pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Hope

Reading: Roman 5: 1-5

Verse Five: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five opens with Paul’s declaration that we can claim peace with God through Jesus Christ because we are made right through our faith.  It is a bold statement but one we live into every day as Christians.  Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s grace, the unmerited gift of forgiveness that washes away our sins so that we can stand before God holy and pure.  It is an amazing love that makes us righteous day after day after day, sin after sin after sin.  It is a love without limit.  It is indeed the hope of the glory of God which leads Paul to rejoice.  May we rejoice as well!

In verse three Paul shifts directions but not end results.  Not only do we enjoy a peace with God that leads us to rejoice, but Paul also encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings as well.  Being made right through God’s grace allows us to have hope in our future.  For Paul, he saw this same hope as the end result of our suffering.  For Paul, suffering was a necessary part of our Christian journey.  As Saul the Pharisee he certainly had inflicted much suffering on Christians and as Paul the Apostle he definitely endured his share of suffering and persecution.

For Paul, he rejoiced in the sufferings because he knew it would lead to a deepening of his faith.  Paul had learned that in suffering righteously one learns perseverance.  When we lean into God and endure with the power and hope that Jesus Christ offers, then through the power of the Holy Spirit we can persevere.  As we trust in God and live within His presence, that develops our Christian character.  Our hope in God’s glory grows as we experience the power and strength of God carrying us through our trials.  We begin to see these earthly troubles as bumps along the way to experiencing God’s eternal glory.  This in turns leads to an ever growing hope.  It is a hope that is everlasting.  It is the hope that will not disappoint or fade.  It is the hope that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.  It is the hope we come to know beyond the shadow of a doubt because we come to fully know that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.

As Christians we face each new day with God’s love deep in our hearts.  May we walk in faith and hope this day and every day, trusting in the God who loves us beyond all measure.


Leave a comment

Thanks

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Five: For the Lord is good and His love endures forever.

In my Bible, the subtitle to Psalm 100 is: “A Psalm.  For giving thanks”.  After reading through the Psalm it is certainly a fitting subtitle!  The psalmist begins by calling us to shout for joy and to worship with gladness and then he gives us the why: know that the Lord is God.  He goes on to remind us that God made each of us and therefore “we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture”.  It is a good reminder for us.

Sometimes life can get crazy and the busyness can feel overwhelming.  We can almost feel as if we are so busy we are moving near paralysis.  Our minds get consumed by the worries and pressures to the point of feeling we are near to collapse.  It is in these moments that the Psalm is an excellent reminder.  It calls us to slow down for a time, to step back from life, and to step into God’s presence.  The words remind us of the bigger picture – we are his people – and this lessens the importance of the things of this world.  In our craziness may we remember to slow down and to connect to God.

The second stanza again picks up the call to praise God, to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”.  Being thankful is essential to being content.  And being content holds the world and it’s craziness at bay.  Part of my morning routine is my little ‘thank book’s.  I write out five to eight things from the day before that I am thankful for and then I pray through each one.  In giving thanks I can see God’s faithfulness and love for me.

The ending of the Psalm echoes this idea: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”.  God was and is and always will be.  No matter what this world brings or has in store for us, God and his love are forever.  Thanks be to God.


Leave a comment

Doubt

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 17: When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.

The disciples had to be elated that Jesus had conquered the grave and was alive forevermore.  All that He said came true.  They followed Jesus’ instructions to the women and have gone to Galilee.  There they too meet the risen Lord.  Their first reaction was to worship Jesus.  It is the natural reaction to seeing someone that has been so meaningful and life-changing to the disciples.  It would be our reaction too if the risen Jesus appeared to us.

But Matthew goes on – “but some doubted”.  It is the same doubt I would have if someone rang the doorbell and said they were there to deliver the new car I had just won in the raffle.  Even if I could see it sitting in the driveway, there would be doubt in my mind.  Even if I could remember buying some raffle tickets, there would still be a feeling that it could not really be happening.

Yes, they had spent three years with Jesus and, yes, He said He would return to them and, yes, they could see Jesus standing right there in front of them.  But some doubted.  Yes, I can remember feeling Jesus’ presence when I accepted Him as Lord.  Yes, I can remember the presence of God in that hospital room that day.  Yes, I can recall time after time after time when the Holy Spirit has been active in my life.  But at times I too doubt.  At times I allow the cares and worries of the world to creep in and to win out.  At times I too doubt.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.  Lord Jesus, be near to me, remove my doubt, fill me with your presence and love this day.  Allow me to walk boldly with you, bearing light to the world this day.  Amen.


Leave a comment

Go Out

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verses 17 and 21: I will pour out my Spirit… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Come, stand in the disciples’ shoes for a few minutes.  You have gone from grief and despair to joy and courage in quick order.  Jesus has breathed the Holy Spirit into you and you are told once again to go out into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  You are being asked to trust your life to this Holy Spirit that you just met for the first time.  And then Pentecost comes and you experience the power of the Holy Spirit as God pours it out on all the believers gathered there that day.  It would have been like seeing Jesus perform His first miracle.  Back then you thought something like, ‘Now we’ve got something here’!  The scene of all the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in a wide variety of languages reveals to you the power of this Holy Spirit.

And just as the crowd begins to question what is happening here, Peter stands up to address the crowd.  You’re one of the eleven so you stand up too.  But as Peter speaks you find that he isn’t just talking to the crowd that day – he’s talking right to you.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel.  You recognize the words, “I will pour out my Spirit…”.  You know that Joel was speaking of you.  You experienced Jesus pouring out the Spirit upon you as He breathed it into you.  You will prophesy and dream dreams and have visions.  You will see and feel God at work as the Holy Spirit leads and guides you.  But most of all you find a peace that passes understanding in the last line from Joel: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  That’s you.  No matter what comes in this earthly life, the power of the Holy Spirit resides in you and your salvation is secure.  You are ready to go out and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now, come back to June 3, 2017.  The great commission remains in effect.  God still reigns.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  Go out and bring the gospel to the world!


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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!


Leave a comment

Love, Obey, Truth

Reading: John 14: 15-17

Verses 15 and 16: If you love me… over my commands… ask the Father… give you another Counselor.

Today’s three little verses pack a whallop.  Jesus is very direct and to the point.  We begin with, “If you love me” and there is almost an assumption that the disciples do love Jesus.  Perhaps we too like to make this same assumption about ourselves and others in our church or small group.  Jesus then goes on with the ‘then’ of His if-then statement: “… then you will obey what I command”.  There is an implication here.  It is implied that we will follow all of His commands.  It is not a smorgasbord that we can pick and choose from.  This is what makes loving and obeying so hard.  Jesus does not say over six out of ten or most.  He says that if we love Him we will obey His commands.  It is hard to do ‘all’.  One would say it is even impossible for us to do this on our own.

God knows this.  God had a few years experience with mankind before sending Jesus.  The people had always listened for a while.  No matter if it was Moses or David or Elijah or Zephaniah or Amos or John the Baptist – on our own we can only one for so long.  Sad to say, but even when we love God and Jesus, we are still tempted and we sometimes even sin.  So God’s plan came to include help. Jesus told the disciples that He would “ask the Father” and that God would “give you another Counselor”.  We know this Counselor by many names, but the most common is Holy Spirit.  Jesus refers to it as the “Spirit of truth” in our passage today.

The Holy Spirit brings truth in many ways.  First, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth we find in the Bible.  Second, the Holy Spirit leads and guides us in the truth, helping us to over the commands that Jesus gave.  The Holy Spirit nudges and whispers to help us be obedient.  Third, the Holy Spirit corrects and convicts us when we go astray.  It reminds us of the true path and helps us to seek forgiveness and to repent so we can return to walking in the truth.

Today, may our love of Jesus lead us to obedience to His commands.  May the Holy Spirit ever be present to us and may we ever be attentive to this presence in our lives.  All to bring honor and glory to God.