pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Light

Reading: Psalm 36: 5-10

Verses 7 and 9: “Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings… in your light we see light”.

Where I live and in many parts of the world we are about half way through the season of darkness that comes every winter. The darkness builds to December 21 and then slowly recedes. We often go to work in the dark and come home from work in the dark. The dark affects us all – rich and poor, black and white, male and female. We long for more light.

We experience darkness in other ways too. Some of the time it is spiritual – sin has gotten ahold of us or we have become lazy in our spiritual disciplines and we feel as if the source of light and love in our lives is distant. Sometimes it is caused by life – the loss of a loved one puts us in a funk or illness runs us down and we pull into ourselves. In all these cases, we sense the darkness and we long for light.

The psalmist reminds us where to turn. He writes, “Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings”. Because we all experience seasons of darkness, both spiritually and physically, we all have times when we need the refuge found in God. It is offered to all – high and low, rich and poor, black and white, male and female. We are all God’s children and God loves us all deeply. God desires to be our refuge and more. God wants to be our peace, our hope, our strength, our comfort, our all.

When we reach out to God our darkness fades. In our Psalm today we also read, “in your light we see light”. God relieves our darkness with His light. God’s light and love shines into our dark places. God’s light lifts us up and we begin to be the light, sharing the light with others. May we call and wait upon the source of light every day. May we then be filled by the light so that we can be the light for those struggling with or living in darkness. May it be so. Amen!

Prayer: Lord of light, may I walk in the light. You are the light. Draw me in as a moth to a flame. Draw me in with your love. May the light in me shine out, lighting the way for others. Amen.

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Great High Priest

Reading: Hebrews 5: 5-10

Verse 7: “He offered up prayers and petitions… and He was heard because of His reverent submission”.

In Judaism, the role of high priest was very important. In Jesus’ day, the high priest led the group of priests both religiously and politically. The Sanhedrin governed all aspects of a Jew’s life, except when Roman law trumped all else. As long as the Jews followed Roman law, the Sanhedrin held much sway in Jewish society. To be chosen high priest meant you led the group who led the people – this would be the pinnacle of anyone’s priestly career.

For the writer of Hebrews to identify Jesus as the great high priest forever is a significant claim. In the mind of the Jews, this would mean that Jesus is the leader of the faith forever. In His time on earth Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions… and He was heard because of His reverent submission”. He played the role of priest but He did so not from a place of arrogance or authority, but from a place of submission and humility. This is much different than the picture we get of the Pharisees and other religious leaders to in the New Testament.

The office of great high priest is eternal for Jesus. Our passage says, “once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who over Him”. Once He was perfected through the cross, Jesus took His rightful place beside the Father, making a way for all who faithfully follow Him. In His role as great high priest, Jesus continues to offer prayers and petitions on our behalf. He who experienced life on Earth now intercedes between God and us – those who still living life on earth. In this role, Jesus stands between us and God and mediates for us. He who was once flesh now represents us who are still flesh. Jesus is on our side. Thanks be to God. Amen!

Jesus, thank you for standing between God and my failures. Thank you for continuing to wash away my sins, sparing me the consequences I so deserve. Your grace and love are amazing gifts. Thank you for being my great high priest. Amen.


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Great High Priest

Reading: Hebrews 4: 12-16

Verse 12: “The word of God is living and active… it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart”.

Today’s passage is a great two-part message. First, we read that “the word of God is living and active”. Initially this speaks of the words we find in the Bible. The passage we read last year suddenly has new meaning and life as we read it anew this week. The passage that did not seem to have much relevance last week springs back into our mind today, offering application into a situation or decision we face. The living word of God remains ever alive, always able to speak into our lives.

The word is also the Word, Jesus Christ. By extension this is, for us, also the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ words and example and the Holy Spirit’s activity in our life bring not only guidance but also conviction: “it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart”. Verses 13 and 14 conclude this section reminding us that God sees and knows all – we cannot hide our sins from God. All is “uncovered and laid bare” before the One who will judge us. Being sinful creatures by nature, to this point in our passage it would seem that we are in deep trouble. Not so.

The second half if our passage addresses the realities of the first half. Here we find our truth, our promise, our hope. First, we have a great high priest, Jesus Christ, who sympathizes with our weakness. When Jesus was in the flesh, He felt the temptations we feel. Jesus was without sin, but because of His experience on earth, He can intercede for us before the throne of God. Therefore, we are encouraged to “hold firmly to the faith we profess” because Jesus is on our side.

This second half concludes with our encouragement and our hope: “let us approach the throne of grace with confidence”. We approach the throne of grace, not the throne of judgment or condemnation. The price has been paid. Our great high priest’s work on the cross is finished. The power of sin and death have been defeated. Therefore we approach a throne where we receive “mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. When we are weak, He is strong. When we fail, He offers only mercy and grace, restoring us to righteousness. Thanks be to God for our great high priest, Jesus Christ.

O Lord, today I am reminded of your power and majesty. I am humbled by your love, poured out in mercy and grace. Thank you for the words if truth, for the active and living presence of the Holy Spirit, and for your Son, my great high priest. Strengthen me today for the battle. Walk with me step by step. Amen.


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Power from on High

Reading: Luke 24: 44-53

Verse 51: While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.

Just prior to today’s passage, the two who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus return and tell the disciples about their encounter with the risen Lord.  In the midst of the conversation that follows, Jesus appears to the disciples.  He begins by saying, “Peace be with you”.  Surprisingly, they were “startled and frightened” so Jesus shows them His hands and feet.  To reassure them He says, “It is I!” but there is still doubt.  So Jesus takes a piece of fish and eats it in their presence.  It is as if Jesus we’re saying, ‘See, I am real’.  This is where today’s passage picks up.

Jesus then goes on to explain all that is written about Him in “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”.  Just as He had with the Emmaus pair, Jesus did this to open their minds so they could fully understand and know who and what He was and to help them understand where He was going now.  He again promises them “power from on high” – the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus then leads them out near Bethany, offers them one last blessing, and is taken up into heaven.  We can only assume that this is one of the things that Jesus had just explained as He taught them and opened their minds.  The disciples worship Jesus right then and there and then return to the city with great joy.  They go to the temple and continue to lift their praises to God.  The disciples know that Jesus has ascended and that they have been promised this “power from on high”.  No wonder they are filled with joy!

In the 2000+ years since, Jesus has continued to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He continues to intercede on our behalf.  The promise of “power from on high” remains in effect.  When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us as a daily presence of Jesus.  It is also our reason to be filled with joy.  No matter what life brings, we do not walk alone.  His presence is always with us.  May we too offer our praises to God this day!


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Never Lets Go

Reading: Psalm 23

Verse four reads, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”  In my mind this triggers a song that uses this line.  The song refers to God’s perfect love casting out fear.  The pre-chorus begins with “And I will fear no evil” and goes on with, ‘because my God is with me’ then poses the question” ‘whom then shall I fear?’

In life we certainly have times when we do walk in the shadow of death.  The ‘death’ may be a physical loss of a dear friend or loved one, but it can also include the loss of a friendship or the end of a job, the end of a marriage or moving to a new town.  Some of these losses are new beginnings in life so there is joy as well, but we must also acknowledge the sadness of what is no more.

In Psalm 23 we get a palpable sense of loss for David.  We also get a real sense of his confidence that God will always be there.  David has experienced his share of dark times and has learned that God continues to remain present through these times as well.

This is something we tend to learn the hard way.  We tend to be individualistic and to try and do things on our own.  Too often we turn to God only when all of our own efforts have failed.  But as we do this over and over, we come to realize our need for God sooner and sooner and we turn to Him quicker and quicker.  We come to learn what David learned: God is always there.

The chorus to the song rings out, ‘Oh no, you never let go; in every high and every low; oh no, you never let go; Lord, you never let go of me.’  In every high and especially in every low, may we always remember that God never lets go of us.  May we cling to Him, for He is always present, always seeking to hold us close.


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His Great Love

God desires our openness and willingness of heart so that the Holy Spirit may dwell within each of us.  When we welcome in the Holy Spirit, we welcome in Christ.  When we are willing to live with Jesus Christ in our hearts, we begin to understand just how wide, long, deep, and high God’s love is for each of us.  With the understanding we begin to be rooted in that love; it becomes the core of who we are.

As communities of faith or congregations, this deep abiding love is what unites us.  The love of God draws us to one another in loving, caring relationships.  This love and sense of Christ dwelling in and among us begins to drive what we do as a people of faith.  This vast love of God takes the lead on how we love one another and how we love our neighbors.

God by nature and Jesus in example were all about being full of love.  When our cup is full of this love we are best able to extend and share His love with those in need of that love.  As our cup is filled by God, we begin to experience a life lived in His presence.

This love leads us to serve others, to care for others, and to minister to others.  We no longer seek to be in control or to hold onto power.  Instead we seek to empower others to live lives of faith and to claim this wide, long, deep, high love that God offers for themselves.  This love becomes contagious.  May we be contagious today.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 14-19


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Together

As we move toward Holy Week, we must have a sense that we need to be prepared to walk with Jesus through the trials of the last week of His life.  At times on that journey, the forces of evil were in full force.  It is at times physically painful, at times emotionally painful and at times it is even spiritually painful.

Psalm 118: 24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  This verse can apply to each day in the week ahead.  Every morning when we begin our day, we can use this verse to garner strength for whatever may come personally and for being present in the events of the week as we walk with Jesus.  Every day God has made.  All things of that day too.  It is a mater of attitude to give each day to God.

It is also a matter of company.  The ‘let us rejoice’ is plural.  We are all in this together. All Christians should walk through Holy Week together with Jesus.  Whether your community is your small group, your church, or the group that reads this today, there is power in practicing our faith together.  There is unity and there is strength.

Holy Weeks is a week of highs and lows.  At times the forces of evil seem to rule the day and at times God is clearly triumphant.  It is as important to celebrate the highs together as well as to walk through the tough stuff together.  May our faith draw us together as we prepare to journey with Jesus through Holy Week.

Scripture reference: Psalm 118: 19-24