pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust and Call

Reading: Romans 10: 5-13

Verse Ten: It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Rules or faith?  Myself or God?  Know or trust?  Living by faith can be a challenge to each of us.  Paul begins today’s passage with a quote from Moses about the Law.  Moses is basically saying that if one follows the Law, one is righteous for living according to God’s rules.  But the Law is something outside of us.  It is a list of do’s and don’ts.  The Law focuses on what I can (and cannot) do and is very black and white.  It says things like do not murder and keep the Sabbath holy.  In this sense, the Law is easy to understand.

To live by faith is another matter.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy and writes, “The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”.  Faith in Jesus Christ is very much an internal thing.  Faith is about a relationship that shifts the focus from us to God.  This relationship begins with confessing “Jesus is Lord”.  This confession places Jesus instead of self on the throne of our heart.  It becomes less and less about what we can or cannot do (the Law again) and more and more about what Jesus is doing in and through us.

The Law is about knowing God in our head.  Faith is about having God in our heart.  The short distance between head and heart can be a very long journey.  Sitting in a pew each Sunday is following the rule written in your head.  Worshipping and praising God each week is Jesus living out of your heart.  It is a world of difference to have God in your head versus having Jesus in your heart.  Paul writes, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”.  Faith resides in the heart.  It leads us on that journey to confession of our sins and receiving mercy and forgiveness.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are made holy and pure once again.

Paul concludes today’s passage with two more Old Testament quotes.  First, from Isaiah: “Anyone who trusts Him will never be put to shame”.  Faith involves trust.  In faith, Jesus has our backs.  Second, from Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It’s not ‘could be’ or ‘might’ but WILL BE saved.  Trust and call on the Lord.  He is all we need.  Jesus is our all in all.  Thanks be to God.


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Anything

Reading: Romans 9: 1-5

Verse Three: For I could wish that myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.

Paul writes of the sorrow and anguish he feels because his fellow Jews, his brothers, have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  Paul initially rejected Jesus too.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection Paul, then known as Saul, was one of the greatest persecutors of the new Christian faith.  But after his face-to-face with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was converted and became one of the greatest evangelists ever.  His conversion brought him great joy and peace in his life.

Yet he would willingly give all of this up for his people, the Israelites, who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord.  He writes, “For I could wish that myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers”.  Paul is ready to give up the best thing that ever happened to him so that the Jewish people could come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It pains him greatly that the chosen people reject Jesus.

On our own faith journeys we too will encounter people who reject Jesus.  Many will choose to walk away from the faith of their childhood.  We may have family members and know close friends who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For many a parent it is a very painful experience to have a child choose to live without Jesus in their life.  For those we have a deep personal relationship with, it is indeed painful to think of one we love missing out on the joy and peace and mercy and forgiveness and all else we have, nevermind the eternal consequences.

In this many of us are like Paul.  We would give anything, even our own faith, to see ‘that’ person or persons accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  We pray for them, we try and share our faith with them, we do all we can.  Lord God, may our work be fruitful in bringing those we love into relationship with you.


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Reason to Praise

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-11 and 45b

Verse Four: Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

The Psalm begins with encouragement to give our thanks to God and to sing our praises to Him.  In singing our praises, the psalmist instructs us to “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  For the Israelites, God had acted in mighty and dramatic ways.  As a people, they have many touchstone moments when God has actively intervened.  In most cases, these are positive experiences that are remembered and celebrated.  Sometimes these are national events like the Exodus story and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Sometimes they are personal stories – like the story of David and Goliath.  These moments all recall God’s love for His chosen people and their response is to praise and worship God.

On occasion they are stories of correction and sometimes of consequences for poor choices or ungodly living.  Noah and the flood and the periods of occupation and exile are key reminders of what happens when the people stray from God and His love.  Yet each of these stories had a silver lining because in the end the people return to a God who continues to love them anyway.  This realization also leads to the praise and worship of God.

As we fast forward to 2017, we are also the people of God.  As we look back over the last 10, 20, or more years of our own faith journeys we too can see the God we love at work in our story of faith.  We too can “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  There are moments when God has moved and we have been led to our own promised land or when we have slayed our own Goliaths.  Our faith has grown in these times.  And there are our times of wandering in the dessert and times when Satan’s temptations did lead to sin.  In these times, God never gave up or abandoned us. We too remained loved and cherished by God.  We found redemption and came back into the great love of God.  God’s love always remains constant.  What a reason to praise!  All of these experiences, both the good and the bad, remind us to always “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”.


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God Rescues

Reading: Psalm 13

Verse Three: Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.

The psalmist, David, is in need of God’s rescue.  He is being put hard to the test by his enemies and it seems that God’s reputation is on the line.  As a man well-known for relying on God and being blessed by God, defeat would appear to be either the consequences of sin in his life or that he has fallen from God’s favor as king.  In any case, David is certainly feeling as if he is out of God’s presence and care.

The is a feeling of desperation in David’s voice.  In verse three he says, “Look on me and answer”.  Sometimes we too approach God in a similar manner.  We feel as if we deserve an answer and we can even feel as if we deserve the exact answer we want.  We can also have the ‘how can you let this happen to me, God?’ attitude.  David then says, “Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death”.  Death is a pretty final step.  David feels as if this is the option if God does not intercede on his behalf.  He is very hard-pressed.

As we fast forward in the faith story, we have a different take on the finality of death.  Our resurrected Lord has conquered this foe too.  Even death could not hold Jesus.  In Him we find the promise of eternal life, so we do not fear death in the same way that David did.  Yet none of us really wants to die either – we love our families, friends, and other aspects of life in the here and now.  But ultimately our hope in eternity arches over anything life can throw at us.  In the end, God does rescue David and his heart rejoices.  May w too rejoice in the God who rescues no matrer what the day brings, knowing that we too rest in God’s hands.


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New Life

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Four: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The believers were gathered together in one place.  The city was full of Jews from all over, coming to celebrate Pentecost – the giving of the Law.  When all was just right, God sent a mighty wind to unite these two disparate groups for one purpose: to grow the church.  For each of the believers there is a physical sign of God’s presence: tongues of fire appear and come to rest on each of the believers.  All are to be used in the building of the church.  It is not just the job of the disciples.  It is the commission of all believers to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Next, all of the believers experience a spiritual sign of God’s new presence in them.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit that now dwells in each of them, they begin to “declare the wonders of God” in many different languages.  Each speaks fluidly in a language they do not know.  Talk about an affirmation that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Between these two signs there is no doubt that they have been forever changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They each have new life through the Spirit.

The process of new life through the profession of Jesus as Lord continues to this day.  Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus begins the process.  It initiates the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and it creates in us a new person – born of the Spirit.  We too feel a physical change accompanied by a spiritual change.  We are transformed into a new creation.  It is through this process that each follower of Jesus Christ is joined with the one body, the church universal.  As this body we join together in the commission to share the good news of Jesus Christ to transform the world.  Blessings today as we live out our faith.


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Christ as Lord

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 13-17

Verse 15a: In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

In our passage today, Peter addresses suffering for our faith.  In the context of when Peter wrote these words, suffering was a real and very present obstacle.  In the time right after Jesus’ death, there was much skepticism and a lot of persecution against those who professed Jesus as Lord.  It was a hard, difficult time to be a Christian.  Many people suffered a lot for their faith.  Some were even martyred.  In spite of this, Peter still takes on the reality and offers a reminder of the hope and promise believers have in Jesus.

Peter begins by asking “Who would harm you for doing good”?  We tend to think the answer is ‘no one’ but this is not always the case.  At times people may question a Christian’s motivation or may react negatively to attempts to help.  Peter reminds us to count it as a blessing if we suffer for Christ.  To him, this showed a willingness to follow Christ when there was a cost.  It shows a high level of commitment.

Peter encourages us to not fear what the world fears – rejection, abuse, threats, being ostracized – but “in our hearts set apart Christ as Lord”.  To endure suffering does bring us closer to Christ as we are, in our sufferings, being ‘like Him’.  To keep or set apart Christ as Lord brings us strength and peace in the midst of it all.  Living with Jesus as Lord keeps us focused on the eternal and not on the things of this world.  Through this we have hope.  Peter knows this hope firsthand.

Peter also knows that others will notice our peace and hope in the midst of trials and sufferings.  And they will be curious.  Therefore Peter advises us to be prepared to explain our hope and peace to others when they ask.  Perhaps knowing that being in a time of trial and suffering can be hard on us, Peter also reminds us to respond with gentleness and respect.  Love all.  Always present His love first.

“Then they will know we are Christians by our love…” speaks of these concepts.  And not only will they know, they too will come to desire the peace, hope, and strength that Jesus alone offers.  Love first.  Love all.


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Hosanna!

Reading: Matthew 21: 2-11

Verse 9: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

In our passage today, Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praises of a large crowd.  His entry is like a victory parade in some ways.  Jesus comes riding into the city amongst happy and excited people.  They are praising Jesus, much as they would a victorious king returning from battle.  But Jesus is riding in on a donkey, not a powerful and majestic war horse.  The prophet Zechariah had written that the king of peace would enter the holy city riding on a donkey.  Jesus fulfills this prophecy as He enters the city.

Many line the way and lay down cut branches and even their cloaks as Jesus comes along.  There is growing excitement in the crowd.  Certainly some here are Jesus’disciples and followers.  Most of the others have probably heard of Jesus.  But there are probably a few in the crowd waving Palm branches and shouting out, “Hosanna…” who turn to their neighbor and ask, “Who is this”?  They may be in the crowd and may even be cheering, but they do not know who this Jesus is.  Our passage reports, “The whole city was stirred”.  There is excitement and a buzz that can be easy to get caught up in.

Just as there are some there that see all that is going on and get caught up in the buzz, there are some in our lives that sense a pull towards Jesus, but still ask, “Who is this”?  Maybe they see Jesus in our lives or they have had a brush with His presence.  Maybe they are hurting or are curious.  Something is drawing them to know about this Jesus.  Hopefully they see Jesus in us and in how we live our lives.  This may lead them to ask us, “Who is this”?

May we be ready to answer, to testify to who Jesus is to us and to share the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives.  May we be ready and willing to proclaim His name and to shout, “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”!