pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Victory in the Daily Battle

Reading: Psalm 1

Verses One and Two: “Blessed is the man who… delights in the Law of the Lord and on His Law meditates day and night”.

The Psalm represents a daily battle for us all. On one ‘side’ are those who “walk in the ways of sinners” and who “sit in the seat of mockers”. The psalmist writes that these are like chaff that the wind blows away. They will soon be no more as the “way of the wicked will perish”.

This choice is contrasted with the choice of the righteous. We read, “Blessed is the man who… delights in the Law of the Lord and on His Law meditates day and night”. The psalmist compares faith to a tree “planted by the water, whose leaf does not wither”, a tree that “yields its fruit in season”. The Psalm speaks of the righteous being able to stand in the judgment in the end and of God’s protection in the time here on earth, a time of prospering for the righteous.

When one considers option A and option B, it hardly seems like a choice. Do you want the rusty old Pinto or the shiny new Corvette? Hardly seems like a choice. Yet it is a daily battle. It is a daily battle not to fall to sin and not to choose the ways of the world. Satan has ways of making that rusty old car look pretty good to our earthly eyes. Satan can also trick us into giving up the keys to the Corvette, enticing us with something “better”, but it it just rust underneath.

The key to victory in our daily battle lies in our key verse for today. When we choose the Word as our foundation and we think on it day and night, then the things of God remain in the forefront of our minds. If we keep God’s Word fresh in our mind, it is easier to call on it when Satan tries to come calling. When we choose to be rooted in Christ, then Satan stands no chance. May we walk steadfastly in the way of the Lord today, enjoying His protection and love. Amen.

Advertisements


1 Comment

Well Known

Reading: Psalm 23

Verse One: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”.

There is a reason Psalm 23 is the most well-known Psalm of the 150 we find in the Old Testament. It is realistic in its look at our relationship with God. The writer is not being beseiged on all sides or being slandered by a host of evil doers. The psalmist is not lamenting multiple personal losses nor has he committed a string of sins. It is simple and straight forward. Reading or praying through the Psalm brings reassurance and comfort. It acknowledges our dependence and reliance on God. Like many passages in the Bible, it is the ideal. It is not always our reality.

Verse one begins the Psalm. It reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”. If we trust fully in God and His blessings in our lives, we will not want. This is the ideal. But the reality is that the voice of the world tells us we need more and newer and better. Therefore it is a battle to be content. God does desire to lead us “beside still waters” but that incessant voice of the world says to do more, to climb higher, to indulge in life. God calls us to times of Sabbath and rest as a part of our normal routine. It is there that we reconnect with God.

God wants us to walk “paths of righteousness” and most of the time I believe we do. Occasionally we stumble into sin but the Holy Spirit is quick to realign us to God’s will. Thank you Holy Spirit. In life, at times we will experience loss and trial – the valleys – but God always remains present, bringing us comfort. Knowing that God will be there in both the present trial and in each that comes allows us to have no fear.

Verses five and six are about God blessing us. Our cup usually is full and even runs down all around us at times. Maybe it is because we are content and trust in God that it seems like our cup overflows. Or maybe it just does. Indeed, goodness and love pour out from God so it feels as if they were always following us. His love and goodness are just always there. Because of God’s love and grace, we can dwell with Him forever. It is a beautiful place to be. Thanks be to God for His Word that blessed and encourages us. Amen.


1 Comment

As He Is Righteous

Reading: 1st John 3: 4-7

Verse Seven: “He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous”.

Our passage today from 1st John talks about how we live our lives. In general terms, it is about living in sin or living in Christ. On the surface, John delineates the two, but upon deeper reflection sin is a thing we all struggle with daily in our lives. Once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is not as if we never sin again. The reality is that we sin less and less as we become more and more like Christ as we grow in our faith. But we are never really sinless in this life.

In verse five John writes, “you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins”. John is writing of the grace and mercy and forgiveness that we are offered through Jesus. He appeared or became incarnate so that He could go to the cross to take upon Himself the sins of the world. Jesus, who “in Him is no sin”, took on our sins so that we could be forgiven and free.

John goes on in verse six to say that when we live in Jesus Christ we do not keep sinning. When we live in a personal relationship with Jesus, we gain the power and strength to overcome our sins. One by one we are able to cast aside those temptations that lead us to sin. For example, when we look back over our life, we can see things that used to cause us to sin that do not lead us into sin anymore as we have matured in our faith. But Satan is always at work, always trying to find a new angle, a new temptation, a new way to lead us into sin. It is a constant battle that is being waged against the followers of Jesus.

Every day, therefore, brings its challenges. This we know. We also know that God’s love never ends and that His mercies are new every morning. We also know that Jesus will wipe away our sins each and every time we repent and seek forgiveness. As we grow in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus, we more and more mirror verse seven, which reads, “He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous”. May we seek to be like Hesus every day, living as a righteous and holy people in the world. May it be so for me and for you. Amen.


1 Comment

Holy Spirit Presence

Reading: Acts 19: 1-7

Verses Five and Six: “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus… and the Holy Spirit came on them”.

Upon arriving in Corinth, Paul meets some disciples who have received John’s baptism.  If we remember back into the Gospels, this was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the Messiah.  If we turn to Matthew or Mark or John, we see a different baptism – Jesus’ baptism.  As Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes upon Him.  This is the baptism that Paul now offers these disciples.  It is the baptism in Jesus’ name.  “On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus… and the Holy Spirit came on them”.  As the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they begin to speak in tongues and to prophesy.  These disciples have been changed as the Holy Spirit has now moved in and now dwells within each of them.

For the baptized who claim Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives, we have the same experience.  The Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in us.  The Holy Spirit does not just visit now and then but is a permanent resident in our heart.  If we are open to the Holy Spirit and are willing to be obedient to the Spirit’s guidance, correction, reminders, … then the Holy Spirit will permeate every aspect of our lives.  This is a gradual process of giving more and more control to the Holy Spirit.  As we do this, self loses more and more control.  It can be a long battle.

When we are honest and delve down into ourselves, we can identify little things that we still hold onto or struggle with for most of our faith journey.  Sometimes we hold onto our “secret sins” for a while.  Other times we have a ‘thorn’ much like Paul had.  It was or is a constant reminder of our need for God.  Our inability to rid ourselves of that thorn or to surrender that sin keeps us humble, recognizing our absolute need for God.

Today, as we read about a baptism, may we each recall our own baptisms into the family of God.  That occasion opened us up to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Once we accepted Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit moved in and continues to live within us.  The power of the Holy Spirit helps us to pursue God’s will and to accomplish His work in our lives and in our world.  Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit!  May we ever dwell in the presence!


Leave a comment

Love Always Wins

Today we have a picture of Jesus that is not all warm and fuzzy.  In today’s passage He is giving it to the Pharisees.  I think in our minds we usually cheer Jesus on in this type of scenario.  It is almost like the new kid on the block stood u to the bully and all around cheer him on.  This direct and confrontational Jesus is alright until we realize that He is talking to us as well.

Hypocrite?  Me?  Hold on a minute Jesus!  Theft?  Murder?  Adultery?  Surely not.  Greed?  Envy?  Arrogance?  Well, I can explain.  Can’t I?  No, I really cannot.  Jesus is right.  At times what is within me is not so good.  Those unkind thoughts and words that sometimes come out of me are not so beautiful and loving.  Jesus is right.

One cannot explain sin away.  All one can do is to come before Jesus, to kneel down, and to offer up our confession and repentance.  The good news is that Jesus does not expect perfection.  He knows we will stumble and even fall at times.  It is not His desire for us but He did walk this earth.  Although Jesus was without sin, He certainly felt pain and sorrow and other human emotions.  Jesus saw firsthand the battle that rages in every human heart.

We are guilty as charged.  Sinners one and all.  But, thanks be to God, our story does not end here.  Confession and repentance leads to forgiveness and restoration.  Through grace we are made new again, pure and clean and worthy to call Jesus Christ our friend.  We are humbled by our failures.  But love alway wins.  The love of God made known through Jesus is an unending gift that is always given to al who draw near to Christ.  This love came to save one and all.  Praise God.

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23


Leave a comment

God Is Better

Our culture has become adept at bending the truth.  We are good at telling people what we think they want to hear and at ‘working’ statistics to support our viewpoint.  It is easy to say this is who we are and then to go act in a different manner.  Larger society has become very gray.

It was no different in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees came out to see Jesus and wanted to challenge Jesus and the disciples because they were eating with ‘unclean’ hands.  They had not undergone the ceremonial cleansing of their hands before they ate.  The word ‘ceremonial’ is a tip-off.  In the opening line of His response, Jesus calls them hypocrites and quotes from Isaiah about their lip service and fascination with the rules.  We hear “smack, smack, smack” but the Pharisees were wondering who Jesus was talking about.

Jesus goes on to teach that it is not what we put into ourselves that makes us unclean but it what comes from our thoughts and words that make us unclean.  We sin and become unclean when we have evil thoughts, when we utter lies and unkind words, when we engage in immoral behavior, and when we allow envy, greed, jealousy, and malice into our hearts.  When we work to be holy and to live a righteous life and to keep evil far away, then we are right with God and we are ‘clean’.

People today are pretty good at wading through the smoke screens and half-truths served up so commonly today.  And we must make no mistake about it – God is pretty good at it too.  We cannot fool God.  When we come before Him with sin in our lives – and sinful we are – we must confess, repent, and seek His strength for the battle.  In His great love we find mercy and grace.  He refines us and gives us strength.  Allow Him in, lean on Him a little more, hear His voice, and go forth in Christ, seeking a closer walk with God.

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23


Leave a comment

Be Gentle

We enter today’s story on the cusp of battle.  David’s son Absalom has rebelled and it has all come to a head.  David’s army will engage Absalom’s army this day in battle.  In this deadly battle 20,000 men will die.  David issues what many would think an odd order just before battle is about to begin: “Be gentle with Absalom.”  In spite of the rebellion, David still sees his son and still loves him deeply.

Lots has led to this point.  Absalom’s vanity has led him to think that he should be king.  As this thought grew so too did the lust and greed for power and control.  Through a variety of schemes, deceit, and trickery, Absalom built up a following and ann army.  And so it came down to battle to determine who would be king.

In our lives we too can fall to the lies we tell ourselves and to the lies Satan whispers in our ear.  We too can be guilty of thinking more of ourselves than we should.  To get there we often tear others down.  We too can be guilty of seeking more power, more control, more influence over others.  To get there we often rationalize and manipulate and bend the truth.  It can be easy to go down the same road as Absalom.  It can be easy to rebel against God.  And we too find ourselves in battle.

In spite of all that led up to this point, David still says, “Be gentle with Absalom.”  When we get to the point of battle and wrestling with our desires against God’s will for us, our God says the same thing: “Be gentle with ____.”  God holds out for the same things as David held out for: reconciliation, restoration, redemption.  God is our loving father.  No matter our choices or actions, He still loves us and longs for relationship with us.  What a great love God has for you and me!

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 18: 5-9