pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Slumber

Reading: Romans 13: 11-14

Verse 11: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber.

Paul opens today’s passage with this great line: “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber”.  For Paul, his faith always seemed to carry a sense of urgency.  Not only did Paul live each day like it could be his last, but he wanted all believers to do so as well.  Not only that, but Paul also lived with this urgency that each day may be a non-believer’s last day so they needed to be saved now.

If today were your last day, would you live it any differently than any other day?  If we are living as Paul implores us to – clothed in Jesus Christ – then, no, we would not live today any differently.  Although deep down we know this should be our answer to the question, the reality for most of us is that we’d live the day very differently.

When we hear and ponder the words “wake up from your slumber” all of our minds can quickly come up with some things that we should wake up from.  Paul is talking about our faith in today’s passage and if we limit it to that topic, even then we could all come up with a thing or two.  Or more.  Even though we know deep down… we procrastinate, we think “tomorrow…”, we…  Just like that exercise regimen or that diet plan, we say we will get to that at the start of next week and a month later we still have not begun to read our Bible each morning or to pray each night before heading off to sleep.

Paul writes, “our salvation is nearer now…”  While this is absolutely true, too many of us fail to live like it is true.  Even the greatest of saints alive today could name a thing or two that would better or more fully “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Surely we can too.  May we step out into the light and surely and steadfastly “put on the armor of light” as we live out our faith each and every day.

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Choose Jesus

Reading: Matthew 11: 25-30

Verse 29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls.

Jesus invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him.  In the time Jesus lived, many met these conditions.  The Romans who ruled the land extracted high taxes that was a great burden to many.  Their different gods and laws also placed a burden on the people.  Living in this kind of oppression made the people weary.  And for many, the Jewish Law added another layer.  It was burdensome and made people even more weary.  From Jesus’ perspective the Law was cumbersome and impossible to keep on one’s own.

Today many people feel weary and burdened.  The lifestyle people live brings these conditions upon them.  For some it is self-imposed and for others it is their reality.  Some in our society choose to be so busy and involved in so many things that they feel like they are always running on empty.  Others in our society feel weary and burdened because of their circumstances in life.  Some in this group work and work but feel like they never can get to a place of stability and peace.  The money never seems to cover all the bills and the choice must be made between food and electricity.  Others in this group are weary and burdened because of addictions or abusive behaviors and always feel trapped and hopeless.

Jesus called out to all the people of His day and continues to call out to us today who feel weary and burdened.  Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… You will find rest for your souls”.  He invites us to walk a different path, to live a better way.  It begins by being yoked to Jesus.  This begins by professing Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives and dedicating our life to following Him.  In doing so, we commit to learning from Jesus and the example He set.  One may wonder, why take on more?  Because Jesus will bring you rest.  He will help carry those burdens and troubles.  He will give strength and courage to face those sins and demons.  With Jesus’ yoke we find contentment and peace in our lives.  To all who are weary and burdened, choose Jesus, for “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  Choose Jesus.


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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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God Kept the Dark

Reading: Genesis 1: 1-30

Verse Two: … darkness was over the surface… the Spirit of God was hovering.

The creation narrative begins with the world being formless and empty.  There was darkness over the surface and “the Spirit of God was hovering”.  Sometimes we feel as if life were a bit formless or out of control and sometimes we feel a tad empty.  Life would not be the same if the world were void of these times.  God’s first act of creation is to form the light.  God chooses to separate light from dark instead of simply eliminating the darkness.

As Christians we often look at light as good and at dark as evil.  We reference Jesus as being light and we pursue “walking in the light” as a way to represent following Jesus.  We use the phrase “shine the light” to describe living out our faith as we seek to share our faith with others.  The implication here is that our ‘light’ drives away or at least exposes darkness.  And it does.  In the end, we know that light will triumph over the dark because only light can drive away darkness.  Darkness simply cannot drive away light.

Although we prefer to walk in the light, at times we​ do struggle with the dark.  On one level, sin and temptation are always near, lurking right around the edges as Satan is always at work.  On another level, life itself sometimes brings darkness.  In this sense, it is not necessarily evil.  It comes in a loss we experience or maybe it is caused by the actions of another person.  Sometimes we find ourselves in darkness as a result of our sins.  In any case, being here is uncomfortable and maybe painful.  We do not like being here.  But God kept the dark for a reason.  It is here, in the dark of the valleys, that we must trust and hold onto God the most.  It is here that we learn how much we need God.  It is often here that our faith grows the most.

We love the light.  This is our preference.  It is where we are called to live as here we reflect God’s love back out into the world.  The light is also our hope in times of darkness.  For God’s presence in both the light and the dark, we say thanks be to God.


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Trust

Reading: Psalm 31: 1-5 and 15-16

Verses 1 and 2: In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge… be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Today’s Psalm 31 verses really represent the best of King David, “a man after God’s own heart”.  It demonstrates for each of us the relationship we all should strive for with God.  It speaks of refuge, strength, redemption, and deliverance.  In the verses not in our reading, the Psalm recalls some of the trials and sufferings of David’s life.  It is good to balance out the verses we read with a reminder that even the great King David hadn’t his struggles as well.  As we too face trials, temptations, and struggles it is good to know that we are not alone.  To acknowledge this makes the verses for today all that much more relevant to each of us.

At times, life does seem to storm about us.  The Psalm opens with David taking refuge in God.  There is a trust in this action that we should emulate as well.  Seeking refuge in God signals our admission of our inability to handle it or solve it on our own.  It admits our absolute need for God.  David goes on to extend the place of refuge to be a place of leadership and guidance.  Once David feels the safety and protection of God’s refuge, then he begins to seek the next steps.  David asks God to lead and guide him.  He does not say, “The storm has calmed” and then step back out on his own.  David’s example maintains the trust in God and the dependence on God.  We would do well to follow his example.

The last two verses of our reading reiterate these points.  David writes, “my times are in your hands” and asks for God’s face to shine upon him.  He also seeks saving through God’s unfailing love.  All we have and are rests in God’s hands as well.  May we trust into this reality as we spend our days.  When we trust and love God with all of our being, His face shines upon us too and we will certainly walk each day in the light of His love.  Amen!


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Pleasing God

Reading: Ephesians 5: 8-14

Verses 8 and 10 – Live as children of the light… and find out what pleases God.

Paul opens this passage with a statement that is true at times: “you were once darkness”.  Before accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we were in darkness.  Once we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we live in the light.  But I don’t think we are ever fully free from the darkness.  We do not dwell there, but we visit from time to time.  We all have moments when the light does not shine, moments or even seasons, when we say or do things that are definitely not holy or godly.  The light within us rises up and shines and brings conviction as our sins are exposed and become visible.  This leads to repentance and a return to living in the light.  Living as children of the light is a daily effort.  It is only through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit that we begin to have a chance.  Coupled with the support, love, grace, encouragement, accountability… from our communities of faith, we can live a life as a child of God – pleasing God and bringing glory and honor to His name.

What can one do to please God?  First, it begins with our individual lives being pleasing to God.  This means honoring the two great commandments: love God with all we are and love neighbor as Christ first loved us.  It means being Jesus’ hands and feet, it means being a servant to all, it means placing the needs of others above our own needs.  Second, we shine the light out into the world.  We allow others to see Christ’s love in us.  They experience and meet Jesus Christ through us.  This draws others in to His love.  At times, the light will shine into other’s darkness.  In these moments, we cannot turn away.  Sometimes the darkness that gets exposed is in those we meet.  It is scary to step out of the dark.  As children of the light, we must take their hand and guide them on their journey of faith.  And sometimes the light shines on injustice or poverty or prejudice or oppression or …  We cannot turn away from these either.  As children of God, we must stand against all forms of evil and darkness.  We must be present here too, always working to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.

This day and every day, may we”live as children of the light”, bringing God all the honor and glory that He is due.


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However He Comes

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 19-21

Peter begins by helping us remember the words of the prophets, words that draw us to Jesus and to God.  Prophets like Moses and Elijah, who he saw in the transfiguration, and prophets like Samuel and Isaiah – all men who spoke the word that God has placed in their mouths.  In his reference to light shining in the darkness, Peter draws in John the Baptist, another prophet who pointed people to the Messiah, just as all the Old Testament prophets ultimately do as well.  As modern day disciples of Jesus, this is our call as well: to draw others to the light, to the Messiah.

Sometimes we think of the light of Jesus as a slowly growing presence, a light that steadily bathes one in His encompassing love.  This love gradually progresses in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.  This is often the norm for those raised in the church.  They would say they have always known Jesus.  But this is not the pattern for all believers.

In the original Hebrew, the word we have translated as dawn has a more piercing, more sudden connotation to it.  Think of turning on a bright flashlight after spending several moments in a dark cave.  The light is sudden.  It is sharp.  The light pierces through.  Some are experience Jesus this way.  Life is as it has always been.  Then all of a sudden, Jesus comes charging in, taking center stage in their life.  

Jesus can enter in a similar way for believers as well.  We go along as always.  Then suddenly Jesus bursts into our daily routine unexpectedly.  Maybe it is a sudden revelation of a truth as we pray or study our Bible.  Maybe it is in a surprising conviction we suddenly feel.  Maybe it is in an urge or nudge we feel to reach out to someone.  Or maybe it is an experience like Peter, James, and John had, up on the mountain top.  This day, may we be open to the presence of our living Savior, however He may come today.