pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Hope

Reading: Roman 5: 1-5

Verse Five: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five opens with Paul’s declaration that we can claim peace with God through Jesus Christ because we are made right through our faith.  It is a bold statement but one we live into every day as Christians.  Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s grace, the unmerited gift of forgiveness that washes away our sins so that we can stand before God holy and pure.  It is an amazing love that makes us righteous day after day after day, sin after sin after sin.  It is a love without limit.  It is indeed the hope of the glory of God which leads Paul to rejoice.  May we rejoice as well!

In verse three Paul shifts directions but not end results.  Not only do we enjoy a peace with God that leads us to rejoice, but Paul also encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings as well.  Being made right through God’s grace allows us to have hope in our future.  For Paul, he saw this same hope as the end result of our suffering.  For Paul, suffering was a necessary part of our Christian journey.  As Saul the Pharisee he certainly had inflicted much suffering on Christians and as Paul the Apostle he definitely endured his share of suffering and persecution.

For Paul, he rejoiced in the sufferings because he knew it would lead to a deepening of his faith.  Paul had learned that in suffering righteously one learns perseverance.  When we lean into God and endure with the power and hope that Jesus Christ offers, then through the power of the Holy Spirit we can persevere.  As we trust in God and live within His presence, that develops our Christian character.  Our hope in God’s glory grows as we experience the power and strength of God carrying us through our trials.  We begin to see these earthly troubles as bumps along the way to experiencing God’s eternal glory.  This in turns leads to an ever growing hope.  It is a hope that is everlasting.  It is the hope that will not disappoint or fade.  It is the hope that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.  It is the hope we come to know beyond the shadow of a doubt because we come to fully know that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.

As Christians we face each new day with God’s love deep in our hearts.  May we walk in faith and hope this day and every day, trusting in the God who loves us beyond all measure.


Leave a comment

Christ as Lord

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 13-17

Verse 15a: In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

In our passage today, Peter addresses suffering for our faith.  In the context of when Peter wrote these words, suffering was a real and very present obstacle.  In the time right after Jesus’ death, there was much skepticism and a lot of persecution against those who professed Jesus as Lord.  It was a hard, difficult time to be a Christian.  Many people suffered a lot for their faith.  Some were even martyred.  In spite of this, Peter still takes on the reality and offers a reminder of the hope and promise believers have in Jesus.

Peter begins by asking “Who would harm you for doing good”?  We tend to think the answer is ‘no one’ but this is not always the case.  At times people may question a Christian’s motivation or may react negatively to attempts to help.  Peter reminds us to count it as a blessing if we suffer for Christ.  To him, this showed a willingness to follow Christ when there was a cost.  It shows a high level of commitment.

Peter encourages us to not fear what the world fears – rejection, abuse, threats, being ostracized – but “in our hearts set apart Christ as Lord”.  To endure suffering does bring us closer to Christ as we are, in our sufferings, being ‘like Him’.  To keep or set apart Christ as Lord brings us strength and peace in the midst of it all.  Living with Jesus as Lord keeps us focused on the eternal and not on the things of this world.  Through this we have hope.  Peter knows this hope firsthand.

Peter also knows that others will notice our peace and hope in the midst of trials and sufferings.  And they will be curious.  Therefore Peter advises us to be prepared to explain our hope and peace to others when they ask.  Perhaps knowing that being in a time of trial and suffering can be hard on us, Peter also reminds us to respond with gentleness and respect.  Love all.  Always present His love first.

“Then they will know we are Christians by our love…” speaks of these concepts.  And not only will they know, they too will come to desire the peace, hope, and strength that Jesus alone offers.  Love first.  Love all.


Leave a comment

Ask

Reading: John 14: 1-14

Verse One: Do not let your heart’s be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.

Faith is a journey.  At times we feel our faith is strong and is mature.  We feel like we are well-connected to Jesus.  Our daily walk includes time in the Word and time in prayer.  Part of our week always includes worship and maybe even a small group time.  We clearly see how Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”.  We have a quiet assurance that Jesus is leading our lives and we hold onto His promise of “a room prepared for us”.

And then we don’t.  Something happens.  Someone says or does something.  Satan exposes a crack and suddenly there is a chasm between us and our faith, between us and Jesus.  Satan uses lies, doubts, fears, anxiety, and much more to make us question our faith and to question Jesus.  Our mind becomes filled with questions like “Why?” and “How?”.  Soon that faith and assurance seems like a distant memory.  It can happen so fast.  We’ve all been there.

Passages like today’s speak into moments like these.  When we still our hearts and minds and really read Jesus’ words, our feet return to the path of our faith journey.  We hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me”.  Jesus has us.  He is there for us in the midst of our trial or suffering and He will be there again and again and again.  In His voice, we hear again that the room is prepared for us.  No one can cancel our reservation.

In the passage we also see that we are not alone in our meandering and lack of understanding.  Even the disciples don’t always remain steadfast and they don’t always get it.  Thomas and Philip voice the questions we have at times.  They ask Jesus to show them the way and to show them the Father.  Jesus is patient and loving in doing so.  We too seek Jesus’ guidance and direction often to know the way to go or to discern even the next step.  At other times we seek to encounter Jesus, to feel His power in our lives.  All of these things are things Jesus wants to do.  It is His promise: “I will do whatever you ask in my name”.  What do you need Jesus to do today?


Leave a comment

Daily Walk

Reading: 1 Peter 2: 19-25

Verse 21: Christ himself suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.

In 1st Peter, suffering is a common theme.  Perhaps this is because the faithful of Peter’s day did suffer for their faith.  Just as Jesus had suffered at the hands of the Jews and Romans, many of His followers also faced trial and persecution and even death.  Many of the more prominent witnesses gladly suffered for their faith and found joy in being like Jesus in their suffering.  Oddly, most of us Christians today avoid suffering of all kinds.

Peter’s response to suffering and his call to the early church and to us today is this: call upon the power of Christ to transcend our times of suffering.  Today, at times our faith will have a ‘cost’ be it time or money or some other resource.  To give up something or to sacrifice in one of these areas may hurt a little, but it is a far cry from Peter’s day.  Our suffering tends to be temporary and non-life-threatening.  Yet even in the midst of small trials we are to call upon the only one who can walk with us through the storms of life.  Even if it was just a bad day at work, Jesus still desires to be present and to bring us peace or comfort or contentment or whatever we need.

When we call on Jesus regularly in the small, day to day, events of life, then we get to know Him.  Jesus becomes a regular companion to us in all times of life.  It is through a consistent and daily walk with Christ that we come to truly know and trust His presence, strength, and love in all of our life.  This is the model Jesus set for us to follow.  His relationship with God the Father was a daily, consistent connection.  God was Jesus’ strength in the trial.  Always.  Peter wrote, “Christ himself suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  When Jesus is our foundation rock in this sense, nothing life can bring will shake our faith.  His love will transcend all of our fears, doubts, and anxieties – no matter how big or small.  This becomes how we journey through life.  In the this way we bear witness to the power of Jesus Christ in our lives and in the world.  It is through our witness and example that we too bring God all the glory and praise.


Leave a comment

Hope

Reading: Luke 24: 13-21

Verse 21: We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

Two followers of Jesus are walking along the road to Emmaus.  The events of the last three days must have dominated the conversation.  They had passed through the dark days of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  They had sat through the ‘now what?’ of Saturday.  They have heard the women tell of an empty tomb and of angels saying Jesus is alive.  But no one has seen Jesus at this point in their minds.  It is just a story at this point and much of their minds are caught up in the events of the past few days.

Instead of appearing as Jesus to these men, his identity is hidden.  He invites them to share their story and emotions and recent experience with Him.  He invites them into sharing the hopes they had, the disappointment they felt, and the desire to believe again.  All of these things are part of life.  We go through them as well.  For the disciples and followers of Jesus, these things must have been swirling around in their heads.  In this little part of the road to Emmaus story, Jesus draws out of these two men all that they are feeling and what is in their hearts.

At times our trials and disappointments can ‘here’ Jesus from our eyes as well.  The grief or anger can blind us or be a barrier that gets in the way.  These parts of life that we’d rather avoid are unavoidable.  Life brings us all the good as well as all the bad.  Jesus desires to walk along through it all with us as well.  Jesus wants to be our constant.  Jesus wants to hear it all.  He wants to hear our joys and our sorrows, our dreams and our disappointments, our requests and our thanksgivings.  He wants our joyous choruses and our angry rants.  He wants it all because He wants all of us.

The men confided their ultimate hope in Jesus, saying, “We had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel”.  Soon they would better understand all that has recently transpired and soon they would know that indeed their hope has been realized.  Their eyes would be opened and they would recognize their Lord and their Savior.  Jesus wants to be the same for each of us: Lord and Savior, ever present help and ever present peace.  Thank you Jesus!


Leave a comment

Love and God

Reading: Psalm 116:15

Verse 15: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Most translations of this verse use the word “precious”.  It is a unique word choice in an odd little verse stuck in the middle of a Psalm that otherwise rejoices over God’s presence to us and His hand at work in blessing our lives.  A better word might be “weighty” – as in, death is weighty.  This word better conveys how the death of His saints must feel to God.  After all, God gives us life – He breathes physical life into us at birth and then later God breathes the Holy Spirit into us when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  When God pours so much into us, then maybe death would be a little weighty for God.

This little line is also a good reminder for us.  Yes, God is always present to us.  Yes, God rescued us from our sins.  Yes, God loves us dearly.  All are reasons to rejoice.  But death is also a reality of life.  In a way, this line reminds us that we need to be aware that in the midst of our rejoicing there are always others mourning.  It calls us to be congnizant of and attentive to them.  It also tempers our joy with a dash of reality.

This little line also reminds us that God’s love never fails.  God’s love for us is always there.  We are His dear children, both in life and in death.  In turn, this reminds us to be steadfast in our love of God.  We certainly find it easy to love God in the joyous times when all seems blessed by God.  It can be harder to love God when we feel beset or when we are suffering.  But we are called to love God despite the bad too.  We are called to love God through the trials and suffering.  God does not love us more sometimes and less other times.  May our love of God reflect this as well.


Leave a comment

God Story

Reading: Psalm 116: 1-4 and 12-19

Verse 12: How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?

The psalmist begins by declaring his love for God because God heard his voice.  Because of God turning His ear to him, the psalmist commits to call on the Lord as long as he lives.  If only we were so steadfast in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we are more likely to coast in our relationship with God and then to ramp it up when trial or suffering set in on us.

I began my working career as a teacher.  I soon added ‘coach’ to my titles.  Shortly thereafter I added middle school Sunday school teacher.  That was the beginning of a long transition in my life.  Eventually I taught high school Sunday school and that led to working with the youth program.  God continued to work on my heart.  Almost seven years ago I left coaching and went to work serving part time as the youth director at my church.  Almost five years ago I left teaching and became a pastor.  God blessed my path in life and opened many doors for me.  This is one story.  While it is all true, it is not the whole story.

Eleven years and nine years ago I applied for the youth director’s job.  Twice I was not selected as the church hired someone else.  Rejection is always hard.  But perseverance is part of who I am.  And God’s call helped me to continue to be a part of the youths’ lives, He kept me engaged.  Those four years were a part of shaping me, a part of preparing me to do the job when God decided I was ready.  God’s timing is excellent.  It is perfect.

The first part of my story tells how God was at work in my life, slowly drawing me in.  The second part involves some trial and a little suffering, but it too is an essential part of my story.  Like the psalmist, I too must ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me”?  The first response is to tell my story of what God has done in my life.  The second is to do what the psalmist did: praise the Lord!  What is your God story?  How can you tell it?  And what is your responsive praise to God?