pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Certainties

Reading: John 10: 22-26

Verse 24: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”.

The Jews had a clear idea in their minds of who and what the Messiah would be. They were certain that the Messiah would restore Israel to its full glory. Jesus did not match the vision that they were certain of in their heads. But they were so certain of it that they could not see Jesus for who He was – the Messiah. In today’s passage they say to Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”.

I too struggle with certainty. At times I have been certain of how God should answer this prayer or open that door or close this one. At times I have been certain of the plan I have made or of the direction I think we should go. At times I have been certain that this action or that thought or those words were justified. In almost all of these cases, my certainty has gotten me in trouble and has melted away before the power of God.

Jesus’ response is sure and is straight forward. Jesus reminds them that He did tell them who He is. His claims of divinity brought anger and words like blasphemy. Jesus also reminds them of the miracles that they have witnessed. It is between two certainties that the Jews are caught. They are certain that God would not come in the flesh like this and they are certain that the miracles reveal divine power. Jesus then connects back to what He was talking about recently. We find this conversation at the beginning of John 10. It is about the shepherd and the sheep. Jesus explained the loving and caring relationship between the shepherd and his sheep. Jesus speaks of being the gate – both into the pen and into eternal life. He also reminds them that He will lay down His life for His sheep. Jesus returns to these ideas in today’s passage. He bluntly tells them “you are not my sheep”. This is why they do not believe even though they have seen the miracles. Their certainty is the barrier that prevents faith in Christ.

My certainty has done this too. Whenever I place my will and my wants before God’s will and His plan, I am trying to live by the ways of man. Over and over I have found that this is not the best path. I find the best path when I listen to the voice of the Shepherd, when I follow the voice I know. I plainly see that Jesus is the Christ. It is by faith alone that I must follow. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, you are the only sure thing. In you alone can I truly trust, in you alone do I find hope and meaning and purpose. Step by step may I walk in faith, trusting you with all that I am. Strengthen me to follow closely. Amen.


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Looking Within

The first part of Psalm 51 is a confession of our sinful state.  By our nature we are prone to sin.  By our nature, we are weak and struggle to stay out of sin.  By His nature, God loves us unconditionally.  By His nature, God seeks to always bring us back to wholeness and to a right relationship with God.  Our sins stand between us and God alone.  In His great compassion God will blot out our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities.  For our part, we come to Him and repent.

In the middle part of the psalm comes our plea: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and restore a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be spoken over and over and over tomorrow.  They are familiar words on Ash Wednesday.  And just as the Lord’s Prayer is not just for Sundays, these words are not just for Ash Wednesday.  These familiar words should be our plea to God every day.  They admit our dependence on God.  We cannot win this battle on our own.  We need God to create a pure heart within us and to help us be steadfast to His ways.

The psalmist follows this plea up with a request to not be cast from God’s presence or for God to not take the Holy Spirit from us.  The psalm continues with these words: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”.  God is the one in action, the one who can do these things.  In our acts of repentance we need both God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  After we repent of our sins, then God alone can restore us.  God alone can grant us a willing spirit, one seeking to follow His ways.

At Lent begins tomorrow, today I must look within and seek to identify my ungodly choices, my poor habits of faith, my sins.  May God grant me the will and the strength to come before Him in repentance, seeking His mercy.  Lord, melt my stubborn and prideful heart.  Mold me into who You desire me to be.  O God, fill me with Your presence and with the Holy Spirit.  And then use me, use me to love You and to love those You love.  Use me as You will, O God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-17