pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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focus

Reading: Luke 21: 25-36

Verse 36: “Be always on the watch… that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”.

Advent begins this Sunday. It is a season of anticipation and expectation. It reminds us that we live in a now-not-yet space. Last week’s passage from Revelation reminded us that Jesus “was, is, and is to come”. This connects to our passage today and is a great pre-Advent thought. The Latin word that we derive “Advent” from is itself derived from the Greek word “parousia” – a term commonly used to describe the second coming of Jesus. Our passage today opens with signs that will proceed Jesus “coming in a cloud with power and great glory”. We are encouraged to “stand up and lift your heads” as we await His return. We are encouraged to stand up and declare our faith – to wish people a joyous “Merry Christmas” (instead of the secular “Happy Holidays”) and to focus ourselves and others on Jesus Christ during Advent.

Jesus uses the illustration of the fig tree to keep us focused and looking up and forward. Just as the buds indicate summer is near, we are to look for signs of the kingdom near us. Where can we see hope and love lived out this week? Where can we experience mercy and grace and forgiveness this week? Where can we be signs of the nearness of God’s kingdom, bringing hope and love, mercy and grace and forgiveness to other’s lives this week?

Our passage today closes with another good reminder. It ties back into the “stand up” idea. Maybe Jesus knew what Christmas would become. He warns us to be careful lest we become”weighed down” and filled with anxiety. As a parent I can remember times when I was weighed down and filled with anxiety over the gifts and reactions to them. It can be easy to go there. When our focus shifts away from God and His kingdom, then yes, the day will close upon us “like a trap”.

Instead, Jesus encourages us to “Be always on the watch… that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”. Jesus must ever be our focus during the Advent season. Our eyes and heart must remain fixed on the Son of Man. Our lives will reveal what is truly in our heart and soul this Advent season. May Jesus Christ be what people experience in and through us.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to focus in on you alone this Advent season. Keep my eyes and heart on you and the coming of your kingdom. May my life reveal your Son as the focus of Advent and of Christmas. Amen.


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Sing Out Loud

Reading: Psalm 98

Verse Nine: “He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

Psalm 98 is a song of celebration. The Lord has made salvation known to the nations. The Psalm calls us to sing a new song and to shout for joy to the world. The psalmist even invites the sea and rivers and mountains to join in the celebration. The Psalm closes with this line: “He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity”.

It all sounds wonderful. There will be much joy and songs of praise when the Lord returns. If one is walking with the Lord. If. When one walks with the Lord, they will be singing and shouting for joy when He returns to make all things new. There is no fear of judgment because our faith brings us an assurance and a peace concerning the things to come. Those who live in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ may even look forward to what is unfolding in this Psalm. But we are the minority.

Most of the world will simply dismiss the Psalm at first reading. For the non-believer it is easier to not even think about it. Yet at times they do. Death is one of those things that no one can avoid so it comes to all of our minds now and then. Because most all non-believers sense that there must be “something more” after this life draws to a close, all people have at least a little willingness and some even have a desire to know more about this God who one day will judge.

So how do we help others to know the Lord? By sharing the story of how we know the Lord. Our Psalm opens with this line: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things”. Sing out loud so that others can hear your good news today. Sing out loud so that your voice plants seeds that God can water and the Spirit can nurture. Sing out loud today!


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Love Pure and Unending

Reading: Jeremiah 31:34

Verse 34b: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”.

God’s love, of course, is much greater than our love. It is greater not only in volume, but also in quality. It is a love that we cannot begin to see the bounds of. In Jesus, we see that God’s love is a love for all people, especially the least and the lost and the broken and the marginalized. God’s love is something that binds us together with God and with each other. It is a love that sees beyond faults and stumbles to always say, “I love you”.

In today’s passage, God is saying that His love will lead mankind to know Him in such an intimate way that one day we will no longer have to teach about God and His ways. As we look at the world that say seems a long way off. Yet within this is also revealed God’s patience. Jesus could have returned long ago and made all things new. But I think the delay shows God’s patience. He is saying, “Just one more. Let’s save just one more” over and over. This patience, of course, comes from His great love.

Our passage today concludes with this line: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. Just more proof of God’s vast love. Not only does God offer forgiveness, but He does not remember our sins. Forgiven and forgotten. How I wish I was more like God in this way! It is easy to forgive someone that feels truly repentant. But if it feels shallow or if they turn around and do the same thing again, I can easily withhold forgiveness or place another mark on the chalkboard in my mind. The same mentality that leads us to feel like we need to return the favor or the compliment leads us to think we should keep track of wrongs and hurts.

This is not the love and forgiveness we experience from God. It is not the love and forgiveness modeled by Jesus. In Psalm 103 we are told that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. In John 12 Jesus reminds us that He did not come to judge or condemn the world but to save it. Faith is all about love. Love conquers all things. May God and Jesus’ love in me conquer my penchant for keeping score and may my love God and others be pure and unending, just as is His love for me. May I love as He loves me. May it be so. Amen.


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Opportunity

Reading: 1st Corinthians 7: 29-31

Verse 31: “For this world in its present form is passing away”.

Paul believes Jesus Christ will return at any moment. This is the general view held by almost all Christians in the time immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul’s words in these verses may be a little confusing at first read. Paul’s focus is on God and the people’s relationship with God. There is some urgency to Paul’s words as he states, “the time is short”. Taken in this light, Paul is encouraging his readers not to be too concerned with the things of this world – their relationships, their status, their possessions – but with the coming of Jesus. Paul is not saying to abandon all of these earthly things but instead he is saying to not make them the priority. He wants his readers to first focus on God.

In general, the perspective on the proximity of Jesus’ return has changed. Although it could be today, for the most part we do not necessarily live like it could be. For many folks, Christians and non-Christians alike, the idea of getting to their faith one day – really getting serious – is much the same. Today would be okay but tommorow or, better yet, the next day would be better. Just so busy now.

In spite of this prevelant attitude, Paul’s words are as correct today as they were when he first spoke them: “For this world in its present form is passing away”. Jesus’ return is closer today than it was yesterday and each day that passes we all come one day closer to the day we meet Jesus. Herein lies the urgency for us as Christians. Too often our primary focus is not on God but on the things of this world. This is on a personal level. On the corporate level our mission is just as urgent. In our commission to make disciples we never know when our words or actions may be what finally brings a lost soul to Christ. We may just be planting more seeds, but one never knows. What I do know is this: all should have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ before they stand before the judgment seat. Who will you introduce today?


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Coming Soon

Reading: Mark 13: 24-31

Verse 28: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.

At first glance, today’s text seems odd for Advent, the season where we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The sun being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens quaking don’t quite have that Christmas vibe.  But if we dig a little deeper, the reading makes sense.  There are signs all around that the world is more ready than ever for what this passage speaks of.  Each year we can look back and think the world is more ready than ever for Jesus to return and make all things new.

If we dig down into the core of why Jesus came, we find our answer in the fullness of God’s love: for God so loved the world…  Because God looked down and saw His children living in darkness and sin, He sent Jesus.  We remember too that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  God looked down upon a world dead in its sin and did something about it.  Today many people still live in darkness and the only true, lasting light remains Jesus.  As we await the return that today’s passage speaks of, we do so following our call to bring the light and love of Jesus to all people and to all nations.  This call is a great reason for us to celebrate the birth and life that brought hope and love to a world in great need.

We wait, though, in a tension.  Verse 28 speaks of this tension: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.  Just as the fig tree shows signs and calls people to anticipate summer, so too are we to live with the sense that Jesus is coming soon.  Soon is a good place to be.  When we live with a sense of Jesus coming soon, we live with a faith that is active and alive.  We live with a faith that matters today in the present.  We live with a faith that seeks to share the hope and love of Jesus with all we meet.  We live with a faith that is full of promise and expectation.  As we live out a “coming soon” faith, may we live so that others may sense that Jesus is right at the door of their hearts too, seeking to come in.


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D

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 16-18

Like almost all the other stories of Jesus, someone was there to remember the event, to tell others about it, to one day record it.  I’d imagine most of the stories, particularly the miracles, were talked about quite a bit.  This is a large part of why Jesus drew such a crowd at times.  They had heard.  At Jesus’ baptism there were some onlookers there to see the Spirit descended and to hear the “this is my Son” declaration.  But the transfiguration story is so much more.  Jesus’ appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus, the voice of God again speaks.  In all of this, we gain confirmation of Jesus’ divinity and authority.  But, for the time being, this story goes untold, as per Jesus’ instructions.

In the transfiguration account, we see that the God we adore and worship and praise is the same as the the One who came in the flesh.  In the power and divine majesty of the transfiguration, we see a glimpse of the Messiah who will one day return again to restore all things as He establishes the new heaven and earth.  The image in 2nd Peter also connects forward to the vision of Jesus that John has in Revelation.  Both Peter and John are so in awe of what they see that they both have trouble putting words to what they see and experience.  In between these two events we have he risen Lord, appearing in the garden, in a room, on the seashore,…  We see a loving God who reassures His closest friends that He is going back to be with His Father, but also promising to one day return in glory.

As we prepare to enter Lent, we embrace all of this – the Christ who was here before time, the human Jesus who walked the earth and was crucified for our sins, and the risen Messiah that will one day return to make all things new.  As faithful and obedient disciples, we cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”


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Each Day

Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44

Almost everything about “the end” is unknown.  Personally, we do not know in advance the date on which we will draw our last breath.  As a faith, we do not know the date that Jesus will return.  We do not know if this will be during our lifetime or if His return is thousands of years away.  We simply know that one day Jesus will return to make all things new.

In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of the unknown nature, saying only God knows the time.  Even this is unclear.  Does this mean God has a date marked on the heavenly calendar or does it mean that only God will know when the time is right for Jesus to return?  In either case, Jesus’ advice is the same: keep watch, stay ready.  For emphasis, the passage ends with, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him”.  One will be taken, one will be left.

If this passage is not a call to live each and every day as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, I do not know what it is.  Jesus came to earth to reveal what God is like.  Jesus came and walked and lived among humanity to show us what God’s love looks like lived out in the flesh.  Jesus came to show us what it looks like to daily love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and what it looks like to daily love neighbor as self.  And He said, “Go and do likewise… make disciples of all nations…”

As disciples of Christ, we yearn to be more and more like Him every day.  We study the Bible, we spend time in prayer, we participate in small groups and in classes, we worship regularly – all to get to know Jesus better.  All this to keep watch, to stay ready.  Each day is another day to know Jesus more and to share Jesus with more people.  Each day is one day closer to when we meet Jesus face to face.  Each day, may we continue to be God’s love lived out in the world.  Each day, may we shine the light, ever walking with Jesus.