pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Amazing Love

Reading: 2 Samuel 18: 31-33

Verse 33: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you”!

David experiences something no parent ever expects to experience. One of his children dies before he does. No one wants to bury a child. It just seems unnatural. For David, this is the second son he has lost. The first son who died, Ammon, was murdered by Absalom. Ammon had raped his half-sister, Absalom’s sister. David did not punish Ammon for the rape so Absalom took matters into his own hands, avenging his sister’s shame. This act also went unpunished by David. So it was not a total shock that the fiery and arrogant Absalom was leading a rebellion against his father, King David.

Even then David’s first reaction when it comes down to a fight is to try and protect Absalom. David’s army gains a hard-fought victory. It is a costly battle – over 20,000 die that day in the forest of Ephraim. News comes first of the great victory. The messenger is elated to share the news that the Lord has delivered all who rose up against the king. David cares not but only asks about Absalom. The messenger replies, “May the enemies… all be like that young man”, letting David know that Absalom was killed. The Word then says, “The King was shaken”. David went to mourn this personal loss, crying out, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you”! The victory on the battlefield is meaningless to David because Absalom died. Like all parents, David wishes he could trade places with his child.

The love of a parent for a child is on vivid display here. The pure love models the love that God has for each of us. Yet it is pale by comparison. God sent His own Son to die for others. God sent Jesus knowing that Jesus would endure the cross to bring forgiveness of sins and hope for eternal life. God incarnate, God in the flesh, sacrificed Himself for the sinners. That death had to pain God the Father deeply. But the greater love for you and me prevailed. As a parent, this would be so hard to do – especially when He had the power to stop it. The atonement, the sacrifice, had to be made. It is an amazing love revealed in God the Father. Thanks be to God for the amazing love for all of His children, imperfect as we may be. Thanks be to God.


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Disobedience

Reading: 1 Samuel 15: 34-35

Verse 35: “The Lord was grieved that He made Saul king over Israel”.

Today our passage marks the beginning of a transition in the leadership of Israel. Saul was Israel’s first king. If we remember, it was the people who begged for a king, rejecting God as their leader. Saul was a good king at first, but then he became disobedient to God and chose to follow his own plan instead. When confronted by Samuel, Saul does admit his sin, but his fate is sealed. We read, “The Lord was grieved that He made Saul king over Israel”. It made God sad that the one He chose to lead was disobedient.

Acts of disobedience are familiar to us as well. Even though we have an overall good relationship with God and are faithful most of the time, we can also be disobedient periodically. This is because we are human. Like Saul, we sadden God when we choose to disobey. We can think we know it all can make decisions that are not in line with God’s will and ways. We can have a clear sense of where God is trying to lead yet we go the other way. We can definitely feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit but still choose to ignore it and to even do just the opposite. We too can be disobedient.

In our passage today, we also read about Samuel’s reaction to Saul’s disobedience and rejection of God. We read that Samuel mourned for Saul. As sinful people, we find ourselves on both sides of this scenario. At times we grieve for our fellow brothers and sisters who stumble and spend a time living in sin. We grieve for the separation that they have from God. Sometimes our words or actions cause others to be hurt or to grieve. We also grieve God in these moments or seasons when sin or disobedience has the upper hand in our lives.

But, thanks be to God, our story or the relationship that we have with God does not end in disobedience. Because Jesus Christ was obedient to death on a cross, He paved the way for our possible victory over sin and ultimately over death. If humility and repentance are our response to sin in our life, then the mercy and love of God offers us forgiveness and restoration. Through this love and mercy, we once again can walk in faithful obedience with the Lord our God. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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Victory in the Daily Battle

Reading: Psalm 1

Verses One and Two: “Blessed is the man who… delights in the Law of the Lord and on His Law meditates day and night”.

The Psalm represents a daily battle for us all. On one ‘side’ are those who “walk in the ways of sinners” and who “sit in the seat of mockers”. The psalmist writes that these are like chaff that the wind blows away. They will soon be no more as the “way of the wicked will perish”.

This choice is contrasted with the choice of the righteous. We read, “Blessed is the man who… delights in the Law of the Lord and on His Law meditates day and night”. The psalmist compares faith to a tree “planted by the water, whose leaf does not wither”, a tree that “yields its fruit in season”. The Psalm speaks of the righteous being able to stand in the judgment in the end and of God’s protection in the time here on earth, a time of prospering for the righteous.

When one considers option A and option B, it hardly seems like a choice. Do you want the rusty old Pinto or the shiny new Corvette? Hardly seems like a choice. Yet it is a daily battle. It is a daily battle not to fall to sin and not to choose the ways of the world. Satan has ways of making that rusty old car look pretty good to our earthly eyes. Satan can also trick us into giving up the keys to the Corvette, enticing us with something “better”, but it it just rust underneath.

The key to victory in our daily battle lies in our key verse for today. When we choose the Word as our foundation and we think on it day and night, then the things of God remain in the forefront of our minds. If we keep God’s Word fresh in our mind, it is easier to call on it when Satan tries to come calling. When we choose to be rooted in Christ, then Satan stands no chance. May we walk steadfastly in the way of the Lord today, enjoying His protection and love. Amen.


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Victory

Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17

Verse 16: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.

Tonight is a “scary” night.  People of all ages dress up in fun costumes and go out to collect candy.  The reality is that the “trick” has largely left the “trick or treat” aspect of the night and it is largely about dressing up (which is fun) and collecting candy (which is yummy).  For the vast majority who will be going door to door, trunk to trunk, or table to table, Halloween is just a fun night.

Although the “darkness” of Halloween is largely gone, the world we live in still has plenty of darkness.  The world brings each person their share of hurt and pain in life.  It is part of the otherwise beautiful and loving world.  As Christians we can better face the forces of evil and the times of pain and suffering because we know the end of the story.  Today, in Revelation 7, we get a peak into the end of the story.  We see praise and worship around the throne.  We see those that have gone through the great tribulation – they have been redeemed and their robes are white as snow.  They join the elders and the angels in worshipping God and the Lamb.  It is a wonderful and beautiful image of the end of life as we know it here on earth.

Through the victory of Jesus Christ we know that “never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst”.  It will be a time of light and love as we dwell with God and the Lamb.  All will be amazing as we join the heavenly choir singing our praises to the Lord our God.  The Lamb will lead us by springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear.  This is the vision, the hope, the promise that we hold onto as we dwell in this time and place.  Thanks be to God for the victory won by Jesus Christ!


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Freedom

Reading: Psalm 114: 1-2

Verse Two: Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion.

Growing up in Connecticut, going to the Department of Motor Vehicles was a daunting task.  The adventure began in the parking lot.  It was always a challenge to find a spot to park.  If you went early, so did a thousand other people.  If you went during the day, it seemed like a thousand cars were circling the lot, all looking for the same space.  Once inside you saw a sea of chairs, lined up in long row after long row.  Then you would stand in line to get a number.  You pulled a little ticket like one does at a deli in a busy supermarket and then you headed for a seat.  If you forgot a book or your Walkman, you were in for trouble.  The big red number on the sign would read something like “24” and you’d look down at your ticket – “327”.  After just a few hours it would be your turn and you’d walk towards the correct window praying you had all the right paperwork…  When you finally emerged into fresh air to begin the search for your car, it felt as if a major victory had been won.  You survived the DMV!

The Israelites had been in Egypt for over 400 years.  Life was monotonous.  It was the same thing day after day.  Hurry up and do the same thing again today.  The slave drivers were always pushing and seemed to expect more and more.  Then one day the Israelites’ number is called.  God’s chosen people hear, “Next”!  God redeems them from slavery and they head off towards the promised land.  After their experience at the sea, they breathe in the fresh air and are confident in the victory that God has brought.  They know without a doubt that God is with them.  “Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion”.  God says, ‘you are mine and I love you’.  The chosen people head off, freedom at hand, the future looking oh so bright.

Fast forward a few centuries and we too have joined the family.  God says to you and to me, ‘you are mine, I love you’.  We too claim the victory.  Thanks be to God.


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In All Things

Reading: Romans 8: 31-39

Verse 37: In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Paul opens our passage with a great question.  He asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us”?  He opens this section with a question and the answer leads to his first point.  That point is that if God have His only Son then He will certainly give us anything else we need too.  God is our ultimate good Father who will give us all good things because He loves us.

The next question, who will condemn, is asked in a similar way – to set up the answer.  It is a legitimate question because in our lives we do much that deserves condemnation from a God who is perfect in all ways.  But condemnation is not what we receive.  Instead we receive forgiveness and love.  Instead of being condemned by the one who was without sin, we are defended by Jesus.  Jesus intercedes for us before the Father.  He who has walked in our shoes speaks up for us in heaven.

The third question has the best answer.  Paul asks, “Who will separate us from the love of God”?  The answer is quite a list.  In reality the answer is nothing can separate us.  Paul lists some of the common things that can separate us – persecution, famine, danger, nakedness, death, demons, worry about the future.  Tying back into our recent parables, these are the thorns and weeds along our path.  Yet when we remain faithful and keep our hope and trust in God, we find that nothing can separate us from the love of God we find in Jesus Christ.  It is a deep and eternal love.  It is an everlasting and encompassing love.  It is a love for which I am very grateful.

The God who is for us, the God who gives forgiveness instead of condemnation, brings us victory.  “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.  Thank you God for the victory.


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The Power to Save

Today is All Saints’ Day, a day we remember the faithful who have died in the past year.  For our church, twenty pictures will be shown and twenty names read.  With the reading of each name we will remember the grace, faith, and love that each person shared with their life.  We will recall how we ministered and witnessed alongside each as well.  And we will again celebrate the victory won by each through their saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading is the story of Lazarus.  Jesus arrives late at the scene – four days after he has died.  Mary, Martha, and many family and friends are grieving.  Mary voices what many are thinking, “If only you’d arrived sooner.”  They believe Jesus could have healed him.  Jesus is touched deeply.  He cries for his friends and is moved to do something extraordinary.  Jesus raises Lazarus to life.  Was it to alleviate the intense sadness felt by all?  Was it to give a glimpse of the victory to be won over death in Jesus’ resurrection?  Was it both?

On this day and in this story we are reminded that Jesus is there with us in our lives.  He cried and hurt for his friend Lazarus and for those who grieved for him.  In our grief He hurts right along with us as well.  We are also reminded that death does not have the last word.  For all the saints we recognize today and one day for us as well, Jesus has the power to save.  May we too all one day hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” as we each experience Jesus’ victory over death.

Scripture reference:  John 11: 32-44