pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.


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Joy

Reading: Psalm 40: 6-11

What is the source of true happiness?  Is it your spouse or your children?  Is it your house or your car?  Is it having enough in the bank or in your retirement account?  Is it your job or where you are planning to go on vacation?  The psalmist exudes joy as he writes of his relationship with God.  In verse ten we read, “I speak of your faithfulness and salvation”.  It is here, as well as in God’s love and truth, that we find joy that never fades.

It is common for mankind to seek pleasure, happiness, and security in the things of this world.  We pursue possessions, positions, and power – thinking “this” will finally make me happy.  But the next new car does not bring pleasure and happiness and security forever.  There will always be a newer fancier model or an older, more rare classic.  And soon we feel empty and unfulfilled sitting in our current car.  The same is true with positions – there is always a younger and better person eagerly working their way up the ladder, one day to take your title.  Same is true for power.  At some point another will be calling the shots, making your decisions, spending your money, and driving your fancy car.

The psalmist found a source of happiness and joy that is eternal.  It will never go away, it will never be replaced by a newer model or a bigger version, it can never be taken from you, and it always loves and accepts you just as you are.  The psalmist exudes joy and happiness because of and through his relationship with God.  When life is lived for God, then the things of this world lose their luster.  Yes, we still need food and shelter and income to provide for our basic needs, but these are just “things”.  God’s faithfulness and salvation are eternal and unchanging.  Verse eleven reads, “may your love and truth always protect me”.  God’s love and truth protect us from the desires of this world.  We find our worth and our hope reside in God’s love and truth.

This day and every day may we seek God’s faithfulness and salvation.  This day and every day may we desire to live in the promises of God: He is faithful, His love and truth lead to joy in this life and to everlasting life in the age to come.  God is our joy!  May we always share our joy.


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We’ve Always

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul begins our passage by reminding his audience of how he got to where he is at right now: by revelation of God.  He was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, was struck blind for three days, and turned his life around 180 degrees.  Paul went from greatest persucutor of the church to the champion proclaimer of the church almost overnight.  It was a transformation that only God could lead.  The change God wrought in Paul gives him some authority to speak on God’s behalf.

But the news Paul is now sharing is difficult for many to accept.  At the core of this new church are ancient Jewish roots.  Almost all of the leaders and members of the church are Jews.  So, forever they have been “God’s chosen people”.  Of all the people in the world, only the Jews are chosen by God.  Since the time of creation, the Jews have been the one and only people of God.  This is one of the great “we’ve always done it this way” stories.  And now, Paul is preaching another story.

Today we still run into the “we’ve always…” stories.  A church I was at a while back ran a day center for the homeless and economically challenged.  Several people from the church volunteered at the center.  So, every once in a while, a volunteer would bring a guest with them to church.  This worked out OK because there was a buffer there.  But every so often a guest would respond to an invitation and would come on their own.  It was then that we learned who the few “we are God’s chosen people” followers were.  Yup, these guests are not just like us.  Yup, these guests are just like us: dearly loved children of God.

This was the revelation of God to Paul: all people are God’s people.  Red and yellow, black and white, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, …  This is the continuing story of God.  It is, of course, the ultimate “we’ve always…” story.  Jesus loved and welcomed whoever came to Him.  There were no applications or interviews or screenings.  Come one, come all.  All were worthy of His love and care because all are children of God.  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”, may we also seek to be the light in the darkness to bring healing and salvation to the world in need.


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Saved

Reading: Psalm 80: 1-3

The psalmist cries out to God, “come and save us”.  This is a familiar prayer to us as well.  Most often when we pray this prayer (or one that is similar), we are seeking God in the here and now.  We are in the midst of something and we would like God’s help.  We want God to enter our situation, to intervene, to make things better.  God’s response may not be to do exactly what we want it to ‘fix’ the situation, but through prayer we certainly find peace, comfort, strength…

In a bigger sense of the word, we are “saved” once we accept and profess that Jesus Christ is Lord of our life.  Once we claim Jesus as Savior, we are living in a state of being “saved”.  This means we have the promise of eternal salvation through our personal relationship with Jesus.  This status does not change.  Through this relationship Jesus claims us as His own and we are then forever living in a state of salvation.

For the remainder of our days, we live knowing our final destination, yet always working to grow in our love of God and neighbor.  Once we are “saved” it is not the end point but rather the beginning of the journey.  Once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are then ever living to become more and more like Jesus.  We grow to love others as Jesus lived others.  We grow to offer mercy and forgiveness more readily, like Jesus did.  We grow to place others ahead of self, like Jesus did.

As we move along the journey to become more and more like Jesus, we become more and more attuned to the needs of the world.  We see feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, standing against injustice, speaking truth into darkness, … as the stuff of everyday life.  As His hands and feet, we share Jesus’ love with many.  As we continue on our journey of faith, may we share bountifully.