pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Choose

Reading: Joshua 24: 1-3a and 14-25

Verse 14: Now choose the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.

Joshua comes to the people and asks them to choose who they will serve.  He asks them three times, each time reminding them of the temptations of other gods.  Joshua has seen the people go astray and God lets him know that this will continue to be the challenge.  Their forefathers worshiped other gods in the past, they experienced the worship of other gods in Egypt, and they even made a golden calf to worship while Moses was up on the mountain talking with God.

Joshua asks three times and the people respond three times that they will worship God alone.  Joshua reminds them that God is a jealous and holy God.  Three times, just to make sure.  This battle to choose God over idols continues to this very day.  Each day we must choose which God or many gods we will serve.  It is a daily battle that begins as we awaken each day.  Prayers for God to lead and guide us only begins the battle.  Throughout the day the Holy Spirit is praying for us, reminding us, convicting us.  We cannot remain faithful to God without the help of the Holy Spirit.

The temptations and other gods are many.  We can chase after money or possessions, popularity or recognition, status or position, beauty or knowledge.  We can get caught up in envy, gossip, greed, gossip, gluttony, fear, doubt, worry.  We are in no shortage of things or idols to tempt, lure, and pull us away from God.  The enemy is powerful.  But God is greater.  Through the Word, prayer, worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can walk faithful and holy lives.  May all that is at God’s disposal work in us this day to be the witnesses of His love and truth in our daily walk, bringing glory to God alone.

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Lord

Reading: Matthew 22: 41-46

Verse 42: What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?

Questions about who Jesus is were a hot topic in Jesus’ day, especially amongst the religious leaders.  For a group who leads a people who have been looking for a Messiah for generations, they sure are pretty reluctant to see Jesus as the Messiah.  There were two main barriers that kept them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.  First, He did not match their expectations.  They were looking for a king like David, one who would defeat the Romans and re-establish Israel’s greatness.  Second, the idea of a Messiah coming was great in theory but hard to take in practice.  They would not be in control.  They would be less.  They liked being in power.

The religious leaders ask Jesus, “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he”?  Jesus’ response is not directly about himself but it does silence the Pharisees.  They believe the Messiah will come through David.  But Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, showing how David calls the Messiah “Lord”, proving it cannot be David’s son.  They dared not ask Him any more questions and began to look for a way to kill Jesus.

Today people continue to ask who Jesus is.  Some are looking for a Jesus who will save them or who will bring freedom or relief from their current life.  But the radical change from the inside out is tough to take.  They struggle with giving up that secret sin or two and can’t quite call Jesus “Lord”.  Others are like the Pharisees.  They can see Jesus’ power, but can’t quite bow to Jesus as the new Lord of their lives.  They like calling the shots, being in control, having the power.  Jesus requires us to become 3rd at best.  We must be willing to place Jesus on the throne of our heart and then to love others more than ourselves.  Jesus demands all of us.  We cannot keep a few hidden parts or compartmentalize Jesus into just some parts of our lives.  It is a total commitment.  But it is also a process, a journey.  Daily we must ask: what more can I give?  What must I surrender to become less as Jesus becomes more?


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All in All

Reading: Philippians 3: 10-14

Verse 12: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

There is great power in today’s passage.  There is great hope.  There is great promise.  There is great encouragement.  Pail is fully rooted in Christ and in His love.  He has given his all for the gospel and is willing to suffer and even give his life if that will advance the gospel and bring glory to God.  Paul opens today with a clarion call for all believers: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection”.  Like Paul, we also want to know these two things.  We want to know Christ for this earthly life so that we can love and serve others as Jesus did.  We want to know the power of His resurrection for this life and the life to come.  In this life, the power of Jesus’ resurrection brings us victory over sin.  Jesus’ resurrection power defeats the guilt and shame and chains of sin so that we can be made holy and pure in this life.  It is a power we call on again and again.  Jesus’ resurrection power also looks to the future – His resurrection power enables us to defeat death and to live eternally with Jesus in heaven.

Knowing all of this is what allowed Paul to be sold out for Jesus and the gospel.  It is what allows us to have the faith and the courage to live as sold out, all in Christians.  If we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we too can live as Paul did: willing to do anything and willing to face anything to advance the kingdom here on earth.  This is what Paul is talking about when he writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.  Christ took hold of Paul to give him a hope, a love, a promise, a future.  Paul did not take hold of all this and sit on it to keep ut for himself.  He gave his all and eventually his life so others would gain it too.

Paul concludes today with these words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.  Hear these words – straining ahead, pressing on, the prize, called, in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s life reflected the fact that Jesus Christ was his all in all.  May our lives and faith reflect this as well, all for God’s glory and the building of His kingdom here on earth.


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Forever with Them

Reading: John 20: 19-23

Verse 19: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

It has been quite a week for the disciples.  There was the big splash of the triumphal entry on what we call Palm Sunday.  It seemed as if everyone in Jerusalem was out there supporting Jesus.  But right after the parade Jesus again speaks of His coming death – but it oddly seems closer now.  Jesus teaches through the week and clashes with the Jewish authorities – seemed like a pretty ordinary week.  Until Thursday night.  They set up to celebrate the Passover and Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.  He speaks of them becoming like servants too.  Among other words, Jesus again promises them the Holy Spirit and explains some of what the ‘Counselor’ will do for them.  Then, in a whirlwind of activity, Jesus is arrested, tried, and crucified.  Suddenly their world is turned upside down.  Their leader is gone and they fear for their lives.  Hope died on that cross.  They have seen the empty tomb and have heard Mary Magdalene tell of seeing the risen Lord.

But this night the disciples remain huddled together, hidden behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews”.  Doubt and fear and grief and confusion had to be swirling in their heads.  And then Jesus comes to them.  He opens with, “Peace be with you”.  He shows them His hands and His side.  In mere seconds, the disciples’ mindset changes drastically.  Again Jesus offers them peace then says,  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”.  More than one probably thought back to the cross and wondered about being sent out into the world.  Next Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into and into them.  In His presence, with His breathe covering them, they must have physically felt the Holy Spirit enter them.  Doubt and fear and… must have vanished in an instant.

These disciples will go out and spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  They will speak with power and authority.  All will give their lives for their faith.  The Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to live out their faith without any fear of this world and without any fear of death.  They knew that Jesus Christ was forever with them.  May we follow their example as we live out our faith today and every day.


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Power from on High

Reading: Luke 24: 44-53

Verse 51: While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.

Just prior to today’s passage, the two who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus return and tell the disciples about their encounter with the risen Lord.  In the midst of the conversation that follows, Jesus appears to the disciples.  He begins by saying, “Peace be with you”.  Surprisingly, they were “startled and frightened” so Jesus shows them His hands and feet.  To reassure them He says, “It is I!” but there is still doubt.  So Jesus takes a piece of fish and eats it in their presence.  It is as if Jesus we’re saying, ‘See, I am real’.  This is where today’s passage picks up.

Jesus then goes on to explain all that is written about Him in “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”.  Just as He had with the Emmaus pair, Jesus did this to open their minds so they could fully understand and know who and what He was and to help them understand where He was going now.  He again promises them “power from on high” – the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus then leads them out near Bethany, offers them one last blessing, and is taken up into heaven.  We can only assume that this is one of the things that Jesus had just explained as He taught them and opened their minds.  The disciples worship Jesus right then and there and then return to the city with great joy.  They go to the temple and continue to lift their praises to God.  The disciples know that Jesus has ascended and that they have been promised this “power from on high”.  No wonder they are filled with joy!

In the 2000+ years since, Jesus has continued to sit at the right hand of the Father.  He continues to intercede on our behalf.  The promise of “power from on high” remains in effect.  When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us as a daily presence of Jesus.  It is also our reason to be filled with joy.  No matter what life brings, we do not walk alone.  His presence is always with us.  May we too offer our praises to God this day!


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 68: 1-10 & 32-35

Verse 35: The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

Psalm 68 speaks of God’s love and care for His people.  It begins with protection as God scatters the enemies.  In response, the righteous are glad and rejoice.  God has provided protection.  In the next verses, God helps the widow, the lonely, the prisoners – those on the fringes of society.  Not only does God lead and protect the nation, He also protects the least and the lost.  Surely you and I fit somewhere along this spectrum.  Let us also praise our God who protects and watches over us.

The psalmist then recalls the people’s wilderness experience.  They were freed from slavery in Egypt but wandered for forty years.  God gives them “abundant showers” as they eat their fill of manna and quail.  God led them on and they settled into the Promised Land – the land of bounty.  God again leads and guides and protects the people.  And again the psalmist notes that God also gave from that same bounty to provide for the poor.  In how many ways does God continue to provide for and bless us?  Let us praise the Lord our God!

The Psalm closes by offering singing and praise to God’s power and majesty.  God’s power is revealed to the psalmist in the skies – thunder representing God’s voice.  In the thunder is power and majesty.  The Psalm ends by acknowledging that God also gives power and strength to His people.  Verse 35 reads, “The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people”.  They experienced this in the pillars of cloud and fire in the wilderness.  They experienced this in the partings of the waters and in the crumbling of the walls.  The Israelites had some very tangible experiences with God’s power and majesty.

As we fast-forward a few thousand years, we too have a very real and tangible presence of God in our lives.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit know that God continues to be near His people.  Through the Spirit we continue to receive God’s protection, guidance, direction, power, and strength.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides God’s constant presence in our lives.  It is a wonderful gift.  Through this presence we experience what the psalmist writes about.  For this deep and powerful connection to the Lord our God, may we lift our thanksgiving and praise!


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Away for Me

Reading: Matthew 4: 1-11

Food is a natural temptation.  The forbidden fruit is more than Adam and Eve can bear.  In the desert, day after day of manna becomes more than the Israelites can take and they cry out to God.  In both cases, God is put to the test.  In today’s passage, food is again what is used to test God.  Jesus hasn’t eaten for forty days, so He must have been tempted.  And Satan wants to test God too – will the stones turn to bread?

The second temptation also tests God.  If Jesus does something foolish will God swoop in and rescue Him?  Will God come through?  It is a similar test of God.  In both of these cases, we often venture down similar roads.  We will do and say things that certainly test God, that must test God’s patience.  We are rarely brave enough to step boldly out in a faith that requires radical trust in God to intervene on our behalf.

In the last temptation, Jesus is offered power.  It is something we all want to one degree or another.  We like to be in control, to make our own decisions.  At times, we have all questioned our boss or someone else in authority and thought we could certainly do better if given the chance.  We are wired to succeed and to compete to be number one.  For Satan to offer the rule of the world to Jesus must have been tempting.  It would definitely be tempting to us – except the thought of bowing down to Satan is hard to fathom.  

If we are honest, there is much that we place in the role of what we worship.  It can be money, time, status, position, beauty…  When we worship or live for these things, we have really demoted God.  The more we pursue the things of this world, the further from God we venture.  It is here that we are most susceptible to Satan’s whispers and temptations.

In our story today, we see the solution to whatever temptation.  Just as Jesus stood boldly, may we too call on the power of God and say to the great tempter, “Away from me Satan!”