pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Together

As we move toward Holy Week, we must have a sense that we need to be prepared to walk with Jesus through the trials of the last week of His life.  At times on that journey, the forces of evil were in full force.  It is at times physically painful, at times emotionally painful and at times it is even spiritually painful.

Psalm 118: 24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  This verse can apply to each day in the week ahead.  Every morning when we begin our day, we can use this verse to garner strength for whatever may come personally and for being present in the events of the week as we walk with Jesus.  Every day God has made.  All things of that day too.  It is a mater of attitude to give each day to God.

It is also a matter of company.  The ‘let us rejoice’ is plural.  We are all in this together. All Christians should walk through Holy Week together with Jesus.  Whether your community is your small group, your church, or the group that reads this today, there is power in practicing our faith together.  There is unity and there is strength.

Holy Weeks is a week of highs and lows.  At times the forces of evil seem to rule the day and at times God is clearly triumphant.  It is as important to celebrate the highs together as well as to walk through the tough stuff together.  May our faith draw us together as we prepare to journey with Jesus through Holy Week.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 19-24

 

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These Truths Remain

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever.”  These same words begin and end Psalm 118.  These eternal promises of God are reaffirmed by Jeremiah and he adds, “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

The middle of the psalm is filled with the trials of life – anger, hate, rejection.  These are the things Christ battled in the week leading up to His crucifixion and they are the thing we face too at times in our lives.  Trials are sure to come our way.

But, thanks be to God!  Just like this psalm, at the beginning and end of each day, God is still the same.  He is good, His love never fails, and His mercy is unending.  In the midst of whatever we are going through, these truths remain.  Thanks be to God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29


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Bringing Glory

Jesus seeks to draw all people to himself.  In today’s story Andrew and Philip bring some Greek Gentiles to meet Jesus.  The religious leaders note that this Jesus is drawing “the world” to himself.  Their exclusivity is just the opposite of Jesus’ desire to bring all people together.

Jesus declares that the time of judgment is near and that the prince of peace will soon drive out the rulers of this world.  As His death is drawing very near, He again states that it is why He came – to glorify God.  Did the religious leaders see their role in these two things?  Or were they like the disciples, only becoming fully aware after He had risen?  Or were they so blind and jaded that they never got it?

Jesus, our Prince of Peace, came not to drive people apart but to unite them in love.  He came to break down barriers between Jew and Gentile, between haves and have-nots, between religion and faith.  Jesus came to forge a new community based on love, peace, and forgiveness.

Do we today, as His disciples, see our role in this plan?  Do we, as His followers, walk where Jesus walked, inviting all into our fellowship?  Do we, like our Prince of Peace, seek to remove all barriers to our community of faith, encouraging all to share in His love, peace, and forgiveness?  May we too bring glory to our King!

Scripture reference: John 12: 27-33


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Following Along

In John 12 Jesus parallels our faith with that of a seed.  If a single seed remains sitting on the counter or in the package, then that is all it is.  In a similar way, if we just believe in God then that is all our faith is: just belief.

When the seed is placed in the soil though, it can produce much more.  But in order to produce a crop, the seed itself must die and grow into a plant.  The old is gone and the new goes on to produce a crop.  In a similar way, our old self must be given up so that our new self can grow to live our life for Christ instead of for self.

If we are willing to set aside self and to live for and with Christ, we too can bear much ‘fruit.’  And here too Jesus gives insight.  He tells the disciples and us that whoever serves Him, must follow Him.  Whoever follows must go where He goes.

Here Jesus is calling us past belief.  He is calling us to action: follow, serve, go.  In order to bear fruit in our lives, it requires us to put God and others ahead of ourselves.  This means we cannot ask “Go where?” or “Now?” or “With whom?”  Jesus ministered to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  If we are to follow, we must do the same.

Scripture reference: John 12: 20-26


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Suffering and Faith

For many, many years most images of Jesus show his miling and gentle.  Art generally depicted Jesus’ life and rosy and carefree.  But in recent times, we have begun to see a different side of Jesus’ life.  Most notably in the movie “The Passion of the Christ” we saw a suffering Jesus.  Other movies and television shows have allowed the public to see the sacrifice and pain Jesus experienced.

Jesus did have a lot of pain and suffering in his life.  He wept when Lazarus died, he was sorrowful when John the Baptist was killed, shed tears like blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, lamented over the lost children of Israel, and personally endured the pain and suffering of being beaten and crucified.

All of Jesus’ suffering was for us.  Because He experienced these emotions and feelings, Jesus can have empathy for us and can intercede more directly when we suffer trials and pain.  He has walked through these things and can relate to us.

He also suffered to give us an example. Jesus could have chosen to not suffer by calling in angels or exerting power himself.  Instead He gave us the example – be obedient to God, pray through our trials, trust in God’s big plan, lean into His love.

Although no one chooses to suffer, it is often in the trials that our faith grows the most. As we follow Jesus’ example, we learn that we can only make it through some things with God’s help.  Our relationship then grows, deepens, becomes more trusting.  God will carry us through.  We just need to call upon Him and follow Christ’s example.

Scripture reference: Hebrews 5: 5-10


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Just Ask

God desires to teach us wisdom and for us to know His truths.  He longs to cleanse us and wash away our sins.  A daily relationship with each of us is what He longs for.  But God will not force any of this upon us.  It must be our choice.

At times we may feel God is distant or is hard to connect to.  But He is always near and the Spirit is always present.  When we turn and seek God, He is instantly there.  And it is not because He is really fast.  I picture this kind of like and elementary school ‘dating’ relationship.  Boy follows along behind girl everywhere she goes and she acts like he is invisible.  Until that moment when she wants something and she turns around and he is right there.

God is concerned with our ‘inner being.’  He is always examining us and the Spirit is always trying to nudge us in the right direction.  But action and response only comes on our own accord.  We can be good at ignoring.  We can be good at putting off.  Yet when we are ready, God is right there.

When we say God to ‘cleanse me’, God instantly strips away the bad.  When we say ‘wash me’ our sins are suddenly gone.  When we say ‘yes’ to the Spirit our joy is restored and we are filled with a ‘clean heart’ and a ‘steadfast spirit.’  When we ask Him in and open the door of our hearts, life is good.  We walk with the Lord.  We just need to ask.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 6-12


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Warning: Work in Progress – But Not Alone!

Each of us is a work in progress.  Some may be a little further along in their faith journey and some a little less.  But all of us must realize that there is still work to be done , still growth to experience.  All must heed Paul’s words found in Romans 3: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Even though we constantly fall short, God also always pursues us.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are made aware of our sin.  When we confess that we have sinned and made an affront to God, it is the same Spirit that leads us to repentance.  Each time God blots out our transgression and remembers our sin no more.

The unending supply and depth of God’s love and mercy is amazing.  The constant presence of the Holy Spirit seeking to work on us confounds understanding.  It is like God cares for each and every one of us as if we were each His only child.

Each of us is not yet what we will be.  And each is not what we once were either.  Through the constant cycle of sin and repentance we are slowly made more and more into the image of Christ.  Apparently God has a very high level of patience as well.  As we continually say, “Lord, have mercy” we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty.  We cannot succeed on our own.  Only through God can we continue to run the race.  It is in this weakness that He is made strong.  This day, may we each come to fully rely on God, our redeemer and sustainer.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-5