Saturday, October 31, 2015

Your Decrees Are My Delight

Even though princes sit plotting against me,
    your servant will meditate on your statutes.
Your decrees are my delight,
    they are my counselors.

Psalm 119:23-24 NRSV
 
I suppose that it is within the sinful nature of humankind to plot against one another; to delight in the fall of others, especially if they have played a hand in the fall. We see and experience it all the time; all around us. It may be a natural inclination; yet, it is still sin.
 
When we feel that we are being plotted against, it is not the time to retaliate; but, to keep our peace by meditating on the decrees of the Lord. We are to meditate not just on the law; but, on his promises so that we might truly know the peace of heart and mind that surpasses all understanding.
 
When we are wronged; when we are plotted against, we are to pray for our enemy, that they and we might be reconciled to God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Christ; that we might live in peace.
 
May God help us to stay in His Word, in His truth, and the truth shall set us free.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 30, 2015

It Is All Good

Moose snuggling in Aura
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Gen 1:24-25

One of the perks of living in the woods is getting to experience the wildlife around me. I have lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for more than half of my life; but, up until yesterday I had never had the opportunity to see a moose in its natural habitat. Early yesterday morning, I saw two; both a bull and a cow. They were hanging out a little ways form my home. They looked very much at peace with one another and the world around them. My presence certainly didn't bother them. I was able to take many photographs as they ambled from the river's edge toward the clear-cut they've been hanging out in. They were in no hurry as they stopped to snuggle together every step or two. It was very good.

It wouldn't hurt to take a lesson or two from them. Even though they can move quite quickly when necessary; they usually move at a slow and steady pace, at peace with one another and the world around them. 

It's all good.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Self-discipline to be a Disciple

Billboard from former joint parish.
 
"Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?" Luke 14:27-28

We can either follow Jesus or someone or something else. But, know this: following Jesus is not always going to be a walk in the park. Following Jesus requires taking up the cross, an instrument of death. Being a follower, a disciple, of Jesus requires a bit of self-discipline. It is not easy going against the grain of society. It is not easy putting aside our own desires to follow in Jesus' footsteps doing the will of our Father in heaven; but, that is exactly what Jesus tells those who are considering following him. 

God does not force anyone. But, he does want everyone to follow his only begotten Son into His Kingdom. The way is not easy. It was certainly not easy for Jesus to blaze that path before us.

 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Matt 6:24

"Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Are We Prepared?

Moon Rising
Last evening my husband alerted me to look out the window and get my camera. He could not tell if Skanee was on fire or if the moon was rising. There was a bright red glow on the horizon over Skanee. It truly looked like a huge fire burning.

I grabbed my camera bags and after a few failed attempts with the Canon Rebel decided to use the Canon EOS 5D. Better; but, not great. The EOS 5D is so heavy, even without the battery pack, that the moon was nothing but a blur. I set up the tripod and connected the camera to it. That worked even a little better. But, by that time the moon no longer looked like fire in the sky.

I love photography; but, truth be told, I am never prepared. I do not know enough about the cameras. I do not practice enough. I keep them packed away in their bags and they are never handy when I want them.

I love Jesus even more so he is a much higher priority for me than photography. Much more of my time is spent praying and studying the word found in the scriptures and attempting to do God's will than worrying whether my cameras are ready in case a great shot presents itself. But, I do wonder sometimes if I am really prepared for him. Just as the ten bridesmaids did not put oil in their lamps preparation for the groom to come and get them for the wedding (Matt 25:1-13), I wonder if we are prepared for the day he returns to take us to himself.

St. Peter encouraged us to "... prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance."  1 Peter 1:13-14

Are we prepared?

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Give God the Glory!

 
No matter where we live, we all seem to have a different perspective of the world around us. There are many places in which one see everything around them as dirty and worn out even while others will see the same places as places of vast opportunities to serve God, His people, and His whole creation.

There are other places where one will just be amazed at God's beautiful creation. I have heard many times in the last few weeks from people who have been outside at night and have just been in awe over the brilliance of the stars. While they may experience the awesome wonder in God's creation, others may experience this very same sky with a feeling of emptiness and aloneness.

What we see around us, is a matter of perspective. It is a perspective that comes from where we've been, where we are, and where we're headed. 

For those who dwell in the presence of God, we are most blessed because we can most often see the glory of His whole creation: the world and all that is in it; including all who live in it (Psalm 24:1)

"Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory. Selah"
                                Psalm 24:9-10

It really doesn't matter how we presently see things; it all belongs to God. Give Him the glory!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dreamers and Visionaries

Leslie

"In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams."
Acts 2:17

We have many visionaries in the church. Without them, we would be going no place and doing nothing. Without visionaries we would most probably just sit, wait, and die even before death comes to us.

Years ago, Leslie had a vision. He was a member of an ecumenical male quartet. He thought that they should put on a benefit concert at the church for the Toys for Tots program in our county. It was a success. It continues to be a success. The "Lightkeepers" quartet has since disbanded; but, the concerts have continued. 

Sunday afternoon we had the privilege of hearing an awesome group that went by the name of the "Sounds of Aura." It did not appear to me that everyone in the group was from Aura. But, they all got together to support our children. Although, the Zion adult and youth choirs both sang; I didn't see a Lutheran among the "Sounds of Aura." I think that is part of Leslie's vision, as well. He dreams of the One Body, one holy catholic Church and the communion of all saints, just as God ordained it to be. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Just remembered that even our choirs had guests singing with them who regularly worship with other denominations. It's a good thing that the people of God should be able to come together to help those in need.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kat

Kat
Kat was my shadow for about seventeen years. I did not dare leave her for too long. If I left her overnight any where or with any one, she would cry tears of grief. It's been a few years since she died; but, I find myself still grieving from time to time over the loss of this little companion.

We all suffer losses of one kind or another throughout our lives. Kat was with me through many of my losses. I have been told that when stress or grief begins to affect our health we should pet our dogs. It will have a calming effect. It does. Kat was with me through a lot of hard times.

Kat is no longer here. But, someone else is and always has been. Jesus is with me and he is with you. When grief threatens to overwhelm us there is one to whom we can turn who will not only comfort us; but, also, offer us real hope. He promises that he will be with us always. We are never alone. Jesus is with us today and tomorrow and for all eternity.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Live in the Light

The forests come alive at night as animals seek their prey and the prey wandering in the wilderness are busy dodging the predators. This is just the way it is with the animal kingdom.

But, for humankind, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to go about the  business of living during the light of the day. Most of us are fortunate enough to do this; but, not everyone. There are many whose circumstances require them to work to feed themselves and their families by working midnight shifts.

But, the lions are not the only ones who choose the cover of darkness to stalk their prey. There are also those among humankind who, rather than work in fruitful employment, choose to prey upon others for their livelihoods. They often come out at night. Fortunately the children of light prefer not to be out at night and are not as easy targets as the night-stalking predators might like. The children of light rest during the hours of darkness in preparedness and anticipation of the coming day. 

Moral of this story: rest when the night comes; live life in the light of the day; live life in Jesus Christ who is the light of the world.

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Lord Renews Our Strength



On Eagle's Wings
Life brings us a lot of challenges. There are days when I wonder how I will manage to be in so many places at one time. There are so many people in need; so many who suffer; so many who are alone and lonely. How can we help them all? I make a lot of lists. If I don't, by the time I get home, I realize that I have not gotten to someone I had intended to get to.

It can seem overwhelming at times. Lists help to keep me on focus. But, more importantly rising early to study God's word and to spend time in prayer is essential if I want to be prepared to meet the day and any challenges the day might bring. I find strength in God's word and in his presence. I need to be able to talk to him and listen to Him and trust Him.

Isaiah reminds us that we are to wait and to trust in the Lord. He will give us the strength to meet the challenges.

"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31 NRS 

We all grow weary at times. Trust in and lean on the One who does not for His strength never fails Him or us.

God's Peace - Judy
 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Growing Up In Christ

Growing up in Christ is not easy;
but it is essential.
"We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love." Eph 4:14-16

To truly grow up it takes a lifetime. Society, today, gives us about eighteen years to help our children grow up and then we turn them loose on the society.  As Christians, we do our best to teach our children who Jesus is and what he has done for us and why. We pray that they will follow him. But, the devil prowls and not everyone would have our children go in The Way that they should go for their own and for societies benefit. With the help of God, we do what we can and then continue to pray for them until the day we die.

It would be most helpful for our children and for society if we could all work together to help all of our children grow up into him is the head, even as we continue to grow in Christ. May God help us to follow in "His Way."

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Discipline Yourselves; Keep Alert

Discipline yourselves; keep alert.
"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. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering." 1 Peter 5:7-9 NRSV

There are some in family who would object to my vigilance. They think that I am too cautious because I look past what I see at first glance to what is really going on around us. I like to know who the people really are that are involved in their lives. Facebook, just as it is used by many employers to see who it is that they are really hiring, can be a very useful tool for parents and grandparents. I use this tool because I am well aware that sometimes the adversary might come like a roaring lion and sometimes the adversary comes dressed in sheep's clothing. Even wolves in sheep's clothing can be recognized if we know what we are looking for; if we know God's word and discipline ourselves to follow it. I like to know and be prepared for any attacks that my come against my loved ones (that includes all the people I serve).

There are wars all around us. Some of them are plainly seen. The wars being fought in the unseen realms are not so easily discerned. Often, people are not even aware that they are being attacked. They are won over to the enemies side without even being aware of it. The adversary knows his enemy. He knows us. He knows what desires and temptations will crumble us.

The more that we discipline ourselves to know the word of God, the more alert we will be to recognize the adversary when he attacks. Discipline yourself in the word. Read the Holy Scriptures daily; hear His word proclaimed at Worship; and then discipline yourselves, to follow the Word, who is Jesus the Christ and you will have no need to fear the adversary.

May the Lord keep you from the adversary; even as He keeps you in the Word.

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Are God's Hands

"And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these." Matt 6:28-29

I am no longer sure what is in fashion or not. I know that I like long skirts. In the summer they are cooler than slacks or jeans and in the winter I can wear boots and long underwear under them instead of panty hose and no one is the wiser. The problem the market is not inundated with long dresses so my closet doesn't have an abundance of them.

Fortunately, one of the perks of being a pastor is that I don't have to think too much about what I'm going to wear. Shirt, collar and a skirt or (sadly) slacks. Sometimes, I wear my pink or purple shirt with blue jeans; depending where I'm going or what I'm doing. An alb on Sundays covers up anything I might be wearing underneath. At the little church in Aura, without air conditioning, I have threatened to wear my swimsuit underneath in the summer. The temperatures raise even more once the pews are filled with God's children. No one would know. I leave the house in an alb and return in the alb. No, one knows what I'm wearing underneath anyway.

Society spends an awful lot of time and money on worrying about what we should wear when there are a whole lot more important and pressing things to worry about. There are hungry children and multitudes of cold children who don't have the option of deciding which jacket to wear because they have none at all. There are the sick and the persecuted and the dying who need tending to. There is enough to take care of in this world to have time or money to worry about what we will wear. God uses us to help clothe and otherwise care for those in need. We are His hands.

May He help us to understand that rather than worry about which sweatshirt we should wear, we should be busy being His hands to feed and clothe those who are truly in need.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Toys for Tots Benefit Concert at Zion this Sunday at 2 pm in support of the children of Baraga County. See you all there! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gift

Gifts
Yesterday, I was surprised with a gift of a corsage. It was an amazing gift. Darlene picked the flower from her own garden and made it for me. She said that she had heard on the radio that it was pastor appreciation month and wanted to do something to let me know that she appreciates me. I appreciate her; not just for the gift of the corsage; but, because she loves the Lord and she shows it in many ways. I see her often: at Worship; Bible studies, Women of the Word meetings, cleaning the church kitchen and every now and then in her own home. It warms my heart to know how much she loves the Lord and appreciates the sacrifice that he made on the cross so that all who believe in him might live eternally in the Kingdom that he has prepared for us.

May God help us to all appreciate the gift that He has given us in His Son and the gift He has given us in one another.

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. I have been most blessed to serve in Baraga County beside so many faithful stewards of God's gifts.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You Snooze; You Lose

It seems that on Sunday mornings my snooze alarm gets hit more often than on any other day. Oh, I still get up before six; but, it is a temptation. Fortunately, I have a snooze alarm so that when I hit the button, I get a second and third chance if it's needed.

God provides us with many chances or opportunities to love, to worship, and to serve Him as well as to love and serve our neighbors. There comes a time; though, in each of our loves that the opportunities will come to an end. We do not know the day or hour when we will breath our last breath. .

When our children and grandchildren were young and didn't want to get up and moving so that they could participate in some activity, my husband would often tell them: "You snooze; you lose."

Wake up, sleeper. God gives us many opportunities to live life in Christ. We are told that He delays His coming so that we all have the opportunity to turn to Him. But, don't delay. The time is now, not tomorrow. Who knows if there will be a tomorrow, here on earth, for any one of us?

May God help us to grab hold of the opportunities to love and serve the Lord with all our hearts, and souls, and minds; even now.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 17, 2015

For The Forgiveness Of Sins

"While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt 26:26-28)

Who does not need forgiveness? Is there any one who is without sin?

Some time ago, our congregation decided that they would receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion every Sunday. Some of our members have to work on Sundays. Some of our youth were out of town with the other custodial parents on some Sundays. There are also those who worship only occasionally by choice. There are many reasons that prevent God's children from worshipping every Sunday.

It is not our place to figure out why. It is not our place to say that if they wanted to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament, they would come. It is our place to hope and pray for those who cannot or will not hear the Word and receive the Sacrament regularly. We choose to make the Sacrament available to those occasional visitors and members so that they could be reassured that Christ died for the forgiveness of all. Our prayer and hope is that many would come and be relieved of their sins. Our hope and prayer is that in receiving the Sacrament, they will be renewed in the Body of Christ.

May God speak to the hearts and minds of all people; encouraging them to come and receive His Son; to forgiveness of their sins in and through him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 16, 2015

Be Prepared!

It was 88 degrees here in Aura earlier this week. This evening, we are expecting snow. One can never tell what the day will bring. Here in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) we learn to be prepared for any kind of weather.

We spend many days preparing for winter. Windows are washed and sealed in plastic wrap; lawn furniture is put away; winter boots and jackets are taken out of storage while summer clothes stored for the winter; shovels are dug out; and, plows readied to be put on the trucks. We spend many days preparing and hoping for summer.  Everything we did in the fall to prepare for the winter is done in reverse. We spend a lot of time in the U.P. preparing so that we are ready for weather changes with each season.

But, how much time do we spend preparing for the changes that come with each day? Each day brings something new. Each day there are new challenges. Are we prepared to meet those challenges and overcome any adversity that might come our way?  Spending intentional time with our Father in heaven and our Lord, Jesus the Christ, each morning will help us to be prepared. Spending time in prayer with God will help us to meet the light of the day with renewed strength.

Be prepared! Pray! Spend time with our glorious Creator and Redeemer; our life and salvation.

And, may the Lord be with you that you may be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and that you may be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:11-14)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Not With Silver Or Gold

All too often; all too many people, have a tendency to think that just because they have brought their tithes before the altar that they have "paid their dues" and will receive their places in the heavenly home. Know this: your offerings will not buy you a place in the kingdom of God. There is only one offering that saves us. Jesus willingly offered himself up as a ransom for us all.

"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish." 1 Peter 1:18-19

May God help us all to appreciate more the offering that was given for us in Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Faith Alone!

"Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous live by their faith." Habakkuk 2:4.

Wisdom sometimes comes with age (but, not always). It never ceases to amaze me how some of our eldest brothers and sisters in Christ are able to humble themselves and confess their sins. These sins that they confess seem to pale in comparison to some of the sins that others do not confess.

The ability to understand that all sin no matter whether we consider them big or small sins are an abomination before God. It is understood that none of us are without sin; that we are made righteous only be faith in the Son of God who died for us. There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. There is nothing that we can do or avoid doing in order to stand before God and be proclaimed innocent.

We are saved by faith alone. Sometimes, it just takes years of being humbled in order to be humble enough to know that we are indeed sinners and are saved by faith alone. This is a gift of God.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rise and Shine!

Ephesians 5:14
I woke up a bit late this morning. A younger (but, not that young) person in my house got me up about 6:00 a.m.. This is a good thing! A few months ago, it was me waking her up sometime not too long before noon on many days. This morning, she was wide awake and anxious to see if she had work today or not. She is learning.

She is learning that with privilege comes responsibility. She is learning that there is a cost to things that we desire. The cost is that sometimes (no, often) we have to get up and work for those things that we want and need. Even the necessities of life are not a given. Someone has to work for them.

How long will you lie there, O lazybones?
    When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want, like an armed warrior.
                                   Prov 6:9-11

Wake us, dear Lord, that we might serve you most fruitfully, glorifying your holy name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dead Flies

Listening to all the fall flies buzzing around me while busy sorting out books in the church library yesterday afternoon, I heard someone come in the side door. I thought maybe it was Joe or Bill coming to contemplate what to do with all the flies. There were not too many dead ones laying around after worship; but, by 3 p.m., the carpeting as beginning to turn a bit black with them. No, it was not Joe or Bill. The visitors were tourists who wanted to check out the church and get directions back to the highway. When asked, I explained that all the buzzing that they heard was the sound of flies fighting to survive even as they prepared to breath their last breaths.

There seems to be nothing that we can do to avoid the invasion of flies each fall. Most homes, particularly the older homes, in the township have them. It can be slightly embarrassing to have such a mess when one receives unexpected company. But, it's really not worth getting too excited about. It's an inevitable reality. All one can do is clean up the mess.

Our lives can get pretty messy at times, as well. There are some messes that are just not worth getting too excited about. There is nothing that one can do about them. They are just a part of life's daily routines and wasting energy on trying to fix something that will work itself out with time really does seem like folly. Creating drama or getting too excited about something we can do nothing about sometimes will create even more messes and destroy any joy we have in living. Sometimes all we can or should do is nothing; but, to be still and know that whatever comes our way, God is with us in the messiness of life.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Words Of Our Lips



Our faith, what we believe, is evidenced in what we say and do. Do we promote God's will even as we pray that His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven? Or, do we promote false gods of this world by what we say and do? 

Those things that we profess that we believe should agree with the things that we say and do in all aspects of our lives. When we say that we believe one way and purposely do something else; we not only become traitors to God; but, to the words of our own lips. We cannot teach others to live in God's way that He might be glorified while we live in a way that contradicts what we say.

May God help us to live with integrity; that the words of our lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in His sight and glorify He who is our Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The End Of The Line

I was not the perfect child growing up nor was I a particularly bad kid good growing up, either. I liked to climb trees; ride bike; go for walks; build forts... My parents had strict boundaries set for us and when we crossed them, my father would let us know: "you reached the end of the line, sister." I knew someone was in big trouble when I heard that!

Last winter, my husband watched hours and hours of "The Walking Dead." All of the living were trying to get to Terminus. I could not figure out why they figured any place named Terminus would be a good place to go. Terminus means the end of the line. It means the final point in time or space. So why would anyone go there?

But, then again some people want to do a lot of things that I can't quite fathom why they would do them. They want to get blitzed! Why? Blitzed means to be attacked and defeated. How about getting stoned? Why would anyone want to get stoned? In biblical times getting stoned was not a good thing. It also meant the end of the line. It meant death. Getting wasted also doesn't sound like something to look forward to on a Saturday night. It means physically or psychologically exhausted; debilitated. Again, near the end of the line.

So why would anyone follow a path that leads only to the end of the line; to destruction?  Jesus said to, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matt 7:13-14) Yup! The road that leads to life can be hard. But, I'm thinking a tough road to eternal life is better than an easy one that leads to eternal destruction.

I had taken some young men from a correctional facility hiking to see a beautiful waterfalls. About half a mile in, I realized that they were very nervous. I asked them why. It turned out that they feared that we were lost and would be attacked by some wild animal or maybe come to the end of the line by falling off a cliff. They were from Detroit and although very street wise; they could not see the path that we were following in the wilderness. Someone has to show the way to those who cannot see the path. Will you show them the way?

May God help us to choose wisely the path that we will follow and guide others on the way.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 9, 2015

Am I my Brother's Children's Keeper?

Zion Youth Choir sing at concert to help children
in Baraga County.
"Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." Matt 7:9-12 NRSV

"Am I my brother's keeper." (Gen 4:9) This was Cain's response when God asked him where his brother was after he had killed Abel. Are you your brother's keeper? Are you your brother's children's keeper? I hope that you are answering in the affirmative.

I have been working on the advertising for Zion's Annual Toys for Tots Concert. The concert kicks off the local Marine campaign for Toys for Tots in Baraga County. We have a very high unemployment rate and the medium income is very low in the county. There is a great need to help our brother and sister's children during the holiday season as well as all year long.

Where ever you are; whether in Baraga County, remember the children in need. Yes, you are your brother's keeper. If you, yourself, are a child of God you would respond in the affirmative when it comes to helping the youngest among us. 

God's Peace - Pr. J 

P.S. Hope to see all of you who are local at the concert!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Salty Grace

Season grace with salt.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:5-7

I overheard my granddaughter tell some that if they got salty with her, she would get salty with them. I haven't heard someone use that word in conversation in a few decades. I'm thinking she meant over the top. Words have a way of changing their meaning over time. When I grew up, salty meant something like to be tough or unmovable in a rugged sort of way.

Salt is good in the appropriate amount for the occasion. A lot of salt is needed to move a pesky ant hill. Not so much salt is needed to flavor food. Salt poured on a wound might sting; but, it helps in the healing process.

It does not hurt to be a little salty. Always full of only grace is no grace at all, as my former mentor and teacher, Dr. Karl Keljo, often reminded me.  Being a bit salty is a good thing. But, just as only grace can do damage; so can being overly salty.

May God grant us the wisdom to know how much salt we should or should not use to season our conversations with others.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rainbow of Promise

I have been listening to "Over the Rainbow" by Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo╩╗ole for a couple of days as I have been praying about and preparing a funeral service for a beloved lady from the community.

Iz was thirty-eight when he died in 1997. He had suffered many health problems during his life. But, his music, especially this song, was filled with hope and with life. His music lives on.

I have officiated at near three hundred funerals or memorials since beginning service to the Lord here in Baraga County. They do not get easier. In fact, as each year passes and I grow even closer to the community, they get harder to prepare for. I grieve with the families and friends. I grieve to see them grieve.

There is only one place that I know that I or anyone can go to in times like this to find comfort and reassurance. Only, at the feet of Jesus, can we find comfort and hope as we hear the promise of that place that he has gone to prepare for us; the promise of a home that is not shrouded by the dark skies; but, shines with the glorious light and love of God for all who believe.

May God grant comfort and peace to all who grieve as you receive the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Procrastination

"Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one."  1 Corinth 9:23-25

Before the sun comes up, I often find myself thinking about running for exercise. I imagine myself running through the woods like the wind. This thinking about it doesn't burn me any calories; it doesn't lose me any weight. It doesn't do my body any good. When I rise, I go about morning devotions and then to work. I can usually find a few minutes to exercise in the living room a few times a week. But, I almost always put off the running 'till another day. I do not exercise a lot of self-control or discipline when it comes to physical exercise.

St. Paul compared the discipline runners employ to the discipline that we need to exercise in order to be spiritually healthy so that when we finish the race here on earth we will receive the imperishable prize that has been prepared for us. We do not want any one to procrastinate and say "I'll get to know this Jesus you talk about, later. I'll have more time to follow him after I retire. I'll have more time to serve, tomorrow." For procrastinators, tomorrow rarely comes. Tomorrow may be too late. Today is the day to get to know Jesus and to live in his presence; in his Kingdom.

Jesus died for you. He died so that all people might live in the presence of God our Father for all eternity. What are you waiting for? The time is now. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

God's Peace - Pr. J  

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Light and Salvation

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
    to devour my flesh—
my adversaries and foes—
    they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
    yet I will be confident.
                                                                                   Psalm 27 NRSV
 
When you are engulfed in a storm on the Great Lakes or on coastal waters; you look for a lighthouse to help guide you on your way.
 
Life brings about many storms of many kinds. Some are small and some are huge. But, no matter what kind or how large the storm you are facing; no matter who brings it; no matter how dark it gets; the light of Christ shines in the darkness to bring you to safe harbor. Follow the light of Christ and you can walk in the confidence that no matter who or what storm is attempting to bring you down; you will survive; you will live in God's presence for all eternity.
 
The Lord is our stronghold. We have no need to fear anything or anyone. God is with all who believe in Him.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Saved By Grace Through Faith

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast." Eph 2:8-9

Often we cling to sins that we may have committed years ago. That's not to say we keep repeating them. But, sometimes, no matter how hard we try to forget them, we do not. The devil keeps reminding us of our past acts against God and against humanity. And... we continue to live in our guilt.

There is nothing we can do to undo those sins of our past. We cannot "fix" them by the works of our hands. Our sins cannot be cancelled out by anything good we might think we do. Just about when we might think we're balancing the scales the devil will rear his ugly head and remind us of yet another sin that we need to atone for. It's a never ending cycle. Do not fall for the devil's tricks. You have been saved by God's grace through faith.

It is time to quit living in the past; carrying the sins of your past. Your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. There is only one way that you can be saved from your past or your present sins. By the grace of God you are saved through faith. Salvation is not something that you can earn. Salvation is a gift from God. Have faith that this gift is for you. Receive it! Live in this truth and tell the devil to depart in the name of Jesus Christ for your sins are forgiven.

God's Peace - Pr.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Snare of the Fowler

Blessed be the Lord,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:6-8 NRSV
 
With the help of God, there are no snares that can hold us. There is not need to fear. God is with us and for us.
 
When we feel trapped, we can know that our help is in the Lord. He is with us and will help us escape the snares of our enemies.
 
Trust in the Lord who made all things in the heaven and earth. He will not give us to be prey for those who would consume us.
 
Blessed be the Lord, who is our help and salvation.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Wind Blows

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8 NRSV

It has been cool and windy for a while here. My husband decided that he would like some warmer weather so headed for South Carolina on his trike on Monday. I think he chose the wrong week. Soon he will be experiencing the winds and rains of Hurricane Joachim as it travels north off of the coast. The wind will blow where it chooses.

And, so it is with the Spirit. The Spirit moves in unexpected ways when we least expect. There are two things that humankind cannot control: the blowing of the wind and the movement of the Spirit of God. All that we can do is go with it making the best of the experience. Regardless of the turbulence we might encounter as we ride the winds; we know that wherever the wind blows or the Spirit moves; God has a plan; a good plan for you.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Unbelievably Sad

My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
    as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,
    and my neighbors stand far off.

Those who seek my life lay their snares;
    those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,
    and meditate treachery all day long.
Psalm 38:10-12 NRSV
 
I find myself unbelievably saddened today. I am sad because you are sad.

It never fails to astound me how quickly people who say they care will turn against someone or even desert them when someone is being afflicted. Instead of helping and supporting their "friends and companions," they turn on them much like Job's friends turned on him when he was afflicted. They turn on them and dessert them in their time of need and in doing so they hurt, even further, the one who is hurting.
 
I wish that I could help them in their loneliness. I am always willing to be there to listen. However, not everyone wants their pastor to care; after all, that's what pastors do: care for the afflicted. Sometimes people need more people than just their pastor. Most of us have probably been, at one time or another, in that place where it seems like there is no one left who cares about us. I have come to know the one who is always there for you... His name is Jesus. He is always with you. Talk to him. Hear his gentle voice: Be not troubled. Be not afraid. My peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
 
God's Peace - Pr. J