pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Reclaim

Reading: Ephesians 2: 1-10

Verse Four: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ”.

Shows on TV that take old houses in Detroit or rural Mississippi and turn them into beautiful homes really draw my attention. The home is rundown, is sometimes abandoned, and is left to fall apart. But then someone sees the potential in the old bones of the house and they dive in and bring it new life. What it was and what it becomes is amazing.

In a similar way, in today’s passage, Paul writes of us: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins”. We were falling apart on the inside, we were destined for destruction, we were objects of God’s wrath. This is the path we walk when left on our own. It is the natural order of the world: decay. But we are not of the world. Just as that home rehab expert the beauty that is possible, so too does God with us. Paul writes, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ”. God reclaims us, taking away all that is sinful, making us one with Christ.

In the same way that a house in Detroit or Laura is claimed, we too are claimed by God. God knows the potential in each of us, the potential that He created us with, and He desires to free us to begin living out that potential. God makes us beautiful from the inside out so that we can be good in the world. Paul writes in verse ten that we are “God’s workmanship” and that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. Through our rehab process we are made new again so that we can be His light and love in the world.

The claim that God lays upon us is eternal. Once we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then our ‘status’ is saved. Yes, we may stumble now and then, but we always remain a sinner saved by grace alone. So that we cannot boast, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith”. It is the free gift of God’s love that saves us. Thanks be to our God who reclaims us from our brokenness and our mess, restoring us to new life in Christ. Thank you God! Amen.


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Rejoice, Be Glad

Reading: Psalm 32

The confession of our sin is an essential part of our faith.  It always has been the key to restoring our relationship to God and to finding renewal in our innermost being.  When we fail to confess our sins, we carry around within us a weight or a shame or guilt that inhibits us from truly living life.  The psalmist calls us blessed when our transgressions are forgiven.  The writer contrasts this with his experience when he did not confess – his bones wasted away and he groaned day and night.  We to experience similar consequences when we hold onto our sin.

Even more important than avoiding the negative consequences of holding onto our sin, which we can do, is the forgiveness and grace we experience when we do come to God with our sins.  In verse five, the psalmist writes, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, you forgave the guilt of my sin”.  He speaks of the guilt being forgiven and of the protection he felt after being made right again with God.  The psalmist describes it as being surrounded with songs of deliverance.  When we confess our sins and allow Jesus to remove the guilt and the burden, we too feel both a sense of relief and also a sense of elation at once again being in a right relationship with the Lord our God.

Today in many of our churches we will celebrate communion.  It is our time to confess our sins, to repent, and to be forgiven as an individual and as a community of faith.  We trust God to hear the words of our confessions and to then restore us to holy and pure.  In verse ten the psalmist writes, “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him”.  This day and each day, may we be people of confession and repentance, ever seeking to be in a right relationship with God, ever desiring to walk within God’s blessing and protection, so that we too, like the psalmist, may rejoice and be glad.


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Whenever Necessary

Reading: Psalm 32

Like the psalmist, sometimes we hold onto our sin.  We make a conscious choice not to come before God.  Sometimes this is because even though we know our sin, we hold onto it because we are not ready to repent or because we know that the temptation or the sin is still greater than our will or faith.  Sometimes we do not recognize our sin.  As our faith matures, the concept of what we see as sin also develops.  We come to realize more and more how far short we fall as we come to know and understand God more and more.

When we hold onto our sin, there are ramifications.  Not confessing our sin can weigh upon us emotionally and spiritually and can run us down physically.  Unconfessed sin is a barrier between God and us and inhibits a true relationship with God.  Our heart must be right with God before we can come to Him in prayer and worship.  If we try to do so with sin upon us, it is false prayer or worship.  Just as God could not look upon Jesus on the cross as He bore our sins, God cannot be in our presence if we are not righteous.  To be righteous we must be made clean.

The reality is that God already knows our sins.  The Lord of heaven is also the Lord of the earth.  There is nothing that escapes Him.  We may try to convince ourselves that God doe snot know our sins, but we are only fooling ourselves.  When we humble ourselves, come before God, and pour out our sins, we are blessed by His grace, mercy, and love.  Not only that.  God also removes the guilt and shame of our sins.

When we are in a right relationship with God, He blesses and instructs and loves us.  When we are in a right relationship with God, we wonder why we would ever lived any other way.  When sin is upon us, may we go to God often – whenever necessary – so that we may live all of our days in His presence and in the light of His love.


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Looking Within

The first part of Psalm 51 is a confession of our sinful state.  By our nature we are prone to sin.  By our nature, we are weak and struggle to stay out of sin.  By His nature, God loves us unconditionally.  By His nature, God seeks to always bring us back to wholeness and to a right relationship with God.  Our sins stand between us and God alone.  In His great compassion God will blot out our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities.  For our part, we come to Him and repent.

In the middle part of the psalm comes our plea: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and restore a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be spoken over and over and over tomorrow.  They are familiar words on Ash Wednesday.  And just as the Lord’s Prayer is not just for Sundays, these words are not just for Ash Wednesday.  These familiar words should be our plea to God every day.  They admit our dependence on God.  We cannot win this battle on our own.  We need God to create a pure heart within us and to help us be steadfast to His ways.

The psalmist follows this plea up with a request to not be cast from God’s presence or for God to not take the Holy Spirit from us.  The psalm continues with these words: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”.  God is the one in action, the one who can do these things.  In our acts of repentance we need both God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  After we repent of our sins, then God alone can restore us.  God alone can grant us a willing spirit, one seeking to follow His ways.

At Lent begins tomorrow, today I must look within and seek to identify my ungodly choices, my poor habits of faith, my sins.  May God grant me the will and the strength to come before Him in repentance, seeking His mercy.  Lord, melt my stubborn and prideful heart.  Mold me into who You desire me to be.  O God, fill me with Your presence and with the Holy Spirit.  And then use me, use me to love You and to love those You love.  Use me as You will, O God.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-17


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Past Confession

Communion is a time we gather once a week or once a month as a community of faith.  In this sacrament we remember both what Christ did for us at the cross and what He continues to do for us.  Through Christ we can be cleansed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with God.

In Psalm 51 we find ourselves with David just after he has been convicted of his transgressions with Bathsheba and Uriah.  In the opening verses we can hear David’s pain and sorrow just pouring out.  A man who is known for being close to God’s heart finds himself away from God because of his own actions.  David acknowledges the sinful nature inherently in all of mankind.  He acknowledges that his sin is against God.  And he acknowledges that God desires more.  All of this is true of us and our relationship with God as well.

Our reality is that we sin more than once a week and certainly more than once a month.  We need to come before God more regularly than at the communion table.  And His good news is that we can.  Lamentations 3 reminds us that God’s mercy and compassion never fail.  They are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  Each day, each hour, each moment we can come before our loving God to be made new.

David goes on past confession and we must also go there.  In the second half of the psalm he asks God to create in him a pure heart and a steadfast spirit.  He asks God to restore the joy of His salvation within.  May the God of all love, hope, and mercy create in each of us a pure and willing heart and a steadfast spirit that willingly kneels at the cross of Jesus Christ each day, each hour, and each moment.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-12