pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Choose

Reading: Joshua 24: 1-3a and 14-25

Verse 14: Now choose the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.

Joshua comes to the people and asks them to choose who they will serve.  He asks them three times, each time reminding them of the temptations of other gods.  Joshua has seen the people go astray and God lets him know that this will continue to be the challenge.  Their forefathers worshiped other gods in the past, they experienced the worship of other gods in Egypt, and they even made a golden calf to worship while Moses was up on the mountain talking with God.

Joshua asks three times and the people respond three times that they will worship God alone.  Joshua reminds them that God is a jealous and holy God.  Three times, just to make sure.  This battle to choose God over idols continues to this very day.  Each day we must choose which God or many gods we will serve.  It is a daily battle that begins as we awaken each day.  Prayers for God to lead and guide us only begins the battle.  Throughout the day the Holy Spirit is praying for us, reminding us, convicting us.  We cannot remain faithful to God without the help of the Holy Spirit.

The temptations and other gods are many.  We can chase after money or possessions, popularity or recognition, status or position, beauty or knowledge.  We can get caught up in envy, gossip, greed, gossip, gluttony, fear, doubt, worry.  We are in no shortage of things or idols to tempt, lure, and pull us away from God.  The enemy is powerful.  But God is greater.  Through the Word, prayer, worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can walk faithful and holy lives.  May all that is at God’s disposal work in us this day to be the witnesses of His love and truth in our daily walk, bringing glory to God alone.

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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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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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Complete Relationship

Reading: Romans 8: 12-25

Verse 17: We are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Paul began life as Saul.  His faith was rooted in being one of the “chosen people” and there was a certain exclusiveness to this.  As he studied and came to know more he became a Pharisee.  He became part of a very exclusive group within an exclusive faith.  His view of faith was based on lineage and a long list of rules to keep to maintain good standing with God.  But then Saul met Jesus.

Jesus got ahold of him and, as Paul, he came to understand God and our relationship with God from a whole new perspective.  Instead of the God of the Old Testament, Paul came to know and preach the God embodied in Jesus.  He came to see Jesus as the fuller revelation of God’s presence and being.  Just as the Old Testament continued to develop the relationship between God and His people, so too does the New Testament – through the love and witness of Christ and then through the continued development of the church.

Paul came to understand that all people are God’s people.  He saw a universal love instead of a limited or select love.  Paul also came to understand that grace and love were universal and free to all.  To access this love and grace, to become part of this family of God, all one had to do was accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It was Paul’s route and he lived to help all he met to make the same decision.  He came to live out the indwelling Holy Spirit that led and guided him as he shared the good news of Jesus with all he met.

Paul also grew to understand that it was a complete relationship.  It was an all-in, all day, for better or worse type of a relationship.  In verse 17 Paul writes, “We are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory”.  Yes, once we join the family we are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ – heirs to salvation and eternity in a glorious heaven.  But Paul was writing to the church in Rome.  They were facing suffering and Paul wanted to encourage them in and through this as well.  The early followers of Jesus, especially the disciples and apostles, rejoiced when they suffered for Christ.  They felt like Jesus in His suffering.  They also knew that suffering would lead to a time in glory.  Like the groanings of birth, Paul knew that the trials and suffering would lead to new life.  It is a good reminder to us as well.  Like Paul, may we be encouraged and remain in God’s love, openly accepting the free gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and new life.  For this great love we join the saints in saying, thanks be to God!


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Majestic

Reading: Psalm 8

Verse 1b: You have set your glory above the heavens.

Today’s Psalm makes me think of the beauty of the night sky.  To look up into the vastness and see all that God has created stirs up praise inside of me.  I too want to shout out, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”!  Yes, we can begin to get the feeling of God’s majesty when we take time to think of all the plant and animal species that He created.  But to me, God’s majesty is most evident in the night sky.  In one moment, I can see millions and millions of stars plus planets and moons, all created uniquely and individually by our Lord.

Each winter for many years I would go winter camping with a friend.  Often we were the only people in the remote campground.  We were far away from the city lights that wash out some of the night sky.  Late at night, on those coldest nights with the crisp, clear air, the sky came alive to me.  The lack of earthly, human light allows you to see so many more stars…  It is not that they were not there before; it was that I just couldn’t see the because of all of the light pollution.  Then, in the stillness and solitude of that campground, “You have set your glory above the heavens” really comes alive.  How majestic is Your name!

In verse three the psalmist acknowledges the majesty we see in the heavens, the work of God’s hands.  But then he quickly turns to us – mankind.  The psalmist writes, “What is man that you are mindful of him…”.  Just as God created each of those billions of heavenly bodies, He created you and me as well.  It is a humbling thought.  To recall the power and majesty of the night sky in all of its glory and brilliance and then to think that God created me – it is very humbling.  Verse four goes on, “that you care for him?”. Created by and loved by our majestic God.  Wow. 


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Reflecting His Glory

Reading: Acts 17: 22-28

Verse 24: … the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands.

Today’s passage finds Paul in Athens.  He is there doing what he always did: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  But Athens is not Jerusalem.  It is the center of the Greek world and has overlays of the Roman world as well.  Centuries of philosophers have sat in the Aeropagus and argued and debated all aspects and facets of life.  They have covered mortality and religion, ethics and justice, their own existence and the meaning of life.  Paul observes that the culture is very polytheistic.  They worship many different gods.  Paul takes all of this into account as he begins his sermon this day.  He begins by sharing the observation that they are very religious and then turns to the “unknown god” statue.  Paul goes on to proclaim the unknown god to be the God of all creation.  He even quotes a couple of Greek philosophers to help his case.  Paul is using a piece of the dominant culture to win over his audience.  We too have an opportunity to do this as well.

Where will you find yourself coming up against non-believers today?  Will it be at work?  At lunch?  Out on your walk?  And will they be worshipping an unknown god?  As we consider all of this, we also must how we could do that Paul did – use some of today’s popular culture to tie back into our God and our faith.  Maybe it is by working with integrity and honor and finding success on God’s terms.  Maybe it is by being gracious and by practicing Good listening skills while at lunch.  Maybe it is by noticing the person on the street and by taking a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them.  There are many ways to meet people where they are at and to bring our faith into the situation.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead!

But maybe you are not quite here yet.  Maybe today’s passage speaks to your own ‘unknown god’.  Is it parked in the garage?  Does it sit on a large lot?  Is it kept safe in a vault?  Or is it fragile and rests upon the opinions of others?  At times it can be easy to worship idols.  So maybe our challenge today is to identify our idol and to begin to let it go.  Paul stated, “the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands”.  Are we living or acting as if God did live here?

Wherever we find ourselves in today’s passage, may we strive for our life to reflect His glory, “for in Him we live and move and have our being”.


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See the Glory

Reading: John 11: 1-15 & 38-45

Verse 40: Christ said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

In this story about death, the focus is on what Jesus can do for Lazarus and for us.  Although it is Mary and Martha that call for Jesus and it is they who are given the gift of having their brother back, it is Lazarus for whom the significant change has been made.  He was deaf and now lives again.  As the story unfolds and Jesus delays, it is clear that there is more to the story than simply healing or even raising Lazarus from the dead.

God’s plan encompasses all that are present that day to comfort Mary and Martha, the disciples who have come along, and us, the readers.  To see someone walk out of the grave after being dead for four days was a powerful testament to Jesus’ control over all things.  Reading about it thereafter is also a powerful testimony to what Jesus can do in our lives today.  For the people present it was a great showing of the glory of God.  For readers past and present, it reveals that the power of Jesus is not limited by anything – certainly not death.  In the story today, we also gain the understanding that death is not to be feared.

Jesus continues to offer us victory over death.  We will be transformed after we draw our last earthly breath, yes.  In this story and in Jesus’ words “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and “I am the resurrection and the life” we gain an understanding and confidence that death here is not the end but is simply the beginning of our eternal life.

Jesus’ words to Martha ring out to us as well: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God”?  May we hold fast to the faith we profess, rejoicing in the time when we too will see the glory of God.