pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Saying “Yes”

Reading: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13

Verse Two: “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”.

In some ways, Paul’s view of ministry differs from ours today. He lists a handful of things that are commendable: trouble, hardship, distress, imprisonment, sleepless nights, hunger. While we are sometimes willing to endure these things for our faith, we do not often intentionally put ourselves out there to experience these things. Yet many people do endure these things. Today we journey home from a mission trip where we met lots of folks who experience these things on a daily basis.

Paul also gives us another list. He offers commendation for purity, patience, kindness, love, and truthful speech. These are characteristics that we all want to possess and share with others. These are the traits that we want to be known for. Yet, as Paul also acknowledges, we most often find ourselves between these two lists.

Paul shares that we usually find ourselves between bad and good reports, between being seen as genuine and as imposters, between dying and living, as sorrowful yet rejoicing, and as having nothing yet possessing everything. We often did find ourselves in the middle, tending towards one end or the other. We seek to be living for God, yet when we are honest, we spend a lot of time pursuing what we want and desire. It is a battle.

In verse two Paul writes, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”. The key word is ‘now’. It is an important word. On our mission trips we usually end up centering on a phrase or expression that seems to encapsulate the trip. This year what became our central thought was saying “yes” to those opportunities that God gives us, to answer when He calls. Many of our youth and adults had opportunity to do so this week. Great blessings were poured out from heaven upon both us and those we worked with because of the yeses.

The time is now. Today God wants to bless you with His favor. Today God wants you to experience His salvation. Today and each day may we ever be open to the opportunity that God provides – whether in hardship or joy, whether in sorrow or kindness. May we too be willing to say yes to God. 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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Refreshing

Reading: Acts 3: 12-19

Verse Nineteen: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”.

Peter astonished the crowd by healing a man who was crippled from birth. Yes, it was life-changing for the man physically. But the spiritual change that was possible for him and for all there that day was what was key. Rather than let the moment pass by, Peter seized the attention of the crowd and used it as an opportunity to preach about Jesus.

Peter first attributes the healing to the name of Jesus. It was not by Peter’s power but by God’s. Peter then reminds the crowd that it was they who “killed the author of life”. But he quickly goes on to say that God intervened there too, saying that “God raised Him from the dead” and that he and the disciples are witnesses to this. Peter then reiterates how the man was healed: “by faith in the name of Jesus”.

In our lives we too experience “God moments” – times where the hand or Spirit of God has clearly been at work. Maybe the cancer disappeared or maybe what should have been a disaster ended up with all being okay. Or maybe you followed the small voice of the Holy Spirit and were a part of changing someone’s life. These tangible touches of God come in all sizes and shapes.

Peter seizes the people’s touch by God and helps them to see that the ‘killing’ of Jesus was all part of God’s bigger plan to save the world. He connects the scripture with the crucifixion. Then Peter does something very important: he extends an invitation to faith in Jesus. He says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”. The crippled man was ‘refreshed’ before their eyes. Peter is offering a much more life-changing refreshing – the salvation of the soul. May we do the same today.


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News to Share

Reading: 1st John 1:1 to 2:2

Verse 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”.

1st John opens with some excitement in the writing. In his words we can still sense the excitement related to the recent resurrection. John bases his authority to proclaim the gifts of eternal life and salvation from sins on his firsthand experience hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus. The opening section concludes with, “We write this to make our joy complete”. John receives joy from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Coming off Easter Sunday we too should be full of good news to share with those in our world. Yesterday we joyously celebrated the risen Lord. Will we go out into the world sharing the joy? Will you?

John goes on in the remainder of 1st John 1 to encourage us to walk in the light. He writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness”. We must walk in the light to remain connected to God. John writes of the benefits of this choice. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, we experience the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. For our part, we must confess and seek to repent of our sins. John also acknowledges the reality of sin in our lives. He reminds us that we do walk in darkness, in our sin, at times. John also warns us not to claim that we do not sin because then we “make Him out to be a list”. Don’t want to do that!

In 1st John 2, John goes on the address when we sin. He reminds us of two important details in our battle with sin. First, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between God and our sins. Second, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. He has already paid the price for our sins and, in fact, has paid the price for the sins of the whole world.

All of this is indeed good news worthy of sharing. There are none more in need of hearing this news than our broken and hurting brothers and sisters who are living lost lives. If we do not share the stories of the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, how can they come to know the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ in their lives? Yesterday we were reminded that we are Easter people, that we are resurrection people. The good news is always good. It is always worthy of sharing. May we each live our love of Jesus out loud each and every day, helping others to walk in the light of God’s love. Lord, give us the strength and courage so that it may be so. Amen.


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Praise and Exalt

Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29

Verse 27: “The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us”.

The section of Psalm 118 that we read today is full of joy over being connected to God. Verse one is used in a popular praise and worship song. I can’t but help singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, His love endures forever”. In our church and in many others we will sing this song on Sunday morning. The song and this Psalm are just part of the excitement of Palm Sunday.

The Psalm was a well-known Psalm so Jesus would have been familiar with it. These words probably encouraged Him as He turned and made His way to Jerusalem one last time. He knew well what lay ahead so the reminders that God is good and that His love endures forever would have brought Jesus comfort and strength. In recalling verse 22, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”, Jesus would have found affirmation in the mission that lie ahead.

As we read this Psalm ourselves, we can also find encouragement and strength. On our paths through life we too encounter times of trial and testing. To remember “I will give thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation” places us firmly in God’s family both now and into eternity. In seeing the bigger picture, we are better able to walk through the trials. To remember “The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us”, reminds us of God’s ever-present light that guides and blesses us, especially in those trials.

Almost at the end of the Psalm we read these wonderful words of thanksgiving and praise: “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt you”. Yes, indeed, you are our God. For that we lift our thanksgiving and praise today! Your love endures forever, always a sign of your goodness. Thanks be to God! Amen.


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Walk in Light

Readings: Numbers 21:7-9 and John 3:14-21

Verse 19: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”.

Mankind has always wrestled with sin. Complaining against God and Moses led to snakes appearing, biting and killing people. The people repented and that is where our Numbers passage picks up. Because they repented, God lovingly provides a way for snake bitten people to live. To be saved, the people must look up.

In the passage from John, it speaks of living in darkness or living in light. When we choose to live in the darkness, we are always looking down. For practical purposes, it is to see our way in the dark. The emotional and spiritual analogy would be we look down because of our guilt or shame. When we instead choose to walk in the light, all us illuminated. Our path is clear to see and we carry no guilt or shame because the light reveals our sin and we repent of it in the light.

John presents a clear picture of the gift of salvation: for God so loved the world… He goes on to remind us that Jesus came into the world to save us, not to condemn us. Yet not all accept this. In verse nineteen John writes, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”. Some people continue to love darkness because they think their evil deeds are hidden. They are not – God sees just as well in the dark as He does in the light. But for those who are saved, they choose light. John writes, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God”.

This day may we walk in the light so that all will see that we walk with God and that we live by the truth and light of Jesus.


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Round and Round

Reading: Romans 4: 13-16

Verse Sixteen: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, do that it may be by grace”.

In our culture we generally like to feel we are at least ‘even’ with each other. If someone brings us a plate of cookies, for example, we feel we need to return the favor by bringing them a cake or plate of cookies or treats. If we ask someone to help us move, then we feel obliged to show up when they are moving. If wr have someone over for dinner they drive home contemplating when they can have us over for dinner. We go round and round.

Sometimes I think we feel faith is like this too. We try to do good things to gain or earn God’s favor. We pile on more when we have sinned and feel the guilt or shame. We try and check off all the boxes to meet what we think God and others expect of us to be considered ‘good’ Christians. So we go to church and to that pot luck and to the small group and to the rescue mission to help serve the meal and… We go round and round.

Lent is a good example of this idea. The concept behind a season of preparation for Easter is to be ready spiritually to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. What do we do to get ready? We give something up for Lent, wr join another Bible study, we go to that special Lenten small group, we read an extra devotional, we… Sometimes it feels like we are going round and round instead of connecting more deeply to God. But we can’t quite avoid it either. If I were to just say “Stop!” all this and just get closer to God, I would feel inclined to follow it up with advice to just pray more or to just read your Bible more. And we go round and round.

God knows. He knows. In verse sixteen we read,”Therefore, the promise comes by faith, do that it may be by grace”. We are saved by grace alone. No matter what we do or do not do, no matter what we say or don’t say, God’s grace is always sufficient. This removes our need to check boxes or to give up this or to add in that. This need is within us, in our minds, maybe even in our hearts. God says enough, my grace is enough. If abstaining from chocolate or whatever helps you feel closer to God, then do it. If reading an extra devotional or being in a small group helps you grow closer to God, then by all means enjoy your time. In the end, though, may we all rest upon the promise of salvation by faith alone. In this promise, grace is sufficient. It is all about God. This we know. May it be so.