pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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New But Unchanging

Reading: Mark 1: 21-28

Verse 27: “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority!”

The people who have been listening to Jesus talk are amazed by both His insights and by the authority with which He teaches. They asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority”! Jesus is revealing the scriptures perhaps in a new way, but He is teaching from an old source. We do not know what scroll Jesus is teaching from, but even if it was the newest it is at least 400 years old!

Have you ever read a passage of scripture that you thought you knew fairly well only to discover something fresh or unnoticed jumping out at you? I often wonder how I missed that the last time I read the passage. Have you ever sat down on Sunday, heard a familiar passage read, thought ‘here we go again’, and then had the pastor apply it in a whole new way? Once in a while it even feels like he or she is preaching just to you. Have you ever done your small group homework, come to class feeling confident in your preparations, and then been amazed by someone else’s different but spot-on insights? Yes, indeed, the Word of God is alive and, therefore, it often feels new to us in amazing ways.

Yet at its core, the message of the Bible does not change. The Bible is God’s ongoing love story with generation after generation of sinful and often disobedient children. It seems that no matter what we do, God’s love for us remains steadfast and true. As Jesus enters the story, we gain a fuller understanding of God’s love. In Jesus, we see what God’s love looks like lived out between us. Jesus gives us the model to follow. At the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly time, we see what the ultimate gift of love looks like as Jesus dies for you and me. It was Jesus’ final act of love and service. Through the grave defeated the power of sin and death and made a way for us all to inherit eternal life.

While the Word can be new to us every time we delve in, these core truths remain the same. Our faith foundation will always rest upon God’s love. Yet we are still blessed to experience that love in new ways every day. Thanks be to God for new but unchanging living Word.

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Mind and Heart

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

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

Paul is thankful for the church’s faith in Jesus and their love for the saints.  He writes that he has “not stopped giving thanks” as he remembers them in his prayers.  But Paul is not content to end his prayers of thanksgiving here.  He goes on in the next verse to write, “I keep asking that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”.  Paul realizes that the church in Ephesus is not “there” yet.  This verse finishes with these words: “so that you may know Him better”.  This is the purpose of our journey of faith too.  As followers of Christ, we never fully know Jesus.  Each day of our lives we can know Him more and more, coming to be more and more like Christ.

We know Jesus in two interconnected yet different ways.  We first come to know Jesus in our minds.  Whether as a child in Sunday school or as an adult who later comes to faith, we begin by learning about Jesus.  Whether that is through the Sunday school stories or through seeing faith lived out in the lives of other Christians, we first come to know Jesus.  This head knowledge eventually travels the path to our heart and we begin to sense a need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  When we get to know Him sufficiently we respond to that “knock on the door of our heart”, one day finally professing Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our life.  Then Jesus has a place in our heart.  But beware – we are not “there” yet either!

Paul’s prayer is for the Ephesians and for us to have the “Spirit” of wisdom and revelation.  In having a spirit that yearns to know Him better, Paul prays that the eyes of our heart be enlightened so that we know both the “hope to which He has called you” and the “incomparably great power” for us who believe.  In coming to know and live into these two requires both wisdom and revelation because these two are both in our heart and in our mind.

This day may we have mind experiences that cause our heart love of Jesus to grow as well as heart experiences that reaffirm and expand our mind knowledge of Jesus Christ.  In both ways we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, ever drawing closer to Him.


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One More

Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25

One more.  We wait.  One more week.  We wait.  In one more week it will be Christmas.  We will celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior.  One more week.  It is a significant day because it marks the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah – the one who forever changed the world.  Jesus began a new era in His birth.  Emmanuel, God with us, forever changed our relationships with God, with each other, with sin, and with death.  Jesus is the full revelation of God’s love and the example of how to live this love out in our daily, human lives.

One more second.  On more month.  Twenty-three days.  Right now.  All of these are also available options of times to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.  Our Emmanuel, God with us, is an ever present God.  We can have Jesus’ presence with us all the time.  Jesus does not just come once a year on Christmas.  Jesus continues to be present to us in the here and now and will continue to be present to humanity until the end of this age.

The Messiah came to initiate a new age: the age of peace.  It is a work in progress.  It is a work in the midst of labor pains.  It is a work that seems far from complete.  It is a work that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, continue to carry out day by day, person by person.

Just as Jesus was the revelation of God and the evolving story of the Old Testament, we too are the continuing revelation of Jesus and the story of the New Testament.  The story of the good news of Jesus Christ continues to grow, to spread, to reach new ears, and to transform lives.  Everyone who comes to Jesus as Lord and Savior helps to complete the narrative of peace and to draw the world a little closer to the return of Jesus.  One more soul at a time.  Matthew writes, “He will save his people from their sins”.  May all come to know this wonderful peace of Christ.


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Living Right

Reading: Psalm 119: 137-144

The psalmist declares that God’s righteousness lasts forever.  Because of this, all of God’s laws and ways are also righteous.  Since God’s laws and ways are always righteous, we should ever seek to understand and live out God’s statutes and precepts.  If we do so, then we draw near to loving them as the psalmist does.  Even in times of trouble and distress, the writer declares that God’s commands bring delight.

To this understanding from the Old Testament, we can apply our understanding of Jesus.  Jesus was the fuller revelation of God as He lived in the flesh.  Jesus allows us to see what it looks like to live out God’s laws and ways.  Even though Jesus was in the flesh, He was still divine and lived a life without sin.  In the life of Jesus, in the things He taught, and in how He lived, we have the example of what it means to live fully in God’s righteousness.  Jesus defined and lived out the essence of all of God’s laws and precepts that we find in the Old Testament.  He did so by loving God with all He was and by loving others as God loves them.  Jesus saw all as beloved children of God and treated each accordingly.

Jesus exemplified verse 142: “Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”.  God does not change.  God’s love never ends.  God’s ways are true.  Within these truths we seek to live as Jesus lived.  Living out our faith us living right.  Living out the love that Jesus pours into us is living right.  Living out the truth of God so that God’s word spreads to those around us and so God’s love and light grows is living right.  Whether filled with joy because of God’s blessings or struggling through a trial, these truths do not change.  No matter what life may bring, God’s love and God’s ways remain true.  May we always follow Jesus’ example, seeking to be God’s love and truth lived out.


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Eternal Yet Present

Reading: Revelation 22: 1-5

This final chapter of the Bible provides a beautiful image of heaven.  God and Jesus seated on the throne will be the center piece of the city.  All will serve and worship them and all will be marked as their children.  Out of the throne will flow a beautiful river, crystal clear, carrying the water of life.  Along the banks of this river will stand the tree of life.  The tree of life will bear twelve crops in the twelve months and the tree’s leaves will bring healing to all nations or peoples.  The light and warmth that basks this scene will come from God.

Revelation 22 indeed paints an amazing picture of the new heaven.  It is a place one is drawn to, a place one yearns to be present in.  The promises of complete healing, of being constantly in God’s presence, the beauty that will be the new Jerusalem – all draw one towards eternity.

Yet this idea of finally getting ‘there’ can distract us from this life.  While living with one eye on eternity can help keep us focused on how we are called to live in this world, all of our focus on eternity can cause us to look past what God has placed before us in this life.  On the other extreme, if life here is instead consumed by making the next step up the ladder of success, God has almost no role in our life.  When we are focused almost exclusively on the next promotion, the next new car or home, the next gadget, then the role of God in our life is minimal or nonexistent.

May we instead live life with the knowledge of our eternal home in mind while being fully present and attentive to God’s hand at work in this life.  May we trust in His plan and in His love both in this life and the next.


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Each Day

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

Part of our experience of Holy Week was the grief of knowing that Jesus had to die for our sins.  There is a personal connection for each of us to Jesus’ act on the cross.  He not only died for the people’s sins who were living in His time, but for all sin of all people in all time.  We are included, we have a share in the cross.  Through the cross, we also have hope.

In the book of Revelation, John again reminds us that Jesus will come again.  He writes, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”.  There is not a doubt that one day Jesus will return.  The day is known only to God.  So in the interim God brings us peace.  He removes the guilt of our sin so that we may ever be kneeling at the foot of the cross with our eyes turned to Jesus, the light and love of the world.

John also reminds us that Jesus too offers us grace and peace each day.  Because if His love for us, He frees us from our captivity to sin.  Jesus calls us out of this life to a life lived in His grace and peace.  He calls us into living an abundant life now, serving as priests working to build His kingdom here on earth.

To do so we must cast aside the disobedience that is within and strive to live the true life of faith that brings purpose to our days.  Jesus said, ” I am the alpha and the omega, who was, and is, and is to come “.  He is the beginning and the end and He is everlasting.  For each of us to find God’s renewing grace each day and for us to have true life now, we must live with Jesus as Lord and Savior at the beginning of each day, at the end of each day, and at all times in between.  May it be so.