pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Daily, Daily, Ever, Ever

Reading: Hebrews 9: 24-28

Verse 28: “He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him”.

Living day to day can be hard. At times, life can throw challenges and trials at us. To walk faithfully with God is not always easy – especially in the days that test us and our faith. Jesus walked through some of those days when He lived as a human. He wept for Lazarus and empathized with his sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus felt the pain of rejection and abandonment when Peter denied knowing Him. We have lots of stories of Jesus entering the pain and sin of people’s lives when He walked with them, understood their stories, and offered hope, healing, a new start. We have a Savior who knows what the challenges and trials feel like. And He wants to walk with us daily.

We are human and our tendency is toward the things of the flesh – to that which brings easy gratification and quick pleasure. In this sense we are like a microwave – quick, now, low effort, easy. Jesus invites us to more, to better, to slower, to harder. To accept Jesus and to follow Him affects us both in the present and in the eternal. Choices in the present affect the eternal. Our passage reminds us that we are “destined to die, and after that face judgment”. One day all – Christians and non-Christians alike – will give an account of our life.

Our account is not a scorecard. The Christian life is not one of simply doing more good than bad. It is a life lived for Christ. It is a life that meets Him daily in prayer and meditation. It is a life that loves neighbor as self, following Jesus’ example of being a humble servant. It is a life that rejoices with Jesus in life’s ups and clings to Him in the downs. It is a life that rests upon faith daily, trusting in and knowing this eternal truth: “He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him”. Daily, daily, all for Jesus. Ever, ever, dwell with Thee. May it be so.

O Jesus, my Savior and Lord – be these things today, every day. Each day be the Lord of my life. Daily, may I surrender. Each day and every day, be my Savior – cleansing, forgiving, making me new. All for Jesus, I surrender; daily for Him, I shall live. Amen.

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Resolute

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse Seven: “Because the sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced”.

Isaiah begins our passage today acknowledging the word that sustains him and shares how each morning his ear is awakened to listen. For those who regularly invest time in reading their Bibles, they can relate well to what Isaiah is saying here. Whether it is early in the morning or over the noon hour or just before bedtime, daily reading of our Bibles leads to knowing God’s Word. In turn, the Word will sustain us over and over. As a result, Isaiah writes, “The sovereign Lord has opened my ears”. Time in our Bibles leads to our ears being opened more and more to God’s voice in our lives.

Time with God builds our connection with God, just as it would with any relationship. Isaiah goes on to write of not being rebellious. This too is our goal. But the reality is that we will sin. However, the more time we spend with God in prayer, worship, and reading our Bibles, the less we will sin. For example, there are things I did and said ten years ago that I now see as sin and strive to do no more. As we mature in our faith the narrow road becomes narrower as we better and better understand what it means to walk closely with our God.

As one grows in the faith so too does our trust in the Lord. In verse seven Isaiah writes, “Because the sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced”. Isaiah trusts that as he walks in faith, God has his back. This does not mean that life will be perfect. In fact, in verse six, he writes of the abuse and violence that he has experienced because of his faith. At times we too will experience abuse or rejection or maybe even violence because of our faith. Yet even then we do know that God remains with us, helping us through. And maybe we can even get to the place the apostles got to, rejoicing that we could suffer for Christ.

Verse seven goes on to say, “I have set my face like flint and I know I will not be put to shame”. This verse will be echoed in the New Testament as Jesus turns toward Jerusalem for the last time as Palm Sunday approaches. As followers of Jesus, may we also be resolute in our faith, walking a firm and steadfast path, wherever God may lead us this day and each day. Amen.


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Healing and Wholeness

Reading: Genesis 45: 1-15

Verse Four: I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.

Joseph is at a good place in his life.  He has gone through some difficult experiences but has had a sense of God’s guidance and presence during his time in Egypt.  The old hurts and scars are a thing of the past.  And then his brothers suddenly appear before him, begging to buy food.  Oh how the tables have turned!  All that distant hurt and anger must have come rushing back for Joseph.  In the text we see that this is right where his brothers go – terrified in his presence because they too remember what all they did to him.

In life we experience hurts and offenses.  We all have been let go by an employer or have been dumped by one we love or have been cast aside for a cooler or better connected friend.  More often than not we absorb the hurt and over time it lessens and we come to a new place of peace and contentment as we allow God to heal and love us.  We see that God has continued to be at work in our lives, bringing us a new job or a new significant other or a new best friend.  And then our old boss comes looking for a job or the ex shows up with regrets over their choice or the old friend comes looking for your help.  Thanks feelings come rushing back and it is hard to be loving and caring and to act as Jesus calls us to act.

Joseph exclaims, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt”. It is not, ‘I am in charge now!’ or ‘Get out!’ or anything else harsh or negative.  It is love and mercy and reconciliation that Joseph offers.  He knows that God has been with him and will continue to be with him.  He chooses to let go of the past and to embrace a future with God leading and guiding.  When we are faced with the choice to love or to seek revenge, may we also find a way guided by God’s love, bringing healing and wholeness to what was broken.


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God Story

Reading: Psalm 116: 1-4 and 12-19

Verse 12: How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?

The psalmist begins by declaring his love for God because God heard his voice.  Because of God turning His ear to him, the psalmist commits to call on the Lord as long as he lives.  If only we were so steadfast in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we are more likely to coast in our relationship with God and then to ramp it up when trial or suffering set in on us.

I began my working career as a teacher.  I soon added ‘coach’ to my titles.  Shortly thereafter I added middle school Sunday school teacher.  That was the beginning of a long transition in my life.  Eventually I taught high school Sunday school and that led to working with the youth program.  God continued to work on my heart.  Almost seven years ago I left coaching and went to work serving part time as the youth director at my church.  Almost five years ago I left teaching and became a pastor.  God blessed my path in life and opened many doors for me.  This is one story.  While it is all true, it is not the whole story.

Eleven years and nine years ago I applied for the youth director’s job.  Twice I was not selected as the church hired someone else.  Rejection is always hard.  But perseverance is part of who I am.  And God’s call helped me to continue to be a part of the youths’ lives, He kept me engaged.  Those four years were a part of shaping me, a part of preparing me to do the job when God decided I was ready.  God’s timing is excellent.  It is perfect.

The first part of my story tells how God was at work in my life, slowly drawing me in.  The second part involves some trial and a little suffering, but it too is an essential part of my story.  Like the psalmist, I too must ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me”?  The first response is to tell my story of what God has done in my life.  The second is to do what the psalmist did: praise the Lord!  What is your God story?  How can you tell it?  And what is your responsive praise to God?


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Discipleship

Reading: Luke 9: 51-62

Growth does not often occur on the mountaintops.  It most often occurs in the valleys, in the hard times of life.  In today’s story Jesus is heading for His final trip to Jerusalem.  He is heading there to die.  His fate may be some cause for their foul mood.  After being rejected by a village, James and John want to call fire down from heaven.  It is certainly not their first taste of rejection, so the reaction probably comes from their bad mood over what they know lies ahead.  Sometimes we are this way as well.

As they continue, people approach Jesus wanting to follow Him.  Each man has a ‘but first…’ to their request.  One is concerned with shelter, one with burying his father, and another with having a proper goodbye with his family.  Each turns away as Jesus harshly addresses their lack of commitment to placing Him first.  Each of these ‘but first’ commitments resonate with us.

I will give of my time and resources Lord, but first let me set aside enough for all of my bills.  I will serve you Lord, but first let me go take care of all these other responsibilities.  I will be faithful to my prayer, Bible study, and worship disciplines, but first let me get in these activities and commitments.  I will, I will, I will… but, but, but.

The life if disciple of Christ is difficult.  The choice to place God first requires all else to get in line behind this commitment to our faith.  It is a difficult commitment that daily requires setting aside self and saying, “Here I am Lord, use me”.  It is truly a daily struggle, but may we struggle well this day and each day.


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Standing on the Rock

Throughout the Bible we find God using the unlikely or the outcast or the rejected.  From shepherds to elderly women, from the child sold into slavery to the child left to float down the river, from the prostitute to the wandering prophet, God used them all.  From the lawyer to the waitress, from the rancher to the teacher, from the oil field worker to the stay-at-home mom, God wants to use them all.

When we look at Jesus and the men he chose to be his disciples, we see the same concept – a widely ranging group of men.  Some simple fishermen, one a despised tax collector.  When we look at who Jesus ministered to, we see that concept expanded.  Jesus ministered to all who came to him.  Jesus met each person with no pretense and no hint of judgment.  He met people where they were, loved them and accepted them.  Then Jesus most often found a way to move them along in their faith.

The church in general, and many of us as Christians, would do well to better follow Jesus’ example of who to love and minister to.  All were His neighbor and all are our neighbor as well.  To think or even say that some people do not ‘fit’ in because of race, ethnicity, class, education, and so on is in error.  To think or say that someone is too big a ‘sinner’ to be welcome is so far away from right that you can’t event see ‘right’ from there.  The church was and is built for the lost and the broken.  It is who Jesus loved and who we need to love.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118).  Many years ago the Pharisees missed Jesus standing right there in front of them.  Today the church and sometimes we as Christian miss Jesus standing right in the midst of our lives.  May we learn to see Jesus and to be like Jesus.  May the stench of judgment and the sting or rejection fall away like rain.  May the love of Christ and the heart seeking to serve rise up like the morning sun, bringing light, love, and hope to all that it casts its rays upon.  May we come to stand on our cornerstone, our rock – Jesus Christ.