pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty 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.


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Blessed Are…

Reading: Matthew 5: 1-12

The Beatitudes are a wonderful teaching that Jesus shared with His followers.  The list of “blessed are…” statements offer hope and encouragement, promise and strength.  Jesus is proclaiming the work of God in the current time and place as well as pointing to the future glory that faithful followers will inherit.  Rather that a “to-do” list or requirements to check off, Jesus lists these blessings as a way to cast vision for what the kingdom on earth will look like when we live out these blessings every day.

We are blessed.  We are blessed when we are poor in spirit because when we are ‘poor’ in something we work to get more of it.  We are blessed when we search for righteousness because God wants to fill us up.  We are blessed when we are pure in heart because then we are in a connected, personal relationship with God.  We are blessed when we are humble and merciful and when we seek peace because then we are bearing witness to the love and example of Jesus.  When we mourn, we are blessed with God’s comfort.  And when we are persecuted and insulted, we are blessed not only because of what we will inherit, but for being the light and truth of Jesus Christ amidst the darkness of the world.

The Beatitudes are part of Jesus’ vision of what the kingdom here on earth will look like.  The blessings of living a life in Christ are not protection against all harms and trials, but are the blessings of His presence in all of life.  When we live as witness to all of these ‘blessed are…’ statements, we are blessings to all we meet as we live as faithful disciples of the Savior of the world.  May it be how we live each day.


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God’s Ways

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31

God’s ways and the world’s ways are often at odds.  In our daily lives we are constantly pulled in both directions.  God calls us to be loving and kind while the world fills our screens and airwaves with shows and songs that show selfishness and having fun at the expense of others.  God calls us to be generous and giving while the world touts the latest gadget, the newest car, the next best thing.  God calls us to live as servants to others while the world says do what it takes to get to the top.  These are but a few of the many ways that God’s ways and the world’s ways are at odds.

When Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”, we have many examples.  When we take the message of the cross out into the world, when we love and serve people radically, as Jesus did, people often do not understand.  They wonder, ‘Why would you do this for me’?  ‘Why would you come here and bring food, water, blankets’?  ‘Why would you…’?  When we respond with “Because God loves you”, it sounds like foolishness to those who are perishing.

Paul also writes of how when we “preach Christ crucified”, it is a stumbling block, it seems foolish.  In our culture, it is a stumbling block to ask someone to love God more than they love themselves.  It is a stumbling block to ask someone to genuinely love all of their neighbors.  It becomes foolishness when we explain what it really means to love others as Jesus first loved us.  Why would Jesus do that?  And then there is the ‘cost’ of following Jesus that is a big stumbling block to many.  Sacrifice seems foolish.  Until they themselves have felt God’s radical love, it does seem a foolish step for a non-believer to take.

For those who believe and call on Jesus Christ as Lord, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.  In Christ our weakness is great strength, our foolishness is much wisdom.  “Christ Jesus… our righteousness, holiness and redemption”.  Christ alone can save.  He is no stumbling block but is the rock upon which we stand.  Christ Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life worth living.  May the Lord our God bless our living in His ways this day, always sharing the way to life eternal with a world that is perishing.