pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Preach

Reading: 1st Corinthians 1: 18-25

Verse 23: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”.

Paul is writing of Jesus’ crucifixion. As Christians we see Jesus’ obedience and submission to the cross as the supreme sign of love. Jesus walked the path to the cross out of love for God and for us. He suffered and died so that we can experience the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. This is the lens through which Christians see the crucifixion.

The Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ day, however, see the crucifixion much differently. The Romans used crucifixions as deterrents. The torture and pain and humiliation were intentional reminders that told all who witnessed a crucifixion that they did not want to do whatever that person did. The cross came to represent guilt, shame, weakness, and death. It is in this context that verse 23 makes perfect sense: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. Of course the idea of the Messiah going to the cross is a stumbling block and is foolishness.

Our sad reality is that it remains so for people today. Some think that there had to be another way – a better or more humane way to achieve the same end. Some stumble over how a loving father could allow their son to suffer this way. Some do not see or cannot take in the incomprehensible and awesome love that is revealed in this act. The depth of love is too much. For some, this is the stumbling block. Others get the love but wonder how they could ever be worthy of a relationship with a God who loves this much and is this good.

What is the proper response to all of this for a Christian? It is the same as it was for Paul: we preach Christ crucified. Through our witness and through how we live out God’s love, we preach the transformative and all-encompassing love of God in Jesus Christ. We preach that Christ died once for all and we are clear that all means all. We preach about how Jesus has and continues to transform us over and over. We preach about those mercies that come new every morning and about how they never stop coming because His love is never-ending too. As we preach the good news, we help others past their stumbling blocks and we dispell the foolishness so that they too can enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior. May it be so. Amen.


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Intercessor One

Reading: Romans 8: 26-39

Verse 26: We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.

Paul knew that we, as humans, are weak.  He knew from his own faith journey that living the life of faith cannot be done on our own.  Through his own life, Paul has discovered that the Holy Spirit is an essential part of one’s faith.  It is only through the power and presence of the Spirit in the life of a believer that one can overcome our human weaknesses.

A key role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is that of intercessor.  The Spirit works as an advocate for us, coming before God with prayers on our behalf.  When we do not know what to pray for or how to put our mess into words, then the Spirit takes over.  Verse 26 speaks of this: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us”.  In this way, the Holy Spirit is always bringing our needs before the throne of God.

The second way the Spirit prays for us begins with God searching our hearts.  In doing so, our weaknesses and shortcomings are revealed and the Spirit prays for these “in accordance with the will of God”.  In this way the Spirit helps to form and shape us into the person God created us to be.  Through this prayerful transformation process, we grow to become more like Jesus, the image of God.  As our faith grows and we become more mature in our faith, we become justified through the saving work of Jesus.  In our humanity we will always be weak.  Therefore we will stumble and fall now and then.  In these moments, the love of God again enters in and we are made righteous by His grace.  It is through Jesus that our weakness is made spiritually strong.  Through all of this the Holy Spirit continues to lift us up in prayer, to bring our needs before God, and to reveal in us what needs to conform more to the likeness of Christ.  Thank you God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.


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In Weakness and in Strength

We all like to accentuate our ‘strengths’ to a degree.  What we and others view as strengths can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual.  Everyone has been blessed by God in many ways.  Each of the strengths we have been blessed with are gifts we have been given for building up the kingdom of God.  Many of these gifts are also used in endeavors such as work, athletics, school, and relationships.

We also all have weaknesses.  Most of the time we prefer to keep these hidden away.  We prefer to keep these tucked into a dark corner.  But when we do this, we are limiting the power of Christ in our lives.  Even though we try to keep them hidden away, they are still there.  Even though we pretend they do not exist, our weaknesses still rise up from time to time.  In turning them over to Christ and calling on His power to come along side us in our battles, we can experience His strength in our lives.

One of the best ways to build your strengths and to work on your weaknesses is to be in a small group.  For example, my brothers in Christ have come to know my strengths over time.  They encourage me to use these strengths in helping others grow in their faith.  But they also have come to know the weaknesses in my life.  My brothers in Christ hold me accountable.  They check in with me to see how I am doing in relying on Christ for my strength in these battles.  These men of God pray for me in my struggles.  To them, I offer the same things in return.

God made us just as we are – the good and bad alike.  Like with Paul, these ‘thorns’ we all have keep us humble.  They keep us within the knowledge that we really need God to make it through life.  God desires to use both our strengths and weaknesses to build His kingdom here on earth.  May we all learn to offer both up to God for His glory.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10


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As We Go Out

It is not natural for most people to get up in the morning and to wonder how they can be weak and powerless that day.  It is just not a place many of us feel comfortable being.  Most of us like to be in control of our own choices to some degree.  Some like to be in control of some of the choices others make as well.  But at a minimum we all like to feel we have some autonomy over at least ourselves.

Power comes in many forms.  And there are at least as many ways to abuse and distort power as well.  With power can come pride, ego, boasting, privilege, domination, and a host of other negative things.

Power can be good too.  It is just a different kind of power.  It is a power not of this world so this world is puzzled by it.  It is a power this world cannot defeat or destroy either.  This power is gentle yet strong, soft yet enduring, simple yet powerful.  God whispered to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  God was telling Paul, “I got it.”

The thorn Paul was facing and the thorns we face serve to remind us that we are weak and that we must rely on God and Him alone.  For when we fall to our knees and lift up our hands acknowledging that we cannot do it alone, then God’s grace and love and strength come rushing in.  His resurrection power is what allows us to be renewed each day, to take up our cross each day, and to follow Jesus Christ each day.  As we go out, we go with God.  He whispers to us too, “I got it.”

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10