pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Thank You Jesus

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

Verses 5-6: “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood… to Him be the glory and power for ever and ever”!

Today’s passage is the greeting from the book of Revelation. While the book itself is complex and can be hard to understand, this is not the case with our passage today. It begins by extending grace and peace to the churches from Jesus – “Him who is, and who was, and is to come”. It reminds us that Jesus is present now in the Spirit, was both here at the beginning of time and as God incarnate, and is to come again in the glory of final victory one glorious day.

The passage also identifies Jesus as “the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”. As Jesus ministered on earth, He was faithful and obedient to God alone. He witnessed to what it looks like to truly love God and neighbor. After His crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected to eternal life, becoming the first born from the dead. The grave could not hold Him – sin and death we’re defeated. Jesus is the first of many. All who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will follow His path and will be born anew into eternal life. Jesus is also the ruler of the kings of the earth. No one has ruled or will ever rule on earth unless they are part of God’s plan. In the end, every knee will bow and confess Jesus is Lord.

Verses 5 and 6 read, “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood… to Him be the glory and power for ever and ever”! In this week of thanks, it is good to remember that Jesus loved us enough to endure the physical pain and suffering of the cross and the huge emotional weight of bearing our sins. He did this so that His blood could wash away our sins, leaving us pure and holy in God’s sight. Yes, indeed, thank you Jesus. With all we do and say and think, may we echo the last line – to Him be glory and power forever. Amen.

Prayer: Thank you Jesus! Thank you for your love and for the cross. Without you I am wretched and sinful. With you I am saved and free. All glory to you forever and ever! Amen.

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Unlikely

Reading: 1 Samuel 2: 9-10

Verse 10: “He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed”.

Just as Hannah poured out her suffering to God, in her prayer today she pour out the joy of her heart as she expresses her thanks to God. Hannah also offers a prophetic word to the nation of Israel. Her son will follow in her footsteps as Samuel is used by God to change the course of Israel’s history as he anoints their first kings.

Hannah comes to this role from the margins. She has been outside looking in for a long time and now she is the voice of prophecy, speaking of God as their Rock and of His blessing those who are obedient and faithful. She speaks here from her own experiences with these things. Because God answered her prayers, she believes that God will also be with the people. She looked to God and He responded; if the nation does so too, then God will respond.

Samuel, her son, will be Israel’s last judge. Judges were people God raised up to lead the people. The line of those who guide the people with God will come to a close as Samuel anoints Saul as the first king. Now prophets will come along to guide the nation, but they will not rule. As Saul falters, Samuel will anoint David to be Israel’s next king. Hannah speaks of David’s rule when she says in verse 10, “He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed”. David will be Israel’s greatest king and through his line, Jesus will be born.

Hannah was an unlikely mother. Yet she gave birth to one of the great prophets. Hannah was an unlikely choice to be the voice of God for her people. Yet as she poured out her thanks to God, the Spirit spoke through her to bring vision and hope to Israel. Are we too unlikely to be used by God? If we are faithful and obedient, God can and will use each of us too. May it be so for you and for me.

Prayer: Dear God, Hannah was faithful and true. She held firm to you, her God. May my faith and my walk be as true. Use me in your kingdom, O God. Amen.


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Attitude

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11

Verse Five: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”.

The opening verse from today’s passage is challenging. To try and take on the attitude of Jesus feels like a pretty daunting task. After all, He is Jesus.

Regardless of the pursuit or goal, a good attitude goes a long way in determining success. Some might even argue that it is one of the most important characteristics of people who are successful. I think this applies two ways when we think about our attitude as a follower of Christ. First, our personal attitude or outlook must believe that we can be like Christ. Trusting in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit goes a long way in thinking we can follow Jesus. Second, we must understand Jesus’ attitude and seek to live out what He lived out.

Jesus’ attitude is revealed in two actions in today’s passage. First, He “made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant”. For us to take on this attitude, like Jesus, we must first die to self. Only when we have given up the rights to our own selfish desires and wants can we truly take on the heart of a servant. From this place of surrender, Jesus was able to meet all where they were at and to meet their needs as He could. The idea expressed by John the Baptist applies well here: I must become less so that He can become more.

The second attitude we see today is, “he humbled himself and became obedient to death”. In many ways, the second is like the first attitude. It is maybe an extension of the first too. Humility does have something to do with becoming nothing, but it also acknowledges God’s role in our successes. We see God’s presence as what brings us success in following Jesus. It is not our own doing. Over and over Jesus credited God. So too should we. The idea of becoming obedient to death helps us to understand the depth of commitment to the other. First most of us, sacrifice of time or resources is what will be required. But for some, it may be the giving one’s life. It is hard to know if we could do such a thing when pressed to the choice.

Today and every day, may we strive to have the attitude of Jesus Christ, loving and serving all we meet.


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Slaves to God

Reading: Romans 6: 15-23

Verse 22: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul begins by proposing the idea that we are either a slave to sin or a slave to God.  The slave analogy implies a complete obedience of free will.  Yes, we may choose to sin.  Or we may choose to be obedient to God.  But once the choice is made, we become as a slave – doing the total will of either sin or of God.  It is the first of two stark contrasts in today’s passage.

Paul continues on to share the results of our choice.  If we choose sin, then this choice leads to death.  If we choose God, then our choice leads to life.  This is a sharp contrast: life or death.  To help us in our decision, we are entrusted to teaching that helps us make the correct choice.  This is really what life is all about – we learn so that we can make an informed decision.  As we learn and grow in our faith the choice to be obedient to God becomes an easier choice in the daily decisions we face.  Paul rejoices in the result of good Christian teaching as he writes, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”.

As our passage draws to a close, Paul writes of the reality we all deal with every day.  He writes that we are weak and that we used to be slaves to sin.  We are weak.  Each and every day we must choose to follow God.  However, it is not a choice we make one day and then never face again.  Each day and each hour and sometimes each second, Satan is right there pushing the choice to sin.  It is a constant battle.  In the big sense, though, our choice is life or death.  As Christians we have made the choice.  In verse 22 Paul writes, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life”.  It is a wonderful gift of God.

This day may we each make the choice to be freed from sin, to be slaves to God, and to live a holy life which one day leads to eternal life.


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Bear Witness

Reading: Acts 7: 55-60

Verse 55: Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Stephen is certainly one filled with the Holy Spirit.  He has taught and performed miracles.  He stood in the Sanhedrin and successfully defended and explained the faith he professes.  He is so filled with the Holy Spirit that he even condemns the most powerful body of Jewish leaders for their role in the death of Christ.  This so outrages them that they are furious and gnash their teeth.  What happens next is today’s reading.

Stephen is a man who will stand up for his faith and belief in God no matter what.  He is a man who will speak the truth, even if it offends others a bit.  He is a man living life fully under the control of the Holy Spirit.  He is a man who trusts his very life to God’s plans and purposes.  All I can say is, “Wow”.  To look in the mirror and to see a slight reflection of who Stephen was would give me pause.

Who do you know that lives like Stephen?  Is there someone in your life that lives fully trusting God and fully obedient to God’s will?  These men and women are few and far between.  Most Christians, myself included, dabble with this type of faith.  We may step outside our routine or our comfort zones every once in a while to make an impact for God.  We may show a depth of faith that at times pleases God.

Just as they are preparing to drag him out to stone him, Stephen “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”.  God blesses him with this vision and the one to come next.  It strengthens Stephen.  It reassures him.  It affirms what he has spent his last years preaching and doing.  As they stone him, he calls for Jesus to receive his spirit and prays for those killing him.  He dies just as he lived – bearing witness to his God to the very end.  In doing so, Stephen continues to bring much glory to God.  May we go and do likewise today.


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Obedient Servant

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11

Verse 5: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ.

Paul open this passage by admonishing us to have the same attitude as Christ had.  It is an attitude that Paul modeled and he is urging his readers to do the same.  This, of course, is the goal of our faith – to become more and more like Christ each day.

In the following verses Paul spells out what it looks like to have the attitude of Christ.  He does so by reminding us what Jesus himself was like.  Christ entered the world by making himself ‘nothing’, taking on the flesh and living as a humble servant.  At the end of a faithful and obedient life, Christ demonstrated the ultimate in obedience as He surrendered to death on a cross.  Because of Jesus’ obedience and faithfulness here on earth, God exulted Him to the highest place in heaven so that at the mention of His name all knees would bow.

Paul had the authority to write of these things and to call the Philippians to live this way because it was the life Paul himself also modeled.  Paul lived as a humble servant and poured himself out so that others could come to know Jesus.  Paul’s radical obedience to the gospel parallels Jesus’ radical obedience to God.  Paul walks the walk that he is calling us to walk.  Paul walked the walk even though he faced much persecution and abuse.  Paul has been ostracized, beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, and imprisoned.  Instead of abandoning or lessening his faith, the trials have strengthened Paul’s faith.  We too experience this same growth and transformation when we take on the attitude of Christ and live with a radical obedience and sure faith.

Ironically, Paul writes this letter calling us to take on and live out the attitude of Christ as a humble servant and obedient believer while sitting in prison.  He has been sent to a Roman prison on trumped up charges.  He sits in jail continuing to do what he does – calling for us to be humble servants and faithful disciples.  Paul sits in jail calling for obedience perhaps knowing full well that he will soon be martyred.  Paul is not afraid or discouraged.  He calls on all other followers of Jesus Christ to do just what he is doing himself – offer a radical way of life to the world as a witness to the Savior we love and follow.  May it be so for us today.


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Comfort and Assurance

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 7: Because the sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced.

Israel has been in exile for almost seventy years.  They have been away from the Promised Land and the place they knew and loved lies in ruins.  There does not appear to be any hopes of returning as their time in exile does not have a foreseeable end.  They live in a foreign land among people who worship other gods.  It is easy to see why they might find comfort and assurance in these words from Isaiah.

In this section of Isaiah 50, we read of the presence of God in the servant’s life.  This servant endures suffering, yes, but remains steadfast to God.  This is a good reminder to the people in their situation.  The passage opens with God giving words of hope to the servant.  The word of God spoken to the people throughout their long history also offers hope and reminds the people of God’s love and care for them.  This is a good and timely reminder.  Just as the servant claims it for himself, so too can the people living in exile.  The servant also declares that he has not been rebellious, yet is beaten.  The generation that suffers in exile could relate well to this concept.  It was their ancestors who rebelled and it is now they who suffer.  To be reminded that they are not alone in their suffering brings them some comfort and peace.

The writing ends with a resolution to “set my face like flint”.  The servant knows God is near and he trusts God to vindicate him.  He knows that if God is on his side, in the end, he will not be put to shame.  There is great confidence in God’s power.  He knows that God is in control.  These words would bring hope to the exiles.  Even though they cannot see light or even the end of the tunnel, they are reminded that God has them too.

The people in exile were in need of this reminder of God’s love and care.  After these long years they must have questioned God a bit.  In the servant they are reminded by his example to remain faithful and obedient in spite of undeserved suffering.  Ultimately, they are also reminded of God’s power too.

As Christians reading this passage, one can see Jesus in the words of Isaiah.  Jesus embodied God’s love in human form.  He spoke words from the Father that brought healing to those who were broken and weary.  He was obedient and faithful, even to the point of death on the cross.  Just as the Jews in exile found comfort and assurance in the suffering servant, so too do we find comfort and assurance in Christ.  For His faithful witness that strengthens and encourages us each day, we say thanks be to God.