pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Empty… Fill

Readings: Psalm 106: 1-6 and Philippians 4: 7-9

Keys verses: We have sinned… we have done wrong and acted wickedly (Psalm 106:6).  Whatever is true… right… pure… lovely… admirable… think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

Pairing today’s readings together yields a wonderful truth for our lives.  The Psalm leads us to seek a repentant heart, to admit our sins to God, to begin again to walk in step with His ways.  We are all sinful creatures, living in a world that is full of temptations and that glorifies many sins.  Satan is always at work in our lives, trying to pry his way into our hearts and minds, working on our bodily passions as well as our human frailties and weaknesses.  It is no wonder we occasionally sin.  However, it cannot stop there.  We cannot live with or in our sin.  Each day we must come before God to be honest with God and ourselves, to name our sins, to repent and seek His forgiveness for this time and God’s strength for the next time.  To do all this is essential because it makes space for God in our lives as it clears away all the gets in the way of our relationship with Him.

Paul speaks of what can fill this space created by confessing our sins.  Into that space created by releasing our sins and inviting God into our lives, Paul suggests we think about the things of God.  He writes, “Whatever is true… right… pure… lovely… admirable… think about such things”.  When we train our minds to focus on these things, then we begin to see the world, ourselves, and others as God sees them.  This will help us to walk as Jesus walked – loving God and loving neighbor.  Walking this way will not only strengthen us in our battle with Satan, it will also lead us to have a thankful and grateful heart within us.  Once we are emptied, then He can fill us up.

When we honestly confess our sins and empty ourselves of these burdens, then we are opening ourselves up for God’s participation in our lives.  This is my prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right Spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).  May it be so today.  

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Kneel and Confess

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-13

Verses 9-11: Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place… every knee shall bow… every tongue confess…

Today’s passage begins with a reminder of how Christ “made himself nothing” and became a servant, made in human likeness.  It still amazes me that He would love us so much that He would become like us.  In the end, this love was demonstrated in humility – becoming obedient to death on the cross.  But the story did not end there.  “God exalted him to the highest place”.  Praise be to God!

God exalted Jesus to the highest place.  Our response to this?  “That every knee shall bow” and “every tongue confess” that Jesus Christ is Lord.  According to our passage today, this is the first task we have as Christians: to sing and offer our praises to the glory of God.  How lucky we are!  Today is Sunday and we will have the opportunity to do just this with the body of Christ!

From this place of praise and worship we are to go out and live with the attitude of Christ – live humbly, serve others, love God – all for the same purpose: to bring glory to God.  Paul writes of this, saying, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.  To do so, we live our lives in response to our faith.  In faith we kneel and witness that Jesus is Lord.  In daily life we go out and live that faith.  All we do and say seeks to reflect Jesus to the world as we bring God glory through the living out of our faith.

We do this with “fear and trembling”.  This is not a “scared of the dark” fear but a fear that is like holy reverence.  It is God – the creator of the universe, the one who us all-knowing and all-seeing – “who works in us to will and act according to His good purpose”.  Again I return to humility here.  This vast and amazing God chooses to be at work in me, a sinner.  It brings me to a place of fear and trembling to realize that kind of love.  Once here I am led to kneel and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.  And my response?  To praise His holy name!  This day and every day, may my life be an act of praise.


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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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Hope, Peace

Reading: John 20: 19-31

Verse 26: Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you”!

The disciples are hiding in fear.  The Jews just engineered Jesus’ death and they fear for their own lives.  Jesus appears to them twice in today’s passage and both times begins with, “Peace be with you”!  In the times of worry and fear and doubt, peace is a great gift.  It is a gift we all treasure in the midst of the trial or in the storms of life.  In faith we can release our fears… to God and His peace will replace all of those emotions and thoughts.

As Jesus offers the disciples peace, He also breathes the Holy Spirit on them.  With the presence of the Spirit, the disciples will go forth into the world to spread the goods news of the resurrected and risen Jesus.  We too receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.  With that confession we also receive the same charge to share the good news.

Jesus also empowers the disciples with the power to forgive people their sins.  In this gift, followers of His can release people from all that entangles and hold them down.  It is similar to releasing our fears… to God and allowing His peace to flow in instead.  In sharing the hope and faith we find in Jesus, we are opening others up to feel the freeing power that comes when we accept the One who conquered sin and death as our personal Savior.  We are not offering atonement for their sins through us, but we are inviting the lost and broken to come to Jesus so He can do that.  He died on the cross to offer us all freedom from sin by paying for or atoning for our sins with His blood.  The freedom of releasing our sins is also a way Jesus brings peace.

The hope and peace we find when we rest in Christ is a wonderful and amazing gift.  May we offer Christ to all we meet so that they too may rest in His peace.


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Rejoice, Be Glad

Reading: Psalm 32

The confession of our sin is an essential part of our faith.  It always has been the key to restoring our relationship to God and to finding renewal in our innermost being.  When we fail to confess our sins, we carry around within us a weight or a shame or guilt that inhibits us from truly living life.  The psalmist calls us blessed when our transgressions are forgiven.  The writer contrasts this with his experience when he did not confess – his bones wasted away and he groaned day and night.  We to experience similar consequences when we hold onto our sin.

Even more important than avoiding the negative consequences of holding onto our sin, which we can do, is the forgiveness and grace we experience when we do come to God with our sins.  In verse five, the psalmist writes, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, you forgave the guilt of my sin”.  He speaks of the guilt being forgiven and of the protection he felt after being made right again with God.  The psalmist describes it as being surrounded with songs of deliverance.  When we confess our sins and allow Jesus to remove the guilt and the burden, we too feel both a sense of relief and also a sense of elation at once again being in a right relationship with the Lord our God.

Today in many of our churches we will celebrate communion.  It is our time to confess our sins, to repent, and to be forgiven as an individual and as a community of faith.  We trust God to hear the words of our confessions and to then restore us to holy and pure.  In verse ten the psalmist writes, “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him”.  This day and each day, may we be people of confession and repentance, ever seeking to be in a right relationship with God, ever desiring to walk within God’s blessing and protection, so that we too, like the psalmist, may rejoice and be glad.


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One Step

Reading: Luke 19: 6-10

Once again Jesus reaches to an outcast.  Once again Jesus looks past what is a barrier to others and lives one in need.  Zacchaeus certainly was not in need financially because he was a rich man.  Zacchaeus was in need of love and acceptance.  Because of his job, Zacchaeus probably spent life largely alone, without any real friends.  When Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus, many in the crowd grumbled with disapproval.  Zacchaeus’ ill-gotten wealth has drawn much dislike for the crowd.

At times we too act in certain ways and do certain things that cause others to dislike us or to remain at a distance from us.  Sometimes we can be like Zacchaeus, mistreating others for our own gain or purposes.  Sometimes we can fall into sins of other types, causing others to look down on us or to treat us like an outcast.  Sometimes we act in ways that cause people to think, ‘Jesus, don’t go near that one today’ or to think that Jesus could never call out to us.

Yet He does.  No matter what, Jesus always calls out to us.  He continues to call us out of our trees and into relationship with Him.  No matter our sin, Jesus continues to seek us when we are lost.  Like Zacchaeus, we are always just a simple confession away from a righteous relationship with Jesus Christ.  Like Zacchaeus, we are always just one step away from forgiveness and new life in Christ.  For this we say, thanks be to God.


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The Joy of the Lord

Reading: Psalm 32

God desires to bring us joy unspeakable.  His desire is to fill us with joy as we walk daily in a loving and meaningful personal relationship with Him.  Each and every day God seeks to be the sunshine that can carry us  through any storm.  His mercies are new every morning because His love never fails.  Even though we will fail at times, God never gives up on us.

The psalmist admits to God and reveals to us a time of struggle in their life.  When he or she was silent and did not confess their sins to God, they experiences a time without joy.  Physical ailment came due to a separation from God.  We too can easily experience this.  When we are emotionally and spiritually stuck in our sin, the feeling and affects of being separated from God are real and tangible.

As  the psalmist admits their sins to God, the joy of the Lord returns.  It is as if sunshine has broken through the clouds and the lights fills their heart.  The sudden flooding in of God’s joy and love leads to proclaiming to others the amazing impact God’s love can have on our lives.  The psalmist bears witness to the joy that has been restored now that they walk in a right relationship with God again.  The joy is unspeakable.  He or she feels they must teach, instruct, guide, and lead others to experience this joy themselves.

The joy of  the Lord is the Son shine that we can have in our lives every day as well.  If we humble ourselves daily and confess our sins to the Lord, we too will experience the joy of living in a right personal relationship with God.  This joy that we are filled  with becomes a light within us that we too must share with all we meet.  May the joy of the Lord fill us and flow out of us into the lives of all we meet through our words, actions, and deeds, bringing glory and honor to His name.