pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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I Will Be with You

Reading: Exodus 3: 7-15

Verse 12: And God said, “I will be with you”.

Moses has been selected to go to God’s people to lead them to freedom.  God has heard their cry and has seen their suffering at the hands of their slave drivers.  The God of justice will use Moses to guide the people to a “land flowing with milk and honey”.  The plan all sounds great – except to Moses, who asks God,”Who am I…?”

In each of our communities there is certainly suffering.  It may be caused by difficult financial situations or by things such as drugs or alcohol addiction.  It might be caused by mental illness or by the past experiences caused by generational abuse of one type or another.  It might be caused by prejudices and bigotry that keep a segment of the community on the outside looking in.  There are people suffering due to events of nature and others suffer because of the actions and poor choices of individuals.  There is no shortage of things that cause suffering.  To some of us, God calls.

Just as Moses was called and sent by God, over the centuries God has called both prophets and ordinary people to speak words of hope and love and healing and, at time, hard words of truth.  God has seen and will continue to see the suffering in our world and He has and will continue to send those who will lead the people away from sin or out of the oppression and suffering that they are enduring.  Often the person has looked at the task ahead and questioned God and uttered some form of Moses’ “Who, me?”

Yet God reassures the doubtful and fearful Moses; Moses will not go alone.  When we sense a call from God to lead someone to freedom or to offer relief from suffering, we do not go alone either.  Just as God went with Moses, God will go with us as well.  This is a promise we too can trust and lean into as we respond to the call that God has placed upon our hearts.  Like Moses, may we find reassurance in these words: “And God said, ‘I will be with you'”.

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Being Moses and Elijah

Reading: Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus meets Moses and Elijah up on the mountain.  These two men represent the Messiah, each in their own way.  Moses is the first great deliverer of his people.  He led them out of the bondage of slavery and guided them to the Promised Land.  Along the way Moses brought them the Law and guided them as they learned to live as the people of God.  Jesus fills these roles as well.  It is Jesus who freed us from the chains of sin and death, bringing us freedom.  It is Jesus who shows us the way to our promised land – life everlasting.  It is Jesus who gave us the example of how to live out the meaning of the Law, to live according to God’s ways, living as a servant to all, loving all we meet.

Elijah is the great prophet of God.  Elijah spoke the word of God to the people and also demonstrated God’s power again and again.  Elijah spoke truth to those around him and was often unwelcomed or lived as an outcast.  Jesus also spoke the word of God to the people.  The power of God certainly flowed through Jesus as well, revealed in the many He healed and restored to life.  Jesus was not always popular either; as a prophet He spoke truth as well and at times Jesus was not welcomed, at other times He was despised by the religious authorities.  In the end, it was this group that crucified Him.

It makes sense that Jesus would meet and talk with Moses and Elijah.  He was and is both deliverer and prophet.  In the same way that Jesus fills these roles, we too must fill these roles in our own way.  Many in our lives need to be delivered – there is much that holds us captive and that binds people today.  Many in our lives need to find the freedom brought by living as a child of God – the peace, contentment, and joy found in Christ.  Many in our lives need to hear the prophetic word of God to bring hope and promise and healing to their broken lives.  We are called to follow Jesus Christ’s example to help accomplish all of this.  We are called to be a humble servant and to graciously love all we meet.  Through us, we allow the same light of Christ that shone at the transfiguration to shine out into people’s darkness, guiding them to the only hope, to the Savior of the world, to Jesus Christ.


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However He Comes

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 19-21

Peter begins by helping us remember the words of the prophets, words that draw us to Jesus and to God.  Prophets like Moses and Elijah, who he saw in the transfiguration, and prophets like Samuel and Isaiah – all men who spoke the word that God has placed in their mouths.  In his reference to light shining in the darkness, Peter draws in John the Baptist, another prophet who pointed people to the Messiah, just as all the Old Testament prophets ultimately do as well.  As modern day disciples of Jesus, this is our call as well: to draw others to the light, to the Messiah.

Sometimes we think of the light of Jesus as a slowly growing presence, a light that steadily bathes one in His encompassing love.  This love gradually progresses in an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus.  This is often the norm for those raised in the church.  They would say they have always known Jesus.  But this is not the pattern for all believers.

In the original Hebrew, the word we have translated as dawn has a more piercing, more sudden connotation to it.  Think of turning on a bright flashlight after spending several moments in a dark cave.  The light is sudden.  It is sharp.  The light pierces through.  Some are experience Jesus this way.  Life is as it has always been.  Then all of a sudden, Jesus comes charging in, taking center stage in their life.  

Jesus can enter in a similar way for believers as well.  We go along as always.  Then suddenly Jesus bursts into our daily routine unexpectedly.  Maybe it is a sudden revelation of a truth as we pray or study our Bible.  Maybe it is in a surprising conviction we suddenly feel.  Maybe it is in an urge or nudge we feel to reach out to someone.  Or maybe it is an experience like Peter, James, and John had, up on the mountain top.  This day, may we be open to the presence of our living Savior, however He may come today.


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Living, Not Just Knowing

Reading: Luke 21: 5-9

The disciples are looking at the beauty and wealth of the temple.  People go to the great cathedrals of the world and marvel at the stone work and stained glass.  Visitors to museums stand in amazement before the painting of the Last Supper or some other religious portrait.  We go to our churches and think, “What a great place this is”!

Jesus says to just hold on a minute.  He says that one day the temple will be no more.  One day those cathedrals will be gone too.  One day that artwork will fade.  One day…  Jesus goes on to warn them that one day false prophets will come, trying to charm us into believing other stories.  Jesus warns us not to be deceived.  If all our faith is is in the things – the buildings, the artwork, the campus – then we will be lost when our faith is shaken or tested.  Instead, our faith must be in Jesus.

There can be danger here too.  If we read all the stories of Jesus and appreciate all He said and are amazed at what He did, but do not go any deeper than knowing the stories, then we have simply created another empty building.  The words must travel the short distance from our heads to our hearts.  The words must take on understanding and application.  It is at this level the they begin to transform our lives.  When we allow Jesus to come alive in our hearts, we begin to be transformed and to live out our faith instead of simply knowing our faith.

If our faith is built upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then we do not need a building to visit Jesus in.  Jesus is not a building.  He lives in us.  If Jesus lives in us, we will not be deceived by false prophets or drawn in by the lies of the world.  He will guide us from within our hearts.  Lord Jesus, reign in me today!  Jesus, be alive in my heart!


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Come as You Are

Reading: Jeremiah 8: 18-22

Jeremiah cries out to God on behalf of the people.  He is acutely aware of their sins, yet he prays for them and their relationship with God.  Since being called to be the prophet to Israel, Jeremiah has spoken to the people about their sins and the coming danger that their sins are drawing in.  He has made the consequences of living life outside of the covenant relationship with God crystal clear.  Yet the people do not repent.  They do not turn from false idols and foreign gods.  They instead rely on tradition and appearances.

The people think their status as God’s ‘chosen people’ will save them.  But even the most special child in all the world can be disobedient and experience the consequences.  The people of Israel also think their ritualistic trips to the temple will be enough for God to relent.  But the trips are hollow and there is no relationship with God.  It is all appearance.  It is all on the surface.  It is simply going through the motions.  If their relationship was real it would lead to a personal relationship with God.  The relationship would affect how they were living outside their one hour in the temple.

Does God expect any less of us?  Isn’t a personal and intimate relationship with us what God desires most?  God wants to be fully known by us and for us to experience being fully known by God.  When we are limited in our commitment and when we keep the relationship at a shallow, surface level, we are not being honest with God and we are only fooling ourselves.  God knows all and sees all.  There is nothing we can hide from God.  When we hold back and try to live a second life, we are being disrespectful to the omnipotent and omnipresent God.  Instead, may we willingly strip away all the gloss and glitter and come honestly and humbly before our God.  God does not expect perfection but takes us as we are.  God simply says to us, “Come as you are”.


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Listening and Seeing

The prophet Micah is like all of God’s other prophets.  He speaks the word that God gives him to speak to the people.  While much of the time the prophets are warning the people of the consequences of their sins and calling them to repent, sometimes the prophets also spoke of the hope in and the promise of God’s faithfulness.  Such is the case with our passage today from Micah.

Since the life of Jesus, Christians read this section of Micah like many other prophecies found in the Old Testament.  As Christians we read the Old Testament not only as the history of the people of Israel and our faith, but also as a book that points to the New Testament and ultimately to Jesus.  When Micah writes of a leader who will come out of Bethlehem and speaks of him as one who will shepherd the flock, our mind immediately links up with the story of Jesus’ birth and life.  Micah also connects Jesus to long before His birth – “whose origins are of old, from ancient times.”  These words echo the message we find in the opening lines of John’s gospel.

The prophets, Micah included, also always provide hope and remind us to believe in the promises of God.  God is always at work in our lives and in our world.  In hard times that can be difficult to remember.  But Micah reminds us of the promises and that in hard times we most need to rely on God’s presence and call upon His strength.  Micah also reminds us that we must seek God’s word and see God in our daily experiences.  This day may we have a heart that listens and eyes that see God.

Scripture reference: Micah 5: 2-5a


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Revealing Jesus?

In the day people thought Jesus was many things: teacher, prophet, healer.  Some even thought He was the Messiah, the Holy One of God.  Two thousand years later the answers are not all that different: a wise teacher, a good person, a revolutionary hero, a symbolic figurehead.  Some still see Him as Messiah.

In the day those who refused to see Jesus as the Messiah had something to hold on to.  The political and religious leaders had their positions and power to hold on to.  Others had the same things we do.  They and us hold onto our illusion that we are in control, of having time before we really have to commit to this Jesus, or of Him not being the absolute Lord of life.  Like many in the day and like many since then, we yield up some control of our life and offer a level of allegiance to Jesus the Christ.  But we hold onto some ourselves; we are not totally committed.

In the day Jesus’ disciple Peter correctly identified Him as the Messiah but Jesus told them not to tell anyone.  Perhaps the claim of divinity would have been too much right then or maybe some would look to Jesus for political and military leadership.  It was enough at that point for the disciples to know.  Soon many would come to know Jesus as the Son of God.

If one were to simply observe our life and listen in on the conversations we have, would we reveal Jesus as the Messiah?  If we are seeking to draw others to Jesus as Lord, then the answer has to be ‘yes’.  Our lives “reveal” who we ‘say’ Jesus is.  May we live in such a way as to reveal that Jesus is Lord of our life and is a Lord others want to get to know.

Scripture reference: Mark 8: 27-30