Week Twenty-Eight Thoughts

I want to bring you to two passages today from our reading. The first passage is Hebrews 11 and the second is James 2:14-26. Hebrews 11 is sometimes referred to as the Hall of Faith, and James 2:14-26 can cause trouble for some people with the idea of a works based salvation. So I want us to dive into these passages together.

In Hebrews 11 we see a definition of faith, and we see many examples of faith throughout from the Old Testament. When we look into examples of faith given, there is always action that accompanies this faith. The one thing we have to keep in mind is that it was not the action that “gained God’s approval” (Hebrews 11:39), but rather it was their faith. The faith is the motivator for action, and I would even say that genuine faith always produces movement or action. Throughout Hebrews 11 we see active faith, which produces action, and now I want to take us to James 2.

In James 2, we James saying that faith without works is dead. He asks some thought provoking questions about faith, asking if faith without works can save someone? He answers this by saying faith without works is dead or useless, and that even the Demons believe that God is one, and they shudder. When looking at this one could wonder if James is saying that ultimately we are then saved by our works. This is not what he is saying, but what he is saying is that true faith will produce works. If we truly believe and have faith in Christ we are transformed, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In all the examples of faith we are given from the Old Testament in Hebrews 11, there was obviously a belief in who God is, but there is also an action that comes along with that, thus showing that faith is not stagnant, but that there is movement and action involved.

In just reading through Romans, we know that we are justified and saved by faith, and not works, that no one may boast. Christ did the saving on the cross, and our faith in that saves us, but that faith is not inactive or passive, it is active and produces fruit, it transforms us. Take some time this week to read through Matthew 25:31-46, and contemplate what faith looks like. When I read this along with James 2, it brings me to believe that these works are a natural out-flowing from the believer, not done under obligation, but compulsion from our love for Christ, so much so that we do not even realizing we are doing them. Have you been transformed by the outpouring of grace from God? Is your faith active? Do you “perform” works out of obligation (or guilt) or out of compulsion for your love of Christ?

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-Seven Thoughts

This week my thoughts came from Hebrews, and not just one chapter or a few verses, but weaved throughout the chapters we read. My thoughts went to the concept of Jesus as our Great High Priest. This is one of those concepts that has kind of been lost in history. When we look at what a priest did in the Old Testament, we see that they in a sense were a mediator between God and His people, but with Christ as the High Priest we have a fundamental change in that we now have access to God directly.

Another function of the High Priest was to offer the sacrifice for the people as well. Jesus not only offered a sacrifice, He was the sacrifice, and not just a sacrifice, but He was the perfect sacrifice (see Hebrews 10). So as we look at Jesus as the Great High Priest we must recognize that He is not only the mediator and sacrifice, but that He is also God, but not only that, but as a Christ follower, He is for us. With Jesus as our mediator and sacrifice we can stand before God the Father forgiven and counted righteous.

With Jesus as our Great High Priest we know we are in good hands. We have someone that sympathizes with us, someone that loves us, someone that died for us, and we now have direct access to God. How lucky are we? Jesus is actively our Great High Priest and our sacrifice. He brought salvation to us.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-Six Thoughts

This week I want to bring us to 1 Chronicles 15:29. This verse reads as follows, “As the ark of the covenant of the LORD was entering the city of David, Saul’s daughter Michal looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing, and she despised him in her heart. Michal was David’s wife, and we see that David is for a lack of better terms going nuts, not in a bad way, but in a rejoicing way. We see here that David is excited, and rightfully so, he is finally bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. In his act of undignified dancing, as Michal would have put it, what is David doing? David is expressing his joy, thanksgiving, and ultimately worship to God through this dancing and music.

When I think about worship and what it looks like, I find myself at times a lot more like Michal and less like David. I tend to be reserved and at times even skeptical of others. This is wrong of me, but I think what is probably even worse than the skepticism is my lack of freedom in worship. Why don’t I let loose? What am I afraid of? Do I think people will judge my bad voice or would dancing offend someone? The answer to the last two questions for me is I think people would judge my bad voice and dancing might offend some. Even though that might be the case, I have to ask why do I care how others perceive how I worship?

The question comes down to this, who are you trying to please with how you worship? Man or God? Let us all worship God for who He is and what He has done, and don’t let people hinder that, and if that means dancing, than dance, if that means singing at the top of your lungs even though you sound like a cross between dying cat and a scared dog, than do it, or if that means you sit in quiet contemplation while others are singing and dancing, than sit. We serve an amazing God, so let us worship Him with our whole self. David worshiped freely before God, without a worry of who was watching, so let us take a play from his book and worship freely as well.

Thanks for reading!

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-Five Thoughts

My thoughts this week are short, and they come from 2 Kings 22:8-13. This account is during the time when Josiah is king of Judah and they find the Book of the Law. The place I want to focus on is Josiah’s reaction when he heard the words of the book of the law. We are told he tore his clothes and seeks answers from the LORD. When is the last time the Word of God has impacted you like this? Has the Word of God ever impacted you like this? As we ask ourselves these questions, we must also ask, when is the last time I was convicted by the Word of God? Josiah sees the sin and disobedience of Judah, and I am sure even in himself.

So let us be like Josiah, being excited about God’s Word, repentant of our sins, and faithful to God’s Word.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-Four Thoughts

This week is a very important week for the church, it is what is known as Holy week. It would make sense for me to write about the Mark’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but I want to bring us to 2 Kings 5. This is the account of Naaman being healed of his skin disease.

In this passage we see the instructions given to Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan and then his skin would be restored and clean. From here we see Naaman’s reaction, but then after some counsel we see him follow the instructions. After he washed seven times in the Jordan, he was miraculously healed of his skin disease. This is where I want to pick it up.

After he is healed, he confesses that there is only one God, the God of Israel, but then he also tries to give Elisha a gift. Elisha would not accept the gift, and it may seem like a rather insignificant thing here, but I think it is something to look at. Why would he not accept it? What would have happened if he had? Would God have gotten the glory in this situation, or would have Elisha? As you continue reading through the reading plan, don’t forget to take time to ask questions and seek out the answers. Research them, or ask someone what they think, start conversations about what you are reading, and enjoy the time in God’s word.

Thanks for reading!

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-Three Thoughts

My thoughts for this week brought me to 1 Kings 3:1-15. This is the passage where the LORD appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what should I give you. I don’t know if you have ever had this happen to you, but I know I have not. We see here that Solomon is faced with a question, but not just from anyone, but a question from God. I want us to think about this, what if God asked you what do you want? To be honest I am not sure what my answer would be. In this passage as we read on, we see what Solomon asks for. He did not ask for money or fame, good health, and quite honestly he did not ask for anything that was selfish. Instead he asked for a receptive heart to judge and to discern between good and evil.

Solomon asked for wisdom to judge and administer justice. As we read on we see that God was pleased with his request and also grants him many other things. As we continue through our reading we get to see some of this wisdom portrayed through rulings and through proverbs, but let us never forget that Solomon asked for wisdom, and his wisdom did not come through or from him, but rather it came from God.

When we pray, what are we praying for, or what are we praying about? Are we only asking for things selfishly, or are we asking for things that will further the Kingdom? Solomon asked for something that would not only help him rule, but that would also show the greatness of the One he served. People from all around knew of Solomon’s wisdom, but they also knew who his God was. Let us use what we have been given for God’s glory and not our own.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty-One Thoughts

Today’s thoughts bring me to a fairly well known passage in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. This passage is where David has his affair with Bathsheba, gets her pregnant, tries to hide it, and then has her husband killed. The heading for chapter 11 in the New American Standard Bible is Bathsheba, David’s Great Sin. When reading this chapter it is very evident that David is making some bad decision, he is obviously sinning. We see he commits adultery first, which it seems as though maybe he got away with it, and then uh-oh Bathsheba got pregnant. Instead of owning up to anything David gets this great idea that he can still cover it up, which ends up not working, so he sends Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, back to war with his own letter of death essentially in his hands to give to the commander of the army.

Through this account we see the destructiveness of sin, and how it leads to more and more sin. Then after this David marries Bathsheba. When I read through this account it almost amazes me that we never see any remorse or guilt shown by David, and it is not until he is approached by Nathan that he really grasps what he has done. With all of this being said, I want you to think about a few things. The first is, are there any hidden sins in your life? Do you have anyone in your life that would call you out if you were doing something wrong? Finally, when is the last time you repented of sin?

Once David comes to a realization of the sins he has committed, he does repent and is forgiven. If you have time I urge you to go read Psalms 51 and 32. We have victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our LORD. So let us ask God to search our hearts and let us repent of any sin in our lives, knowing that nothing is hidden from His eyes. And finally surround yourself with people that will hold you accountable and rebuke you as Nathan did for David.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twenty Thoughts

This week I want to focus in on Romans 5:6-11. When looking in at these verses we have written out for us the message of the hope we have in Jesus for salvation. I want to leave you with it, and ask you to dwell on it for a while. Think about what this means for you as an individual, but also for the church. We have this great hope, and with it, it should transform our lives and compel us to share it with others, both individually and together as the church. So here it is, Romans 5:6-11 (NASB) -

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in Go through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

So again, I ask you to dwell on these words, soak them in, and praise God for our hope that we have!

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Nineteen Thoughts

In this weeks thoughts, I want to take us to Acts 21:37-22:21. This is where Paul addresses a mob of people who are opposing him. I want to focus in on a couple things within this passage. The first is the language Paul uses and the second is how he relates to the people.

This first point might seem pretty simple, but Paul addresses the crowd, or mob, in Aramaic instead of Greek. He does not do this in order for more people to understand, but he does it to relate better to the crowd. The group of people he is addressing is Jewish, and he knows their preferred language is Aramaic. I would venture to say that when we are talking to people, we should use language that is understandable. I will come back to this in a minute, but first let’s get back to the second point, on how Paul relates to them.

Paul relates to the mob of people by telling them he is one of them, and that he used to persecute Christians. He appeals to the Jewish community by showing he is one of them. He uses this platform to then share his conversion to following Jesus.

This are two pretty simple things, using a more accessible language and relating to the audience, but I believe they are extremely important when sharing about our faith. We should take notes from Paul and find ways to relate when sharing the Gospel message, don’t forget you were a sinner in need of repentance too, relate to people! We can also use language that is less confusing to people, or at least explaining church words that we have grown up around that people might be unfamiliar with.

Let’s get to know some new people and find ways to relate with them, and share the good news of Salvation!

Thanks for Reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Eighteen Thoughts

My thoughts for this week are nice and short, and they come from Acts 16:25-34. This is where Paul and Silas are in prison praying and singing hymns to God, and then there is an earthquake and the doors are opened and chains became loose on all the prisoners. After this we see the jailer is about to kill himself and Paul stops him. The jailer brought them out and asked this, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The answer to this question is extremely important and we can’t miss it. They give the answer in verse 31, when they answer him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” The answer to the question is simple, to believe in the Lord Jesus, but we also see before he is baptized he needs to know who this belief is in. This is where we see Paul and Silas tell him the word of the Lord. Salvation is through belief in Jesus, and we know who Jesus is and what Jesus did through the Bible.

I must ask you, what do you believe about Jesus? Is it what the Bible says? Explore the Bible continually, learning more about your savior! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the Glory of God alone. Amen.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Seventeen Thoughts

In this week’s reading we finished up the book of Judges. I want to bring us to the final verse of the book of Judges, which reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” (CSB) When reading through the book of Judges we see some triumphs and we see some downfalls in Israel, but the book ends with an overarching feel of defeat or helplessness. There is no fairy tale ending to the book of Judges, in fact it is rather sad and depressing.

When we look at the cycle of Judges we see five parts to each, with Israel first in sin, then oppression, which leads to repentance and then deliverance (through a Judge), and ends with peace… and then they cycle back through. As this continues from Judge to Judge we see more and more corruption even within the leaders. Then the book ends with the verse “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” This whatever he wanted statement was not a positive statement. It is showing that Israel has gone from being set apart as God’s to becoming more and more like those around them, doing whatever they wanted.

The end of the book of Judges looks rather bleak, but as we continue to read through 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, we will see God raise up kings for His people, and through His covenant with David the hope of the coming Messiah. Thankfully the Biblical Narrative does not end with Judges, but continues to first and second Samuel and first and second Kings, and then we get to the New Testament and the Gospels and we can see the full picture of redemptive history all the way to the Second Coming and Eternity with Christ. Although reading through Judges can get tough, don’t forget it does not end there, history will end when Christ comes and gathers His people to live with Him for eternity.

Let us not become our own masters deciding for ourselves what is right or wrong as Israel did here, but let us rely on God’s Word for our morality and live not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but live by His Spirit!

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Also if you have the time check out the Bible Project and watch the video on the book of Judges.

https://thebibleproject.com/explore/judges/

Week Sixteen Thoughts

My thoughts this week went to Acts 5:33-39. These verses read, “When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while. He said to them, ‘Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re about to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or work is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.’ They were persuaded by him.” (CSB)

I have always admired the wisdom in Gamaliel’s advice here. It is logical and frankly it just makes sense. My thoughts on this will be brief. How many years has it been since Jesus’ death and resurrection? If the Gospel is still being proclaimed today, and there are many believing the message, I believe, and hopefully so do you, that Jesus is who He claimed to be, and who the Apostles claimed Him to be. We are around 2000 years later and the Good News is still being proclaimed, and people are being saved from death into life. I think it is safe to say by Gamaliel’s logic this “movement” must be of God! Let us be encouraged that the message of the Gospel has stood the test of time, but don’t let that overshadow the actual message of the Gospel, that we have been saved from the coming wrath of God, through the death of Jesus, and passed from death to life. We have been pardoned and have eternal life! The Good News that was being proclaimed by the Apostles is the same Good News that we proclaim today. As believers we are all called to proclaim this Good News (the Gospel), are we?

Thanks for reading.

-Pastor Josh

Week Fifteen Thoughts

My thoughts this week brought me to Joshua 4. At the beginning of this chapter we see the conclusion of a miracle and the commanded response to this miracle. The miracle that took place was the crossing of the Jordan river by the people of Israel. This miracle took place to show Israel that God is with them (Joshua 3:9-13). The command to the people of Israel after this miracle was to set up 12 memorial stones from the middle of the Jordan River as a rememberance for what had taken place. When readiing though the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, there are numerous times in which Israel builds an altar or memorial to the Lord. Most of these were two fold in nature, the first was to worship God then, and the second was for the future generations so that they would know something significant happened there (as in God did something great there).

When you look back over your life have you seen God at work? What do you do with these things? Do you forget about them? I am not saying that we go back and build altars and memorials for things that God has done for us, but I am saying that we should have good ways of remembering them. Do you write them down or celebrate them? Do you celebrate the day you were saved from death into life or the day you were baptized? Do you even know the dates of those things? Let me be honest here, I don’t know these things about my own life. I know a few significant dates in my life, like when I was born and when I got married, but I haven’t kept a good record of other significant dates. When I look at how Israel was commanded to remember things, I am a little ashamed of myself for note remembering crucial things in my own life.

As we all go forward in our lives with Christ, let us make notes about when and where we see God working. Write things down or build something that will help you remember in the future. Also let us think back and remember what He has done for us in the past! Write down what you can remember, share it with people. In Joshua 4:21-24 reads, “and he said to the Israelites, ‘In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’’ For the LORD your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, jsut as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the peoples of the earth my know that the LORD’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the LORD your God.” (CSB)

Let us put things in place to be conversation starters, not to think back on the ‘good old days,’ but to glorify God for what He has done in each of our lives. He alone is worthy of praise and glory, so let us give it to Him!

Thank you for reading,

-Pastor Josh

Week Fourteen Thoughts

My thoughts this week were drawn to Psalm 93. Although it is a fairly short Psalm, it is packed with content. We are given a lot to think about when we read this Psalm. We are told that the LORD reigns, that He is clothed in majesty, robed and enveloped in strength, that He is mighty, eternal, truthful and reliable, and His house is adorn (or befit) with Holieness.

When I think about who God is, I am often overwhelmed. God is complex, and I believe that we cannot fully comprehend who He is, but as we read through Scripture we are given glimpses of who He is. This is one of those passages that gives us a good look into who God is, but we need all of Scripture to put together a more accurate picture of who He is, but we will not fully comprehend who He is until we are with Him dwelling in His glory at the second coming. This picture that we are given here gives us a good picture though, we see that God is reigning, as in He is above, in control, and always has been and always will. We see that God is clothed with majesty and strength.

Psalm 93 verses 3 and 4 give us a picture of the strength that God possesses. In the past couple of years there have been quite a few hurricanes that have brought devestation to many places, and a lot of the devestation comes from the storm surge and the flooding that it brings. It is crazy how powerful the seas are, and how much destruction comes by flooding. In these verses we see that God’s strength or might is much more than the power of flooding and the seas. If we are His, what then should we fear?

In verse 2 we see that God is from everlasting. This means that God is eternal, before time, and after time, God is. God has no beginning and no end. This is one of the truths about God that we cannot quite comprehend, our world and our lives are defined by time, but time is something along with us that are creations of God. He is so far above us and more powerful than us. Our God is awesome, I could go on and on about how great God is, but I’ll just say explore the Scripture and see for yourself for His testimonies are completely reliable (verse 5).

God is awesome! As we continue through Scripture start noting the attributes of God, write them down, put them together and explore how each attribute compliments the others. It will make you realize not only is our God great and awesome, but He is beautiful! Through all of this don’t forget that God loves you intimately, He calls you His own! We serve an amazing, wonderful God!

Thanks for reading!

-Pastor Josh

Week Thirteen Thoughts

This week as I was reading my thoughts focused in on Luke 5, when Jesus heals the paralytic that was lowered down through the roof of where Jesus was teaching. It is a pretty cool story with quite a few moving parts. The first thing we see is that Jesus is teaching, and then he is interrupted by a group of men lowering a paralyzed man from the roof. The men, including the paralyzed man, obviously had faith knowing that Jesus could heal him, along with a knowledge of the graciousness of Jesus, not worried about his reaction of being interrupted while teaching. Although this account is already pretty strange, we see Jesus do something even more peculiar.

Jesus does not immediately heal the paralytic, but instead says to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus could see a bigger need in this man’s life than his physical impairment, and that is the spiritual impairment of sin. Jesus could have just healed the man and let him go on his way, but instead he does something more important, he forgives him of his sins. This is something that the Scribes and Pharisees went crazy about, and questioned it by saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus was doing something much bolder than what it looked like at face value. Jesus here is making a claim of deity, he is saying he is God, and he has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus goes on in verses 22-24 to say, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”— he said to the man who was paralyzed—”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” After this the man immediately picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. (Verse 25)

Jesus used an interruption for three different things (probably more) here. He used the opportunity to heal someone both spiritually and physically, he used it to teach and show his authority, and he used to it bring glory to God. I could now ask you how do you use the random interruptions or encounters with people, but instead I want to ask you what do you focus in on your prayers? Do you focus on physical needs of yourself and others? Or do you more importantly focus on the spiritual needs of those around you, including yourself? I think a lot of times we get caught up in physical needs because they are more visible, but I would argue that the more pressing issues are much deep than physical, they are spiritual. Christ has the power to heal physical afflictions, but more importantly he forgives sins, he took on our punishment of death! So let us focus a little more on the spiritual, knowing that the physical afflictions are only temporary, because without the forgiveness of sins we would face condemnation.

Jesus saves! There is no better news, so spread it and don’t neglect praying for the spiritual needs of the people around you and those that are lost without a savior.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Josh

Week Twelve Thoughts

When reading through the first chapters of Deuteronomy I was drawn, as many people are to chapter 6 and in particular verses 4-9. The verses read as follows, “‘Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” In this passage we see a command along with practical advice on how to do it.

The command in this passage, known as the greatest command, is to Love the LORD your God (with all your heart, soul, and strength). We are called to love God, which is active, and not only is it active, but it is also visible. In the following verses we see that we are to have these words in our heart, on our tongues, and even physically on things. So the question we must ask ourselves is, how am I loving God? Do I know his word in my heart? Do I talk to my family and friends about who God is? Do I tell people about salvation and the love that God has for me? Do I tell people I love God? Does my city know that I love God?

Just as the people of Israel were called and commanded to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength, so are we. We are also called and commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. With this in mind, how evident is your faith to the outside world? If you are one of God’s children the world should know it! The world should know you are his, not just by the way you live, but because you talk about it. As it says in Deuteronomy you should repeat these words to your children, you should talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. God does not ask for you to silently live a good life, but instead commands you to love Him and talk about it! So let us be bold in proclaiming our love for our God and Savior!

-Pastor Josh

Week Eleven Thoughts

I am not sure what stuck out to you in this week’s reading plan, but for me it was Numbers 22. This has always been a fascinating account to me, and I sometimes forget about it. In Numbers 22, we see Balaam have a conversation with his donkey, how fun? It’d be pretty cool to be able to have a conversation with an animal. I would be interested to have one with our dog Beacon, to see why he likes to bark at me when I sit down on the couch or when I lay down to go to sleep, but I can’t. This is one reason why I find this passage fascinating, but the other is to see the awareness of Balaam’s donkey to what was around her.

We see in this passage that Balaam’s donkey actually saves his life. Balaam was going to Balak to give him a message from God, or so we thought. On his way there we see his donkey acting up, and Balaam thinking his donkey was just being disobedient struck her three times. This all seems pretty logical, at least I assume, but then the donkey speaks! Crazy, right? But we see that the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, thus making it less crazy, and more miraculous. From here we see the conversation that ensues. Balaam is mad at his donkey, but then we see the donkey reason with him, and then Boom, Balaam’s eyes are opened! He finally sees what has donkey had seen the whole time, the angel of the LORD.

The encounter between Balaam and the angel is rather perplexing when we first look at it. We are told that Balaam was told by God to go to Balak and do only what he was told by God to do. When reading it would seem Balaam was doing just that. Where we differ from God is knowing the heart of Balaam, and although it seems Balaam was going under the grace of God, he must have had some sort of heart change. It seems reasonable to believe that Balaam was going to fall to the temptation of greed, thus God sent His angel to stand in his way from making it to Balak, and thankfully for Balaam his donkey saved him! From here we see Balaam’s encounter with the angel, and the angel reiterates for Balaam to “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.”

In the next few chapters we see that Balaam is faithful to God’s word, and instead of cursing Israel, as Balak wanted him to, he blessed them three times. I think we can all be like Balaam at times, going into a situation set on giving God the glory and even sharing His word with others, and then our own ambitions or our own thoughts get in the way. We may become distracted or in some instances scared, or perhaps we find we can take advantage of a situation for our own gain, but let us seek God and his will and plan.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is this: if God can use a donkey to bring a message to someone, God can use you to bring His message of Good News to those around you!

Thanks for reading,

-Pastor Josh

Week Ten Thoughts

As I was reading this week Psalm 65 really caught my attention. It paints a beautiful picture of why one should praise God. The Psalmist, in this case David gives many reasons why one should praise God, but I want to focus on three that stood out to me in this Psalm.

The first reason I want to bring to our attention is that God is the creator of all and Lord of all. We see this in verses 6-8, where God is described as “the one who by his strength established the mountains,” and “who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves.” Here we see not only God’s creative nature, by creating the mountains, but we see his strength, and through the stilling of the seas and waves, we see that God is Lord of all, having not only created everything, but that He has the power and authority over them as well. What an awesome God we serve!

The second reason we are given to praise God is that He is the Sustainer and Provider. We see this in verses 9-13, where David says, “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it,” and “You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.” Not only do we see that God is the Creator and Lord over his creation, but that he sustains it and also through sustaining the land, he ultimately is providing for the people. What an awesome God we serve!

The third and final reason we are given to praise God comes earlier on in the Psalm, in verse 5. Here we see David refer to God as the “God of our salvation.” In this passage we see that God is the creator, that He is Lord of all, that He is powerful and mighty, that He sustains His creation, that He provides for His creation, and finally that He saves! In verse 3 we see David say that God atones for our transgressions, and we know this to be true based on what Jesus (God Incarnate) did on the cross. Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins, and to grant us salvation, from death to life. Let us never forget to praise God, for He alone is worthy of our praise!

-Pastor Josh

Week Nine Thoughts

The past couple of weeks we have been working through the book of Leviticus. The first time I read through this book I remember getting bogged down by the monotonous nature of reading about the sacrificial system and different laws, but since that time I have grown to really enjoy reading through Leviticus. Once I started reading through it with the lens of the Gospel, my appreciation for the book grew immensely. When reading though this time chapter 25 peaked my interest, especially with the New Year on my mind. Chapter 25 brings to our attention two practices of the nation of Israel, the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee.

I want to focus our thoughts on the Year of Jubilee for a moment. There is a lot here that can be lost on us. The first thing we must recognize is that Israel is a nation, and this was part of their law. When we look at the year of Jubilee we must also remember that the promise land was divided up among the Tribes of Israel, and then among the families of those tribes. The year of Jubilee then meant that if one had to “sell” their land, in the 50th year the land would return to the family that had sold it. The year of Jubilee was a set year, so when you sold land it would be from that time until the next year of Jubilee. The same also was true if you sold yourself to a fellow Israelite, your freedom would come in the year of Jubilee. It is a pretty neat concept, and I would urge you to go back to Leviticus 25 and read through it again, it is fascinating, and it always provided something to look forward to, one might say a hope to come, relief.

I want us to now bring our thoughts to the Gospel, and compare what Christ did to this year of Jubilee. We have all sinned, in fact as Psalm 51 puts it, we were brought forth in iniquity, and were conceived in sin. We are or at least were all captive and slaves to sins, and utterly hopeless on our own. In a way like one that had to not only sell his land, but also himself due to debt owed, but then one came as a redeemer. In Leviticus 25 we see that one could be redeemed and freed, by someone paying redeem what they owed. For us we have a much great redeemer, one who saves us from our debt from sin, which is death. How grateful must one have been to have been redeemed before the year of Jubilee, so how much more grateful should we be that we have one who redeemed us from death to life!!! Christ payed this debt we owed, and although the year of Jubilee was a joyous time for many, what we have in Christ is so much better. We don’t have to look forward to a year of Jubilee, because we are free now, and in Christ free forever. So let us look at this year, and every year we are in Christ as a year of freedom from sin and death, looking forward to that glorious day when Christ comes back, but don’t forget you are free!

Week Seven Thoughts

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 reads, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The definition of an ambassador is “A person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.” In the case with 2 Corinthians 2:20, I believe it would be safe to say a representative or promoter of someone and not an activity. As we look at these two verses we see that as believers we are not called to be, elected, or even commissioned to be ambassadors, but that we are ambassadors. This means that if we are Christ’s we are His representation here on earth, it’s not an option, but rather a title. This means we do not have a choice in this, if we are a Christian we are by nature also Christ’s ambassador.

When we follow this logic out, I believe we must ask ourselves the question, am I a good representation of Christ here on earth? Questions that should be in the back of our minds is, how am I representing Christ in my marriage, to my family, to my friends, to my co-workers, to the hostess at the restaurant, to the people in the coffee shop, to the random stranger on the street, to the person using a million coupons in line in front of me, and to my enemy? As humans we won’t be a perfect representation, but we can’t use that as an excuse or cop out, because although we are broken and tainted by sin, we also have the Holy Spirit residing in us. Will we fail at times to be a good representation of Christ? Of course, but we must lean on the Holy Spirit and be mindful of how we are portraying our Savior, Jesus, to the world!

As we think about being ambassadors for Christ, we must never forget it is a privilege we enjoy, and we must not forget why we have this opportunity in the first place. We find this in second part of these verse, “He made the one (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” What a great privilege it is to be an ambassador for Christ, but let us never forget the cost, and let us be a great representation of Him!

-Pastor Josh