Monday, October 10, 2016

God Has A Good Plan

God has a plan and His will be done. I am typing this note with one finger on my phone. We still have no power or water at my home. Since it's my day off I'm  thinking maybe His plan is for me to take the day off. That is after I do one visit. The electric company is now estimating I will have electricity at 11:45 tonight. I am hoping so but not counting on it. Hurricane Matthew did quite a dance on Bulow as well as other parts of Flagler County. I will continue the blog when my wifi and computer are up and running.

BTW.. Power went back on at Christ Lutheran just prior to worship yesterday. It was good to be with our brothers and sisters and hear how God has been with them and blessing them this past week.

God"s Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Whom Are You Looking For?

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  John 20:15 NRSV

Indeed, whom are you looking for? He is there with you, right now. Can you not see him? Then, maybe, it's really not Jesus that you are looking for. Maybe it's someone or something else that you think might satisfy you. Maybe you're looking in all the wrong places. The tomb is empty. Jesus is not among the dead; but, among the living. If you're looking for Jesus, look no further than around you. Jesus is Risen! He lives with you. He is with you now and always.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

High Places

 
"The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights." (Hab 3:19 NIV)

"The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." (Hab 3:19 KJV)

It has been many years since I read, "Hinds Feet On High Places," an allegory, written by Hannah Hurnard. The journey of Much-Afraid and her friends Sorrow and Suffering, as they follow Shepherd to the high places, where they will walk as on hinds' feet, takes them through many dangers.  It is a long journey. They must have patience. They must have persistence. But, in the end, they (we) will dance in the presence of God. 

This is a familiar story to many of us as even daily we journey through many difficult times in anticipation and the hope of the promised land.

Just as Habakkuk prayed and waited patiently for the LORD to deliver God's people from the enemy, from the many dangers that surround them; we, too pray and wait patiently (sometimes not as patiently as at other times) for the LORD to deliver His people from the turmoil and dangers they encounter as they journey through the dark shadows of the valley of death.
 
The Lord is our strength. With Him we shall walk through dark valleys to the high places where the light does surely shine. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 20, 2016

No Easter Without Events Of Holy Week

Today we enter Holy Week. On this Palm Sunday we also celebrate Passion Sunday at Zion Lutheran. I will narrate the whole story; from Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem with palm branches waving to his burial. We do this in order so that as many people as possible can hear the passion story. We will not have as many at worship as we will on Easter Sunday; but, we will have some who will not be with us on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or Holy Saturday to hear the story. They will be there to hear of his rising from the grave; but, they will not be there to hear of the actual sacrifice that he made that precipitated his resurrection. Without death there can be no resurrection. Without Good Friday; without the events of Holy Week, there can be no Easter Sunday. Therefore; on Palm Sunday we also remember his passion for us. We remember that because he loves us he was willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried and crucified for us.

Join us at Zion or your local congregation this morning and throughout Holy Week as we remember all that our Lord has done for us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Clothe Yourself With Good Things

Above all, clothe yourselves with love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:14
"As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." Col 3:12 NRSV

We are not to be doormats. We are to stand firmly on the truth, which is the Word of God. Jesus, and in the end his disciples, did not back down from the truth. They stood firmly on God's Word and on His promises.

But, neither are we to be bullies asserting our rights over the rights of others. Paul encourages the Colossians to treat one another with compassion and kindness. We are to try to have empathy for others; to, as the saying goes: "walk a mile in the shoes of others." We are to listen to all sides with humility; humbling ourselves so that we do not put our needs over the needs of others, and with empathy so that we can act with compassion and kindness to those who are suffering.

May God reconcile us to Himself and to one another, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Toiling After Riches Meaningless?


The older I get the more death becomes a reality, I lapse into more moments of thinking that life is as meaningless as Solomon would imply. Why all the years of toil, if it is to be gone in a second? Even if you have something to leave your offspring, how long will it last them? Do they follow in the way that they should go so that all that they say and thing and do will glorify God? Will their inheritance be wasted away on trivial stuff - fleeting moments of pleasure rather than those things that will bring real joy (that is glorifying God)? Will they appreciate all the years that you spent earning and saving it for them?

This toiling after riches is meaningless.

"Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?

The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.  (Eccl 5:10 - 15 NIV) 

That is not to say work is evil. We should work if we expect to eat. But, it becomes very bothersome, even a burden, when one works only to amass riches. Jesus told this story to a crowd who followed to listen to Him: 
 “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
  "Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:17-21

Our work should bring joy to us as well as to others. Live life! Enjoy the life that God has given you! Whether it is in the hours you spend laboring or during the hours you are relaxing with your friends and family, life here on earth is to be lived and enjoyed. Life, abundant life, is a gift from God.

"This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart." (Eccl 1:18-20).

While you are yet making your journey through this world focus not on amassing wealth or power to the exploitation of others, but on living life so that God may be glorified.

And... may the peace and joy that is found in being in relationship with God, our Father and with one another, through His Son, Jesus the Christ, be with you always.  Pr. J

Saturday, March 12, 2016

God Help Us To be Fruitful

    
     "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
     To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
     May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."  2 Peter 1:1-8 NRSV

We are saved by God's grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ; yet, Peter reminds us that we should support that faith with such things as goodness and knowledge. It makes no sense whatsoever for us to have received this precious gift of faith if we do not live by that faith. We are to be fruitful laborers in that which He has called us.

God bless the works of our hands, the words of our lips and the meditations of our hearts and minds that all that we say and think and do will be acceptable in His sight and glorify Him.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

He Holds The Children In His Hands

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress, to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
    it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
Psalm 71:1-6 NRSV
 
My birth family did not attend worship. I never attended Sunday School; but, thanks to some wonderful neighbor ladies I was able to go to Vacation Bible School. I was confirmed; but, that was because I wanted to affirm my baptism. I would find rides or walk the few miles to the classes at church. I attended services with my grandmother when I was very young and stayed with her at times. I remember some of those services being in the Finnish language, which I did not understand. But, in spite of a very minimal formal Christian education, I came to know and to trust God. He came to me when I was not able to go to Him.
 
Family life as I grew up was pretty chaotic and there were many times, as a young child, that I simply had no one to turn to. I feared for my safety and felt very alone. So, I turned to God for comfort and for safety and for love. There were many nights that I could not sleep because of troubles in the household. Weekends were usually the most rough. I remember hiding knives and ammo in the evenings before our parents came home on Friday and Saturday nights. But, I must stress that in spite of the many times of trouble, there were also many good times, as well. There are many children growing up today who do not have the benefit of these good times.  
 
But, where and to whom shall a child turn when they are afraid? One of the few songs that I knew from Vacation Bible School was "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands."  In order to rest without fear and to be able to fall asleep in peace, I would often envision myself laying in the comfort and safety of God's great hands. He came to me. He was and is my strong fortress to save me. He is my refuge and strength. He was and is with me always. He is with you always. 
 
There are children today who live in much greater fear than I did. My heart goes out to them and I pray that they will live and rest in the comfort and safety of God's hands.
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, March 7, 2016

Walk In The Light

"Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."  Eph 5:10-11

You're in a bind, again?! We all get in binds sometimes. We can step right into traps without even considering where we're placing our feet. Sometimes we step into those dark places on purpose thinking that we're not going to get lost or trapped.

Here's a suggestion from St Paul. "Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord." Quit working so hard at trying to please the world. You will just find yourself in darkness. Seek the Lord while he may be found. Seek out what will be pleasing to the Lord and you just might find yourself walking in the light and participating in His life; real life.

May God guide you in His light.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, March 6, 2016

We See Dimly

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinth 13:11-13 NRSV


What a glorious day it will be when we shall see the Lord face to face. But, for now we have faith, hope and love as we wait for the day when the shadow is gone; the shroud is removed and the fog is lifted so that we will see His full glory as we stand before Him.

No matter how dimly we might see now; it is better than not seeing or knowing Him at all. May God open our eyes that we might see and know Him more clearly each and every day.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Are You Listening?

"Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise." Deut 6:6-7

I do a lot of reciting of both the law and the gospel. But, there are times when I just have to shake my head and wonder if anyone is listening? Do they not understand the there is only one true God and that God is almighty; all powerful; all loving; all merciful? It is not wise; it is not a good thing to worship other gods; to put anyone or anything before our Creator and Redeemer. I simply have a difficult time understanding how anyone would refuse to love and serve the only God who can save them from sin, death, and the power of the devil. How could anyone not love someone who was willing to die for them?

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart." Deut 6:4-6

May our Father in heaven, forgive us for not loving Him as we ought; for not loving Him even as He loves us.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, March 4, 2016

He is With You

"I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NRSV

The servant of the Lord told Joshua to be courageous, the Lord is with you wherever He sends you and no matter what He asks you to do. We are reminded that we too should be courageous in doing the Lord's will. Things will happen along the way; things that don't always feel so good. But, God has a plan. "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

Don't worry. Trust the Lord for He is with you wherever you go; wherever, he sends you.

God's Peace -Pr. J

Thursday, March 3, 2016

His Thoughts; His Ways

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NRSV


It would be easy to give up and let the world have it's worldly way with you. But, the Word of the LORD reminds us to seek Him and His Way. God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Following in the way our ego would have us go will only prove to be devastating to our lives and the world around us.  And... it may also be a good thing to remember that no matter how bad things get, God is still in charge. He can turn the greatest tragedy into the most marvelous triumph. From the most troubled time, He will lead us out in joy and lead us forth in peace; the peace that only He can give.
 
Seek the LORD and come to the One who knows the way; who is The Way. 
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Do Unto Others; Respect And Care For Them

Do Unto Others; Give Generously out of love for others
Zion Servant Event - making fleece blankets for LWR
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." Matt 7:12

You have heard the saying: "what goes around, comes around." Others refer to it as karma. What really is happening is that when you treat others with disrespect they most likely will treat you in the same manner that you have treated them. It is human nature. People simply have a hard time showing respect for those who disrespect others. When people break the rules of society, there are usually consequences set in place by society as a whole. I dislike this word, karma, immensely. I think a better word for this might be justice.

"Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones." Psalm 37:27-28

Show respect for others and they might show respect to you. Love others and you will be loved. Do good to all people that it may be well with you and them; that we might all live in harmony and peace.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This Love Will Never Leave You

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:25-26 NRSV

Family and friends are great. But, sometimes they are simply not there for you. Sometimes, they do not seem to be able to comprehend what you might be enduring. But, there is one who does understand everything you are going though. He is there for you always. His love for us gives us the strength to endure all things.

We know that He is always there for us. He will always love us. We are never alone. It is difficult not to desire even more of He who loves us so much.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 29, 2016

My Soul Thirsts For The Lord

"As a deer longs for flowing streams,
    so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
    the face of God?"

                  Psalm 42:1-2 NRSV

Life can get pretty confusing at times. Which way to go? When I get like this, and I do at times, I remind myself to seek the Lord. There is only one way to go and that is to the Lord. I long to see His face more fully; to hear and understand His Word and His will more completely. I long to be more fully in His presence; to see Him face to face.

There is only one who can satisfy our thirsty souls. Seek the Lord and His Kingdom and He will show you the way to eternal peace in His presence.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Sunday, February 28, 2016

In God We Trust!

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    do not let me be put to shame;
    do not let my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 25:1-2

When I was young, I trusted everyone. As I grew older, I learned many hard lessons and trusted no one. As I grew even older, I learned to put my trust in the Lord. I learned to trust Christ working in and through others. I know that wherever I am or whatever the Lord is calling me to do, He is with me and for me.

Do not be afraid to step out in faith. It does us no good to worry about what the world around us thinks of us. It does not even matter if the world around us hates us. The Lord does not. He calls you to love and serve Him as well as all of His children. Trust Him!

Let us lift up our souls to the Lord and trust in Him before all others. In this we can live with the peace of heart that surpasses all understanding.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Live In The Light!


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”
                                         Genesis 1:1-4   
                                                      
God saw that the light that he had created was good. It's probably a good idea; therefore, to live life in the light.
 
God's Peace and have a blessed day!
Pr. J

Friday, February 26, 2016

You Have Eternal Life!

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13

There are times when we all might feel unworthy. We become downcast as we wonder what will become of our lives. St. John reminds us of the promise that all who believe in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, will not perish; but, have eternal life. That eternal life is in the presence of the one true God; the God who loves you so much that he was willing to die for you.

All is not lost! Rejoice, for the Kingdom of God is for all who believe! And, then even as St. John shared the good news, we are to go and share it with others that their hope may be restored, as well.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Taxes

“...Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Matt 22:21
 
It is tax season, again! Tax season spans over one third of the year. Then, there are those summer property taxes due as well and can't forget quarterly estimated taxes, either. It does not bother me to pay taxes. I am just not thrilled with the filing of them. I procrastinate. I finally purchased and downloaded one tax program. I am still waiting for the business tax program to come in the mail since there were none available locally and I don't like downloading the program. I like my own copy on a disc. If my computer crashes, which it tends to do during tax season, it is easier if I don't have to remember the passwords.
 
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees if it was lawful to pay taxes to an emperor. This was a trick question. He was being asked if maybe giving tithes to someone other than God could be considered as idolatry. On the other hand if he said no, he would be denying the authority of the emperor to rule in this world. They were confounding the two kingdoms. Jesus responded by asking who's face was on the coin that the they paid this tax with. They brought forth a coin with Caesar's face. Then pay to Caesar what is Caesar's he told them.
 
We may find discomfort in parting with our savings to pay the taxes the government requests. But, do not worry. You are a child of the Kingdom of God. God will provide.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Toil There Is Profit

"In all toil there is profit,
    but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23

"Are you a Finn?" That was a strange question to be asked by a supervisor. But, that is exactly what I was asked years ago as I worked on a production line in a sewing factory. I had laughed and asked him how he could know that as I was living in North Carolina where there were very few people of Finnish descent. I knew of only one other. The supervisor was not of Finnish descent himself. He said he guessed that because of my work ethic. At the time, the company I worked for was laying me off and paying me unemployment one or two days every week because the particular station I worked at would run out of work by Wednesday or Thursday. In the history of the factory no one had ever made production at my station until that time.

I am still not sure how he would guess my ethnicity as I know a lot of people today of this same ethnic background who do not like to work and who will go out of their way to avoid it. I do not believe that ethnicity has much to do with our particular work ethics. Our work ethics are not necessarily dictated by our gene pool; but, has more to do with our environment.

I was taught at an early age that in order to live; in order to eat; in order to have shelter and heat, we must work. We must take care of responsibilities. We probably spend around one third of our lives working so we may as well do it well. We may as well throw ourselves into it and enjoy it.

Raising our sons, I would often make games out of household chores. We would work together so that the chores we had to complete would be more enjoyable for all. There is profit in our toil. Sometimes, it is merely to survive and to survive well. Other times it is so that we can share fruitful time with others.

Whatever we do, let us do it well that the work of our hands might glorify our Father in heaven.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 22, 2016

Seek Him


Seek the Lord while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Isaiah 55:6-8
 
God's Peace be with you all. Pr. J

Sunday, February 21, 2016

He Is Risen!

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19

The sheer insanity of it all! Can you imagine what it would have been like to have witnessed your beloved friend and teacher put to death. How gut-wrenchingly horrific to watch the agony of this one you love. This man that you followed around the countryside; who taught you; who ate with you; who healed the sick and cast out demons before your very eyes is gone. He is dead.

Now, here he is. Alive! Standing before you! Just as he promised, He lives! Watching the movie "Risen" yesterday, it struck me that once the disciples witnessed him alive, they had no alternative; but, to go and share this good news. Who wouldn't? Sure they could've tried to kept their lips sealed to protect themselves. They did not have to tell anyone about this miraculous return of their beloved friend from the dead. But, how would one keep such a secret. Impossible! It is just too marvelous! The news must be shared. And, it was shared. Like mad men; yet, not mad; filled with the Spirit, those first followers of Jesus went out and shared the marvelous news of his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. The good news is that because he is risen and so shall we!

I hear often about churches dying. I wonder why; how can this be? How can a church die when they have such good news to share. Maybe, because the good news isn't being shared. Think about it for a minute. Those who witnessed Jesus alive have his death were few. Yet, from those few the good news has spread  around the world. Even in the smallest of congregations there are at least a dozen who worship God. Don't keep him in the sanctuary. Don't hide your love of God. Go out and tell the world that; although, he was hung a cross until dead, he is risen!

He lives!

God's Peace - Pr. J

P.S. Tradition would tell me this blog would be best for Easter. But, it is good news for every day! I doubt those first disciples quit telling the story during the forty days. One never knows when someone who has not heard the story needs to hear it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sins Are Covered

“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” Rom 4:7-8

And, who exactly are those whose sins are forgiven? They are those who trust that the Lord Jesus has died for their sins. They are those who in faith in the Lord Jesus have had their sins covered by his blood. It is only be faith that we are saved.

And, how do we believe? How do we come to such faith? It is a gift of God. St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (Rom 10:17) Faith comes through hearing the promises of God. Faith comes through hearing what Jesus has done for us. Faith comes by hearing that because of his sacrifice for us, our sins are forgiven and that we have been reconciled to God.

Your iniquities are forgiven! Rejoice and give thanks to the One who has blessed you so richly!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sinking in Sand

"rescue me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters." Psalm 69:14


There is small spot on one of the islands in front of my home of sinking sand. It is a little over a foot wide; yet, it's a bit unnerving to accidentally step into it. As one's ankles and then calves become engulfed in sand you will not tarry. You will step out of it quickly and change your course just as fast. I do not know how much of a person it would swallow if one chose to test the sand. I have never desired to find out.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We go in ways that are dangerous to ourselves and may even be active in leading others in the wrong way, as well. We stray from the path that Jesus prepared for us and purposefully attempt to travel the path of the unrighteous. There are many dangers on this path that leads away from our Father's house. Sinking in mucky, uncharted swamps is only one of them.

When we find ourselves in danger of sinking in the mire it is time to change course. It is time, to ask for God's help to get back on the path that He has prepared for us.

If you find yourself alone and sinking fast know there is one who can rescue you. There is only one who can save you. Ask and He will lead you on the path of eternal life in His Kingdom. 

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Prosper The Work Of Our Hands

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands!
Psalm 90:17
 
That word prosper throws a few people from time to time. It does not always mean rich in material assets all of the time. To prosper also means to be successful at whatever endeavor you might undertake. We can prosper spiritually or emotionally or intellectually. To prosper means to be fruitful. As a transitive verb it means to be strong and thrive.
 
Young and a bit older children of God gathered at Zion this past Sunday to help others to live a bit more comfortably. We tied fleece quilts for Lutheran World Relief. The hands of those who were cutting and tied were very fruitful. Many blankets were created in a very short time. The work of our hands is not just for our prosperity; but, in accordance with the will of God to help others as well. For a homeless person or someone who has lost their home to a natural or man-made disaster such small things as warm blankets can make one feel like they are not alone in the world; that someone cares; that they are loved.
 
May God bless the work of our hands that we might be fruitful in all that we do. 
 
God's Peace - Pr. J

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Love One Another

"For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." 1 John 3:11 

My youngest granddaughter, who is a teen-ager, spent the weekend with me. It has been some time since she has been with me on a Sunday morning. She expressed a desire to come again next Sunday and thought she could volunteer to read lessons and maybe even join the church choir. "I like it there," she had told me. "Everyone is so friendly."

Out in the world things can get pretty rough on young people. People can be so mean without even realizing they are being so cold and heartless. Young people are often brought up thinking that putting other people down is a normal way of life. They have been taught nothing else. If you'd like your children to be able to experience a caring environment bring them to your local church. Worship with them. Hear the Word with them within the community of saints. Guide them as they experience fellowship with the saints in your local congregation. We are not perfect by any means. We make mistakes. We sin. But, with the help of God, we are learning and striving to love even as God loves us; even as God loves you.  

God's Peace - Pr. J

Monday, February 15, 2016

Meaningless?

The older I get and death becomes more of a reality, I lapse into more moments of thinking that life is as meaningless as Solomon would imply. Why all the years of toil, if it is to be gone in a second? Even if you have something to leave your offspring, how long will it last them? Do they follow in the way that they should go so that all that they say and thing and do will glorify God? Will their inheritance be wasted away on trivial stuff - fleeting moments of pleasure rather than those things that will bring real joy (that is glorifying God)?

 This toiling after riches is meaningless.

"Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owners
except to feast their eyes on them?

The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether they eat little or much,
but as for the rich, their abundance
permits them no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,
or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when they have children
there is nothing left for them to inherit.
Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.  (Eccl 5:10 - 15 NIV) 

That is not to say that work is evil. We should work if we expect to eat. But, it becomes very bothersome, even a burden, when one works only to amass riches. Jesus told this story to a crowd who followed to listen to Him: 
 “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
  "Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:17-21

Our work should bring joy to us as well as to others. Live life! Enjoy the life that God has given you! Whether it is in the hours you spend laboring or during the hours you are relaxing with your friends and family, life here on earth is to be lived and enjoyed. Life, abundant life, is a gift from God.

"This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart." (Eccl 1:18-20).

Focus your journey here on earth, not on amassing wealth or power to the exploit of others, but on living life so that God may be glorified in all that you think and say and do.

And... may the peace and joy that is found in being in relationship with God, our Father and with one another, through His Son, Jesus the Christ, be with you always. 

God's Peace

Pr. J

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love One Another

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-36

Some of you may remember the Beatles song "All You Need Is Love." Love, love, love... Is that all we need? No, it is not. But, when we love one another, we will strive to make sure that all of our neighbors needs for daily life will be met. We will not let them go hungry, or without shelter, or without warmth, or any of the necessities to support physical life.

Jesus had just humbly knelt to wash the feet of his beloved disciples; Judas had just left to betray the one who loved him; when Jesus gave the command to love another even as he loved them. Love, in this sense, is not just a noun. It is a verb. We are to humble ourselves and to actively love and show care and concern for the people around us; indeed, even around the whole world, even as Jesus went forth and died for the world.

This is his commandment: that we are to love one another.

God's Peace - Pr. J
 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

God Loves You

“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

God loves you. No matter how alone you feel in the world, there is One who will always love you. Such good news for a sin sick world!

Depression runs rampant in this world. It is a sadness to witness those who already suffer from depression often made even more depressed by the bullying and self-serving tactics of others. The sadness overwhelms so many people that I know and care about. They feel alone and unloved. If only their ears and eyes and hearts could be opened to understand how much God loves them and how much the people in whom Christ abides loves them. They are not alone; but, they do not comprehend that.

Sadly, even as Christ is at work in and through his followers so the devil is at work in and through his followers spreading lies and hatred and anger and gossip and greed. All these things lead to death. It is so disheartening to hear a young one explain why they don't believe in God. Some adult taught them this lie. Some adult allowed the devil to work through them so that these children would live without love and without hope.

Little children, do not despair. Hear the Word of the Lord. God loves you. You are not alone. Those in whom He abides love you. You do not have to be alone or lonely. Seek out the brothers and sisters of Christ that you might hear and know this great love that God, with all of the saints, has for you. (God help anyone who professes to be a follower of Christ and would not welcome one of these little children!)

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lift High The Cross

 

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Matt 16:23-25
 
God grant that we should lift high the cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, while knowing that there will be things that must be left behind to die in order that we might live in Christ. 
 
God's Peace - Pr.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meet Together Often

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

With Ash Wednesday behind us, we have begun our journey through the Lenten Season to the cross which will culminate at the empty tomb. Who will make this journey with us? Who will gather with us at worship as we struggle with our own crosses as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to Calvary?

St. Paul admonished the Hebrews, even as we are admonished to not neglect coming together as a community of saints. During Lent many congregations gather together more often (here at Zion on Wednesdays as well as Sundays) to hear God's Word and to worship Him.

May God plant in the hearts of all who would bear the name of Christ the desire to gather more often to worship Him and glorify His Holy Name.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ashes to Ashes and Life!

"By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,

    and to dust you shall return." Gen 3:19


To the dust you shall return was the sentence. For eating of the tree of knowledge which God had forbidden, Adam's sentence was death. His sentence (and ultimately ours) was that he would return to the dust from which he was formed.

There in the middle of the garden was also the tree of life. Had he eaten of the free gift of the fruit from the tree of life, he would have lived. But, he did not. Adam and Eve neglected the food that was good for them; that God had desired for them to eat, and chose that thing that they were not to have. How often it is that we, too, neglect the free gift of life given to us through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ! How often we neglect to come to the table that He has prepared for us! There Jesus is! "Come and eat." He says. "This is my body given for you for the forgiveness of sins." Do not neglect this life-giving gift!

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote that the benefit of receiving the Lord's Sacrament of Holy Communion "...is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation."

That is the Good News. Today is Ash Wednesday. This evening we will remember with the imposition of ashes that from dust we have come and to dust our bodies shall return. But, we will also eat at the Lord's Table and remember that in Him there is life and salvation.

God's Peace - Pr. J
 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34
 
I had not eaten since late afternoon yesterday. I broke that fast this morning at breakfast with my son and his girlfriend. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. During Lent it is traditional to give up something that we enjoy. We will fast. We will not, with the help of God, break that fast until Easter Sunday.
 
But, no matter what it is that we give up for Lent, we ought not think of it as a sacrifice. There is nothing that can compare to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us. It is - a mere test of our own self-discipline. In the end, if we are honest with ourselves, we will say, I cannot pick up my own cross and follow Jesus to his cross. May God help me! And, he has. He will be with you no matter how large or small your cross is.
 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Using God's Gifts

"Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received." 1 Peter 4:10 NRSV

We have all received gifts from God that can and are to be used to serve God and God's children. The Holy Spirit has not left anyone without at least a gift or two or many to be used for the glory of God and in the ministry of the gospel of  Jesus the Christ for all people.

If you are gifted with musical talents; there is always plenty of room to join with others in ministering through music. If you teach, we need teachers. There are also those gifts and talents that some might think have nothing to do with the ministry of the Church. But, you would be wrong. We need people to plow the parking lot so people can get into the church to worship or to study and hear God's Word. We need janitors and sextons to help with the general upkeep and cleaning of the property that God has given to us. The Body of Christ needs people who work well with youth or really enjoy visiting our seniors. There are those who cannot, for whatever reason, are home-bound. You can pray. You can make phone calls to reach out to others who may be alone and lonely. Not one person in the church on earth has been left without gifts or talents to serve one another.

May God help us to joyfully serve the Lord and one another with the gifts that He has so graciously given to each of us.

God's Peace - Pr. J 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hand of the Lord



I will open rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
    and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
    the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
    the plane and the pine together,
so that all may see and know,
    all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Isaiah 41:18-20 NRSV




The promises of the Lord are as numerous as the stars in the sky that He created. He created all things. He created even the wilderness which we find ourselves wandering through. The hand of the Lord has done this. Give thanks to the Lord for all His promises; his gifts, to humankind.

God's Peace - Pr. J

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Praise The Lord!

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Psalm 148:7-8 NRSV

Let everyone praise the Lord!

I went for a ride with my camera yesterday. The winter scenes are beautiful. They are breathtaking. But, steps outside of the vehicle and the cold will also take your breath away. We adjust to the seasons. They all bring something beautiful to remind us of God, the creator of heaven and earth. Each season also brings various hazards: freezing ice storms, snow storms, hurricanes, tornadoes. But, between those hazards to life we thank God and praise Him for the beauty of the earth and the life we have been given on it and in His Kingdom.

Let all God's children praise the Lord!

God's Peace - Pr. J

Friday, February 5, 2016

Make Joyful Noises

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing."
Psalm 100:1

I enjoy listening to and watching school bands. Teens are so full of enthusiasm when they come together as a group to make music. Music has the ability to affect our moods; our emotions. Some music can bring us way down. Some can bring us up when we are down. Personally, I like things quiet so that I can hear things that are actually going on around me. I do not relish the idea of shutting out the sounds of God's creation nor the possibility of hearing His voice. But, if there is to be noise, let it be joyful; sounds that will gladden the heart.

Let the noises be joyful sounds of praise as we live in the presence of the Lord of all the earth.

God's Peace - Pr. J