pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust and Call

Reading: Romans 10: 5-13

Verse Ten: It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Rules or faith?  Myself or God?  Know or trust?  Living by faith can be a challenge to each of us.  Paul begins today’s passage with a quote from Moses about the Law.  Moses is basically saying that if one follows the Law, one is righteous for living according to God’s rules.  But the Law is something outside of us.  It is a list of do’s and don’ts.  The Law focuses on what I can (and cannot) do and is very black and white.  It says things like do not murder and keep the Sabbath holy.  In this sense, the Law is easy to understand.

To live by faith is another matter.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy and writes, “The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart”.  Faith in Jesus Christ is very much an internal thing.  Faith is about a relationship that shifts the focus from us to God.  This relationship begins with confessing “Jesus is Lord”.  This confession places Jesus instead of self on the throne of our heart.  It becomes less and less about what we can or cannot do (the Law again) and more and more about what Jesus is doing in and through us.

The Law is about knowing God in our head.  Faith is about having God in our heart.  The short distance between head and heart can be a very long journey.  Sitting in a pew each Sunday is following the rule written in your head.  Worshipping and praising God each week is Jesus living out of your heart.  It is a world of difference to have God in your head versus having Jesus in your heart.  Paul writes, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”.  Faith resides in the heart.  It leads us on that journey to confession of our sins and receiving mercy and forgiveness.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are made holy and pure once again.

Paul concludes today’s passage with two more Old Testament quotes.  First, from Isaiah: “Anyone who trusts Him will never be put to shame”.  Faith involves trust.  In faith, Jesus has our backs.  Second, from Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It’s not ‘could be’ or ‘might’ but WILL BE saved.  Trust and call on the Lord.  He is all we need.  Jesus is our all in all.  Thanks be to God.


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To Those Being Saved…

Reading: 1 Corinthians​ 1: 18-31

Verse 23: We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Paul opens this section of 1 Corinthians with the reminder that it is the cross that has power.  It is through the power of what was done on the cross that Christians can claim victory over sin and death.  It was on and from the cross that Jesus took on our sin and overcame death and rose to eternal life.

For the Greeks and now the Romans of Paul’s day, these Gentiles saw the king or Caesar as a divine being that transcended life.  They were from the gods, ruled for a time, and returned to the gods.  Interaction was limited to their time on earth, then another would be sent to take their place.  Jesus did not fit this mold.  His ‘ruling’ wasn’t very godly and His talk of being eternal was just more foolishness.  For the Jews, oddly enough, they too were looking for a kingly king.  After many years of Roman oppression they were longing for a king like King David.  Their Messiah would be both a great religious leader and a mighty military commander.  Jesus was a great faith leader but not fully in line with the Jewish religion.  To the Jew this was a huge stumbling block that they could not get over or see past.

Today, Christ continues to be foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others.  In our society, the leading call us to climb the ladder of success, doing what you need to do to rise up.  Society says to have fun and enjoy oneself on the way – it is the ‘just do it’ mentality.  Our society tells us to accumulate, to buy bigger and newer, to get ahead, to save lots for a rainy day.  Christ says success is not measured in what you have but in who you are.  The cross says success is laying oneself down for others.  Christ says true life is not found in earthly pursuits but in following Him, doing the will of God.  Christ says to lay down our burdens and to trust in Him.  Allowing Jesus to steer our ship and to set our course is foolishness to the world.  To place others and their needs ahead of our own is a stumbling block to many.

But to those who are being saved, Christ Jesus is “our righteousness, our holiness, our redemption”.  Thanks be to God.


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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.


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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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Choices

Reading: Galatians 5: 1 and 13-25

Life is full of choices.  Some call them decisions and some call them forks in the road.  Our reality is that at many points we make choices that move us forward in life.  Some of the time these decisions are not in our best interests or are not good for our faith.  We can certainly make other choices that then realign us with God’s will for our lives, but we do have detours from time to time.

Our faith is built on God’s unfailing love, His steadfast faithfulness, and His unending grace through Jesus Christ.  Once we are in a saving relationship with Christ, our status is as a child of God.  Even once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we can still make a poor choice and can still go in a direction away from God.

Paul encourages the Galatians and us to “stand firm and do not submit to a yoke of slavery”.  Paul saw sin ad a controlling force.  Sin occurs anytime we choose our desires over God’s desires for our life.  It is anytime we choose the things of the world over the will of God for our lives.

Paul encourages us to live by the Spirit and to allow God to guide our choices and our lives.  May our life be led by His will and may we trust in the Spirit’s guidance.  And when we fail, may we fall back into God’s love, faithfulness, and grace.  He will redeem us and again welcome us back into a right relationship with Him.


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Mirrors

Celebrations are fun.  Whether a birthday or an anniversary it is a joyous occasion to celebrate all that has been and to look forward to the future with excitement.  Holidays are often the same although they can also have a somber side to them.  Such is the case with the Jewish holiday Purim.  After being saved from sure death and annihilation by Esther and Mordecai, Mordecai sends out a letter to all Jews in the region instructing them to celebrate God’s saving act with feasting and the giving of gift to the poor.  The act of giving mirrored God’s amazing gift of saved the Jews when all seemed lost.  The captives in the foreign land experienced God’s extravagant love in a way that should be celebrated.

As Christians we too have reason to celebrate each day.  Left on our own we would be dead in our sins.  Without the saving grace of God and without the gift that Christ bought with His life, we would be slaves to sin and death.  Although we are in a constant battle with the desires of the flesh, once we have called on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we know we are saved.  What a reason to celebrate!

Just as during Purim the Jews give gifts to the poor, each day we too are called to share this amazing gift we have received with those who have not.  We are called to lead others into a relationship with Jesus Christ as that they too can be freed from their captivity to the desires of the flesh.  May our lives this day mirror God’s love as we seek to share the light and love of Christ with a world in need.

Scripture reference: Esther 9: 20-22


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Thanks Be to JC!!

In Romans 5 we find many of the great cornerstones of our faith.  Paul had quite a way with words!  In the first part of Romans 5 Paul reviews the basics of the faith – Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead.  Jesus made the choice to die for our sins.  He chose to take upon himself the sin of the world and to shed His own blood for us.  Through Jesus, God restored every person’s connection to Himself.  Up to this point there was a lack of personal connection.  The priests played the role of intermediary between God and the Jewish people.  Sacrifices were made on behalf of the people to atone for their sins.  Reconciliation came through these ritual sacrifices.

As Paul writes, at just the right time Christ died for us.  While we were still sinners, He died for us.  Jesus was and is our sacrifice.  He opened to us and to all mankind that conduit to God.  We come ourselves before God seeking forgiveness so that we can be reconciled to Him.  We do not need a human intermediary.  Nor do we need a ritual sacrifice.  For us that was and is Jesus on the cross.  Because Jesus defeated death and rose to live eternally, He will always be there to intercede on our behalf.  He will always be with us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to guide and lead us in this life.  Through Him we grow to be more and more ike the Father.  Through him we are continually reconciled.  Through Him we repent, are washed clean, and are restored to the righteous relationship with God.  Thanks be to Jesus Christ!!