pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Remember and Retell

Reading: Psalm 78: 1-4 and 12-16

Verse Four: We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

Today’s Psalm is about remembering and retelling.  It is about remembering the times of God’s presence and activity in the past and retelling it to others.  The Israelites are very good at doing this.  It keeps reminding them over and over of both God’s love and their status as the chosen people of God.  Remembering and retelling keeps them intimately connected to God and His love.

As Christians, we also are called to remember and retell.  We are first called to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Great Commission charges all believers to tell of Jesus to all nations.  In doing do we help people to connect to the Savior.  In telling the story we also remind ourselves of how Jesus saves, loves, forgives, … each of us.  This personal story is the second calling we have to remember and retell.

Each of us has our own personal faith story.  It is the story of how Jesus Christ makes a difference in our lives.  It is the story of how Jesus is better – better than any other god we can chase after, be it money or power or some other religion.  It is the story of how Jesus walks with us through the joys and the trials, lifting us up at times and carrying us at others.  It is a deeply personal story because Jesus is a deeply personal Savior.  And it is a story that others need to hear.  We remember and retell our faith story so that others can see how the good news of Jesus Christ can be good news to them as well.

So what is your faith story?  Why Jesus?  Just as the Israelites pledged to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”, we too are called to follow the same.  Jesus put it this way: “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  May we go and tell all we meet of our faith in the only one who can save.

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Who?  Who?  Who?

Reading: Matthew 16: 13-16

Verse 15: “But what about you?”, He asked.  “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus asks a question that was probably garnering its fair share of conversations.  The topic may not have been all over Facebook or Twitter or talk radio or the tabloid news, but the question was certainly out there.  In the inner rooms of the Pharisees and other religious leaders they were most certainly discussing who Jesus was.  We can tell from the crowds that came and were often there waiting that the conversation was happening.  Wherever He taught and healed the news proceeded Jesus and talk lingered after He went on to the next town or village.

To the disciples, Jesus asks who people say He is.  They have heard the gossip and the whispers as they have traveled.  Some of the responses are probably a bit out there and others are grounded in their faith story as some name famous prophets.  Maybe the conversation had the tone of one of those videos where a crew hits the street with a microphone and video camera and asks the same Jesus question.  But then it turns serious as Jesus asks, “But what about you?”, He asked.  “Who do you say I am?”.  I imagine the word ‘you’ carried the emphasis as Jesus spoke.

Peter gives the answer.  Perhaps there were a few disciples staring at the ground as they mulled over the question, hoping Jesus did not call on them.  It is a hard question yet a very easy question too.  Peter responds quickly, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  Bingo.  There were probably a few disciples happy in that moment for Peter’s tendency to act or speak before thinking.  But he was spot on.

Jesus’ question is one we need to have a ready answer to as well.  And this is where the question can be hard.  For some it will begin with, “Well…. umm…”. But it cannot stay there.  All believers need to be just as ready as Peter was.  We all need to be prepared to share just who Jesus is for us.  If not, we simply appear to know about Jesus instead of really knowing Jesus.  So, who do YOU say Jesus is?  May we each ponder over the question and prepare our own personal response.  May we be prepared to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ to a world with ears that need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.


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Beautiful Feet

Reading: Romans 10: 14-16

Verse 16: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

Paul has just built his case for what one must do to be saved: believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord”.  In verse 13 Paul writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It is a faith that is offered to all people.  This echoes Jesus’ commission to bring the good news to all nations.  God’s love and saving grace are for all peoples in all places.

Today’s passage shifts to some realities that make most Christians a bit uncomfortable.  In our minds, yes, we all know that the Great Commission applies to all followers of Jesus Christ.  We are all called to proclaim the good news.  Today, Paul gives us a series of questions to consider.  First, how can anyone call on someone they do not believe in?  If one does not believe in Jesus then they will never experience salvation.  This is a matter of great eternal consequence.  It is imperative that all people have the opportunity to call on Jesus for salvation.

Paul then asks how one can believe without hearing of Jesus Christ.  It is indeed very hard to believe in someone you have never heard of or understand.  So all must hear the good news and come to understand what Jesus offers.  Then Paul asks how someone could hear without someone else speaking.  Again, if we do not tell others the good news of Jesus Christ then it is very unlikely that they will hear.  Paul then says that we each must be sent in order to tell.  Jesus’ parting words to all of us was to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are sent.  Each Sunday we close worship with a benediction – a reminder to the people of God to go out and bring Jesus to the world – to go forth to love and serve the Lord our God.

Paul closes with these words: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.  He is quoting from the prophet Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth.  Isaiah’s statement remains true.  The good news is still the good news.  All need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Do you want beautiful feet today?


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At Work

Reading: Genesis 37: 12-28

Verses 23 and 24: They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern.

Joseph does not have the best of days.  He heads out to check on his brothers and the flocks and ends up being sold into slavery.  His brothers’ hatred of him most directly leads to this event.  But the hatred did not begin today.  It is something that has been building.  The favored son comes alone, wearing that coat that Dad gave him, and evil thoughts are at hand.  Our text reads, “They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern”.

We have a tendency to want to blame someone when bad things happen to us.  Sometimes we identity a person or group of people and we cast blame on them.  Sometimes it is an occurrence of nature that causes our hardship.  Sometimes when all else fails, we blame God.  Seldom do we look inward right away to find the source of our troubles or hardship.  Joseph probably first blamed his brothers and then maybe Israel for sending him out alone.  At some points He probably questioned or blamed God.  From what we know of Joseph, it is unlikely that he became introspective.

In reality, many had a hand in what happens to Joseph in our passage today.  Israel has favored and spoiled Joseph.  This day he sends him off alone to a group of brothers who are jealous and dislike Joseph.  Joseph himself has helped build the animosity by sharing his dreams and by tattling on his brothers.  Satan has also been at work, fanning the flames of anger and planting thoughts of murder.

Although God is not mentioned in the text for today, God is also surely at work.  He softens Reuben’s heart and then Judah’s.  The caravan doesn’t just happen to come along.  Yes, in our lives nature, the bad decisions of others, and our own poor choices can cause us hardship and trial.  But in it all, God is still present.  God still has the bigger picture in sight.  His plans for us are ultimately for good and to prosper us.  As Joseph’s story unfolds, trials continue to come yet God remains at work always.  The same is true for us.  As the story of our lives unfold, may we trust into the God who loves us and seeks good for us.


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In All Things

Reading: Romans 8: 31-39

Verse 37: In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Paul opens our passage with a great question.  He asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us”?  He opens this section with a question and the answer leads to his first point.  That point is that if God have His only Son then He will certainly give us anything else we need too.  God is our ultimate good Father who will give us all good things because He loves us.

The next question, who will condemn, is asked in a similar way – to set up the answer.  It is a legitimate question because in our lives we do much that deserves condemnation from a God who is perfect in all ways.  But condemnation is not what we receive.  Instead we receive forgiveness and love.  Instead of being condemned by the one who was without sin, we are defended by Jesus.  Jesus intercedes for us before the Father.  He who has walked in our shoes speaks up for us in heaven.

The third question has the best answer.  Paul asks, “Who will separate us from the love of God”?  The answer is quite a list.  In reality the answer is nothing can separate us.  Paul lists some of the common things that can separate us – persecution, famine, danger, nakedness, death, demons, worry about the future.  Tying back into our recent parables, these are the thorns and weeds along our path.  Yet when we remain faithful and keep our hope and trust in God, we find that nothing can separate us from the love of God we find in Jesus Christ.  It is a deep and eternal love.  It is an everlasting and encompassing love.  It is a love for which I am very grateful.

The God who is for us, the God who gives forgiveness instead of condemnation, brings us victory.  “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.  Thank you God for the victory.


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Who Will Rescue?

Reading: Romans 7: 15-25

Verse 15: For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Paul’s honest passage surely hits home.  The struggle with sin is one we all face on an almost daily basis.  Even as one matures in the faith and the daily walk of life seems to be going quite well, all of a sudden sin rears its ugly head and we wonder where that came from.  Paul also begins by expressing that he does not understand how this happens.  He writes, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, we want to follow Him daily and to have our lives reflect His love to others.  This is what we want to do.  Yet we often fail to do this all of the time.  Instead we get caught up in ourselves and in the smallness of life and we find ourselves doing what we hate.

Paul attributes the cause of this struggle to the sin living within him.  He is aware of the desire to sin that lives in him and in all of us.  It is so because we are of the world.  All around us are reminders to gratify self instead of seeking to please God.  Satan is constantly at work within us, trying to bring us off the narrow path that leads to true life and onto the wide road that leads to death.  The evil one also tries to have a hand in preventing us from doing the good we desire to do.  He brings up doubts and fears and makes us question ourselves, making it sometimes hard to do the good we desire to do.

It would seem that all is lost.  It is not.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law”.  For all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we too know the light and love that lives in our hearts.  It is the courage and strength to face each day and to do the good we desire to do.  It is also the peace that passes understanding that helps us past the storms and past the doubts and fears we face.  Paul closes by admitting that he is weak and wretched.  So are we.  But we are not alone.  Paul asks, “Who will rescue me”?  The same one who rescues us all.  The passage concludes with the answer to this question: Jesus Christ!  To He alone who can rescue, we join Paul in saying thanks be to God.


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All for Jesus

Reading: Matthew 10: 24-39

Verse 30: Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Couched within this difficult passage are words of love and care.  Jesus has commissioned the twelve to go out in the beginning of Matthew 10 and now He is preparing them.  Jesus is letting them know that it will challenge them but also encouraging them to “proclaim for the roofs” what is whispered in their ears.  We too will be led by the Holy Spirit when we are willing to go out and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.  The power and presence of the Holy Spirit will whisper in our ear and give us the words we need to share.

In the middle section of our passage, Jesus emphasizes “do not fear” three times.  He is building them up for service.  He is assuring them that God deeply values them.  Jesus tells them, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered”.  He is saying God knows them intimately.  God knows us in the same way.  He knows us so well that the small detail of the number of hairs on our head is precisely known by God.  Jesus notes that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing.  So how much more are we in God’s eyes.  He says, do not worry, God has us.

The passage ends with the call to take up the cross.  For those disciples,who have literally seen people take up a cross on the way to their death, this call would have real meaning.  Jesus is asking them to be prepared to give their all.  Knowing what Jesus did on the cross, we too know what He asks of us.  Jesus is asking for our all.  The cost of discipleship can be high today as well.  To walk as Jesus walked, to be like the teacher, is hard.  But with God’s love and care and with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the difficult is made possible.  We are loved by a God who knows us intimately.  With our God all is possible.  As we go forth, being light and love, we go with God and the Spirit, empowered to transform the world.