pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

In Our Focus

Reading: Psalm 16: 8-11

Verses 8 & 11: “I have set the Lord always before me… You have made known to me the paths of life”.

Not too long after beginning to really follow Jesus, one learns that life is better with Christ. No, one’s troubles do not just go away but the presence of the Lord makes the journey better. Our faith brings us hope, comfort, strength, peace… Through these experiences we come to know one of the truths that David states: “You have made known to me the paths of life”. Through our own experiences we too come to believe that Jesus is the only way to live and to eternal life.

Yet even though we come to know this as we mature in our faith, the reality is that we must make an effort to keep our faith in focus. In verse 8 we read, “I have set the Lord always before me”. I think the key word here is “always”. That means 24/7. To keep God ever before us – 24/7 – takes a lot of effort and a lot of discipline.

The effort is shown in how we connect with God. In our prayer life it must be more than a quick ‘thank you God’ here and a table grace there. Daily prayer must be intentional and should include praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition (asking). Our study of the Word must also be more than superficial. For example, when we read the Upper Room or some other devotional, do we read the passage or just the key verse listed at the top? Reading the passage will add depth to our understanding. We must turn to the Bible for guidance and for direction as well. Another practice that helps keep our faith in our focus is fellowship with other believers. That is certainly public worship but it is also in small group or Sunday school settings. Talking about our faith and learning together are great ways to expand our perspective and to deepen our understanding of God’s word.

And then there is discipline. The daily and intentional attention to the means of grace requires discipline. Discipline is essential to the life of a follower of Jesus. It is too easy to put off the prayer time or Bible study or small group. It is an easy excuse to say I’ll do it later or I’ll catch up tomorrow or I’ll start going again next week. How would we feel if we lifted up an earnest prayer and God responded with “I’ll try and get to that next week”? May we strive to keep the Lord ever before us and in our focus. May it be so.

Prayer: Thank you God for my routine. There is no better way to start my day! Thank you for the regular opportunities to engage with you and with other believers. Blessings upon blessings! Amen.


Leave a comment

Know Jesus, Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

Verse 17: “I keep asking that God… may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better”.

Paul is on a first-name basis with the Holy Spirit. He first met the originator, Jesus Christ, on the road to Damascus and now Jesus’ Holy Spirit lives within Paul. It speaks to him, it teaches him, it brings him visions, it guides him. Paul knows the power and love of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and Paul is fully committed to helping others know this Jesus too.

Our passage today opens with Paul rejoicing over the Ephesians faith in Jesus and for their love of the saints. He prays for them regularly. He writes, “I keep asking that God… may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better”. Paul asks for this so that their faith in Jesus and their love for one another may grow more and more. Paul personally knows the value of the Spirit in his journey of faith and wants the Ephesians to experience the Spirit in the same way. He knows that when they too live with the wisdom and revelation of the Spirit, they will grow in their own faith and they will also bring more to faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul would pray the same prayer for all believers today. The Spirit prays this same prayer today. Our great intercessor, our great high priest, Jesus Christ, prays this same prayer today. I hope it is our desire and our prayer today too. It is a scary prayer. It is a prayer that opens us up to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in a new way. It is a prayer of surrender. It is a prayer that asks God to still our inner voice, the voice of self, and to make louder and clearer and more powerful the voice of the Spirit. It is a prayer that really says not my will but yours, O God.

It is also a prayer that must be accompanied by action. If we are to know the Holy Spirit more, we must pursue that desire. To know the Spirit more we must begin by knowing Jesus more. We do that by disciplined and regular attention to our faith practices: Bible study, meditation upon the Word, prayer, worship, fasting. We must spend personal time away from the world, committing to God, if we want to share that God with the world. This is what Paul is referring to when he prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” so that we know the “hope to which He has called you”. To share faith and our love with our brothers and sisters, we must first know Jesus Christ and then He will increasingly fill us with His Holy Spirit. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to know you more and more. Lead and guide my time with you to be fruitful and to deepen my connection to you. Keep me faithful. Thank you, God. Amen.


Leave a comment

Will We?

After their capitol city Jerusalem was destroyed, many of the people of Israel spent a long period living in exile.  Finally the king of Persia begins to allow some to return to start rebuilding their holy city.  The Israelites had been helpful and useful to the king, so this was a way he could thank them.  Miraculously, the small group rebuilds all of the city wall in just 52 days.  They know from this amazing feat, accomplished in the midst of unfriendly peoples all around them, that God was at work in and around them.  So they gather to worship and to hear the Word of God read.

Each week lots of folks will gather on Sunday morning to hear the Word of God, to offer Him praise, and to celebrate God’s presence in their lives.  God is a steady and active part of the lives of regular church goers.  Sunday morning is the time when they are renewed and encouraged and built up so that they can face the world in the week ahead.  Their time each Sunday morning in church allows them to live each day with God’s presence.

For lots of other folks, this feeling of a need to connect with God is generated only through an exceptional blessing or through a trying circumstance or event.  For the first group, something really amazing happens and they can sense God’s hand or presence in that blessing.  They show up on a Sunday and offer theirs thanks to God.  For the second group, it is a tragedy or trial that brings them to the point of feeling they need to connect to God.  They come desperate and seeking, sensing that only God can make a difference for them.

Funny thing though, God is equally happy to have all three in the house.  Each and every one is seen as a beloved child of God.  To God, on that day, it does not matter if one is there every Sunday or if it has been a while or if it is the first time.  On that day, they are there in the house of God.  And God is happy.

The challenge in the church is, first, to be equally happy.  The second challenge is to regularly feed to every Sunday worshiper while also meeting the special occasion worshiper where they are at and ministering to them right there.  All people need to see the relevance of God in their lives and to feel that their time is well-invested to keep showing up at church.  Together, the body of Christ has the gifts and talents to accomplish all of this.  Together the church can be relevant, can be worthy of people’s time, and can meet and minister to each person right where they are at in life and on their journey of faith.  But our question is: will we?

Scripture reference: Nehemiah 8: 1-3