pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Reigns

Reading: Psalm 96: 10-13

The psalmist proclaims that God alone reigns.  The psalm calls for all of creation – plants, animals, sea creatures, fields, mankind – to rejoice for God will come to judge the earth.  When God comes He will judge in righteousness and truth, restoring equality and fairness.  At the initial reading this sounds like a problem for those living outside of God’s ways.  While this is true, it is also a call to enter into a life that recognizes God’s sovereignty.

I can recall many instances as a child when my parents either insisted I do something or were very adamant that I not do something.  Every child has a list like this by the time they enter adulthood.  This list was added to by teachers and coaches then by a spouse and by bosses.  In the moment I sometimes chafed at not having a choice or being placed in a spot I did not like at the time.  But it was often the case, always after the fact, that I realized my parents always had my best interests at heart.  My coach or teacher or spouse or boss was trying to pull out of me or develop in me something that I could not see myself.  They were coming from a place of righteousness and truth.  They were guided by love and concern for me.

In much the same way God desires for us to live in righteousness and truth.  His plans for us are to prosper us and to bring us good.  At times we too chafe at what our faith calls us to do or because of what it denies us.  We are human so at times we are drawn to earthly desires and temptations.  When we choose to declare God the Lord of our life, we are making the choice to follow His ways over the ways of the world.  Once we make this choice and proclaim God our Lord, then the Holy Spirit enters into our hearts and begins to guide and lead us to live in God’s righteousness and truth.  This path is narrow and the way is hard, but peace and contentment are found along this path.  Joy and everlasting life are found along this path.  May we choose to daily make God the Lord of our life so that we may live freely as a beloved child of God in this world.


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Offering a Witness

Reading: Psalm 96: 1-9

Psalm 96 calls us to sing praises to God and to declare His gift of salvation day after day.  It reminds us that God is great and majestic and strong.  It urges us to bring an offering to Him and to worship God in the splendor of His holiness.  In these opening verses of the Psalm we get a clear picture of who God is and what our response should be.  The overarching theme of this Psalm is the call to declare our unfaltering allegiance to the one true God.  This is both a corporate and a personal call.

As the church, no matter what the denomination, we are called to proclaim the good news, to worship God alone, and to bring relief to the oppressed and the needy.  As the church this is what God clearly expects of us.  The two greatest commandments – to love God and to live neighbor – are lived out by doing these three things.  Ask a non-believer what a church should do and odds are they will name at least two of these three.  In an ideal world, all churches would be growing in their love of God and changing the world for the better each day.  All churches should be known for their compassion, love, witness, forgiveness, and service.  And all of God’s people said, “Amen”!

But in order for the church to be known for these characteristics, as members of these churches we must first be known individually for these traits.  No one comes to the faith because of a church.  They come to faith by first experiencing what faith lived out looks like.  They experience this vicariously when one loves or serves them in a radical or unexpected way.  It draws them in and opens their hearts so that the Holy Spirit can begin to work in them.  This day and each day, may our lives be the offering we bring to God and may our lives be a living witness to the splendor of His holiness.


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Rejoice in All

Reading: Romans 5: 2b-5

Paul calls for us to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  For the believer, it is easy, almost natural, to hope in God’s glory.  His glory was revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, who rose to eternal life and calls on His followers to walk in His ways so that one day we too can do the same.  This glory is something we can find hope in!

Paul also goes on, in the very next verse, to call us to rejoice in our sufferings.  Why, oh why, would we be happy in our sufferings?  It is in the place of suffering that we can truly experience God’s power and presence.  In those times of high stress, emotional overload, heavy grief, and other sufferings that we best realize our need for the hope that He brings.  In these times we come to see that when we cannot, He can.  In our own sufferings and in the sufferings of the world, the hope of His glory can be all we have at times.  When we cling to this, we can rejoice in this hope.

It is through our experiences and the living out of our faith that we experience hope in our sufferings.  It is not, however, a direct line between the two.  Paul traces the path for us.  First, suffering produces perseverance.  Through remaining faithful to His promises, we learn to persevere in the face of trials.  We know the end game.  Second, perseverance builds character.  In the trial, we are refined.  Who and what we are is developed and cones to shine out.  It is the peace that passes understanding.  And lastly, character leads to hope.  Who we are as a Christian is shaped on our journey.  As we come through the trials and we realize that not only is God still there, but that He carried us through, we come to know His love in a deeper way.  Our hope and faith in Him grows.  As He pours out His love into us, may we rejoice in all that life brings!


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Holy Spirit Power

Reading: John 16: 14-15

I think the same fears that gripped the disciples also grips us.  Without Jesus in their midst, how would the work continue?  Without Jesus leading the way, how do we have the power to do it?  Without Jesus, how do we know what to say or where to go?  They were full of doubt and questions.

Jesus closes out His earthly time by reassuring the disciples that He is not leaving them alone.  He promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit to answer all of their questions and to ease all their fears.  In essence, Jesus is giving them His continued presence in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures them that in the Spirit they will find both Him and God.  The coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives will bring them the courage to do the work, the direction on where to go, the guidance on the words to say, and – most importantly – it will be the power of Jesus and God in them.

A frequently asked question on journeys is, “Are we there yet”?  On our journey to complete the great commission the answer to this question is obvious.  If Jesus has not returned yet, we are not there yet.  Until He comes again in glory, our work must continue.  Each follower of Jesus Christ must continue to be at work to bring the good news to all people.

The same fears that gripped the first disciples still grip us.  We ask how, what, where, when, and why questions all the time.  Our answer is the same as theirs was.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, with God and in Jesus.  We too are called to trust in the presence, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit.  We too can cast aside our fears and can go out to bring Jesus to the world.  May we go filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and with His light shining out from within!!


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The Plan

Reading: John 16: 12-13

In His time on earth, Jesus began a great work: the salvation of the world.  In His limited time He of three years He brought many to faith.  But more importantly, He laid the groundwork for God’s master plan that continues to reach out, bringing the good news to all nations and to all people.  Jesus began with a small crew and taught them what it looked like to love sacrificially and to love God above all else.  He planned for His work of saving the world to continue on by sending the Holy Spirit.  For the disciples there that day and for us continuing the mission today, the Holy Spirit guides us, speaks into our lives, and empowers us to follow Jesus’ example.

The Spirit empowers us today so that we can continue to do the work that Jesus began.  The unfinished plan continues to draw closer and closer to completion, day by day, new believer by new believer.  Each and every one of us plays a role in the plan through the working out and living out of our faith.  Our lives tell the story of loving God and loving others more than self.  This is a radical and countercultural story.  In our day to day lives we must live as both salt and light.  As light we shine God’s love into the darkness of people’s lives and as salt we bring the aroma and taste of Christ to those in need.

As we are part of the plan, so too will others be a part of the plan.  There are many who have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ.  Many have an inkling of who God is and have heard of Jesus and maybe of His message.  But it is a superficial understanding at best.  As His witnesses in the world, we must enter into the lives of the lost and walk alongside them so that they can come to know the love of Christ.  The love of Christ is life changing once you have really experienced it.  He makes us into a new creation.  May we each carry Jesus Christ to the lost so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, all may come to truly know Jesus as Lord and enter into true life in Christ.


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All of the Time

Reading: Psalm 8: 2

Even though God and His creation draw praise and worship from some, others do not see the beauty and majesty of His creation or acknowledge His power and might.  Instead of lives that steward and protect His world and all He has created, some choose to abuse the earth and its inhabitants for their own gain.  Some even go so far as to murder, to wage war, to pillage the land for its resources.  They ignore or deny God’s existence because it eases their consciences.

In nature we also find occurrences or events that seem to fly in the face of God and His love.  Tsunamis and earthquakes destroy property and kill scores if not hundreds of people.  Disease strikes and takes innocent lives, often too soon or too young.  Individuals or groups carry out heinous crimes or spew hate and we shake our heads.  There is much pain and death and sorrow in this world.  But God does not cause these things to happen.  Violent storms are part of nature; disease and death come to perishable and frail human bodies; and, at times, mental illness occurs or Satan’s plans occasionally win the day.

We can ask where is God in the midst of all this.  We can ask why God doesn’t intervene to keep all harm from His children.  These are hard questions.  But we know the rain falls on the just and on the unjust.  God loves the sinner just as much as the saint.  God does plan good for our lives.  He blesses us with gifts and talents and often with many resources.  He seeks to be in a personal relationship with us.  In the midst of our trials, God sheds tears right along with us.  He seeks to be our rock in the storm, our comforter in the pain.  Simply put, God seeks to be present to us all of the time, in the good and in the bad, not just on some days.  May we too do the same.


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Wisdom

Reading: Psalm 8: 1-4 and 22-31

God’s wisdom calls out to us, seeking to fill us with an understanding and awe of God.  Wisdom calls out from many places to all of mankind.  There are many worthy things she wants to share with humanity.

Wisdom has existed since the beginning – she was there before the formation of the earth and before time began.  Before there were oceans and land, mountains and sky, wisdom was there.  She saw the creation of all things, therefore she understands God’s power and might.  This is part of what wisdom desires to share with us.

Wisdom also wants us to be filled as she is, day by day delighting in God’s presence and power.  Day by day wisdom rejoices in His presence and marvels at His creation.  Day by day she delights in mankind, made in God’s image.  Wisdom recognizes the power and might of God and offers her praise and worship.

This day may we also draw upon wisdom, seeing the power and might of God in the creation and in each other.  Through this, may we too offer our praise and worship.