pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Is Greater

Reading: Mark 9: 30-32

Verse 32: “They did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it”.

Jesus found some private time with His disciples. He wants to begin to prepare them for a radical change that is coming. Jesus tells them plainly that He will be betrayed and killed and then will rise. I imagine most of the disciples did not hear much after the word betrayed. It is one of those words that stop us in our tracks. It takes time, perhaps a lot of time in some cases, to get back in the conversation.

Some words do this to us. We hear just that one word for a period of time. There are some universal words that do this – cancer, stroke, dementia, and so on. Sometimes the words are more specific. If it is a conversation between spouses, words like infidelity and divorce halt the mind’s thoughts. In today’s passage, the disciples are Jesus’ most intimate and personal friends. They have spent 24-7 with Him for quite a while now. Betrayed. At that word, most probably recoiled and began to look first around the group and then within. Who? Who could do such a thing? Could I? The word stung.

What causes words such as these to have this halting effect? It is because they trigger fear. They cause doubt. They raise up the unknown and the uncertainties. Our mind can quickly create worst case scenarios or it can simply get stuck right there. What choice do we have? What alternative can we take?

We can choose to trust in God, to turn to Him in prayer, to seek His presence. God may not answer our prayers right away or even the way we want (eventually), but He will be immediately present. In that presence we find peace in the experience and hope for all possibilities. We are also reminded of the end of the story. For those in Christ, it is always a beautiful ending.

Our passage tells us, “They did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it”. Fear is powerful. But God is greater. Turn to God, place your trust in Him, abide in His love.

Dear God, help me to quickly turn to you when fear rises up. Make this my natural reaction. Always remind me of your eternal love and promises. In those days, draw me near to you, strengthen me for the trial, walk with me. Amen.

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Ever Abiding Presence

Reading: Romans 8: 15-17

Verse Sixteen: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”.

One thing that life surely brings is change. Some if it is welcomed and looked forward to and some change is unwanted and brings feelings of anxiety or fear. Some change we bring upon ourselves and other change happens outside of our control. Change can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances or our place in life. For example, a job change can be from a promotion or because a great new opportunity presented itself. Or it can be because of a layoff or termination or because the company was forced to go out of business.

Amidst the change that is sure to come in life, we need a foundation that is solid and unchanging. That foundation is our faith. Our relationship with our Savior gives us a peace in this life and a hope and promise for the life to come. Faith brings contentment in the day to day life and strength in the storms of life and a blessed assurance in the trials. All of this comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul reminds us that through Jesus we do “not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear”. Instead we are made God’s children. Verse sixteen reads, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”. Not only does the Spirit testify but we do too – in our core we sense that we belong to God’s family too.

Since we belong we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”. Yes, we will share in His sufferings. That is a good thing. We are blessed when we are willing to sacrifice for others, when we are willing to play others and their needs ahead of our own. Because we are heirs we also have a future promise. One day we will share in His glory. One day we will see Him face to face and we will walk forever in His light and love. It will be glorious indeed.

Amidst the change that life brings and amidst the trials and sufferings that also come with life we have the ever abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Thank you God for this blessed gift.


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An Honest Look

Reading: Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Verse 33: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

A new covenant. A new promise. Hope. Opportunity. How we sometimes long for a fresh or new start. For the Israelites long in captivity in Babylon this word from Jeremiah had to bring great hope. Suddenly there was possibility and hope ahead again. They must have certainly felt like the old covenant was a thing of the past. They were living without a temple and without the systems that had connected them to God. Oddly enough they saw change as a good thing. They did not simply want a return to the way things were. Where they were spiritually and relationally was broken and needed changed. They were full of joy to hear, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

Today we can find ourselves here too. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere. For example, one day we find out that our job has been eliminated or that our spouse is asking for divorce. These types of disruptions are forced upon us and we have no choice but to adapt. But sometimes it is a slow creep instead. This happens in life sometimes. We look up and suddenly realize where we’ve gotten to and know in an instant that something must change. Sometimes this can happen in our institutions as well. Our church that used to have hundreds in worship and dozens in Sunday school suddenly seems a bit empty and without much life. At this point, whether personally or institutionally, we can look for and seek for God to do a new thing or we can continue the slow fade. Sometimes this is the easier choice.

We are still in Lent, so I challenge you to look within – to both yourself and to your church. Do you see growth and movement forward or do you see plateau or regression, complacency or death? These are hard questions to consider. Take an honest look within and go to God accordingly.


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Encounter

Reading: Mark 9: 2-6

Verses Three and Four: “His clothes became dazzling white… And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses”.

As Peter, James, and John headed up the mountain with Jesus, they had no idea what would happen next. The usual trek to someplace like this usually led to a time of prayer. Apparently without warning, Jesus is “transfigured”. This means to “transform into something more beautiful or elevated”. In Mark’s gospel the scene is described this way: “His clothes became dazzling white…” It was Peter, James, and John’s limited way to describe something amazing and never before seen.

At times we find ourselves here. When we try and describe our encounter with Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit, we use a lot of “it was like…” terminology. We try and relate it to experiences we think others have had and then we try to elevate that to describe our encounter. The disciples use the bleaching analogy to try and describe the level of dazzle.

To add to their surprise, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses”. These two greats of the Old Testament appear and start talking with Jesus. One can only imagine the conversation between the men who represent the prophets and the Law, respectively, and the One who represents the new covenant, Jesus. What a deep and rich theological conversation it must have been!

Just as suddenly as Elijah and Moses appear, they are gone. In an instant, the old Jesus is back. Heads spinning, Peter, James, and John must have wondered what just happened and pondered why were they there. This experience must have left them with more questions than answers. What does this mean? How will this impact our lives and our ministry? Who really is Jesus? What now?

In those moments when we too experience Jesus in extraordinary ways, we are left with a sense of the divine touching our lives. We too are left with questions and much to ponder. This is a good thing. Life-changing moments are supposed to change us! From our Jesus encounters, may we continue to wrestle and seek, to learn and to grow. May we allow these encounters to guide us along our journey of faith, ever closer to our God.


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Repent and…

Reading: Mark 1: 14-18

Verse Fifteen: “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news”.

Jesus begins His earthly ministry in a similar manner to John the Baptist’s ministry.  Like John, Jesus calls the people to repent and then to accept the good news.  Repentance must come first.  We simply cannot walk with Jesus when we have sin in our lives.  Sin, by its nature, separates us from God.  Repentance requires a change in our lives.  Whatever the sin, it leads us away from God.  So if our desire is to be in a relationship with God, then we must turn away from our sin and resubmit our lives to faithful obedience.

As Jesus entered Galilee, the message He preached was all about repentance.  He said over and over, “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news”.  This theme continued throughout His ministry.  The woman caught in adultery heard this message as Jesus told her, “Go now and leave your life of sin”.  Zacchaeus pledges a new life as he promises to repay all that he has wronged.  Jesus responds by declaring that salvation has come to Zacchaeus that day.  Over and over Jesus calls us to leave our sin behind and to turn to Him.

Repentance is hard.  It would be easier to skip over this part of the passage.  Repentance requires admitting that we did something wrong, that we faltered.  This requires a certain amount of humility.  Pride and ego can get in the way.  Repentance also requires an honest look into ourselves, a searching if you will, to see the sin in our lives.  And lastly, it requires that we commit to being better, to walking a more holy life, to being more like Jesus.

Jesus sought disciples who were willing to put their old life behind them to come and follow Him.  It required a radical change in direction.  Simon and Andrew heard His call and began a new way of life.  It was risky and full of the unknown.  It required trust.  Repentance can bring us these same feelings as we choose to leave a part of ourselves behind and we are not sure where our new self will go.  Just as Jesus called the first disciples, He calls us as well.  Jesus is still seeking followers who are willing to orient their lives to a new way of living over and over.  The journey of faith never ends as our faith is always growing and developing.  The call involves risk for us too.  Are we willing to risk and to trust in wherever Jesus leads?  After all, the call is to come and follow.


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Come and See

Reading: John 1:43-51

Verse 46: “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there”?

Our key verse today is full of emotion and opinion.  Nathanael dismisses any chance of Jesus being the Messiah because of his preconceived notions about Nazareth.  He looks right past Philip’s excitement and belief in finding the One.  Nathanael cannot see past all his world has ever been or known.  I wonder if he has even ever been to Nazareth.

Sometimes though, we are all guilty of doing just what Nathanael did.  We make a decision or pass a judgment on what we think we know.  Often this comes from our parents or friends, sometimes from society or culture.  We have all been guilty of drawing conclusions or making assumptions based on things like ethnicity, socio-economic status, appearance, gender, family of origin, …

To illustrate, a quick youth group story.  After cooking and sharing a meal with a group of people on the street outside the church, one of the young men in the group shared something with me.  He had spent some time eating and talking with one of our guests.  Afterward, he came up to me and said, “They’re just like me”.  Yes, they are just like us.  When we are willing to spend time with someone, getting to know them, we come to the same conclusion.  Our lot in life at the moment may be different, but we are all the same on some levels.  One for sure is our place as a beloved child of God.

Philip could have thrown his hands up in the air or he could have walked away, but he did not.  He simply said, “Come and see”.  Come and see the One who will save the world.  Come and see.  It is our invitation too.  Come and see what Jesus will do in our lives.  Come and see how He will forever change you and your life.  Come and see how Jesus changes our hearts and minds, making it easier to love the other.  Come and see how He changes our eyes, helping us to see the world as He sees the world.  Come and see!


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Honor, Glory

Reading: Romans 16: 25-27

Verse 27: “To the only wise God be the glory fever through Jesus Christ”.

We tend to go through life largely on cruise control.  Our daily routines are comfortable an established.  We are generally content with our lot in life and we live with a sense of joy and well-being.  Our jobs, our families our friends are satisfying.  Our place in God’s family feels good and we feel known by God and feel we know God.   Yes, there are trying moments and temporary frustrations, but for the most part, life is good.  It makes the Christmas season seem even better.

But once in a while, life takes a turn.  Then we find ourselves in uncomfortable or painful places.  An unexpected loss or a sudden change in life takes us for a loop.  Our routine, our joy, our contentment are disrupted.  We feel lost, insecure, alone.  Yet God remains present.  God is our constant.  We all know people dealing with loss or change.  It is important this time of the year to connect a little deeper, to be a little more aware, to remind them more often of your love and of God’s love for them.

Maybe this is you.  If so, know that God loves you and that your family and friends love you and want to be there for you.  If this is someone you know, remind them often.

Today’s passage from Paul is the closing reminder to the Roman church that God established them in the faith through the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ.  All Christians are established by this same good news.  Jesus Christ came and lived and died and was resurrected for us all, showing us how to live out God’s love here on earth and showing us the way to life eternal.  Hope and love all in one life.  This is our truth in Christ.  It is the path we joyfully and assuredly walk as children of the light.  May all we do bring honor to Him.  As Paul closes, so do I: “To the only wise God be the glory fever through Jesus Christ”.