pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Victory

Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17

Verse 16: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.

Tonight is a “scary” night.  People of all ages dress up in fun costumes and go out to collect candy.  The reality is that the “trick” has largely left the “trick or treat” aspect of the night and it is largely about dressing up (which is fun) and collecting candy (which is yummy).  For the vast majority who will be going door to door, trunk to trunk, or table to table, Halloween is just a fun night.

Although the “darkness” of Halloween is largely gone, the world we live in still has plenty of darkness.  The world brings each person their share of hurt and pain in life.  It is part of the otherwise beautiful and loving world.  As Christians we can better face the forces of evil and the times of pain and suffering because we know the end of the story.  Today, in Revelation 7, we get a peak into the end of the story.  We see praise and worship around the throne.  We see those that have gone through the great tribulation – they have been redeemed and their robes are white as snow.  They join the elders and the angels in worshipping God and the Lamb.  It is a wonderful and beautiful image of the end of life as we know it here on earth.

Through the victory of Jesus Christ we know that “never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst”.  It will be a time of light and love as we dwell with God and the Lamb.  All will be amazing as we join the heavenly choir singing our praises to the Lord our God.  The Lamb will lead us by springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear.  This is the vision, the hope, the promise that we hold onto as we dwell in this time and place.  Thanks be to God for the victory won by Jesus Christ!

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Humble Servants

Reading: Joshua 3: 7-17

Verse Ten: This is how you will know the living God is among you…

As Moses was about to die, he passed leadership to Joshua.  He laid hands on him as a symbolic gesture and prayed over him as a way to bless him.  As Joshua began his leadership of the nation of Israel, God comes to him and speaks these words: “Today I will exult you in all the eyes of Israel”.  God gives Joshua instructions and he passes them along to the people.  It is a miracle that is similar to but exceeds the parting of the sea.  This day the river that is at flood stage will stop flowing so that the people can cross over safely.  It is an impressive beginning to Joshua’s time of leadership and a great witness to God’s continuing presence and provision for Israel.

Flash forward to today.  What miracle will you be blessed by this day?  Or how will God intercede or intervene or guide or provide for you this day?  Too often we think miracles or God’s hand at work are things of the past – relegated to the pages of the Bible or reserved for some exceptionally deserving person.  But not so.  Just as God used some pretty unlikely folks and even an unsavory character now and then, God continues to do so to this very day.  And He will again tomorrow.  Three weeks ago God nudged me to go visit a friend.  Exactly two weeks ago as I drove to see her God gave me the words to say that brought some healing to her broken heart.  Yes, God can use us all.

Verse ten today reads, “This is how you will know the living God is among you…”. Yes, God continues to be the living God that dwells in our midst!  Are we each sensitive to and attuned to the living God?  Are we expectant that God will come and intercede or provide or guide?  Are we willing to respond to the touch of the Holy Spirit and the whisper of the divine?  When we say yes to these questions, then we will know that the living God is among us.

Holy and awesome God, may we each have ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to feel, and hands and feet to respond to the ways You lead and guide each of us today.  May we be humble servant of the living God.  Amen.


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These Two Commandments

Reading: Matthew 22: 34-40

Key verse: Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

The Pharisees come once again to test Jesus.  An expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law”?  The Pharisees are all thinking of the Ten Commandments.  There is much debate over which of the Ten is the most important.  Will Jesus pick one of them dealing with our relationship with God or will He pick one dealing with our relationship with each other?  In the Pharisees’ minds, it does not really matter which one Jesus picks.  They know that whichever one Jesus picks, He will alienate more people than He pleases.  They are seeking to once again corner Jesus and to discredit Him with those who follow or are considering following Him.

But Jesus does not pick #1 or #8 or #3.  Instead, Jesus picks from outside the Ten.  Jesus taps into another sacred piece of the Jewish faith.  Jesus quotes two verses, one from Deuteronomy that forms the central part of the twice-daily prayer called the Shema.  The Shema was a memorized prayer that was used each morning and evening.  When Jesus said to “love the Lord your God” with all your heart, soul, and mind, He would have struck a chord with all listening that day.  Smiles would have come to all the faces except the Pharisees.

But Jesus does not end here.  He adds a second commandment.  It is almost as well known.  He adds, “love your neighbor as yourself”.  There is much scriptural support for this choice as well.  Jesus is quoting from Leviticus and this theme runs throughout the scriptures and the Law.  To love all whom God created is a natural extension of loving the Creator.  Again, smiles on almost all of the faces.

Jesus ends with this summary statement: “All the Law and Prophets hang on these two”.  Follow these two commandments – love God and love neighbor – and all else will fall in line.  Jesus’ words are as true today as the day He spoke them.  Every day may we seek to love God and neighbor with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength.  May it be so!


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Lord

Reading: Matthew 22: 41-46

Verse 42: What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?

Questions about who Jesus is were a hot topic in Jesus’ day, especially amongst the religious leaders.  For a group who leads a people who have been looking for a Messiah for generations, they sure are pretty reluctant to see Jesus as the Messiah.  There were two main barriers that kept them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.  First, He did not match their expectations.  They were looking for a king like David, one who would defeat the Romans and re-establish Israel’s greatness.  Second, the idea of a Messiah coming was great in theory but hard to take in practice.  They would not be in control.  They would be less.  They liked being in power.

The religious leaders ask Jesus, “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he”?  Jesus’ response is not directly about himself but it does silence the Pharisees.  They believe the Messiah will come through David.  But Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, showing how David calls the Messiah “Lord”, proving it cannot be David’s son.  They dared not ask Him any more questions and began to look for a way to kill Jesus.

Today people continue to ask who Jesus is.  Some are looking for a Jesus who will save them or who will bring freedom or relief from their current life.  But the radical change from the inside out is tough to take.  They struggle with giving up that secret sin or two and can’t quite call Jesus “Lord”.  Others are like the Pharisees.  They can see Jesus’ power, but can’t quite bow to Jesus as the new Lord of their lives.  They like calling the shots, being in control, having the power.  Jesus requires us to become 3rd at best.  We must be willing to place Jesus on the throne of our heart and then to love others more than ourselves.  Jesus demands all of us.  We cannot keep a few hidden parts or compartmentalize Jesus into just some parts of our lives.  It is a total commitment.  But it is also a process, a journey.  Daily we must ask: what more can I give?  What must I surrender to become less as Jesus becomes more?


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Approved

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Four: We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

Paul comes to his position as an apostle through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  He encountered Jesus in a powerful way and has been a devoted follower ever since.  All that Paul does and says he credits to the presence and guidance of God.  This comes to him through the Holy Spirit and through his relationship with Jesus.  For Paul, his authority as an apostle comes from God.  He writes, “We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”.  Note the plurality in the “we”.

Paul does not work alone.  He has a group he travels with and each shares the same goal – to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  They have all been entrusted with the gospel.  Because of this trust, Paul and his fellow workers are honest and hard-working.  They are shining the spotlight on Jesus and His good news, not on themselves.  Paul and his fellow believers want to please God alone.  What men think of them does not matter.

The “we” that Paul writes of does not stop with Paul and his contemporaries.  In Matthew 28, when the great commission was given, Jesus was also speaking to all who would claim a personal relationship with Him.  Both Jesus and Paul knew that the work of spreading the gospel was a long-term project.  When Jesus said, “therefore go and make disciples” He was and is speaking down through all generations.  Jesus went on to say to do so “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.  In the same way that Paul was “approved” to speak the gospel, we too have been commissioned and approved to speak the good news of Jesus Christ.

May we each claim our authority today as people approved by God as we go out into the world to be the light and love of Jesus Christ as we share the good news with all we meet.


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A Willingness

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Two: With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.

Having faith can be difficult.  What is happening to the Thessalonians happens to believers today.  Their faith is wavering, the voices of the world are clamoring, Jesus has not returned yet.  In the midst of all that life can bring, it can be easy to have our faith waver.  Those voices of the world and the temptations of Satan can put us hard to the test.  As we look around at the world and perhaps even at our own lives, we can long for Jesus to return to redeem all things.

The culture of Paul’s world and the culture of Thessalonica is much like ours today.  The Christians are a minority within a culture and society that worships many false idols and chases after many earthly pleasures.  It can be a dangerous place to preach the gospel.  It was in Paul’s day too.  Fresh off a testing and trying experience in Philippi, Paul declares, “With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition”.  Not one to be deterred, Paul fondly recalls sharing the gospel in Thessalonica.  At times we too must dare to share  the gospel.  For Paul, it was well-received and a strong church emerged.  This letter comes some time after the initial visit and Paul is writing to encourage and to teach this new group of believers.

Paul states a couple of different ways that God is the center of it all.  He speaks as a man approved by God and tested by God.  He speaks with God as his witness, never seeking praise or approval from men.  As we seek to engage the least and the lost of our communities, we too must begin here.  God must be at the core and we must lead out as God guides and directs, keeping our focus on God alone.  Paul says that he was “like a mother caring for her little children”.  This is the second imperative we get from today’s Word.  We must genuinely love those we share the gospel with.  This means a willingness to fully commit, to humbly serve, to offer all we can to help another grow closer to Jesus Christ.  May our focus be on God and on loving others as He first loved us; God will take care of the rest.


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Like Moses and Joshua…

Reading: Deuteronomy 34: 9-12

Verse Nine: Now Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.

How would one ever follow Moses as the leader of the Israelites?  His shoes were mighty big to fill.  Moses actually talked face to face with God.  He came down from the mountain and his face was aglow. Moses had turned water to blood, caused hail, and brought in frogs, flies, and locust.  He had even orchestrated the passing of death over the Israelite homes.  He had called down manna and quail from heaven.  He had parted the sea and made water come from a rock.  How in the world would one follow this guy?

Moses comes down the mountain one last time, knowing his life has drawn to a close.  He comes to Joshua and passes the torch.  Verse nine reads, “Now Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him”.  Just as Moses was, Joshua has been chosen by God to lead His people.  Moses has already addressed the people and established Joshua as his God-given successor.  Moses spoke of God’s plans for the nation in the Promised Land with Joshua as their leader.  Joshua has been empowered to lead and the people now look to him as their leader.

Joshua steps forward boldly not because of his own strength and abilities.  He steps up not because Moses has passed the torch to him.  Joshua steps up because God has chosen him and has filled him with the Spirit.  All those miracles and signs and wonders during Moses’ leadership?  They were 0% Moses and 100% God.  It will be the same with Joshua.  God will lead and guide them.  Anything done or accomplished will be by God alone and in accordance with His will.  Joshua is a man of deep faith and trust in God.  This is his greatest strength.

Each and every day, Joshua will seek God’s guidance and direction.  Each and every word and action will come through the lead of the Spirit.  Joshua will lead fully trusting in the Lord.  These things are what made Moses a great leader.  They will make Joshua a great leader.  They will also make us great leaders.  In all we do and say and think, may we also strive to lead like Moses and Joshua, fully trusting in the Lord our God.