pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

All About Love

Reading: Psalm 1

Verse Six: “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous”.

Psalm One is about delighting in the Law of the Lord. It speaks of the blessing and protection one lives in when one chooses to live out the Law. It also speaks of the consequences of not doing so. This Psalm is written from the Jewish perspective but it applies equally well to Christianity.

A devout Jew would make every effort to follow the Torah. To them it was a way of life. It was much more than a list of rules that one must follow. Obedience was not perfect and when a Jew sinned a sacrifice would be made, as prescribed by the Law. A devout Jew would study and meditate on the Law all of their lives, ever drawing closer to complete obedience.

A faithful Christian makes every effort to walk in the ways of Jesus. To us this is a way of life. It is much more than a list of dos and don’ts that one must follow. Obedience is not perfect and when we sin, the sacrifice has been made, fulfilled on the cross. A faithful Christian studies and meditates on the Word all of their lives, ever drawing closer and closer to Jesus.

The psalmist knows the Law well. He delights in following the Law. Today, as followers of Jesus, we too delight in living as Jesus lived, drawing joy from life. Jesus himself valued the Law. He told us that He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it. Jesus came to be the ultimate example of how to live out the Law. Jesus even identified the two greatest commands: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love and more love. God and His Law are all about love. Jesus and His life are all about love. May we also be all about love.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Astonished

Reading: Acts 10: 44-48

Verse 44: “While he was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message”.

All of us like order and rules. Having structure to our lives brings us a sense of comfort and peace. When we know what to do and what to expect, it removes the stress and the anxiety of the unknown. I think that is why it is hard for many of us to fully trust the Holy Spirit to lead our lives. You just never know how and where the Spirit might lead.

Peter was born and raised into the Jewish faith and worldview. He, like many of the apostles, we’re steeped in the Jewish faith with all of its laws and requirements. The Jews were the chosen people – the only chosen people. But in a vision God revealed to Peter that all people were clean because all people were created by God. Then, earlier in Acts 10 and just after this vision, the Spirit leads Peter to go to the house of a Gentile. With some reluctance, Peter goes. This is where we meet up with Peter today in our passage. As if to prove that God is still fully in charge we read, “While he was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message”. Right in the middle of his sermon, the Holy Spirit invades. Did not wait for him to finish. Did not wait for the altar call. Just bam! The Holy Spirit goes to work and enters people who are Gentiles. No circumcision, no profession of faith, no nothing. What about all the rules and requirements?

The Holy Spirit totally disrupted Peter’s understanding of the world, telling him there are no clean and unclean, no Jew and Gentile in God’s world. And then the Spirit tosses aside the “that’s just how we do things around here” traditions and comes to dwell in the hearts of these Gentiles. Peter and the believers who came with him are astonished.

When we really allow the Holy Spirit free reign in our lives, then we too will be astonished. May it be so today.


1 Comment

An Honest Look

Reading: Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Verse 33: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

A new covenant. A new promise. Hope. Opportunity. How we sometimes long for a fresh or new start. For the Israelites long in captivity in Babylon this word from Jeremiah had to bring great hope. Suddenly there was possibility and hope ahead again. They must have certainly felt like the old covenant was a thing of the past. They were living without a temple and without the systems that had connected them to God. Oddly enough they saw change as a good thing. They did not simply want a return to the way things were. Where they were spiritually and relationally was broken and needed changed. They were full of joy to hear, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.

Today we can find ourselves here too. Sometimes it comes out of nowhere. For example, one day we find out that our job has been eliminated or that our spouse is asking for divorce. These types of disruptions are forced upon us and we have no choice but to adapt. But sometimes it is a slow creep instead. This happens in life sometimes. We look up and suddenly realize where we’ve gotten to and know in an instant that something must change. Sometimes this can happen in our institutions as well. Our church that used to have hundreds in worship and dozens in Sunday school suddenly seems a bit empty and without much life. At this point, whether personally or institutionally, we can look for and seek for God to do a new thing or we can continue the slow fade. Sometimes this is the easier choice.

We are still in Lent, so I challenge you to look within – to both yourself and to your church. Do you see growth and movement forward or do you see plateau or regression, complacency or death? These are hard questions to consider. Take an honest look within and go to God accordingly.


1 Comment

The Law

Reading: Psalm 19: 7-14

Verse Eleven: “By them [the Law] is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward”.

The Law that began simply with the Ten Commandments is the core of the Old Testament and Jewish religious practices. The Law is what defines the relationship between God and the chosen people. The Law also teaches how God expects His people to be in relationship with each other. Yes, over time the Law became a man-made beast with over six hundred rules or statutes. It was practically impossible to keep all of the Law. Yes, in the New Testament we see a shift away from the rigid Law with all of its punishments and consequences to a covenant relationship with Jesus based upon love and grace. Because of all this, the Law tends to have a bad reputation in Christian circles.

Today, I invite you to consider the Law from the psalmist’s perspective. At its core, the Law is good and holy because it is from God. Even Jesus said He did not come to abolish but to fulfill the Law. The psalmist sees the Law as it was intended. Listen to the words he uses to describe the Law: perfect, trustworthy, giving joy to the heart and light to the eyes, more precious than gold. Instead of seeing the Law as something that limited and only dealt in consequences, the psalmist sees the Law as providing structure and guidance in his relationship with God. The Law is seen as the teacher. With the Law we learn of our shortcomings; this leads us to walk a more holy path and to recognize our need for God.

In these ways the Law is not much different than the ways of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus was all about showing us how to live out God’s love in the world. Jesus was all about the relationships He had with God and with His fellow man. These things too are the essence of the Law. The psalmist wrote, “By them [the Law] is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward”. The reward comes in knowing God better and in having a fuller understanding of our relationships with God and with each other. May we be open to the Law and all that it reveals about God, His love, His plan for creation, and His intent for humanity. Jesus is still our way, truth, and life. But there is also much to learn from the Law.


1 Comment

Extraordinary

Reading: Luke 2: 22-40

Verse 22: “Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”.

Has something surprising happened when you did not expect it?  Can you remember a time when your routine was interrupted by something extraordinary?  When we are faithful, sometimes God shows up in the most unexpected or in the unlikeliest of ways.

On the last Sunday of each month our church has been offering a free meal to the community.  We have had some guests from the community but we’re not getting much response.  Our outreach meal was mostly feeding about 30-40 people from our church.  After six months of meals, I prayed for guidance and direction and was questioning if we should continue the meal.  Then God sent Alma.  She connected the offer of free food with the segment of our community with such a need.  For the December meal we fed over 120 people, most of them a direct result of Alma’s efforts.  God made things happen in an unexpected and surprising way.  Thanks be to God!

The time came for Mary and Joseph to present their child in the temple.  As was according to the Law, they went to the temple and took with them the needed sacrifice.  They were doing what thousands and thousands of devout Jewish parents had always done.  It was a simple trip to and from Jerusalem, maybe do a little shopping while we’re there kind of trip.  But as they are in the temple, God sends not one but two special people to speak about their son.  God suddenly bursts into the ordinary of life.

Our fellowship meal had become a monthly meal where people from our church gathered to eat, fellowship, and spend time together.  Although not really what it was designed for, it was a good thing that was happening.  And then Alma happened.

This is Mary and Joseph’s story too.  Travel, arrive, circumcise, present, offer sacrifice, … and then Simeon happens.  He tells them that Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many.  And then Anna happens.  She tells them that this child will be the redemption of Jerusalem.  God bursts in and Mary and Joseph are amazed.

Where is God going to burst into your life and your world in extraordinary ways?  Are you looking?  Are you praying?  Is the Spirit within you willing?  May the Lord our God do amazing things this day in our lives!


Leave a comment

Grabbed

Reading: Philippians 3: 4b-9

Verse Seven: Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Saul had a really good life.  His religious life checked off all the boxes: circumcised as an infant, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, great zeal for his religion, a faultless follower of the Law.  To Saul, he was as faithful to God as anyone.  From his perspective on top of the pedestal, he looked pretty good.

But then Saul met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.  He went through a powerful transformation experience.  The new Christian, Paul, writes, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Jesus Christ”.  All the titles, all the accolades, the view from the pedestal – they all are lost.  In the next verse Paul calls all these things “rubbish”.  For Paul, they are pale and worthless compared to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”.  What a change has been wrought in Paul!

At times, some look at faith as Saul did – a series of rules to follow or boxes to check.  Baptized as a baby, came back to church for a dose of confirmation, returned maybe for graduation or to get married.  For others it is a bit deeper – come most Sunday mornings for the hour, say a short grace before meals, help out at the yearly ham dinner.  On the surface, their religion feels okay, maybe even good.  It would appear the requisite boxes were being checked off.

When Saul met Jesus, his life radically changed.  It wasn’t about saying that memorized prayer three times a day and eating only the “right” foods any more.  It wasn’t about coming that one hour on Sunday morning.   To Paul, the boxes were rote, they were false.  He gave up all “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him”.  Paul found a righteousness that comes not from the Law or anything he could do, but a righteousness that comes “from God and is by faith”.  Jesus reached out and grabbed Paul.  Life was never the same.

Has Jesus grabbed you?  Is self and all else loss for the sake of Christ?


Leave a comment

Imperfectly in Perfect

Reading: Psalm 19

Verses 7 and 12: The Law of the Lord is perfect… forgive my hidden faults.

Our Psalm for today begins by recognizing how the natural world shines forth God.  When one looks to the sky at night, one gains a sense of the vastness and power of God.  As the sun moves across the sky, we can sense God’s perfect plan at work.  The earth was placed at exactly the right distance from the sun – much closer or further and we could not have life on our planet.  The sun is described as a bridegroom bringing light and heat to all.  This is much like the Son who brings light and love to all.

In verse seven, the psalmist begins comparing God’s beautiful and perfect creation to God’s Law.  He writes, “the Law of the Lord is perfect”, trustworthy, right, and radiant.  The psslmists says the Law revives the soul, makes wise the simple, gives joy to the heart and light to the eyes.  These ordinances of God are “sure” and “righteous” and are “sweeter than honey”.  Reading all these descriptives the Law is much like the perfection and beauty of nature.  It is a wonderful thing to keep and a great place to be.  Verse eleven summarizes this: “By them is your servant warned, in keeping them there is great reward”.  All who walk daily with the Lord know this is true.

Even though we live in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and even though we know the law and have Jesus’ example, there are times when we choose to walk outside of God’s law and love.  There are times we sin.  In verse twelve we read, “forgive my hidden faults”.  The next verse seeks protection from “willful sins”.  Within the perfection of creation and beside God’s perfect law reside us humans.  Just as the psalmist does, so too must we recognize our absolute need for God’s grace and forgiveness.  Out of His perfect love God brought us Jesus Christ, so that through His perfect love we could be redeemed.  Each day may we choose to stand upon our Rock, seeking God as we dwell imperfectly in His perfect love.