pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Rebuking Jesus

Reading: Mark 8: 27-33

Verse 32: “Jesus spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

As our time in Mark 8 begins today we walk along with Jesus. Along the way he asks the disciples who people say he is. They respond with Moses, Elijah, some other prophet. The general population sees Jesus as one sent by God. That much is revealed in the wisdom of his teachings and in the miracles he offers. Turning next to those who know him best Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” It is Peter who answers, “You are the Christ.” For those of us who know Jesus well, how would we respond to this question? Like Peter we too might name Jesus the Christ or the Messiah. Or we might say he is Lord, redeemer, Savior.

And sometimes we, like Peter, can demonstrate a clear lack of understanding or have a failure of faith just moments after proclaiming Jesus is Lord, Savior, Messiah… Jesus explains to the disciples that he will suffer and be rejected, that he will die, and that he will rise after three days. In verse 32 we read, “Jesus spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Well, the end of Jesus’ ministry did not match Peter’s vision for what the Messiah should be.

All of what Jesus explained was necessary for Jesus to be the kind of Messiah we need and not just the kind we want. Who or what I want Jesus to be does not always align with who and what Jesus really is. When I’m in just the right mood, I too can begin to rebuke Jesus for not doing what I want or for letting me experience this thing I don’t want to. We have all gone down that road. We’ve all done what Peter did.

In those moments we too are guilty of having in mind “the things of the world” and not “the things of God”. In those moments we want our way, not God’s way. As we heard yesterday in James’ words, “this should not be.” As we continue in Mark 8 tomorrow, Jesus offers guidance in how it should be. As we go with Jesus today, may our walk be faithful and true.

Prayer: Lord God, you gave us the example of how to walk faithfully within God’s will and ways. When the voice of the world rises up, send your Holy Spirit to remind me of my call to follow you. Draw me into faithful discipleship. Amen.


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His Plan

Reading: 2nd Samuel 7: 1-14a

Verse 2: “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent”.

Photo credit: Erik Van Dijk

As King David has time to reflect – God has settled him in the palace and has given him “rest from all his enemies” – he thinks of his home and God’s home. David lives in a beautiful palace of cedar and God Almighty lives in a tent. This strikes David as wrong. Consulting with Nathan the prophet a decision is made to build God a proper home. Then, in the night, God says, ‘Hold on a minute’.

Have you ever been down this road? Have you ever thought you’d do something nice for God – without asking God? God speaks to Nathan in a vision and he relays it to David. God basically says, ‘When did I ask for a house’? The short answer is ‘never’. God then turns the tables, reminding David that God is in charge. He’s the one who took David from shepherd to king, from pasture to palace.

When have you felt like doing something for God because God has blessed you or because you were comfortable? Or… when have you thought you should do something for God because you felt guilty about the above? It is a fine line, isn’t it?

I think David’s heart was in the right place. Realizing all that God had done for him, he wanted to express his thanks. We find ourselves here too. Sometimes we will be moved by the Spirit to offer an act of kindness or some other expression of gratitude. If not and we feel as David did, let us begin with prayer, seeking the will of God. It will then be according to his plan, not ours. May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, keep me closely connected to you. Whisper to me through the Holy Spirit, respond to bended knee. Lead and guide me to do your will. Amen.


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God Invites Us Deeper

Reading: Lamentations 1: 1-6

Verse 2: “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks”.

One cannot hardly help reading these verses and being drawn into the sadness of the situation. God has been just in exiling the people because of their sins. Yet the barrenness and emptiness of Jerusalem evoke feelings of sadness and mourning in us thousands of years later. In our hearts we can easily empathize when we read, “Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks”. Perhaps tears roll down our cheeks.

In our own lives we too will experience hardship, loss, death, change, separation, and maybe even exile. Sometimes these experiences come upon us not because of anything we have done or not done. We simply find ourselves present in the valley. These experiences can be hard and painful. They vary too. There is grief and sadness, for example, when a 92-year-old faithful saint passes on. Yet our reading from Lamentations feels more like the unexpected loss of a young child. In such instances we weep like the woman who cries bitter tears, not quite understanding the reality that she finds herself in.

At other times we have a hand in the calamity that brings us to the valley. There were many who went into exile and some left behind that were guilty of the sins that precipitated God’s action. When we have been guilty and experience hardship or worse because of our choices or actions, we must acknowledge the role we played before offering repentance and seeking reconciliation. This can be a process. Denial and blame shifting can prolong the exile. For Israel, the exile lasted a long time. There was much work to do. We too can remain there for a period of time if we refuse to admit our role or to acknowledge our imperfections.

Whether we are “innocent victims” or if we had a role in the hardship or failure or “exile”, these experiences offer us the opportunity for transformation and growth. In the valleys we are reminded both of our inability to solve all things and of God’s omnipotent ability to do anything. From the valley, God invites us into deeper relationship as we walk the shadows. God’s hand reaches out in love, seeking to heal and transform us into something new. In faith may we reach out to God, our rock and redeemer, our rescuer and restorer, our healer and our salvation.

Prayer: Lord of Lords, the valley is an uncomfortable place to be. The feeling of isolation and grief are hard to bear. Help me to walk with you, to lean upon you. I know you do not want me to bear them alone. Bend my face to yours, hold my hand tightly. Guide me through to once again walk fully in your light and love. Amen.


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God’s Will

Reading: Hebrews 10: 5-10

Verse 7: “Here I am… I have come to do your will, O God”.

Much of the Old Testament covers the when, what, how, and why of the sacrificial system that atoned for sin. Chapter after chapter details this system. In many ways temple sacrifice was a core element of the Jewish faith. Yet, sprinkled here and there in the Old Testament are verses like the one that Jesus quoted from Psalm 40. When an offering or sacrifice became just a motion they were going through, it displeased God. When the same sacrifice was given over and over because the sin was repeated too, it displeased God. The act of atonement had to include repentance in the heart.

At times I have been guilty of this too. I have asked for forgiveness without a full commitment to repent of that sin. I felt guilty enough to confess but not enough to change. I have gone to church or MYF or men’s group because I was supposed to, had a poor attitude the whole time, and left just as empty as when I came. I have helped my neighbor or the stranger I met not because I wanted to or was led to but because it was my “job”. We have all been there (or close to there).

In verse 7 Jesus quotes Psalm 40, saying, “Here I am… I have come to do your will, O God”. This is reminiscent of Samuel and others who responded faithfully when God called. Samuel and many like him had a heart willing to follow God and His ways. This too was the heart of Jesus. His purpose was to do the will of God. All day, every day. Jesus lived with a heart ever centered on God’s will. It showed in all He did and said. Jesus exemplified obedience and this allowed Him to be God’s love and mercy lived out to the fullest. May we go and be like Jesus, doing God’s will always.

Prayer: Lord, prepare me to be your servant each and every day. Mold me, shape me, refine me to follow Jesus’ way. Help me to become less each day so that my life glorifies you more and more. Amen.


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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!


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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!