pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Stay Alert!

Reading: Mark 13: 32-37

Verse 33: “Be on guard!  Stay alert!”

Advent means “coming”.  As Christians, we celebrate the coming of Jesus during this season.  Advent invites us to slow down, to be present to God and to one another.  Advent calls us to lessen the pace of our lives and to prepare ourselves to welcome the baby Jesus into our hearts and into the world.  When we can do these things, our Advent season is calm, peaceful, and joyous.

But Advent is not without its distractions.  Culture seems to shift into a higher gear during this time of the year.  Our schedules get busier with programs at church and at school, with an office party or two, with trips to both sets of family, and, of course, with time to shop.  Our bank account seems to get stretched a bit thin with travel expenses and the need to get just the right gifts to please our family and friends.  On top of this our mind is filled with Christmas advertisements and jingles as our body is tempted to overindulge with holiday treats and more.  With all of this going on and engaging us, it is no wonder we can have difficulty focusing on the birth of Christ and what this means to our lives and to our world.

So when Jesus says, “Be on guard!  Stay alert!”, He is offering us good advice.  To not fall into the Christmas rush, we must remain on guard.  We must be aware of how the secular can draw us quickly away from the sacred.  We must stay alert to the movement and presence of God during this holy season.  In our passage, Jesus also tells the one at the door to keep watch.  We are the filter and the decision-maker for our hearts.  We choose what we allow in and what we allow to come out of our hearts.  May we open wide the door of our hearts for the presence of God to dwell in our hearts this Advent season while we share the love of Christ, allowing Him to burst forth from our hearts into all the world.  May it be so!


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Awake and Alert

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verse Nine: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Paul encourages us to stay awake on our faith journey.  He calls us to be alert to what is going on around us.  He contrasts this with those who are asleep.  There is a great difference between having a faith that is awake and alert and journeying through life asleep and oblivious to God.  The difference matters in both the day to day living and on the day when Jesus returns.

In our daily walk with Jesus we must be awake and alert and self-controlled.  Paul calls us children of the light.  In the light, all of our deeds and words – both the good and the bad – are exposed.  Paul is implying that in all we do and say we must bring honor to God.  Faith and love and the hope of salvation must be what others see in our lives.  It is through these three that we encourage one another and it is how we draw others to the light.  When we are awake and alert we also see the world as Jesus sees it.  We see those in need.  We see how we can make a positive difference for the lost.  Only when we are awake and alert do we see so that we can then respond with compassion and care.

Paul contrasts the daily walk with Jesus with those who are asleep and with those who live in the night or in the darkness.  They have a false sense of security in the dark and will be caught unprepared when Jesus returns.  They live in the dark and think their sins are covered by the darkness.  They live enjoying the pleasures of the flesh and the world, not realizing that God sees in the dark just as well as He sees in the light.

at times, however, we too wander into the dark.  At times we succumb to the temptation and we dwell in the darkness.  But out of His great love for us God calls us back into the light.  Verse nine reads, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Thank God for that love that died for us so that we may live with Him forever.  This day may we be awake and alert, having a servant’s heart and hands and feet that bring His love to all we meet today.


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Light

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verses 5 and 6: “You are all sons of the light… let us be alert and self-controlled.”

The Thessalonians are awaiting the return of Christ.  It has been twenty years and they are beginning to wonder.  They wonder about whether or not He is coming in their lifetimes and they wonder about their loved ones who are dying in the interim.  The anticipation of Christ’s return has begun to fade for some of the Thessalonians.  As Christians today we should be looking forward to Christ’s return too, but praying for Jesus to return today is not at the start of most of our prayer times.  For the most part, we live with the attitude that Christ could return today, but we do not live like He is returning today.

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians applies very much to Christians living in 2017.  The world is full of darkness and there are many who will face destruction and who will not escape.  They will be surprised when Jesus comes “like a thief in the night”.  Paul reminds us that we are all “sons of the light” and that we belong to Christ, who is our light.  Therefore, Paul says we should be “alert and self-controlled” as we live out our daily lives.  There is the implication then that we will not be surprised when Jesus returns (or when we go to meet Him).

Paul goes on to write about how we are to live our daily lives as children of the light.  He first says to put on faith and love as a breastplate.  The breastplate protects the heart.  If we begin each day by covering our heart with faith and love, then faith and love will be what guides our thoughts, words, and actions.  Paul then says to put on the hope of salvation like a helmet.  By doing so, we have the promise and hope of salvation right on the top of our minds, allowing that reassurance to be with us in all we do.

This day may we allow faith, hope, and love to be what others see as we live a s a child of the light.  May we shine brightly into the darkness of the world this day, bringing our God and King to all we encounter this day.


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Seek God

Reading: Judges 4: 1-7

Verse Three: “They cried to the Lord for help”.

Sometimes we find ourselves crying out to God because of something we have done.  Sometimes it is because life has brought us a trial or circumstance.  In either case we find ourselves at the point the Israelites find themselves.  Their sin has led God to give them over to a foreign king.  King Jabin cruelly oppresses them.  They know why they are being oppressed and they take it for 20 years.  Finally they have had enough.  Verse three tells us that then, “They cried to the Lord for help”.  In life, w all get to this place at times.

The Israelites experience this cycle over and over again.  Temptation leads to sin, continued sin leads to punishment, punishment leads to prayer, prayer leads them back to God, God responds and restores.  The sins are usually following other gods, not following the one true God.  And always, always, always, God waits patiently for His people to return to Him.  And He loves them again like the transgression never even happened.  It is an amazing love and an amazing grace.

In faith the Israelites returned to prayer.  Through prayer the possibility of God’s action became real.  The possibility lead to expectation and hope.  Living into the expectation lead to action on their part.  Deborah called Barak and he gathered an army, expecting God to lead.  And He did.

We may be in the midst of something today.  The trial may come tomorrow or next year.  Maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting us of a sin in our life.  Whatever and whenever, our response should be the same as the Israelites.  May our faith in God lead us to our knees as we seek God’s hand to be at work.  May we expectantly live, being open to and aware of how God goes to work, seeking to come alongside of God to do our part, seeking His redemption or restoration or simply guidance.  God has an amazing love and an amazing grace to share with us, His children.  May we seek God today.


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Each Day

Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44

Almost everything about “the end” is unknown.  Personally, we do not know in advance the date on which we will draw our last breath.  As a faith, we do not know the date that Jesus will return.  We do not know if this will be during our lifetime or if His return is thousands of years away.  We simply know that one day Jesus will return to make all things new.

In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of the unknown nature, saying only God knows the time.  Even this is unclear.  Does this mean God has a date marked on the heavenly calendar or does it mean that only God will know when the time is right for Jesus to return?  In either case, Jesus’ advice is the same: keep watch, stay ready.  For emphasis, the passage ends with, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him”.  One will be taken, one will be left.

If this passage is not a call to live each and every day as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, I do not know what it is.  Jesus came to earth to reveal what God is like.  Jesus came and walked and lived among humanity to show us what God’s love looks like lived out in the flesh.  Jesus came to show us what it looks like to daily love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and what it looks like to daily love neighbor as self.  And He said, “Go and do likewise… make disciples of all nations…”

As disciples of Christ, we yearn to be more and more like Him every day.  We study the Bible, we spend time in prayer, we participate in small groups and in classes, we worship regularly – all to get to know Jesus better.  All this to keep watch, to stay ready.  Each day is another day to know Jesus more and to share Jesus with more people.  Each day is one day closer to when we meet Jesus face to face.  Each day, may we continue to be God’s love lived out in the world.  Each day, may we shine the light, ever walking with Jesus.


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Joy and Hope

Mark 13 has some apocalyptic writing.  In verses 24-37 Jesus is speaking of the time when He will return in glory.  This type of writing is fascinating to me.  Personally I do not read too much into it.  Some people do and sadly their focus often becomes the doom and gloom aspects and they see only the doubt, fear, and despair.  I prefer just the facts.

First fact – Jesus is returning.  Yeah!  Second fact – there will be signs in the natural world that the time is at hand.  These things will scare some people but others will gaze heavenward with joyous expectation.  Third fact – no one knows the time for Jesus’ return except God the Father.  This fact is the most imminent and the one with the most application for our daily lives.

Because the hour is unknown we are called as Christians to b alert and ready at all times.  We are to live daily with faith, love, and hope always on our hearts, souls, and minds.  These things should flow through and be visible in our daily decisions, choices, and actions.  We are called to love our God and neighbor like they really are the most important things in our lives.  When we live each day for God, we do not live in despair and fear but in joy and hope.  There’s no place I’d rather be!

Scripture reference: Mark 13: 24-37