pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Anticipate

Reading: Isaiah 64: 1-4

Verse One: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”

As we begin Advent today, we are preparing to remember when Jesus first came as a baby.  There is an anticipation that builds as we walk through this holy season.  There is an excitement that grows as we draw nearer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Part of our excitement and anticipation is built upon what comes next though.  The birth is exciting and grand partly because of the life that is then lived by Jesus the Messiah.  Jesus the Savior brought new life and love into the world.  Jesus allowed people to connect to God in a new way and also opened up the way to eternal life for all who believe.

As Isaiah wrote today’s passage, there was a deep longing for hope and God’s presence.  The Israelites had just returned from a long period in exile.  Things were not as they had been.  Life was hard.  Isaiah voices the people’s deep-felt need for God when he writes, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”  It is a plea.  He is begging for God to come down and to intercede for the people.  The people long for God to come down to “make your name known” as God once again does “awesome things”.  The people of God are anticipating the restoration of God’s reign.  It is a waiting they want ended very soon.

On the edge of Advent, we too anticipate God’s reign.  Many people long for God to intercede in their lives today.  They long for God to bind up their hurts, to end their season in exile, to make all things new, to once again feel hope and love.  We all long for the God who “acts on behalf of those who wait upon Him”.  We too wait with hope and excitement for Christ to come down once again, to begin His forever reign.  In the interim though, we live now with the risen Christ, daily looking forward to His presence and activity in our daily lives.

As we wait, we pray for Jesus to be near the broken, to heal their hurts, to restore their lives to wholeness.  We ask that we may be used in the process, to have open hearts and willing hands.  May it be so.  Amen.

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Daily to Eternal

Reading: Psalm 90: 1-6 and 13-17

Verse Two: From everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Today’s Psalm begins by establishing God as the dwelling place of humanity.  Ever since God walked with Adam and Eve at the beginning, God has been present to His people.  The psalmist then turns to the eternal nature of God.  Before creation, God already was.  He writes, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God”.  These opening verses paint a picture of God’s eternal nature, inspiring awe and praise from us, His creations.

In the next verses, the psalmist turns to our reality – the shortness of life.  It is an interesting comparison when set next to God’s everlasting nature.  We are reminded that man quickly turns back to dust.  This quickness applies equally to a newborn as well as to one passing at 100.  To God, a thousand years in our counting is “like a day that has just gone by” for God.  For an unimaginable amount of time, God has been.  Then we are each born and then quickly gone, almost as if in a flash.  And then, if one has been faithful, we join God in the continuing walk into eternity.  We will then dwell with God forever.
The psalmist then returns to the present.  He calls on God for compassion and to experience God’s unfailing love.  Our time may indeed be relatively short, but the psalmist wants it to be filled with God’s presence.  He seeks a balance of glad days with the afflicted days, acknowledging that life brings its ups and downs.  The Psalm closes with a request for God’s favor and for God to bless the works of our hands.  As Moses writes these words, looking back over a life that was certainly filled with both times of trial and times of God’s presence and blessings, he surely has the confidence that God has been with him and has been active in his life.  It is because of this confidence that Moses rests secure in his eternal destination.

Whether our days are numbered in the single digits or in scores of years, we too yearn for the assurance that we will spend forever with God.  We gain this assurance just as Moses did – keeping a steady faith in God through it all, turning to God over and over, and trusting in God’s constant presence with us.  It is our daily walk that leads into our eternal walk.  May both be fully with God.


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All in All

Reading: Philippians 3: 10-14

Verse 12: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

There is great power in today’s passage.  There is great hope.  There is great promise.  There is great encouragement.  Pail is fully rooted in Christ and in His love.  He has given his all for the gospel and is willing to suffer and even give his life if that will advance the gospel and bring glory to God.  Paul opens today with a clarion call for all believers: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection”.  Like Paul, we also want to know these two things.  We want to know Christ for this earthly life so that we can love and serve others as Jesus did.  We want to know the power of His resurrection for this life and the life to come.  In this life, the power of Jesus’ resurrection brings us victory over sin.  Jesus’ resurrection power defeats the guilt and shame and chains of sin so that we can be made holy and pure in this life.  It is a power we call on again and again.  Jesus’ resurrection power also looks to the future – His resurrection power enables us to defeat death and to live eternally with Jesus in heaven.

Knowing all of this is what allowed Paul to be sold out for Jesus and the gospel.  It is what allows us to have the faith and the courage to live as sold out, all in Christians.  If we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we too can live as Paul did: willing to do anything and willing to face anything to advance the kingdom here on earth.  This is what Paul is talking about when he writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.  Christ took hold of Paul to give him a hope, a love, a promise, a future.  Paul did not take hold of all this and sit on it to keep ut for himself.  He gave his all and eventually his life so others would gain it too.

Paul concludes today with these words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.  Hear these words – straining ahead, pressing on, the prize, called, in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s life reflected the fact that Jesus Christ was his all in all.  May our lives and faith reflect this as well, all for God’s glory and the building of His kingdom here on earth.


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Pearls and Treasures

Reading: Matthew 13: 44-52

Verses 44 and 46: Then in his joy… he sold all he had… he sold everything…

In our first two parables today, the ‘man’ in each comes into contact with something of great worth and both joyfully sell all they own to acquire what they have found.  The meaning for us relates to the value of the kingdom of God.  Once we come into contact with God’s kingdom we too are willing to give anything or everything to possess it.  The discovery process can vary.  One man happened upon it while the other was searching.  So it is with our faith journeys.  Some people are born into a family of faith, some happen into faith as God powerfully acts in their lives, and others come to a place in life that leads them to actively seek God.

The third parable today is another reminder of why we should seek the kingdom of God.  At the end of the age we will all be drawn into the symbolic net.  All people will be judged by God.  Some will be deemed ‘good’ and go on to eternal glory in God’s presence.  Others will be deemed ‘bad’ and will be condemned to eternal punishment.  Some will be ‘collected’ and others will be ‘thrown away’.

No matter how or why we come to be a part of God’s kingdom, to be a part of God’s kingdom is of great value.  The value is both temporal and eternal.  In the temporal, as we live in relationship with God and Jesus, we find strength and comfort, peace and joy, contentment and blessing, mercy and forgiveness, and so much more.  In the eternal we have our hope.  When all things are made new then there will be no pain or tears or sadness or need.  We will dwell in God’s new kingdom and live forever in His light and love, realizing the great value of being part of the kingdom of God.

After telling these three parables, Jesus asks them if they have “understood these things”.  After an affirmative answer, Jesus tells them that now they are “like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old”.  Just as the disciples were ‘owners’ so too are we.  These parables and the whole Bible that we can read fill our storehouse.  The parables and teachings in the Bible are the things of great worth.  As we read and reflect on the Word, we continue to ponder the pearls and also to discover the hidden treasures as the living Word continues to speak into our lives.  As we continue on our journey of faith, may we continue to be in the Word so that we may ever grow in the knowledge and love of God.


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Slaves to God

Reading: Romans 6: 15-23

Verse 22: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul begins by proposing the idea that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.  The slave analogy implies a complete obedience of free will.  Yes, we may choose to sin.  Or we may choose to be obedient to God.  But once the choice is made, we become as a slave – doing the total will of either sin or of God.  It is the first of two stark contrasts in today’s passage.

Paul continues on to share the results of our choice.  If we choose sin, then this choice leads to death.  If we choose God, then our choice leads to life.  This is a sharp contrast: life or death.  To help us in our decision, we are entrusted to teaching that helps us make the correct choice.  This is really what life is all about – we learn so that we can make an informed decision.  As we learn and grow in our faith the choice to be obedient to God becomes an easier choice in the daily decisions we face.  Paul rejoices in the result of good Christian teaching as he writes, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

As our passage draws to a close, Paul writes of the reality we all deal with every day.  He writes that we are weak and that we used to be slaves to sin.  We are weak.  Each and every day we must choose to follow God.  However, it is not a choice we make one day and then never face again.  Each day and each hour and sometimes each second, Satan is right there pushing the choice to sin.  It is a constant battle.  In the big sense, though, our choice is life or death.  As Christians we have made the choice.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life”.  It is a wonderful gift of God.

This day may we each make the choice to be freed from sin, to be slaves to God, and to live a holy life which one day leads to eternal life.


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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Imperishable.

Reading: 1 Peter 1: 17-23

Verses 18-19: It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ.

Today’s text plays with the contrast between the perishable and the imperishable.  Peter calls us to pursue the imperishable and to strive for the things of God.  This is in contrast to the world’s view of what matters and what is worthy of our efforts.  Peter encourages the believers to set aside the ways passed down by their fathers and to not follow in pursuing an “empty way of life”.  The chasing after the gold and silver leads to emptiness.  This is a lesson we all eventually learn.  To be rich in things most often leaves one pour in the soul.  At some point all people look in the mirror and come to realize that money and things and status do not bring true happiness.  Living a full life cannot rest on the perishable but must instead be founded on the imperishable.

Peter calls on Christians to “live your lives as strangers in reverant fear”.  To live as strangers means to live not of this world and its cares.  Another phrase that parallels this idea is “in the world but not of the world”.  Our true citizenship is in heaven.  To have ‘reverant fear’ is to have holy respect for God.  It is to be aware that the world’s choices lead to death and destruction.

This passage reminds us that we were bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  This sacrifice made in love calls us to love our brothers and sisters with a deep and sincere love.  Jesus demonstrated what this love looks like and He calls us to follow after Him and to love like He loved.  Verses 18 and 19 capture this love: “It was not with perishable things such as gold or silver that you were redeemed… but with the prescious blood of Christ”.  The blood and love that made it flow so that you and I can be redeemed are imperishable.  This love of God that was poured out on the cross can never be lost.  There is nothing we can do to find ourselves outside of God’s love.  Nothing.  This is why God is our only hope in this world.  This is why God alone provides for our salvation.  He is our eternity.  It is not founded on our fickle love for God but upon God’s unfailing love for us.  It is a gift far more precious than any gold or silver and it is far more enduring.  For the imperishable love of God that we have in Jesus Christ, this day let us offer our praise and thanksgiving.