pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Worship Him

Reading: Revelation 7: 13-17

Verse 17: “The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water”.

Earlier this week we read about the shepherd and the sheep. Jesus was the shepherd and we were the sheep. In our passage from Revelation, the shepherd has become the Lamb. At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus willingly and obediently gave His life as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and His blood forever washes away our sin. He does this so that we too can be made pure and holy, so that we too can come through the “great tribulation” to drink of the living waters one day in life eternal.

The Lamb, however, continues to be the Shepherd too. Jesus has and will continue to gather the faithful to Himself and has and will “spread His tent” over them in heaven. There He provides for them so that they will not hunger or thirst. The sun will not scorch because He is the light in heaven. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Love and peace shall reign as all gather around the throne to offer up their worship and praise.

Today, each in our time and place, may we also gather at the feet of Jesus, offering Him all of our worship and praise.

Prayer: Lord, may all of me worship all of you this day. All glory, praise, and honor to the One who sits on the throne in love. 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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Kind, Compassionate, Forgiving

Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Verse 32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you”.

“Live a life of love” is Paul’s advice in Ephesians 5:2. He explains that this means to love as Christ loved. Paul also reminds us of the way Jesus ultimately demonstrated the depth of His love for us. Paul reminds us that Jesus “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice”. That is a pretty big love. But Jesus did not save up His love so that He could show it all at once on the cross. Rather, He lived it out each and every day, each and every moment, often one person at a time. Perhaps, for you and I, this is a greater demonstration of love because we can model and practice this love too.

In verse 32 Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you”. There are three key words in this verse: kind, compassionate, and forgiving. All of these are driven by love. All three of these are important marks of a Christian.

Being kind goes a long way in our world and in our relationships. If you do not think so, try being as kind as you can to the first few grumpy people you meet today. Being kind does things like bringing a smile to someone’s face, lifting a spirit, reminding someone that they are valued and loved. Being kind can remove tension and anxiety and can build a sense of belonging. It can change attitudes and outlooks.

Being compassionate opens our eyes and hearts to seeing others and the needs that they have. Being compassionate tilts us towards stopping and engaging the other instead of passing them by. Compassion leads us to get to know them and their story, beginning to form a relationship with them.

Practicing forgiveness is a two-way street. Jesus reminded us in Luke 11 that to be forgiven we must be willing to forgive others. The same is true in the forgiveness that we share with each other. Forgiveness acknowledges that we are all human, that we all make mistakes. Practicing forgiveness also reminds us of God’s covenant with humanity – the one that says I will love you no matter what. When we practice forgiveness we are modeling Jesus’ love. It is what the cross was all about.

Be kind to one another. Forgive those who hurt and wrong you. Seek forgiveness when you have hurt or wronged another. See and feel with eyes and a heart of compassion. Model Jesus to others. Living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loved, we will be truly blessed.


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Creation

Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34 & 35b

Verse 24: “How many are your works, O Lord! In your wisdom you made them all”.

Here in south central South Dakota it looks a little gloomy this morning. It is overcast and breezy and a little cool. Outside my window I can hear the chorus of many birds filling the morning air. Along the front and side of the house flowers are blooming, bursting forth with color. The leaves on the trees are vibrant colors of green and the lush grass sways rhythmically in the gentle breeze. The world outside testifies to today’s opening verse: “How many are your works, O Lord! In your wisdom you made them all”. Thanks be to God!

If one steps outside my little corner of the world, the diversity of God’s creation grows exponentially. God’s creativity and wisdom brought us thousands of kinds of birds and thousands of kinds of fish and animals and trees and crops and flowers and… and… and… God designed a world that nourishes itself with rains and floods and cleanses itself with fires. He created the seasons not just to bring us variety but also to guide patterns of life. Our world is really an amazing place, all under God’s loving care. As verse 30 says, “You send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth”.

As creatures if this creation, as stewards, we play a role in helping to love our earth and all its creatures. Verse 31 reads, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever”. May it indeed! To this end, may we each play our role well, caring for all that God has blessed us with this day. May our praises to God give thanks for this gift of life all around us and may we rejoice in God’s creation today!


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A New Thing

Reading: John 2: 13-22

Verse Fifteen: “He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area.”

Today’s passage is one of those instances where we see Jesus is mad. He creates a big ruckus in the temple by driving out all the merchants who sold animals for sacrifices and the money changers who exchanged coins so that people could pay the temple tax.

Although there was certainly corruption in these two systems, they did help facilitate worship for many of the pilgrims who came to the three yearly festivals. For some pilgrims it was impractical and for others it was just easier to buy a dove or sheep or cow once they arrived at the temple to offer the sacrifice. Many of these pilgrims were from foreign countries and their own coins with earthly images could not be used to pay the temple tax.

So it seems odd at first that Jesus would disrupt something that is helping people to practice their faith. Maybe it was because they were taking advantage of a captive audience. Maybe it was because they were inside the temple courts instead of outside of the sacred space. Maybe it was because the people were simply going through the motions instead of giving up an animal that really meant something to them. Ultimately, though, I think it was because they were continuing a system that must change. Jesus came to be the new system. He came to be the final, perfect sacrifice for all humanity. Jesus came so that people would have faith based on a relationship rather than on the rule-keeping, works-based system that had evolved.

Sometimes in our churches we also hold onto practices and traditions that are antiquated or are not serving their purpose anymore. When change is suggested it is met with resistance and questioning. Yet when we get stuck in some of our ruts, church feels stale, old, dead. It has ceased to be vibrant and life-giving. Yes, some traditions and practices still have great value and are great pieces of how we worship and grow closer to God. But not always. So may we trust into the Holy Spirit and seek the new thing God may be worked in our midst. Amen.


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Connection

Reading: Isaiah 61:10 to 62:3

Verse Three: “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand”.

Today’s passage from Isaiah has both personal and corporate aspects of righteousness.  It begins on the personal level with Isaiah praising God for his “garments of salvation” and his “robe of righteousness”.  God has blessed Isaiah with these things because Isaiah has been faithful to God’s word and because he has been true in his calling to be the voice of God for the nation of Israel.  Isaiah also sees signs that God is at work in the lives of the people.  In verse eleven Isaiah speaks of God preparing the people Israel, like a farmer prepares the soil for a new crop, so that “righteousness and praise will spring up” leading Israel to be restored or to be born anew.

In our passage, the transition from chapter 61 to 62 is where the melding of personal and corporate righteousness begins to take place.  Isaiah writes of Zion – the people of God.  He also writes of Jerusalem – the city of God.  The people are in exile.  As a people of God they seem to have lost some of their connection to God, to being God’s chosen people.  Being in exile can make one question who you are.  After these many years in exile, they long to return to their home land and to Jerusalem, the center of their nation.  Isaiah is speaking of a restoration of both Zion and Jerusalem as he writes, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand”.  What words of hope!

In our lives and in our churches today we can experience times like Zion and the nation of Israel are feeling.  There can be times or even seasons when we seem to have lost our way or feel like we are in exile.  God desires to speak into these times or seasons as well.  God still desires to see His people clothed in salvation and righteousness.  If we delve into the scriptures, we will find a connection between living a holy life and being invested in the disciplines of our faith – reading and meditating on the Word, spending regular time in prayer and worship, serving those in need.  It is when we participate in these habits of the faith that we are preparing our soil for righteousness and praise to sprout up.  It is through these disciplines that we come to lead a holy life.  Then God will indeed clothe us in a robe of righteousness that will lead to salvation.

When we get away from being who and what God calls us to be – whether personally or as a community of faith – we lose our connection to God.  Just as He did with Zion and Jerusalem, God remains faithful and continues to call us back to faith and back into relationship with Him.  God promises to be near to us when we draw near to Him.  May we always seek to be faithful to our call to live as God desires, investing our time and hearts in the things of God.  Through the faithful practice of our faith habits, our connection to God will remain strong.  May it be so for you and for me!


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Humble Servants

Reading: Joshua 3: 7-17

Verse Ten: This is how you will know the living God is among you…

As Moses was about to die, he passed leadership to Joshua.  He laid hands on him as a symbolic gesture and prayed over him as a way to bless him.  As Joshua began his leadership of the nation of Israel, God comes to him and speaks these words: “Today I will exult you in all the eyes of Israel”.  God gives Joshua instructions and he passes them along to the people.  It is a miracle that is similar to but exceeds the parting of the sea.  This day the river that is at flood stage will stop flowing so that the people can cross over safely.  It is an impressive beginning to Joshua’s time of leadership and a great witness to God’s continuing presence and provision for Israel.

Flash forward to today.  What miracle will you be blessed by this day?  Or how will God intercede or intervene or guide or provide for you this day?  Too often we think miracles or God’s hand at work are things of the past – relegated to the pages of the Bible or reserved for some exceptionally deserving person.  But not so.  Just as God used some pretty unlikely folks and even an unsavory character now and then, God continues to do so to this very day.  And He will again tomorrow.  Three weeks ago God nudged me to go visit a friend.  Exactly two weeks ago as I drove to see her God gave me the words to say that brought some healing to her broken heart.  Yes, God can use us all.

Verse ten today reads, “This is how you will know the living God is among you…”. Yes, God continues to be the living God that dwells in our midst!  Are we each sensitive to and attuned to the living God?  Are we expectant that God will come and intercede or provide or guide?  Are we willing to respond to the touch of the Holy Spirit and the whisper of the divine?  When we say yes to these questions, then we will know that the living God is among us.

Holy and awesome God, may we each have ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to feel, and hands and feet to respond to the ways You lead and guide each of us today.  May we be humble servant of the living God.  Amen.