pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Blessed

Reading: Matthew 5: 1-12

Verses 11-12: “Blessed are… rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven”.

Today’s and tomorrow’s passages come from the opening teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The section for today is called the “Beatitudes”. This translates to ‘supreme blessedness’ or ‘utmost bliss’, depending on your dictionary. As one reads through the list given by Jesus, one might wonder how you are blessed in some of these verses. Some might even think, ‘I’d rather skip that blessing’! Others yet will look at the list and think, ‘When’?!

We must first look at the Beatitudes as a list of characteristics of those who are in a close relationship with God. As such, we have experienced some, we are living out some of them now, and have not yet experienced others. As one matures and as ones relationship with God grows stronger, we do experience more and more of the list, often with increasing depth. Second, we must remember what we have been focusing on the last two days – sometimes God’s ways appear as foolishness to the world. For example, most of the world would hear the start of verse four, “Blessed are those who mourn”, and not ever want to hear the rest. Not only will they say no one is blessed when they mourn, but they will add that no one really was able to comfort them in their deepest grief. And they are right. No one can. But God can. That’s the point of the Beatitudes. We experience the “blessed are…” parts and God supplies the “for they…” parts. This allows us, as Christians, to walk forward into difficult places and into trial and suffering assured that we do not walk alone. As we step forward in faith and in trust, we are made more and more into the image of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes remind us that the path of discipleship is not always easy, but it is blessed by God’s presence. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for the blessings that I have experienced on this list. It wasn’t always easy, but you were always there. Continue to be present to me and in my life. In turn, may I follow faithfully. Amen.


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The Light Remains

Reading: Matthew 4: 12-17

Verse 17: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”.

Our passage begins with some news that signals a transition. Two events have already occurred to facilitate this transition. As the voice in the desert continues to preach a baptism of repentance, Jesus is baptized and then spends his time in the wilderness. Both of these events were preparing him to begin his public ministry. As John the Baptist is arrested, there is now space for the one to whom John always pointed. What was is passing on and the new is taking its place.

To begin his ministry, Jesus moves to Galilee, to a town that would be his base for ministry. Capernaum is located on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. This location is a bit removed from Jerusalem and the southern half of Israel. It is adjacent to Samaria. At times it will be a place of refuge for Jesus and his disciples. But as his ministry begins, Jesus announces a different reason for being there. It is according to God’s plan. Quoting from a prophet that spoke 700 years prior, Jesus announces that he has come to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: he is the light that shines into the darkness.

Just as John had done, Jesus picks up the call to follow God and to walk in his ways. Jesus’ initial theme echoes John’s message. Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. The focus is now fully on Jesus as the light begins to shine out into the world. In him, the kingdom has drawn near. The Messiah, the Christ has come. The Good Shepherd has arrived to tend the flock of lost sheep.

The light remains with us, continuing to shine light into the darkness in our lives and in the world. Jesus remains present, healing and restoring the broken, reaching out to the lost, guiding us as we walk the narrow way. The Christ, the light, is here. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for being my light in the darkness, my hope in times of despair. Thank you for your abiding presence and gentle guidance. Thank you for pulling me back when I drift, for redeeming me when I slip. Ever be my light! Amen.


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Walk in the Light

Reading: Isaiah 2: 1-5

Verse 5: “Come… let us walk in the light of the Lord”.

Our passage begins with the words “in the last days”. Isaiah is looking beyond his current time and place. In those last days much will occur. The temple mount will be raised up and all nations will stream to it. The nations will come to worship the Lord. The Lord will teach “his ways” so that the people can walk “his paths”. The law will go out and the Lord will judge. There will be no war; swords and spears will become ploughs and pruning hooks. Oh what a day it will be! Israel longs for this day.

Do not miss the shift in verse five. All of the above are “will” things. It will be raised… he will teach… he will judge. Verse five is in the present tense: “Come… let us walk in the light of the Lord”. Yes, those “will” images are wonderful things. But they are future things. They remain future things even in our age. Isaiah is speaking in verse five of the now. He is saying that today is the day to walk in the light of the Lord. Isaiah is calling them to faithful living in the present time. It is a difficult time in Isaiah’s nation of Israel. They have strayed from God and have been found wanting. Judgment is coming. Yet even in the midst of all that Isaiah calls the people to walk in the light of the Lord.

Is this not where we find ourselves as well? We have allowed our nation to stray from the Lord. We have been quiet bystanders to the slide down the slope. We have been party to our churches turning inwards. We have turned inward. Our light has been shuttered. Circling the wagons has become more important than flinging wide the doors so that all can come to the light of the Lord. The circle has been drawn in tighter. Within, our words have become swords and spears. Oh how the Lord of light must weep. Yes, this is much light Isaiah’s God who wept over Israel.

Thus, the call remains the same: “Come… let us walk in the light of the Lord”. May we each allow the light to shine in the darkness, driving away any and all selfish love. In its place may the pure and selfless love of God flood in. May we be a light to all peoples. May God’s love reign!

Prayer: Lord God, make my love into your love. Help me to see as you see, to feel as you feel. Strip away the anger and malice, strip away the pride. Give me a clean heart, a heart to love all people, all of your children. Amen.


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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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Exalt and Worship

Reading: Psalm 99: 5-9

In today’s Psalm, we see four aspects of God, each requiring or provoking a response from the faithful.  Each of these aspects of God continue to be a part of our faith today.  Each is essential to a full relationship with God.

Verse five reminds us that God is holy.  In God, there is only good.  In God there cannot be any wrong or evil doing.  It is the spark of the divine in each of us that makes all of humanity have a natural bent towards doing good in the world.  Our response is to exalt the Lord and to worship our God.

Verse six speaks of calling on God.  Moses, Aaron, and Samuel are but a few who called on God.  There are many more who turned to the Lord our God in prayer.  Each came before God with honest and sincere hearts and prayers and “He answered them”.  Our response is to do the same.  We are called to regular communication with God, in the pattern of these great examples.

In verse seven we are prompted to remember God’s statutes and decrees.  The Bible is God’s guidance and directions for how to live as He intends us to live.  Our response remains the same: be obedient to God’s ways.

Verse eight recalls the struggle we all face: sin.  We will all experience temptation and at times we will all sin.  This verse reads, “you were to Israel a forgiving God”.  This remains one of God’s core characteristics.  God loves His children and constantly seeks to restore us to a right relationship with Him.  Because of this desire, our God is a loving, merciful, forgiving God.

Verse nine contains our response.  It is a reminder of what this passage opened with.  In light of all that God is, the psalmist again calls us to exalt and worship the Lord our God.  May our lives today be filled with our praise of God, worshipping the Lord our God in all we do and say and think this day.


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Living Right

Reading: Psalm 119: 137-144

The psalmist declares that God’s righteousness lasts forever.  Because of this, all of God’s laws and ways are also righteous.  Since God’s laws and ways are always righteous, we should ever seek to understand and live out God’s statutes and precepts.  If we do so, then we draw near to loving them as the psalmist does.  Even in times of trouble and distress, the writer declares that God’s commands bring delight.

To this understanding from the Old Testament, we can apply our understanding of Jesus.  Jesus was the fuller revelation of God as He lived in the flesh.  Jesus allows us to see what it looks like to live out God’s laws and ways.  Even though Jesus was in the flesh, He was still divine and lived a life without sin.  In the life of Jesus, in the things He taught, and in how He lived, we have the example of what it means to live fully in God’s righteousness.  Jesus defined and lived out the essence of all of God’s laws and precepts that we find in the Old Testament.  He did so by loving God with all He was and by loving others as God loves them.  Jesus saw all as beloved children of God and treated each accordingly.

Jesus exemplified verse 142: “Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”.  God does not change.  God’s love never ends.  God’s ways are true.  Within these truths we seek to live as Jesus lived.  Living out our faith us living right.  Living out the love that Jesus pours into us is living right.  Living out the truth of God so that God’s word spreads to those around us and so God’s love and light grows is living right.  Whether filled with joy because of God’s blessings or struggling through a trial, these truths do not change.  No matter what life may bring, God’s love and God’s ways remain true.  May we always follow Jesus’ example, seeking to be God’s love and truth lived out.


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His Ways

The psalmist refers to God as their refuge, rescuer, and deliverer.  These are just a few of the many names we can attribute to God.  Others include, but are certainly not limited to, healer, provider, forgiver, restorer, reconciler, redeemer, comforter, King, and guide.  Each of these names speak to a characteristic or trait of God.  As His children, we call on Him to act on or to be these things as we seek His action through our prayers.  It is at times as if we are reminding God of who He is in hopes of finding healing or restoration or whatever it is we are petitioning God for.

The names we attach to God can also remind us of who He is.  The many and varied names remind us of how powerful and limitless our God is.  The fact that He is so many things to us reinforces the belief that God can be our all in all.  As we consider this, we come to realize that our God is capable of anything.

Yet, to us, God does not always do all that we ask.  Or so it appears to us.  For example, in the midst of a storm or trial in life, we ask our Great Deliverer to deliver us from the situation.  Or perhaps we come to our Great Healer and ask for Him to bring healing to a friend or loved one.  But we find that the trial goes on or that the person passes away.  We question if He is indeed deliverer or healer.  We forget that His plans are not our plans.  Maybe in the first case God was not quite done refining us.  Maybe in the second, the person found the healing they truly needed.  His ways are far above our ways.

In the end, if we are faithful, we will find deliverance or healing or whatever we seek.  May we be ever faithful and trust in His ways and in His plans for our lives.

Scripture reference: Psalm 71: 1-3