pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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For Others

Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-4

Verse Three: “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty… oil of gladness… a garment of praise…”

The opening lines to Isaiah 61 are a clear call to love all of our neighbors.  These are the words that Jesus read after He came out of the time of testing in the wilderness.  As He stood in the temple, these words from Isaiah 61:1-2 were used as the announcement for what He had come to do.  As Jesus’ ministry unfolds, it becomes clear that these things are what His disciples and all who will follow Him are called to do as well.  There is much joy in proclaiming these words as Jesus did and claiming our role to follow in His footsteps.

During this Christmas season, the children have risen to a new level of awareness in my heart.  Perhaps it is because these are the ones who often have the least and who are most vulnerable.  Whether it is buying gifts for an “Angel Tree” child or assembling a “Christmas ShoeBox” for one in need, it makes a difference.  Whether it is ringing the Salvation Army bell for an hour or two or helping to assemble a holiday food basket for a needy child’s family, it makes a difference.These are but a few of the ways that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, can help a child or their family to feel loved this holiday season.  In doing so, we will “bestow on them a crown of beauty… oil of gladness… a garment of praise…”

May we each find ways to do for others this Christmas season.  Whether big or small, it all makes a positive difference.  May we bless the children with God’s love this Christmas season!

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Patience

Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8-15a

Verse Eleven: “What kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives.”

The followers of Jesus that lived in His lifetime thought that He would return very soon – in weeks or maybe in months.  But as the months turned into years and the years into decades, it became harder and harder to wait.  Not only did Jesus not return, but the Jews and other non-Christians were more than willing to remind them.  Over time the faithful began to wait with a patient and enduring hope.  Peter writes of this, saying, “He is patient… not wanting anyone to perish”.  Maybe God has not allowed Jesus to return just yet because there are still more souls to be saved.

I read a story in my devotional this morning about a woman who also held onto hope.  The militia had arrested her husband and son three years before, yet she continued to come every Monday, to the local police station, to hold a prayer vigil for her husband and son.  One day a guard mocked her and she replied with faith: “God’s justice will never fail.  It may come today or it may come in a 1,000 years, but it is coming”.  Her rock-solid faith allowed her to stand in the face of beatings and other persecutions to continue to pray for her family.  She stood on God’s promise to one day return and make all things new.

While all this is to say that God is patient, Peter also reminds us that the return will come like “a thief in the night”.  It will be quick and unexpected.  This idea makes me think of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks.  The Wall had seemed to stand forever – as long as anyone could remember.  Then one day, it was suddenly torn down.  The twin towers had always seemed to be in the skyline view, then one day they suddenly were not.  In light of this unknown time, Peter asks us, “”What kind of people ought you to be?”  Without pause he continues to answer the question, saying, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.”  He calls us to live as Jesus lived, holy and godly.

Yes, we will fall short at times.  Yes, we lose our grip on the promise now and then.  In our last verse, Peter adds a word of encouragement that we need to hold fast to: “Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation”.  It is a love that never ends and a mercy that washes over sin after sin.  Thanks be to God for your steadfast love and your patient mercy.


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Light

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verses 5 and 6: “You are all sons of the light… let us be alert and self-controlled.”

The Thessalonians are awaiting the return of Christ.  It has been twenty years and they are beginning to wonder.  They wonder about whether or not He is coming in their lifetimes and they wonder about their loved ones who are dying in the interim.  The anticipation of Christ’s return has begun to fade for some of the Thessalonians.  As Christians today we should be looking forward to Christ’s return too, but praying for Jesus to return today is not at the start of most of our prayer times.  For the most part, we live with the attitude that Christ could return today, but we do not live like He is returning today.

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians applies very much to Christians living in 2017.  The world is full of darkness and there are many who will face destruction and who will not escape.  They will be surprised when Jesus comes “like a thief in the night”.  Paul reminds us that we are all “sons of the light” and that we belong to Christ, who is our light.  Therefore, Paul says we should be “alert and self-controlled” as we live out our daily lives.  There is the implication then that we will not be surprised when Jesus returns (or when we go to meet Him).

Paul goes on to write about how we are to live our daily lives as children of the light.  He first says to put on faith and love as a breastplate.  The breastplate protects the heart.  If we begin each day by covering our heart with faith and love, then faith and love will be what guides our thoughts, words, and actions.  Paul then says to put on the hope of salvation like a helmet.  By doing so, we have the promise and hope of salvation right on the top of our minds, allowing that reassurance to be with us in all we do.

This day may we allow faith, hope, and love to be what others see as we live a s a child of the light.  May we shine brightly into the darkness of the world this day, bringing our God and King to all we encounter this day.


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Beautiful Feet

Reading: Romans 10: 14-16

Verse 16: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

Paul has just built his case for what one must do to be saved: believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord”.  In verse 13 Paul writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It is a faith that is offered to all people.  This echoes Jesus’ commission to bring the good news to all nations.  God’s love and saving grace are for all peoples in all places.

Today’s passage shifts to some realities that make most Christians a bit uncomfortable.  In our minds, yes, we all know that the Great Commission applies to all followers of Jesus Christ.  We are all called to proclaim the good news.  Today, Paul gives us a series of questions to consider.  First, how can anyone call on someone they do not believe in?  If one does not believe in Jesus then they will never experience salvation.  This is a matter of great eternal consequence.  It is imperative that all people have the opportunity to call on Jesus for salvation.

Paul then asks how one can believe without hearing of Jesus Christ.  It is indeed very hard to believe in someone you have never heard of or understand.  So all must hear the good news and come to understand what Jesus offers.  Then Paul asks how someone could hear without someone else speaking.  Again, if we do not tell others the good news of Jesus Christ then it is very unlikely that they will hear.  Paul then says that we each must be sent in order to tell.  Jesus’ parting words to all of us was to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are sent.  Each Sunday we close worship with a benediction – a reminder to the people of God to go out and bring Jesus to the world – to go forth to love and serve the Lord our God.

Paul closes with these words: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.  He is quoting from the prophet Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth.  Isaiah’s statement remains true.  The good news is still the good news.  All need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Do you want beautiful feet today?


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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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All

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 18-22

Verse 18: Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

During His time on earth, Jesus ministered to all who came or called out to Him in faith.  To all who demonstrated faith in Him as the Messiah, Jesus offered healing and restoration.  For some it was physical, for some it was emotional, and for some it was spiritual.  Jesus me all who came to Him in faith wherever they were at and gave of Himself all that He could.  It’s just who Jesus was and is today.  “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.  This verse speaks of the Jesus we know throughout the Gospels – the One who simply came to love us as His own.  Jesus continues to love us each day.

Although His body was killed, He was “made alive by the Spirit”.  The Spirit is for us the essence of Jesus.  In life, Jesus set an example for us to follow.  We read His words and the stories about him in the Bible and we are called to go forth to live a life that follows Jesus.  We too are to offer healing and restoration to a broken world.  Ultimately that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus.  The Spirit leads and guides us in bringing others to Jesus.  The nudges, the whispers, the shoves – these are all Jesus saying, “Go – do what I did.  Love one another”.  It is through this that others will meet Jesus themselves.

As the Spirit leads us out into the world, we all go with the same mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  As we share Jesus with the world, the world will come to know Him.  The waters of baptism will wash over new believers to welcome them into the family of God.  The waters of baptism begin our journey into Jesus and eventually all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior will be “saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

We are all the unrighteous.  Jesus died for all.  The only one who was pure and without sin took on sin for our sake.  He did it for all so that all can one day be saved.  This is good news indeed.  May we go out and share this good news today so that others may begin their journey with Jesus too.


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Light, Salvation, Stronghold

Reading: Psalm 27: 1 and 4-6

The Psalm opens with three great descriptors of God: light, salvation, stronghold.  God is all of these things to the psalmist and to us.  The writer, in response to this realization, asks, “whom shall I fear?” and “of whom shall I be afraid”?  When we are living with God as our light, salvation, and stronghold, the same is true for us: we have nothing to fear and no one to be afraid of.

God is our light.  The lights casts away darkness.  In God’s presence, evil and the powers of darkness flee.  Light also reveals.  God’s light reveals things we need to change and areas where we need to grow.  Light shows us the way.  God’s light guides us on the path that He desires we walk in life.

God is our salvation.  Out of God’s love for us, Jesus put on flesh and dwelled among us.  In doing so, Jesus revealed more of God’s nature to us and also set an example for how we are to love God and to love neighbor.  All of this is wonderful, but still falls short of salvation.  We must confess our sins and profess that Jesus is Lord of our lives.  Until we declare this, Jesus is just a nice guy who lived a really nice life.  Once we submit to Jesus’ reign in our lives, then we are saved and know salvation.  In order to make this possible, Jesus chose the cross.  Jesus sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of our sins.  It is only through this forgiveness that we are cleansed and made righteous again before God.  It is through this loving act that we can repent of and confess our sins every time we fail.  Then we are made right and can again enter into a pure and holy relationship with our God.  We are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and saved for salvation through Jesus Christ.

God is our stronghold.  Once we walk in the light and know the mercy and love of God, then nothing can defeat us – not temptation, not sin, not disease, not even death.  God’s power and presence are our stronghold no matter what the world or Satan throws against us.  There will be trials and struggles and temptations, but God’s light shines through them, giving us strength and hope and promise.  Knowing our eternity is secure in God, the things of this world are not so terrible or frightening.  God will have the last word.  All of this helps when we are in the valleys.  It is here that our greatest help comes from God.  God walks with us in the valleys, even carrying us when that is what we need.  It is when we need God most that God takes us into His arms and becomes our stronghold.

God is our light, salvation, and stronghold.  Thanks be to God.