a hard reality;  but, one that may be the very opportunity for him to "receive life."  This friend of mine received the consequences that were due him in this life, yet, he still has the opportunity for freedom; a freedom that is found only in Christ; for all eternity.
    We read in Philemon, Paul who is in prison has converted a young man. Paul spent a good portion of his ministry behind bars. Although scripture has no record of how many received the truth of Christ through the Word spoken by Paul, I am sure there were quite a few. I guess you could say he was called to prison ministry, but not in the way most of us view prison ministry. He was there, living it. One on one, he experienced the pain and suffering of those in prison with him. Because he suffered the same pain; he understood and others listened and others received life.
    There is a prison that is worse than any earthly prison surrounded by bars and barbed wire. That is our bondage to sin; our bondage to the desires and ways of this world; our desires to be served rather than serve in the love of Christ. This prison is harder for us to recognize and so we may never experience the desire to be free from this prison.
   Jesus said that the truth would set us free. (John 8:32) However, for those of us who may be bound in a prison of worldly comforts; of self-serving desires and pursuits, it can be really hard to see or hear the truth (often preferring not to see the truth, about our need for forgiveness, so we don't ask), remaining in bondage to sin.
    As we consider our own freedom, let us ask God to reveal to us whether we are truly free. Let us pray first for salvation; for freedom in Christ. Let us pray for one another, in love, that forgiveness in Christ be received by all God's children who find themselves in prison: those in correctional facilities and those chained to the desires of this world. Let us also pray a prayer of Thanksgiving for our Prison Chaplains and all who work in the Prison Ministry for bringing the Light of Christ into such dark lives.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Help My Unbelief!

".... but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24
Can you imagine telling Jesus, "if you can." There's is no if to it. He can do all things! He is true God. We know this; yet, we don't know it. Our faith is lacking.
Because we are not able to do something in this world, our faith or lack of faith does not allow us to believe that Jesus can do it. It may well be that our faith is lacking because our view of him is only of a man who walked this earth 2000 years ago.
Jesus, as true God, can do all things. But, that does not mean he will do all things. He serves according to the will of our Father in heaven; just as we should. Pray then for all things to come about according to God's will. Trust that God has had pity on us, has helped us and will help us according to His good will.
Let us not pray, "If you can." Let pray that God would help us to believe and trust Him even in our unbelief and that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, September 7, 2015

Who Will Help?

"Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?" Isaiah 50:9

The Lord helps you. Almighty God, creator of heaven and of earth is with you and for you. So who in the world would dare to attack you? The answer to that is a lot of people; a lot of people who live in the darkness; who do not know the Lord or to what length He will go and has gone to save those whom He loves.

The Lord vindicates all who walk in His light. There is no need to fear as the enemy closes in on you. Trust Him for He is stronger than any adversary. God is your helper. He will save you from your enemy.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Trees Of The Forest Rejoice!

Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.

                                       Psalm 96:10-13 NRSV

The Lord is King! Like a strong tree firmly rooted in the ground are the children of God. There is not a thing that can cut us down. There may be attempts; but, we will not be moved. We shall stand firmly on the Word of God who is Jesus the Christ.

Many shall try! But, no axe can harm us. There is no wind or storm that can take us down for we have been rooted in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Col 2:6-7) What a relief that day will bring to God's children; no more unjust persecution, no more tears or sorrow, just joy in God's presence.

So, even as the fields exult; let all God's children sing for joy with the trees of the forest as we wait for his coming to judge the earth with his righteousness and truth.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Flowers or Weeds?

"What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878

My husband does not appreciate my flower gardens. Neither he nor I know exactly what species are growing in them during any given season. He considers them mostly weeds. I consider them all flowers. I have to watch him closely when he's busy with the weed-eater in order to make sure all of the flowers in my gardens survive. He came really close this summer to removing all my wild raspberry bushes. Fortunately, for him, me, and the raspberries, I happened to walk outside before he started. The strawberries are gone though.

And... so, let us a take a look at the children of God. Does He not normally call the least to be greatest; the last to be first? God does not discern things as mankind discerns things. He sees the full potential while we look at the short-comings and failings. "But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10:30 

Just because we don't have to buy those plants that others often consider weeds; does not mean that they don't have a good and useful purpose in the garden of God. They are indeed very valuable as they are free gifts from God Himself.

Do not consider the children of God to be mere weeds to be cast out of the garden. Only God can know what are true weeds and true flowers.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, September 4, 2015

Teach Children in the Way

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!" Matt 18:6-7 NRSV

Children have begun to return to school for another year of education. The reality is that schools are not the only places our children learn. They learn much in the home and much as they observe and interact with society around them.

What are we teaching them? I don't just mean the public school system. I mean each and every one of us. What are we teaching them in the community? Are we teaching them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as loving neighbors and servants or are we teaching them that anything goes as long as it makes one happy?

When we teach that what is evil is good we are putting stumbling blocks between children and the promises of God. We lead them astray when we tell them that it doesn't matter if they obey the laws of God or the laws of the land, we send them all on a path of destruction and we become the stumbling block that will prevent them from seeking the Kingdom of God. They will be so busy trying to figure out how to get out of the mess that they created for themselves by following liars that they won't have time for peace; they won't have time to just sit and be still with God.

Could we at least agree to not teach the children (particularly other people's children) that it is not all right to disrespect those who have authority over them; that is the people who are raising and supporting them, their teachers, and, yes, law enforcement? It would really make life a whole lot easier for the children and for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Just because it feels good, doesn't mean it's good for you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seasons Change

      A Time and Season        
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
                                          Eccl 3:1-8 NRSV
There is a time and season for every purpose under the sun. Every spring and fall I look for the trumpeter swans to spend a few days in the river behind the house as they make their seasonal journey either north or south. For the last two years, pelicans have also made this a place to spend a day or two. The sight of them brings me much joy.

Every season brings change. Some of the changes are most pleasing like welcoming back the trumpeter swans. Other changes are not quite so pleasing. Even as the natural world around us changes, so do we. We change with time. We grow older; hopefully, we grow wiser. And, even more hopefully, with each season of life's experiences and challenges, we grow closer to the Lord.

Our journey through the wilderness of this world can be quite a challenge. We have good times and bad. Know that whatever befalls you, the Lord is with you in every time and season.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Be Still And Know The Great "I Am"

The Lord of Hosts is with you.
"He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge."

                                              Psalm 46:9-11
In the midst of the darkest days and the most tumultuous nights; when we find ourselves restless; and wandering aimlessly; let us remember that the God of peace, the great "I AM" is with us. 
We can have peace of heart and mind in the knowledge that no matter what is going on around us the Lord of hosts is with us. Through every storm and battle, God has a plan. It is a plan for good. It is a plan for peace. Even while the battle yet rages, we can know the peace of heart and mind that surpasses all understanding. Be still in His presence; trusting that He will make the battle cease,  break the bow, and shatter the spear. He is our refuge and strength!
When your heart and soul become restless; find stillness in the presence of the Lord and in the knowledge that the great "I AM" is God and He is with you and He is for you.  
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Prayers: Curses and Blessings

"He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!”  When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys." 2 King 2:23-24 NRSV

Listening to people curse usually causes me to get one of those little knots in my stomach. Hearing God's name used recklessly makes me a little more than anxious. I hear words come out of people's mouths and I wonder if they realize that God is listening. When we desire that someone be harmed and we think or speak it; they are not just harmless words. Every word, whether it is a blessing or a curse, is like a prayer before God.

The story of Elisha cursing the boys and the bears coming to retaliate against them for disrespecting and bullying God's prophet is fascinating. It can even make one a bit uncomfortable to think that God would answer this prayer (curse) in such a devastating fashion. It causes me to wonder if Elisha had any clue that God would respond in such a dramatic fashion or did the curse simply slip from his lips in a moment of anger or fear?

God doesn't normally send bears to protect His prophets. But, there is no doubt that He is with all who serve Him and He listens to their pleas. Be careful then of what words slip through your teeth. It is up to you whether they be the words of a bully, a curse in God's name, or if they be the words of a blessing; God hears it all. Be careful of what you pray for.

God's Peace - Pr. J