pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust and Call

Reading: Romans 10: 5-13

Verse Ten: It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Rules or faith?  Myself or God?  Know or trust?  Living by faith can be a challenge to each of us.  Paul begins today’s passage with a quote from Moses about the Law.  Moses is basically saying that if one follows the Law, one is righteous for living according to God’s rules.  But the Law is something outside of us.  It is a list of do’s and don’ts.  The Law focuses on what I can (and cannot) do and is very black and white.  It says things like do not murder and keep the Sabbath holy.  In this sense, the Law is easy to understand.

To live by faith is another matter.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy and writes, “The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”.  Faith in Jesus Christ is very much an internal thing.  Faith is about a relationship that shifts the focus from us to God.  This relationship begins with confessing “Jesus is Lord”.  This confession places Jesus instead of self on the throne of our heart.  It becomes less and less about what we can or cannot do (the Law again) and more and more about what Jesus is doing in and through us.

The Law is about knowing God in our head.  Faith is about having God in our heart.  The short distance between head and heart can be a very long journey.  Sitting in a pew each Sunday is following the rule written in your head.  Worshipping and praising God each week is Jesus living out of your heart.  It is a world of difference to have God in your head versus having Jesus in your heart.  Paul writes, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”.  Faith resides in the heart.  It leads us on that journey to confession of our sins and receiving mercy and forgiveness.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are made holy and pure once again.

Paul concludes today’s passage with two more Old Testament quotes.  First, from Isaiah: “Anyone who trusts Him will never be put to shame”.  Faith involves trust.  In faith, Jesus has our backs.  Second, from Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It’s not ‘could be’ or ‘might’ but WILL BE saved.  Trust and call on the Lord.  He is all we need.  Jesus is our all in all.  Thanks be to God.


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Beauty

Reading: Song of Songs 2: 8-13

Verse Ten: Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.

Our passage today comes from a book of love songs, mostly written by Solomon.  In our verses today, one can feel the love and passion between these two people.  There is anticipation in his coming to her and there is excitement in his invitation to come away with him.  There is beauty in the world and he wants to experience it with his love.  There is indeed much love and passion between these two.

The love and passion that drives their relationship is the same love and passion that drives our relationship with God.  God continually calls out to us with love and passion, always calling us to join Him.  Our relationship begins at our baptism, where God calls us to Him and marks us as a child of God.  This marking usually also involves a community of faith who commit to helping us on our journey of faith.  From the time of baptism, God’s grace begins to work in our lives even though we may be unaware of it.  This exhibits God’s love and compassion for us.  As we gain a greater sense of God’s call and of His claim upon our lives, we come to a point of entering a personal relationship with God as we commit our lives to Him.  We begin to live our lives sharing God’s love and passion with others.  We become bearers of the good news of Jesus Christ, helping others to know God’s love and passion.

Like the young lover coming to invite his love to come and see the beauty of the world, we too invite others to see beauty.  But our gift of beauty is on the cross.  The deep, deep love and passion Jesus had for us is found in the beauty of the cross.  It is through the cross that we are sealed as a forever child of God.  As we live into God’s love and passion for us today, may we each help others to know the love and passion and forgiveness that calls out to us all.


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Faithful

Reading: Micah 6: 1-5

Micah opens this section by letting the people know that they have sinned against God.  In their hearts it is something they surely already know.  Just as at times we have sinned and quickly felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, so too must the people living in Micah’s time.  God calls all of creation to hear the case He has against Israel.  The grand audience would indicate that this is a pretty serious charge that God is going to level against His chosen people.

Then there is a shift.  It begins in verse three, where God asks, “My people, what have I done to you”?  It is like asking, ‘How could you’?  God then asks how He has burdened the people.  In this question God is preparing them for what comes next.  In the next few verses, God explains things that are just the opposite of burdens.  God reminds the people of the many ways in which He has blessed them and cared for them and protected them.  Perhaps the ‘How could you’ question begins to ring in their minds.  By helping them to remember the ways in which God has been there for them, God is reminding them of the relationship they have and of the covenant on which that relationship is founded.

We too have had many times in our lives where God has looked in and wondered, “How could you”?  And God treats us the same as He did the Israelites.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reaches out to us, shines light on our sin, calls us to repent and return to our covenant relationship with God.  God remains true and faithful to His part of the covenant – always loving and caring for us, always calling us back to a righteous relationship.  God faithfully and patiently calls us back over and over, calling us to walk faithfully with our God.

May we recall the many ways that God has blessed, cared for, protected, and loved us to this day.  Then may we go forth to walk this day and all days as a faithful servant of the Lord our God.


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Come, Follow Me

Reading: Matthew 4: 18-22

What has been the scariest step of faith you have ever taken?  When have you stepped out boldly for your faith?  For me it was leaving a job I had known and loved for 23 years to follow God’s call.  I would love to say I was as spontaneous and trusting as those first disciples, but that is far from the truth.  It was a long and slow process that involved lots of prayer and many conversations with family and trusted friends.  But it was a process through which God worked in amazing and powerful ways.

For Andrew and Peter, and then for James and John, the bold step of faith that they took amazes me.  They are sitting there at work, doing the only job they have ever known, when a stranger walks up and says, “Come, follow me”.  Certainly they did not have a clue what this really meant nor how the course of their lives would change forever.  There is no way they could have foreseen the journey they were about to begin the moment they left their nets and followed Jesus.

The same is true for each one of us that has chosen to follow Jesus.  Most are like me, answering a gradual call.  Others answer His call in a flash as Jesus breaks suddenly into their lives, like He did with these simple fishermen.  We all enter into our relationship with Jesus and begin our journey of faith, not ever really knowing where He will take us physically or spiritually, but usually eager to see where that is.

If we faithfully follow, Jesus will lead and guide.  He will also provide us those moments, like He did with the first disciples, when He says, “Come, follow me”.  These are not forever or career-changing moments, but temporary side trips.  They are the come, share a meal with this homeless man moments.  They are come, mentor this new Christian as they begin their journey of faith moments.  Whether big or small, safe or risky, these moments are part of our journey of faith and our responses demonstrate our obedience to Jesus as Lord.  Lord, grant me a willing spirit and a courageous heart today when You call.


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Called

Reading: 1 Timothy 1: 12-14

Paul reminds us today that God can use anybody to help build the kingdom.  Paul acknowledges that his past included blasphemy, persecution, and violence – all against the newly founded church that followed Jesus.  He was very zealous in his work against this new church.  Yet God, in a show of great mercy, claimed Paul for service in the kingdom.  In a flash all the zeal against Christ became zeal for Christ.

When we look at Paul’s past, we can see how God was at work preparing Paul for the role we know him in as one of the great missionaries and teachers if the early church.  Early on Saul, as the old Paul was known, was a star pupil.  He was very intelligence and quickly learned the Hebrew Bible inside and out.  He quickly rose through the religious ranks and became a very well respected Pharisee.  It was all of this past knowledge and practices that allowed Paul to so skillfully build His case for Christ and to defend it against attacks from non-believers and the Jewish authorities as well.

Each of enters into God’s service in a similar way.  We too all come with our past sins and mistakes.  But we also come with we have done and experienced and learned in life.  The gifts and talents that God has blessed each of us with are a part of who we are as well.  Just like Paul, when we are called or led into service in some particular way, we are ready.  We are just who God has prepared us to be and needs us to be for that role.

Like so many before us, often we too ask, “Me?” as our initial response to God’s call.  We are usually skilled at saying “Well…”, “But…”, “When…”, and “No” also.  But God does not call us unless we have been equipped for the task at hand.  We may not know this or feel this way, but God knows better.  May we each obediently respond to God’s call in our lives so that we may say as Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to service”.


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By Faith

Reading: Hebrews 11: 29-40

“By faith” they walked through a sea, by faith the walks of a mighty city simply fell down.  By faith the giant was slain, by faith three hundred routed the thousands.  By faith touching the hem of a garment brought healing, by faith a man walked on water.  By faith the people of God have done things that would have been impossible otherwise.  Each and every time someone trusted fully in what God was calling them to and the miraculous occurred.

These stories are not stories of someone getting a wild idea and then asking God to make it happen.  Each is the story of how God spoke into the heart of a faithful follower.  Each is the story of a person hearing or sensing the voice or nudge of God and being willing to trust enough in God to lead them to respond by faith.  One can only assume there are thousands upon thousands who heard or felt God leading them as well but instead ignored it or refused the call.  We know this because we each are one.

Each of us that have heard or felt God leading us to do or say or be something are not without faith because we hesitated or were fearful or doubted.  We are human.  Each of us have also had experiences where we did step out by faith, where we did trust in where God was leading us.  In these cases lived were affected and maybe some were changed.  Perhaps our life was one that was changed because we followed God’s lead.

Just as all those who have come before learned and trusted and came to walk with God, we too are learning and building trust and growing by faith in our walk with God.  Just as those such as Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, Rahab, Stephen, Peter, Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., and many more lived by faith to positively affect our faith and our world, we too can have a mighty impact for the kingdom of God.  May we be willing and trusting servants to answer the call of God and to step by faith to do God’s will.


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Calling, Waiting, Redeeming

Reading: Hosea 1:10

The Israelites of Hosea’s day have broken the covenant relationship they once had with God.  Their choices have led them far from God.  Like any parent, He is surely disappointed and maybe even a little mad, but the love for them is as strong as ever.  As parents we too have been in this situation with our own children, loving them in spite of their actions, words, or behaviors.  And like our heavenly Father, we long for them to repent of their poor choices and to return to the ways they were taught.  We so long for this because this is where our relationship is at its best, both for us and for our children.  God is no different.

With the Israelites and with us today, God continues to ever call us back into a right relationship with Him.  His promise to them is to make them a mighty nation – as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.  His promise to us is somehow more personal.  God’s promises to love us, to care for us, to watch over us, to bless us all still remain.  As His children, we are still God’s covenant people.  Yet through Jesus the relationship became more personal and intimate.  We can relate to Jesus’ human nature as a friend yet His divine nature is also present, revealing His power and majesty.  Through His resurrection Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit, a living presence of Jesus that comes to dwell in us once we accept Him as Lord and Savior.

It is through the voice and movement of the Holy Spirit that God continues to call us, His children, back to Him over and over again.  No matter what our choices, God still seeks to keep us in a righteous relationship with Him.  When we stumble, He calls out.  When we sin, He redeems.  When we wander away, He waits patiently, continuing to seek us out.  For God’s amazing and wonderful far-reaching, never-ending, life-changing love, we are ever grateful.  For all of His love, mercy, and grace we say thanks be to God.