pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Immeasurably More

As we gather together in worship we get a glimpse of the community of faith in unity.  We come together in Word, in prayer, in song, in spirit, and in praise.  We come together on a regular basis to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to find forgiveness as a people of faith.  In worship we are rooted together.

We are all equal before God and nowhere is that more evident than in worship.  In those seats in the sacred space young and old, rich and poor come together.  We unite as one regardless of social, economic, or ethnic background.  All come together to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God.  In world we are blended together.

It is in worship that we experience God’s power, authority, grace, love, forgiveness, and presence.  Out time in worship is a time when we are made new and refreshed to return to our lives in the world.  It is also a tie when we are equipped and empowered to go forth into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

During worship we come to see through Word, prayer, sacrament, and song that our God is indeed great.  We come to see that He can and will do immeasurably more than we can ask for or imagine.  We come to feel His power within us and we are filled with His desire to share His glory with people through all the generations.  His is a presence experienced in community – community with each other and with God.  May all find Him in community with others this day.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 20-21

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His Great Love

God desires our openness and willingness of heart so that the Holy Spirit may dwell within each of us.  When we welcome in the Holy Spirit, we welcome in Christ.  When we are willing to live with Jesus Christ in our hearts, we begin to understand just how wide, long, deep, and high God’s love is for each of us.  With the understanding we begin to be rooted in that love; it becomes the core of who we are.

As communities of faith or congregations, this deep abiding love is what unites us.  The love of God draws us to one another in loving, caring relationships.  This love and sense of Christ dwelling in and among us begins to drive what we do as a people of faith.  This vast love of God takes the lead on how we love one another and how we love our neighbors.

God by nature and Jesus in example were all about being full of love.  When our cup is full of this love we are best able to extend and share His love with those in need of that love.  As our cup is filled by God, we begin to experience a life lived in His presence.

This love leads us to serve others, to care for others, and to minister to others.  We no longer seek to be in control or to hold onto power.  Instead we seek to empower others to live lives of faith and to claim this wide, long, deep, high love that God offers for themselves.  This love becomes contagious.  May we be contagious today.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 14-19


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This Day, O Lord

In the world there are fools and wise people, evil doers and the righteous.  For the Christian, for me, it is a constant battle to live wisely and as a righteous person.  Both the internal and external challenges are plentiful each day.  It is only with His strength that one has a chance at being wise and righteous.

Unfortunately at times I can live foolishly and can be far from God.  In these times, what I think or say lacks more integrity.  I fall into self-indulgence and do not hold myself accountable.  I fail to remain close to God at all times.  But on these days and in these moments, if I am quick to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, then I can find redemption and return to the path God intends for me.

Living wisely and seeking to be righteous is a plan that requires something more than I naturally have in me.  I must work at building up God’s presence in my life through the daily practices of prayer, stud, confession, meditation, and worship.  This connection to God allows me to reach out more quickly when temptation comes my way.  This connection sensitized me more to the Spirit’s convictions and promptings.

In living connected to and aligned with God, I more easily see the world and its needs as He does.  I come to know that God loves all people equally.  It is His will to come to those in need and to do all we can for them.  It is His will that His name be made known to the ends of the earth.  It is His will to live in a harmonious relationship with each of us.  This day, O Lord, may I live in step with You.  This day, O Lord, may I be your servant in all the places you put me today.

Scripture reference: Psalm 14


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Integrity

The story of King David and Uriah the Hittite is quite a contrast in terms of their integrity.  David’s infidelity has led to a pregnancy so he brings home the husband to sleep with the wife to cover it up.  After talking with him about the battle, David sends Uriah to clean up and to go home for a good night’s rest.

But Uriah does not go home.  Instead he sleeps on the front steps of the palace on his mat.  David questions him and Uriah says how could he go home to sleep with his wife when his fellow soldiers are on the battle field?  So David decides to get Uriah drunk and then to send him home to sleep with Bathsheba.  But out of loyalty to and respect for his fellow soldiers, Uriah again sleeps on the palace steps.  After weeks away at war, after sleeping on the hard ground, Uriah does not go home to his wife.  Talk about integrity and commitment!  So David sends him back to battle with instructions to the general to allow or arrange for Uriah to die in battle.

David knew at the start that sleeping with Bathsheba was wrong.  But he did it anyway.  One lie grew into another which eventually grew into a murder plot and a murder.  Even though David saw Uriah’s integrity it did not kick start his own.  He allows the lies to grow and his integrity to continue to erode.  Once a lie gains traction, it is hard to stop.

All of this happened in spite of David’s knowledge that God already knew.  In this we are the same.  As soon as we sin, God already knows.  At that point we have a choice.  Do we stop, confess and repent, and seek forgiveness?  Or do we look the other way and continue in our sin?  We know the right choice.  God’s forgiveness is a gift.  All we need to do is claim it.  May we show Uriah’s integrity when we can and admit our sins when we cannot.  God loves us equally either way.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 11: 6-15


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Good Choices, Good Practices

When one ascends to the top of the heap, when one attains a certain position of power, then temptation to abuse that power can be great.  The desire for more and the lure of greed often drive the poor choices that people in authority make.  From politicians to star athletes to celebrities to CEOs of companies, the list of offenders is long.  As is the list of victims.

David was like one of these men.  Powerful leader chosen by God Himself to lead Israel.  Victory in all he does, adored by the people.  So as the army heads off to war, David chooses to stay home.  Mistake 1.  As he strolls the roof of the palace he sees a beautiful woman bathing.  Instead of turning away, he allows his eyes to linger.  Mistake 2.  He sends for her.  #3!  It all goes downhill from there and David falls from grace.

None of us is in a position of power quite like David.  Yet none of us is immune because power is a relative thing.  There is usually someone else one rung down on the ladder.  The choice is to remain true to our faith and to be righteous in all we do begins early on in the thought process.  Those first few thoughts is often where the choice is really made.  It does not take too many poor choices to find oneself in a bad spot.

Good choices are rooted in good practices.  By reading His word daily, by confessing our sins daily, by drawing near in regular worship, by being in an accountability group – all are ways we gain strength to make the right choice.  And we must also remember, a poor first choice does not have to lead to a poor second choice.  Temptation is real, but so is the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Listen to the Holy Spirit.  Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 11: 1-5


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The Anys

Jesus always seemed to be at home.  He felt as comfortable with the sinners as with the religious leaders.  He was as at home in the synagogue as He was in the house of a tax collector.  He had no place to truly call home, but Jesus always seemed to find a place of rest each night.

Jesus felt comfortable anywhere, anyplace, and with anyone because His first mode of interaction was always love.  No matter what the scenario or crowd or experience, live was always Jesus’ first choice.  Sometimes there was a bit of an edge to the love, but it was always followed closely by compassion, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and more love.

Because of the total access Jesus provided and because of the way in which all were received and treated, any and all came to Him.  It seems as if Jesus was always in demand, always in the middle of the action, always being sought out.  Imagine if our churches were placed like this.  What would it take?

For the church to be a place like this, we would need to be full of people like Jesus.  We would need to accept all comers with love, mercy, compassion, grace, forgiveness, and, of course, with more love.  We would need to be willing to enter into both the ugliness and beauty of life to walk with others in and through all life brings.  But wouldn’t it be a beautiful place?

Scripture reference: Mark 6: 30-34 & 53-56


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Rest

There are times we get run down and tired.  Life can just seem to consume us and suddenly we find ourselves with very little left in the tank.  As the disciples returned to Jesus after being sent out two by two, they were excited by all they had done but Jesus could see they were exhausted too.  His desire was to find them rest.  So they load up the boat and head out.

But a buzz moves on ahead of them and by the time they land ashore, a large crowd has gathered.  And it is not a welcoming committee.  It is a crowd full of people with needs.  The Bible tells us Jesus saw them as “lost sheep” and that He takes compassion on them.  Jesus steps out of the boat and begins to teach and to heal many people.

I can imagine that Jesus saw the crowd flowing to where they were headed to land.  So I can surmise that He made the decision not to change course and to go away from the gathering crowd.  Jesus knew or felt He was up to the task ahead so He chose to engage the crowd and to minster to their needs.

At times we too must make that assessment.  As we see a potential need coming our way we to must assess if we have enough left in the tank to meet that need.  We must remember that at times even Jesus stepped away for solitude and refreshment.  A time of Sabbath is essential to being able to minister effectively.  When we are dry and empty, we have nothing left to pour out into others.  We must care for ourselves so that we can offer our best to the care of those in need.

Mark 6: 30-34 and 52-56