pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


1 Comment

gods

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 4: 3-4

Verse Four: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”.

Paul writes, “the gospel is veiled to those who are perishing”. ‘You can’t see until you see’ is a saying that is applicable as well for those who just don’t ‘get’ Jesus. There are many reasons that the gospel remains veiled to people today. And it’s not that people don’t worship today. It’s just that most people’s gods are not the one, true God. People pursue and worship many things. For some it is position or title or status. For some it is wealth or possessions. For some it is beauty or popularity. Driving much of this is the cultural lie that self is all that matters. Almost anything is permissable if it makes oneself feel good or gets you closer to your idol.

Paul writes, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”. It is a timeless line. For the most part, the gods are still the same. By and large, people are blinded from the good news of Jesus Christ by the same old idols. Yes, there are new versions and wider variety now, but the fact remains: many pursue and worship other gods. “They cannot see the light of the gospel”. Well then, how do unbelievers come to see the light?

Today most people see you the light through the lives of Christians. Most people are positively affected by Christians long before they step inside the walls of a church. Most new believers first experience Jesus Christ through the witness of the faithful. Sometimes it is through the love and care we offer to others in need. Sometimes it is through the grace and peace with which we live our lives. Sometimes it is by being there when no one else is. There are many ways in which we can share the light and love of Jesus Christ with others. This is usually the first brush with Jesus for most unbelievers.

As Christians, we must also be wary and self-aware. Other gods call out to us as well. We too can stumble over ego and pride and selfishness. We too can be prone to gluttony and addiction and want. Our list of gods is no shorter than the world’s list. So, Father God, strengthen us as we live as witnesses to Jesus’ light and love. Pick us up when we stumble. Help us to hear and follow the Holy Spirit each day. Use us for your glory, O Lord. Amen.


1 Comment

Big

Readings: Psalm 126 and Isaiah 61: 1-4 and 8-11

Key verses: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. (Psalm 126:5) and “The Spirit of the Lord is on me… to preach… bind up… release… proclaim…” (Isaiah 61:1)

In our Advent study this week we are looking at humility – at having the mind of Christ spoken of in Philippians 2.  One of the men in our Tuesday morning study said humility is thinking less of yourself so that you could think more of others.  Humility is an active practice.  These profound thoughts fit well with the humble servant hood that Jesus modeled and calls us to follow.  Our world is certainly in need of more humble servants.

Both the bigger world out there and many people’s lives are filled with hardship and suffering and trials.  There is plenty of oppression and abuse of power, lots of violence and other senseless actions, many struggling with addictions and unhealthy relationships, and a host of other issues.  Individuals we know face some of these issues as do whole groups in our communities.  There are lots of people in lots of places who would love to live into this verse: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”.

As humble servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to help those in need to do just that.  It is what Jesus did and what He calls us to do.  For all who follow Jesus, we live into the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”  When we read on, we find the “why” – to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken, to bring freedom to the captives, to release prisoners from all that binds them, and to proclaim God’s blessings on all.  These are big words and big ideas.  But guess what?  We serve a big God.  We serve a God who wants to work in and through us – just like He did with Jesus – to see all these things to come to be.

Sometimes we don’t see God big enough.  Sometimes we fail to dream and other times we fail to trust.  Sometimes we doubt.  Into all of this God speaks through the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  May we serve a big God, trusting that all things are possible when we call on the One who can do all things.  Amen and amen.


Leave a comment

Come and Save Us

Reading: Psalm 80: 103

Verse Two: “Awaken your might; come and save us.”

Today’s Psalm is written at the time of the Assyrian invasion.  The nation of Israel is divided and the Northern Kingdom has fallen to the invading army.  The psalmist expresses the hope of the Southern Kingdom when he writes, “Awaken your might; come and save us.”  It is a great plea for God’s intervention and help.

At times in our lives we will issue a similar plea.  We may not be facing an approaching army, but many things invade our lives and try to steal our faith in God, our commitment to our family and friends, our joy and peace in life.  The invading force may be ‘small’ things like gossip or jealousy or greed or resentment or pride.  As these things come to permeate our life, they draw our focus away from God.  ‘Larger’ forces such as addiction, slavery to our jobs, and selfishness can steal time and attention from things that really matter in our faith and in our lives.No, we may not have a vast army with horses and chariots on our border, but we do have plenty of things in life that can make us cry out for God’s might to save us.  And He does.

Our Psalm today begins by calling God a shepherd.  This image of God evokes care, protection, guidance, and watchfulness over the sheep.  As our shepherd, God provides all of this for us, the sheep of His flock.  As our shepherd, God also helps us avoid dangers and evils while trying hard to guide us to good and safe pastures.  It is through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that God leads and guides us as we journey through life.  When we listen to and follow the guidance of the Spirit, we find peace and rest and joy and contentment in this life.  These things help us to fend off those invading armies and to keep to the path that God intends for our lives.

We are saved not to simply rest in our salvation, to enjoy a quiet God-centered life.  We are not called to be silent, isolated sheep.  We are called to be in the world, trusting God to be with us as we go forth to share our peace, joy, love, and contentment with other sheep who are lost and are seeking these things for their lives.  We are called to bring God’s love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to others so that they too may come to know the Good Shepherd.  May Jesus flow out of us today, so that in all we do and say others may see Him today, coming to know the Good Shepherd as Lord of their lives.


Leave a comment

Choose Jesus

Reading: Matthew 11: 25-30

Verse 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls.

Jesus invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him.  In the time Jesus lived, many met these conditions.  The Romans who ruled the land extracted high taxes that was a great burden to many.  Their different gods and laws also placed a burden on the people.  Living in this kind of oppression made the people weary.  And for many, the Jewish Law added another layer.  It was burdensome and made people even more weary.  From Jesus’ perspective the Law was cumbersome and impossible to keep on one’s own.

Today many people feel weary and burdened.  The lifestyle people live brings these conditions upon them.  For some it is self-imposed and for others it is their reality.  Some in our society choose to be so busy and involved in so many things that they feel like they are always running on empty.  Others in our society feel weary and burdened because of their circumstances in life.  Some in this group work and work but feel like they never can get to a place of stability and peace.  The money never seems to cover all the bills and the choice must be made between food and electricity.  Others in this group are weary and burdened because of addictions or abusive behaviors and always feel trapped and hopeless.

Jesus called out to all the people of His day and continues to call out to us today who feel weary and burdened.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls”.  He invites us to walk a different path, to live a better way.  It begins by being yoked to Jesus.  This begins by professing Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives and dedicating our life to following Him.  In doing so, we commit to learning from Jesus and the example He set.  One may wonder, why take on more?  Because Jesus will bring you rest.  He will help carry those burdens and troubles.  He will give strength and courage to face those sins and demons.  With Jesus’ yoke we find contentment and peace in our lives.  To all who are weary and burdened, choose Jesus, for “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  Choose Jesus.


Leave a comment

Freed by Jesus

Reading: Acts 16: 16-34

Today’s text is one of liberation.  The slave girl is set free from the spirit that has possessed her for many years.  The jailer is set free from an oppressive system that has kept him boxed in.  For many of us and for many in the world, freedom is elusive as we are held captive to someone or something.

For some it is the situation they are in.  Addictions to drugs or alcohol control the lives of many people.  For many more, though, the addiction is less visible or it is harder to identify, but it is there, controlling their lives.  For some it is the addiction to power or being in control.  For some it is a secret addition to pornography or sex.  For some it is an addiction to beauty or popularity.  And for some it is their addiction to technology or the latest, greatest, best new whatever.  When our focus is on the things of the world or on ourselves, we can be controlled so easily.

So what or who can set us free?  It is the same thing that set the girl and the jailer free: the power of Jesus Christ.  Giving all of our concerns to Him sets us free.   Loving what Jesus loves and loving as Jesus loves us shifts our focus from what we want to what we can offer.  Finding our contentment in our relationship with Jesus means we do not feel the need for stuff or position or recognition.

May we yield all to Him so that in Him we may find the strength to live each day as a child of God, bearing witness to His light and love, to His joy and peace.


Leave a comment

Good News

Reading: Acts 9: 1-9

Saul had quite the dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus.  Ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection, Saul had been persecuting and often killing followers of “the Way” – those who followed Jesus and His teachings.  ‘Zealous’ is the word often used to describe Saul’s pursuit of Christians.  The mention of his name brought fear and caused Christians to slip into the shadows and to go into hiding.  Saul was one who needed a dramatic encounter with the Light.

In our lives, we often have encounters with the truth and light as well. In general they are nothing like Saul’s – but at times they can be.  For the most part, our encounters come as gentle nudges and soft whispers as we are guided back to the path God calls us to and away from the path of the world.  On occasion the nudge is more like a shove as we strayed a little too far away and something stronger is needed to bring our life back into alignment with Christ’s desires for us.

For some the encounter is much like Saul’s.  We have been wandering far and wide and God must also bring us to our knees.  It usually comes in the form of hitting rock bottom.  It comes at the end of a long road of addiction or a trail of dishonesty and lies that leaves us wondering how in the world we ended up ‘here’.  One little step after one little step has added up to a journey into the wilderness.  Amazing thing about God though – He can call us back just as quickly from a long detour as He can from a temptation to a much lesser evil.

The great gift is a love from God that never ends, a mercy that never stops, and a grace that always is given.  Saul became Paul and we too will always be rescued, always brought back into a righteous relationship with Him.  No matter where we are or who we are, God wants to use us just like Paul – to go forth and share the good news of Jesus Christ with others on their own detours.  Only one way leads to eternal life.  May we share this news today!!


Leave a comment

Good Newd

Reading: Acts 9: 1-9

Saul had quite the dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus.  Ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection, Saul had been persecuting and often killing followers of “the Way” – those who followed Jesus and His teachings.  ‘Zealous’ is the word often used to describe Saul’s pursuit of Christians.  The mention of his name brought fear and caused Christians to slip into the shadows and to go into hiding.  Saul was one who needed a dramatic encounter with the Light.

In our lives, we often have encounters with the truth and light as well. In general they are nothing like Saul’s – but at times they can be.  For the most part, our encounters come as gentle nudges and soft whispers as we are guided back to the path God calls us to and away from the path of the world.  On occasion the nudge is more like a shove as we strayed a little too far away and something stronger is needed to bring our life back into alignment with Christ’s desires for us.

For some the encounter is much like Saul’s.  We have been wandering far and wide and God must also bring us to our knees.  It usually comes in the form of hitting rock bottom.  It comes at the end of a long road of addiction or a trail of dishonesty and lies that leaves us wondering how in the world we ended up ‘here’.  One little step after one little step has added up to a journey into the wilderness.  Amazing thing about God though – He can call us back just as quickly from a long detour as He can from a temptation to a much lesser evil.

The great gift is a love from God that never ends, a mercy that never stops, and a grace that always is given.  Saul became Paul and we too will always be rescued, always brought back into a righteous relationship with Him.  No matter where we are or who we are, God wants to use us just like Paul – to go forth and share the good news of Jesus Christ with others on their own detours.  Only one way leads to eternal life.  May we share this news today!!


Leave a comment

One Word

“Ephphata!” – be opened.  With a touch and this one word, Jesus restored a man.  The man brought by his friends was both deaf and mute.  One word from Jesus later and he was healed.  With one word his life was forever altered.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be blind.  It would be very different as I rely so much on what I see.  From reading to observing people to writing to playing music – I am dependant upon my sight.  To not have the ability to talk and sing and shout would be very difficult as well.

Up to this point the man has been dependent on friends and family.  A job would be impossible so he would beg or impose.  To the Jews, he was ceremonially unclean so he could not enter the temple to worship.  Other than those closest to him, many in society would have shunned him or ignored him at best.

Some people in my world need restored and healed.  They need to be connected to a community to care for and guide them.  They need healing and restoring from a wide variety of things.  For some it is addiction, for others a significant loss.  For some it is broken relationships, for others it is a string of poor decisions.  The list goes on.  We all know people who need much.  All need healed and restored.

Friends brought the man to Jesus.  With a word Jesus restored and healed the man.  Faith grew that day – for the man, for his friends and family, and for all who heard the story.  We all know people who need healing and restoration.  May we all be a part of bringing people closer to Jesus so they can hear Him speak the one word they need to hear: “Come.”  Share Jesus so that the restoration and healing can begin.

Mark 7: 31-37