pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Choose

Reading: Joshua 24: 1-3a and 14-25

Verse 14: Now choose the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness.

Joshua comes to the people and asks them to choose who they will serve.  He asks them three times, each time reminding them of the temptations of other gods.  Joshua has seen the people go astray and God lets him know that this will continue to be the challenge.  Their forefathers worshiped other gods in the past, they experienced the worship of other gods in Egypt, and they even made a golden calf to worship while Moses was up on the mountain talking with God.

Joshua asks three times and the people respond three times that they will worship God alone.  Joshua reminds them that God is a jealous and holy God.  Three times, just to make sure.  This battle to choose God over idols continues to this very day.  Each day we must choose which God or many gods we will serve.  It is a daily battle that begins as we awaken each day.  Prayers for God to lead and guide us only begins the battle.  Throughout the day the Holy Spirit is praying for us, reminding us, convicting us.  We cannot remain faithful to God without the help of the Holy Spirit.

The temptations and other gods are many.  We can chase after money or possessions, popularity or recognition, status or position, beauty or knowledge.  We can get caught up in envy, gossip, greed, gossip, gluttony, fear, doubt, worry.  We are in no shortage of things or idols to tempt, lure, and pull us away from God.  The enemy is powerful.  But God is greater.  Through the Word, prayer, worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can walk faithful and holy lives.  May all that is at God’s disposal work in us this day to be the witnesses of His love and truth in our daily walk, bringing glory to God alone.

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Way, Truth, Life

Reading: Matthew 22: 15-22

Verse 16: You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

As the religious leaders begin their attempt to trap Jesus, they begin with words probably intended to lure Him into their question.  While this may be their intent, the words they speak are full of truth.  They begin by recognizing Jesus as a man of integrity.  They have learned the hard way that Jesus always does what is right, even if it is unpopular, even if it is hard, even if it angers people.  The healings on the Sabbath and the challenging words that caused some followers to walk away are the best examples that testify to the integrity of Jesus.

Then they say to Jesus, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”.  Ever since He was a young adolescent in the temple courts, where Jesus amazed those around Him, Jesus has always spoken for God and has always had solid truths at the core of His teachings on the scriptures and in all of His parables.  Jesus’ connection to God is undeniable.  He always speaks truth, even when it is a hard truth.  They end their small talk by saying that Jesus is not swayed by men because He pays no attention to who they are.

The religious leaders then try and trap Jesus using a question that pertains to the secular world: paying taxes.  His response reinforces all three things that they have said about Him.  In saying to pay to Caesar what is his, Jesus is a man of integrity, saying to follow the ruler’s laws.  In saying to give to God what is His, He is saying to follow the Law of Moses.  In His answer Jesus shows no partiality.  At His answer there is nothing more to be said.  They simply walk away amazed.

Is this how we as Christians also see and experience Jesus?  Do we honor His teachings as filled with God’s ways?  Do we believe in the truth that Jesus reveals?  After each encounter, do we walk away amazing, knowing that He is the only source of true life?  Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  This is Jesus’ offer to one and all.  The invitation goes out to all.  Praise be to God.


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The Joy of My Heart

Reading: Psalm 119: 105-112

Verse 105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

The psalmist opens this section of the longest chapter in the Bible with these familiar words.  As one reads, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path”, one can’t help but have the tune come to mind.  The truth that the psalmist writes remains as true today as it was the day he wrote it.  The depth of commitment we hear in the words of our passage is still the depth of commitment that God continues to look for today in each of us who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our life.

The opening line speaks of God’s Word guiding us through life.  A popular acronym for Bible is “basic instructions before leaving earth”.  Spending time daily in the Word continues to be essential to faithful discipleship.  It is so important to spend time each day with our Bibles, meditating on God’s ways and learning more about what it means to follow Jesus.

The psalmist does not tout a blessed and perfect life once he made the choice to make his oath to follow God’s ‘righteous law’.  Instead he admits that his life continues to have suffering and the wicked continue to tempt him.  We too must acknowledge that life is not instantly a bed of roses once we choose to enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Life will still have it’s troubles.  There will still be times of pain and anguish and hardship.  But we do not face these alone.  Jesus walks with us through the troubles and trials, bringing us peace and comfort and strength.

Our passage today ends with “your statutes… are the joy of my heart”.  We find the same joy when we choose to allow Jesus’ ways to be our rule for life.  The Law of the Old Testament and the psalmist has been renewed and refreshed by Jesus and the new commandments.  We too must match the psalmist’s commitment to his faith – to live out each and every day as a follower of Jesus Christ – bringing honor and glory to God in all we do and say.  May it be so!


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Love, Obey, Truth

Reading: John 14: 15-17

Verses 15 and 16: If you love me… over my commands… ask the Father… give you another Counselor.

Today’s three little verses pack a whallop.  Jesus is very direct and to the point.  We begin with, “If you love me” and there is almost an assumption that the disciples do love Jesus.  Perhaps we too like to make this same assumption about ourselves and others in our church or small group.  Jesus then goes on with the ‘then’ of His if-then statement: “… then you will obey what I command”.  There is an implication here.  It is implied that we will follow all of His commands.  It is not a smorgasbord that we can pick and choose from.  This is what makes loving and obeying so hard.  Jesus does not say over six out of ten or most.  He says that if we love Him we will obey His commands.  It is hard to do ‘all’.  One would say it is even impossible for us to do this on our own.

God knows this.  God had a few years experience with mankind before sending Jesus.  The people had always listened for a while.  No matter if it was Moses or David or Elijah or Zephaniah or Amos or John the Baptist – on our own we can only one for so long.  Sad to say, but even when we love God and Jesus, we are still tempted and we sometimes even sin.  So God’s plan came to include help. Jesus told the disciples that He would “ask the Father” and that God would “give you another Counselor”.  We know this Counselor by many names, but the most common is Holy Spirit.  Jesus refers to it as the “Spirit of truth” in our passage today.

The Holy Spirit brings truth in many ways.  First, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth we find in the Bible.  Second, the Holy Spirit leads and guides us in the truth, helping us to over the commands that Jesus gave.  The Holy Spirit nudges and whispers to help us be obedient.  Third, the Holy Spirit corrects and convicts us when we go astray.  It reminds us of the true path and helps us to seek forgiveness and to repent so we can return to walking in the truth.

Today, may our love of Jesus lead us to obedience to His commands.  May the Holy Spirit ever be present to us and may we ever be attentive to this presence in our lives.  All to bring honor and glory to God.


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The Blood

Reading: Matthew 27: 11-26

Verse 23: Why? What crime has he committed?

Today we read of the “trial” before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Like a few stops along the journey to the cross, we could ask if Jesus had to die.  Couldn’t there have been another way?  Pilate had the authority to free or to condemn Jesus.  The decision concerning life and death rested in his hands alone.

The religious authorities that have been pushing the action to this point in the story would say that Jesus has to die.  They have traded barbs with Him over the last few years and it has increasingly become an “us or Him” type of situation.  They have schemed and trumped up a charge.  They have the crowd whipped up and ready to influence Pilate.  All goes according to their plan.  Even though Pilate senses Jesus is innocent, the crowd is too much for Pilate.  They roar for Jesus’ death even as he asks them, “Why?  What crime has he committed”?  Pilate condemns Jesus to desth, but washes his hands of Jesus’ blood.

Is it all going according to their plan?  Did Jesus gave to die?  The plan being followed is not the religious authorities’ plan.  It is God’s plan.  To die, to be our sacrifice, is why God sent Jesus in the first place.  It is hard to understand why a father would send a son knowing his fate on the cross.  But God has a few years of experience with humanity.  God has sent prophet after prophet, priest after priest, king after king to try and lead the people to live in a right relationship with God.  He has seen dove after dove, lamb after lamb, cow after cow sacrificed on the altar.  None brings atonement.  None removes the guilt of our sins.  None ultimately changes the relationship between God and the people.  Mankind is sinful.  We are of the flesh so we struggle with sin.  We live in a constant battle with sin.  The old covenant left humanity captive to sin and death.

In Jesus’ death and resurrection God established a new covenant with humanity.  On the cross, Jesus took on the sin of the world.  He took on sin that was, sin that is, and sin to come.  In His sacrifice Jesus paid the price for our sin.  We do not have to offer sacrifices any longer.  Jesus is our sacrifice.  He chose the cross so that the sins of the world could be washed away.  Through His blood our sins are washed away.  Jesus fulfilled His statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Through the name of Jesus we can claim eternal life.  In His name, our sins are forgiven.  Thank you God for the blood of the Lamb.


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See the Glory

Reading: John 11: 1-15 & 38-45

Verse 40: Christ said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

In this story about death, the focus is on what Jesus can do for Lazarus and for us.  Although it is Mary and Martha that call for Jesus and it is they who are given the gift of having their brother back, it is Lazarus for whom the significant change has been made.  He was deaf and now lives again.  As the story unfolds and Jesus delays, it is clear that there is more to the story than simply healing or even raising Lazarus from the dead.

God’s plan encompasses all that are present that day to comfort Mary and Martha, the disciples who have come along, and us, the readers.  To see someone walk out of the grave after being dead for four days was a powerful testament to Jesus’ control over all things.  Reading about it thereafter is also a powerful testimony to what Jesus can do in our lives today.  For the people present it was a great showing of the glory of God.  For readers past and present, it reveals that the power of Jesus is not limited by anything – certainly not death.  In the story today, we also gain the understanding that death is not to be feared.

Jesus continues to offer us victory over death.  We will be transformed after we draw our last earthly breath, yes.  In this story and in Jesus’ words “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and “I am the resurrection and the life” we gain an understanding and confidence that death here is not the end but is simply the beginning of our eternal life.

Jesus’ words to Martha ring out to us as well: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God”?  May we hold fast to the faith we profess, rejoicing in the time when we too will see the glory of God.


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A World of Yes

Reading: Matthew 5: 27-37

As Jesus continues in Matthew 5, He shifts from murder and anger to the topics of adultery, divorce, and making oaths.  In much the same way as He did with murder, Jesus looks at these three as individual acts, but now adds their impact on society.  In doing so, Jesus seeks to contrast the envisioned culture of God against the current culture of man.  Jesus is laying out a vision for a new world order, one based on an economy of equality and honesty and compassion.

In each of these short teachings on adultery, divorce, and oaths, Jesus is recasting how we should look at these.  Just as with ‘do not murder’ resting upon our anger as it’s root, in these cases Jesus also delves deeper and looks at the impact of these three on the larger culture and society.  In cases of adultery, divorce, and breaking oaths, at the core is our commitment to one another.  In the culture of the day, in Jewish Law, the cases dealing with adultery and divorce  really only expressed concern for the man.  Jesus says, OK then, let the man be responsible.  Jesus says if you look lustfully at a woman, you have committed adultery.  This follows with admonition to then poke your eye out so that you do not continue to sin.  Jesus goes on to say that divorce cannot come on the whim of the man, but can come only in cases of marital unfaithfulness.  In both cases, Jesus is protecting and elevating the status of women and establishing a much higher standard of accountability for all people.

Jesus continues this theme as He turns to making oaths.  He is straightforward – do not swear by anything.  Simply let you ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.  Simple as that.  No more, no less.  This concept can, of course, be applied back to the first two topics: adultery and divorce.  When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus, we are saying ‘no’ to the world.  Our ‘yes’ to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to the desires of the flesh and to our own selfish desires.  It means honoring and respecting all people as equals, as children of God worthy of our love.  This of course extends to marriage – in the “I do” we are saying ‘yes’ to being faithful and obedient and loving to our spouses.

Jesus is calling for a world based on relationships that honor and uphold one another, that place love and concern and care for one another above our own well-being.  He is calling us to live as He lived, bringing honor and glory to God in all we do, say, and to think.  May it be so.