pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Run the Race

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

Verse 2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”.

As chapter twelve opens the author of Hebrews reminds us that we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses”. Those in the Faith Hall of Fame and all who have lived faithfully and died make up this crowd. One day we too will be part of that group. The witnesses testify to the faith in life and surround and cheer us on from heaven. The image of those in heaven cheering us on as we walk out our faith is a beautiful picture. I think the cheers are loudest when another believer joins their ranks in heaven.

The first advice we receive today is to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. We are to rid ourselves of the things of the world and to repent of our sins. There is a weight we carry when we bear these things and the desires of the world and flesh. These inhibit us from running the race laid out for us. It is harder to persevere when we carry unnecessary burdens.

The second advice we receive for our journey of faith is to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”. However long the race, it is a good thing to keep our eye on the finish line. This first keeps us determined to finish. Second, it reminds us of the reason we are running. We run the race of faith so that we can one day join Jesus in heaven. The last reason we fix our eyes on Jesus is because he is our example. In the Bible we see what the best race ever run looks like when we study Jesus’ life. We see in Jesus what it looks like to love God and to love neighbor with all that we are. We will do well to run the race like the author and perfecter of our faith. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, may I surrender all that hinders and entangles me each day so that I can best follow the example of your son, Jesus Christ. Strengthen me for the race so that I may one day be a part of that great cloud of witnesses. Amen.


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The Race

Reading: Philippians 3: 4b-14

Verse 12a: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect…”

In our passage today, Paul uses the analogy of running a race. To run a race requires some practice and training if we are to run the race well. Paul is thinking in terms of a prize, so preparation is essential. When applied to our faith journey, the preparation required is a daily effort. We must spend time reading and studying our Bibles, praying,… each day. We cannot prepare every once in a while and expect to do well in our race. Our journey of faith is a daily race.

The race we run is not a 100-yard dash or a 1/4 mile race. It is not even a marathon. Our journey of faith is a race that encompasses a lifetime. Our race begins the day we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and it ends the day we draw our last breath. It is a long race. It is a hard race. But we do not race alone. First, Jesus Christ dwells in us as the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding, directing and correcting. Second, we run with others – our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, there is much encouragement to be had as we run our race.

Encouragement is important because the race is not always run on a perfectly flat track. Much of the race is run on a pretty steady course, but not all of it. At times our course will dip down into the valleys and we will have times when the path is quite rocky. We will also have moments when we find our path is atop The mountain and we feel like we are running on a cloud. The ups and downs are part of our race. We learn and grow, we discover more about God and ourselves, we persevere and develop trust. The Holy Spirit and the faithful remain present in the good and the bad. At times we too are blessed to be a brother or sister helping someone else along their race. We are all ever a work in progress. Paul puts it this way: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect…”. Yet he presses on.

Today is another day to run the race. As we live out our faith today, may we run the race well.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for all those times when you were there for me – to encourage me, to lift me up, to carry me. Open my eyes to see the opportunities you give me to help others on their races. Amen.


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The Healer

Reading: Mark 6: 53-56

Verse 56: “They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed”.

Illness and disease can separate us. When we have minor maladies like the flu or a cold, we often want to be left alone. Only the closest of family wants to be around us. After not too many days we long to return to good health and the company of others. When the illness or disease is cancer or something else difficult to treat, some people will shy away or disconnect because the discomfort level is high. Today, though, most of us have access to good medical care and most diseases do not affect our relationships and connections to family and friends. This was not the case in Jesus’ day.

At the time our passage occurred, illness usually meant isolation. To a devout Jew, illness meant sin and that created a barrier. Some groups, lepers for example, were forced to live in isolated communities, away from all family and friends. Contact with blood or a dead body made one unclean and meant a period of separation and purification. People with most diseases not only faced isolation and stygma; they had very few medical options as well. There was no clue what many illnesses even were, much less any cures. So we can begin to imagine what hope came with the rumors of Jesus’ healing touch coming to a town near you.

Mark records that when people heard Jesus was near, they ran and carried the sick on mats to where He was. Wherever Jesus went, the sick amassed. Many, many would do the same today if given the chance. Imagine how those with no hope would run! Imagine how those with no money or coverage for care would run to where Jesus was! Mark writes, “They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed”. It is a powerful image to hold in our minds. Not only to be restored physically but emotionally and spiritually and relationally. It was quite a healing that Jesus offered.

Today many seek healing. For some it is physical but for others it is spiritual and/or relational. In this time and place, in a few moments of quiet, may we pray for those we know who need healing. May we lift them up to Jesus, bringing them before the Healer.


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Run to God

Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5 and 13-17

Paul is writing into a situation where there is some sense of urgency or anxiety.  He encourages this church to “not become easily unsettled or alarmed” by the false prophets.  Paul must be writing about this because it has begun to happen.  The church looks at the world around them and wonders if the end is at hand.  We can relate well to this at times in our modern world. At times we too look at the world and wonder.

On a smaller scale I think we do this at times, in our own lives.  Traumatic and sudden events can cause us to question and think the end is near.  The loss of a child, the sudden death of a spouse in middle age, the unexpected pink slip at work – all can put us into a mode of anxiety or fear or doubt. All of these things can shake us too and can almost paralyze us.

The words Paul speaks to the church speak to us as well: “from the beginning God chose you to be saved”.  In essence, Paul is saying, trust in God and the plan God has for you.  Trust that God alone is fully in control, that no matter what happens here, we are in God’s hands.  Paul goes on to encourage them to “stand firm and hold onto the teachings”.  Remember what is in God’s Word.  Stand on your faith, hold fast to the promises – “I will never leave you or forsake you”.

When fear or anxiety rise up, Paul says to run to God.  When the world seems to be falling apart, run to God.  When we feel like we cannot make it on our own, run to God.  Why?  As Paul wrote, “May our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your heart and strengthen you for every good deed and word”.  Run to God, the promises are true.


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Fix and Run

Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2

Paul encourages us to “run the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”.  It is a call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as we run the course that He marked out for us as He lived His earthly life.  There are challenges and days where it seems harder to run the race Jesus ran, but when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the race is easier.  When we focus on the one ahead leading the race, it is easier to keep pace and to follow.

To keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we must connect to Him daily.  Prayer and study are our two primary ways.  Through reading and studying the scriptures each day we gain a better understanding of both the runners and the race.  In Jesus we find the perfect runner and we also see how to run the perfect race.  In the people Jesus encountered we see the runners who were struggling with the race and we hear Jesus’ words of wisdom and encouragement on running the race.  In these runners we often see our own struggles and hear the words Jesus spoke as words spoken to us as well.

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus can be a challenge.  Paul begins the passage for today by encouraging us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”.  Paul knows that much will try and garner our attention and focus.  He knows that much will try and hold us back from living a life dedicated to Jesus.  The many pressures society places on us can greatly hinder us if we cannot look past them and keep our eyes focused on Jesus.  Temptation is all around us.  Sin can easily entangle us and can keep us off the race track.  It is when we focus on Jesus that the sin and temptation loose their power over us.

May we fix our eyes on Jesus today and run our race with perseverance so that one day we too may know the joy of the cross.


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Walking by Faith

Paul reminds us that we walk by faith and not by sight.  Envision with me, just for a moment, your feet walking along a stony path.  See just the bottom of your legs and your feet and the path.  Hear the sound of the rock underneath your feet.

What is it that you see and hear?  Are your feet moving right along, steadily crunching the gravel as you stride?  Or are your feet skipping along making a scuffling sound in the stones?  Or are they moving haltingly and unsteadily, offering up an uneven pattern of noise?  Or are your feet still, making no sound at all upon the rocks?

Depending on how our lives are at the present moment, we may be breezing along the path, at a standstill, or somewhere in between.  For a season our walk of faith might be steady, but at other times it is not.  Life can distract us, disruptions can halt our progress.  Peaks and valleys come and go, but we always must keep moving forward in faith.

In faith we do continue to walk forward, ever seeking to draw nearer to He who stands at the end of our path – Jesus Christ.  By keeping our eyes on Christ, we can always move closer whether we run, jump, skip, walk, or barely move forward.  At times the next step may seem unclear or unsure, but we know by the faith in our heart that He is there, ever calling us along our journey of faith.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10