pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God Invites Us Deeper

Reading: Lamentations 1: 1-6

Verse 2: “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks”.

One cannot hardly help reading these verses and being drawn into the sadness of the situation. God has been just in exiling the people because of their sins. Yet the barrenness and emptiness of Jerusalem evoke feelings of sadness and mourning in us thousands of years later. In our hearts we can easily empathize when we read, “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks”. Perhaps tears roll down our cheeks.

In our own lives we too will experience hardship, loss, death, change, separation, and maybe even exile. Sometimes these experiences come upon us not because of anything we have done or not done. We simply find ourselves present in the valley. These experiences can be hard and painful. They vary too. There is grief and sadness, for example, when a 92-year-old faithful saint passes on. Yet our reading from Lamentations feels more like the unexpected loss of a young child. In such instances we weep like the woman who cries bitter tears, not quite understanding the reality that she finds herself in.

At other times we have a hand in the calamity that brings us to the valley. There were many who went into exile and some left behind that were guilty of the sins that precipitated God’s action. When we have been guilty and experience hardship or worse because of our choices or actions, we must acknowledge the role we played before offering repentance and seeking reconciliation. This can be a process. Denial and blame shifting can prolong the exile. For Israel, the exile lasted a long time. There was much work to do. We too can remain there for a period of time if we refuse to admit our role or to acknowledge our imperfections.

Whether we are “innocent victims” or if we had a role in the hardship or failure or “exile”, these experiences offer us the opportunity for transformation and growth. In the valleys we are reminded both of our inability to solve all things and of God’s omnipotent ability to do anything. From the valley, God invites us into deeper relationship as we walk the shadows. God’s hand reaches out in love, seeking to heal and transform us into something new. In faith may we reach out to God, our rock and redeemer, our rescuer and restorer, our healer and our salvation.

Prayer: Lord of Lords, the valley is an uncomfortable place to be. The feeling of isolation and grief are hard to bear. Help me to walk with you, to lean upon you. I know you do not want me to bear them alone. Bend my face to yours, hold my hand tightly. Guide me through to once again walk fully in your light and love. Amen.


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God’s Will

Reading: Hebrews 10: 5-10

Verse 7: “Here I am… I have come to do your will, O God”.

Much of the Old Testament covers the when, what, how, and why of the sacrificial system that atoned for sin. Chapter after chapter details this system. In many ways temple sacrifice was a core element of the Jewish faith. Yet, sprinkled here and there in the Old Testament are verses like the one that Jesus quoted from Psalm 40. When an offering or sacrifice became just a motion they were going through, it displeased God. When the same sacrifice was given over and over because the sin was repeated too, it displeased God. The act of atonement had to include repentance in the heart.

At times I have been guilty of this too. I have asked for forgiveness without a full commitment to repent of that sin. I felt guilty enough to confess but not enough to change. I have gone to church or MYF or men’s group because I was supposed to, had a poor attitude the whole time, and left just as empty as when I came. I have helped my neighbor or the stranger I met not because I wanted to or was led to but because it was my “job”. We have all been there (or close to there).

In verse 7 Jesus quotes Psalm 40, saying, “Here I am… I have come to do your will, O God”. This is reminiscent of Samuel and others who responded faithfully when God called. Samuel and many like him had a heart willing to follow God and His ways. This too was the heart of Jesus. His purpose was to do the will of God. All day, every day. Jesus lived with a heart ever centered on God’s will. It showed in all He did and said. Jesus exemplified obedience and this allowed Him to be God’s love and mercy lived out to the fullest. May we go and be like Jesus, doing God’s will always.

Prayer: Lord, prepare me to be your servant each and every day. Mold me, shape me, refine me to follow Jesus’ way. Help me to become less each day so that my life glorifies you more and more. Amen.


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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!


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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!