pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Great High Priest

Reading: Hebrews 4: 12-16

Verse 12: “The word of God is living and active… it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart”.

Today’s passage is a great two-part message. First, we read that “the word of God is living and active”. Initially this speaks of the words we find in the Bible. The passage we read last year suddenly has new meaning and life as we read it anew this week. The passage that did not seem to have much relevance last week springs back into our mind today, offering application into a situation or decision we face. The living word of God remains ever alive, always able to speak into our lives.

The word is also the Word, Jesus Christ. By extension this is, for us, also the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ words and example and the Holy Spirit’s activity in our life bring not only guidance but also conviction: “it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart”. Verses 13 and 14 conclude this section reminding us that God sees and knows all – we cannot hide our sins from God. All is “uncovered and laid bare” before the One who will judge us. Being sinful creatures by nature, to this point in our passage it would seem that we are in deep trouble. Not so.

The second half if our passage addresses the realities of the first half. Here we find our truth, our promise, our hope. First, we have a great high priest, Jesus Christ, who sympathizes with our weakness. When Jesus was in the flesh, He felt the temptations we feel. Jesus was without sin, but because of His experience on earth, He can intercede for us before the throne of God. Therefore, we are encouraged to “hold firmly to the faith we profess” because Jesus is on our side.

This second half concludes with our encouragement and our hope: “let us approach the throne of grace with confidence”. We approach the throne of grace, not the throne of judgment or condemnation. The price has been paid. Our great high priest’s work on the cross is finished. The power of sin and death have been defeated. Therefore we approach a throne where we receive “mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. When we are weak, He is strong. When we fail, He offers only mercy and grace, restoring us to righteousness. Thanks be to God for our great high priest, Jesus Christ.

O Lord, today I am reminded of your power and majesty. I am humbled by your love, poured out in mercy and grace. Thank you for the words if truth, for the active and living presence of the Holy Spirit, and for your Son, my great high priest. Strengthen me today for the battle. Walk with me step by step. Amen.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Understand, Apply, Live

Reading: James 1: 22-27

Verse 27: “Religion… pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.

In James 1, verses 17 to 21, we are reminded that all good things come from God, that we should listen way more than we speak, and that we should humbly accept the Word planted in us. All of this leads up to the main purpose of our passage today: to do the things that God says to do. Today, James focuses on a few things to do.

In addressing his contemporaries, James is speaking to a problem that he must have witnessed. Jesus also addressed this problem often when dealing with the Pharisees and other religious leaders. These folks knew all of the letters of the Law inside out and could go on and on about it – they just struggled to live it out. Our words from James begin with this same issue too: “do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”. An example today would be the person who leaves church to go to the bar. The person proceeds to get drunk and to curse at their team on TV. The next morning they scoff at the homeless beggar as they drive to work scheming how to dishonestly earn a few extra bucks. And, yes, they are listening to the Christian radio station as they drive. Instead, James suggests to look intently into the Word of God – to study it and to understand it so that we can live it. In doing so we discover a freedom as we live God’s ways instead of the ways of the world.

In the closing verses today, James gets to the heart of living out our faith. He returns again to the idea in verses 19 and 20, reminding us to keep a “tight rein” on our tongues. Then James gives us two more action points. In verse 27 James writes, “Religion… pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. First, look after those in need. Orphans and widows would have been shorthand for all in need. Not coincidentally, we see this concept as a major emphasis in Jesus’ life and ministry. Second, live in the world but do not be of the world. Be the example of God’s love amidst the pain and brokenness. Be the light that shines hope into the darkness. Be the hand that offers a hand up and not just a hand out. Have an active and engaging faith. Don’t just read the Word, but understand it, apply it to your life, and live it out. May it be so.


1 Comment

Remember

Reading: Psalm 85: 1-2 and 8-9

Verse Nine: Surely His salvation is near for those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land”.

Today’s Psalm opens by remembering when God showed favor to His people when He restored Jacob and established the twelve tribes of Israel.  The second verse recalls how God has forgiven the people over and over.  Even this early in their collective history, the people have plenty of experience with the cycle of sin and God’s forgiveness.  The psalmist looks back over the history of the people’s relationship with God to remind them of God’s loving and active presence with them.  Sometimes, in a tough moment, all we can do is remember when God has been there for us in the past and cling to the hope and promise that God will be present again in a mighty and powerful way.

A few years ago, I was part of a high school mission trip to Seattle.  On our last ferry ride back across Puget Sound, as we were beginning the long trek home, God became present.  One of the ship’s crew had suddenly passed away and his only ‘family’ in the area was the crew of the ship.  The outward and inward bound ferries stopped beside each other in the middle of the Sound and the captain of our ship led a brief memorial service and tossed a wreath into the water.  As we stood in silence, a few of our youth chose to “listen to what God the Lord will say” and they began to sing “Amazing Grace”.  Everyone joined in and it was a very sacred moment.  It was a powerful experience of God’s presence in our lives and of His love for us all.  We returned to the top deck where we had been worshiping and shortly the captain appeared.  He shared that he believed that God had placed us on that exact ship that very day to remind him of God’s love and care for us all, his dear friend included.  As we departed the ship a while later, a still teary-eyed captain again thanked us for the reminder of God’s love and care for us all.

Just as recalling God’s activity with Jacob and God’s abundant grace throughout their history strengthened the Israelites, so do our ferry moments remind us of times when God has shown up and they strengthen our faith and encourage us in our moments of trial.When have you experienced God in a powerful and meaningful way?  Remember these times today and be grateful.


Leave a comment

Present and Active

Reading: Psalm 114

Verse Three: The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back.

This song of praise celebrates God’s mighty acts during the exodus from Egypt.  This journey to the Promised Land is the fulfillment of a promise God made to His chosen people.  For those who were there, it was an amazing experience.  For all the generations after, that is brought back to life every time they sing this Psalm.  These events are just more witness to God’s love and care for the Israelites.

There are three God moments remembered in the Psalm.  The first is when they were hard-pressed.  As the Egyptian army closed in, “the sea looked and fled”.  The Israelites were saved.  The second is when they faced the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land.  Even though at flood stage, “the Jordan turned back” and the people once again crossed over on dry land.  The third came when the people were put hard to the test.  Water was scarce in the desert and the people were almost dying of thirst.  Moses struck the rock with his staff and water poured forth.  God turned the “hard rock into springs of water”.  Once again God saved the people.

Over the course of their history God would act again and again on behalf of the people.  Some were mighty acts like at Jericho when the walls came tumbling down and others were relatively small – the quiet call of Gideon or the simple act of Rahab.  To this day God continues to be present and active in the world and in our lives.  Some are ‘small’ things like the miracle of birth.  Others are ‘bigger’ – someone’s cancer is suddenly gone.  Even in the midst of tragedies and natural disasters, God is present in powerful ways.  Faith-based groups and agencies will have huge impacts in Texas and Florida as they come in to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, helping to restore people’s lives and their hope.  God continues to love and care not only for His people but to love and care for all people.  May we do the same today as we celebrate and participate in God’s continuing involvement and presence in the world.


Leave a comment

Walk

Readings: Micah 6:4 and Matthew 5: 1-2

When one reads these verses together, there is a connection that forms between Moses and Jesus.  The concept of going up the mountain is sprinkled throughout both men’s stories in the Bible.  Moses often meets God on the mountain – it is there that he receives his call and it is where he commonly interacts with God.  For Jesus, the mountain is often where He goes to pray, to connect personally with God.   Some of the time Jesus also teaches from the mountain, as is the case today.

There is also a parallel in the idea of teaching from the mountain.  God taught Moses, who in turn taught the people, from the mountain.  In our passage from Matthew, we see Jesus in this same role – teaching from the mountain.  With both Moses and Jesus we see God being actively engaged with helping the people grow in their faith.

This process continues today.  God continues to be active in our world, teaching us in the mountaintop experiences, in the valley trials, and everywhere in between.  God continues to teach believers through the words of the prophets, disciples, and apostles.  God continues to be active in our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding believers.  God continues to be active by taking individuals like you and me, sending us out into the world to share the good news with others.

At times we learn slowly and at other times in sudden and moving revelations.  At times the Holy Spirit gently nudges and quietly whispers – at other times the compassion to act or the conviction of sin hits us like a sledgehammer.  At times we inch into service at a glacial pace and at other times we burst into action.  It is a process.  It is a journey.  May you be blessed on your walk today.  Whether on the mountaintop, in the valley, or somewhere in between – be blessed as you bless others today!


Leave a comment

Prayer Invite

Within each person is a spark of the divine.  This is what causes us to see God in our world and to have an innate pull within us to connect to God.  As John began to baptize in the wilderness, people started to wonder if he was indeed the Messiah that they were longing for.  John must have sensed this and Jesus’ imminent coming as he announced that he was not the Messiah but that the One was indeed coming.  John’s call to repent and to live a righteous life was to prepare the way for Jesus.

As we awaken and face each new day, are we like the people on the river bank?  Are we heading into our day expecting to see and experience God at work in our lives and world?  Do we face each day with the expectation that God can and will be present and active in our lives?

It is God’s desire to be present to and active in our lives each day.  So how do we invite God in and learn to live with eyes that are focused on seeing God?  It begins with us as it began with Jesus – in prayer.  After He was baptized, Jesus prayed to God and the Holy Spirit descended on Him.  Prayer is our initial point of connection to God as well.  Prayer draws us into relationship with God.

Sometimes we can lose our sense of expectation.  Life can get routine and we fail to see God in the ho-hum of the day to day.  But God is always there.  He desires to play the lead role in our life, but He does not force His way in.  Today and each day may we begin in prayer, inviting God to be present to us throughout our day.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 15-17 and 21-22