pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Hope

Reading: Roman 5: 1-5

Verse Five: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five opens with Paul’s declaration that we can claim peace with God through Jesus Christ because we are made right through our faith.  It is a bold statement but one we live into every day as Christians.  Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s grace, the unmerited gift of forgiveness that washes away our sins so that we can stand before God holy and pure.  It is an amazing love that makes us righteous day after day after day, sin after sin after sin.  It is a love without limit.  It is indeed the hope of the glory of God which leads Paul to rejoice.  May we rejoice as well!

In verse three Paul shifts directions but not end results.  Not only do we enjoy a peace with God that leads us to rejoice, but Paul also encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings as well.  Being made right through God’s grace allows us to have hope in our future.  For Paul, he saw this same hope as the end result of our suffering.  For Paul, suffering was a necessary part of our Christian journey.  As Saul the Pharisee he certainly had inflicted much suffering on Christians and as Paul the Apostle he definitely endured his share of suffering and persecution.

For Paul, he rejoiced in the sufferings because he knew it would lead to a deepening of his faith.  Paul had learned that in suffering righteously one learns perseverance.  When we lean into God and endure with the power and hope that Jesus Christ offers, then through the power of the Holy Spirit we can persevere.  As we trust in God and live within His presence, that develops our Christian character.  Our hope in God’s glory grows as we experience the power and strength of God carrying us through our trials.  We begin to see these earthly troubles as bumps along the way to experiencing God’s eternal glory.  This in turns leads to an ever growing hope.  It is a hope that is everlasting.  It is the hope that will not disappoint or fade.  It is the hope that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.  It is the hope we come to know beyond the shadow of a doubt because we come to fully know that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.

As Christians we face each new day with God’s love deep in our hearts.  May we walk in faith and hope this day and every day, trusting in the God who loves us beyond all measure.


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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse Five: For the Lord is good and His love endures forever.

In my Bible, the subtitle to Psalm 100 is: “A Psalm.  For giving thanks”.  After reading through the Psalm it is certainly a fitting subtitle!  The psalmist begins by calling us to shout for joy and to worship with gladness and then he gives us the why: know that the Lord is God.  He goes on to remind us that God made each of us and therefore “we are his people, we are the sheep of his pasture”.  It is a good reminder for us.

Sometimes life can get crazy and the busyness can feel overwhelming.  We can almost feel as if we are so busy we are moving near paralysis.  Our minds get consumed by the worries and pressures to the point of feeling we are near to collapse.  It is in these moments that the Psalm is an excellent reminder.  It calls us to slow down for a time, to step back from life, and to step into God’s presence.  The words remind us of the bigger picture – we are his people – and this lessens the importance of the things of this world.  In our craziness may we remember to slow down and to connect to God.

The second stanza again picks up the call to praise God, to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”.  Being thankful is essential to being content.  And being content holds the world and it’s craziness at bay.  Part of my morning routine is my little ‘thank book’s.  I write out five to eight things from the day before that I am thankful for and then I pray through each one.  In giving thanks I can see God’s faithfulness and love for me.

The ending of the Psalm echoes this idea: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever”.  God was and is and always will be.  No matter what this world brings or has in store for us, God and his love are forever.  Thanks be to God.


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God Reality

Reading: Genesis 18:9-15 & 21:1-7

Verses 18:14 and 21:7 – Is anything too hard for the Lord?…. Yet I have born him a son in his old age.

Most of us live a very patterned life.  Sunday morning we go to church.  Wednesday night is youth group or a Bible study.  Monday through Friday morning we go to work.  Third Friday of the month is date night.  Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring.  Even within all of our routines are routines.  Worship is in the same order every Sunday.  First thing each morning is prayer time with a cup of coffee on the couch in the living room.

Within all of this we are called to live by faith.  But here too we like patterned or at least predictable.  Sure, we love for God to show up big on Sunday mornings in worship and we hope for His presence in our small group this Wednesday night.  We may even pray “your will be done” but hope it fits within our boxes.  We’d rather not have God show up unexpectedly as a coworker unburdens themselves at lunch.  We’d rather not have the Holy Spirit lead us to engage and love on that person we really don’t like so much.  All in all, even in our faith we prefer to stay well within our comfort zones.

Now we enter Abraham and Sarah’s story.  They are very old.  Her barrenness has caused much hurt and pain.  Years and years ago God promised Abraham descendant as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But it never came to be.  Now, as they near 100 years old, God again appears and says now is the time!  Sarah laughs.  You can’t blame her.  Her laugh is partly an expression of her deep sadness and her unrealized dream of a child.  It is also part honesty – really, a baby at 100?  Funny God, very funny.

God responds with a question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord”?  We all know the answer.  Nothing is impossible with God.  We know this to be true.  Yet most of the time we still prefer God in our boxes.  As Sarah becomes pregnant and begins to live into the reality of God, her mindset shifts.  She is experiencing the almost impossible through God’s power.  She is well outside her box.  You can picture her musing out loud as she asks the “who woulda thought” question.  Our passage closes with the reality, God’s reality: “Yet I have born him a son in his old age”.  Sarah fully understands now that nothing is impossible with God.  She knows this God reality.  May we live it each day as well.


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Radical and Generous

Reading: Genesis 18: 1-15

Verses Four and Five: Let a little water be brought… let me get you something to eat.

Abraham and Sarah receive three men and they extend gracious welcome to them.  They recognize them as strangers.  Abraham first requests that these three men stay for a while.  To help them in their decision, he offers, “Let a little water be brought… let me get you something to eat”.  In showing good hospitality, Abraham offers them a way to clean off the dust of their journey and a way to refresh themselves.  They prepare bread and meat for their guests, sharing abundantly with these three guests.  It is an illustration of generous hospitality.  The men stay and in the end bless Abraham and Sarah with the promise of a child, even though they are very old.

Often we too have the opportunity to offer welcome to the stranger.  On any given Sunday morning they are in our churches.  On any given afternoon we may cross paths with them on the street.  In these encounters at the personal level, do we quickly extend radical and generous hospitality?  Or do we quickly pass them by, instead focusing on our own needs and concerns?

On the national level, the larger struggle with offering radical and generous hospitality swirls around immigrants and refugees.  Most are seeking freedom or a better future, yet many do not receive a warm welcome.  We turn to fear and worse to deny welcome and to keep up a wall between us.  It is a struggle our nation has always had.  Being a place of freedom and the “land of opportunity” has brought millions to our country.  As Christians living here, what should our response be?

Of course, Jesus called us to love neighbor as self.  He illustrated the results of loving or not loving neighbor in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.  He lived the commandment to love others out with all He met so we would have plenty of examples to follow.  The blessing of Isaac was a great blessing to Abraham and Sarah.  For you and I, the stranger also offers great blessings.  It is only when we take the opportunity to engage the other and to offer our love through radical and generous hospitality that we experience the blessings.  This day may we live as He first loved us.


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Therefore Go

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus came and stood among the believers one last time.  In that crowd were people with a range of faith.  Some were fully sold out and were ready to go and do anything Jesus said to do.  Some were simply full of doubt – was this really Jesus?  Does He really expect me to do this?  The bulk of those there that day in Galilee as followers of Jesus Christ probably fell somewhere between these two extremes.  And in reality, that is where most of us live out our faith lives each day.

It is important to note that Jesus did not talk to the group of believers and then call aside the few that were on fire to give the commission to.  He did not pull aside Peter, James, and John and give them special instructions or powers.  This same inclusiveness is seen on Pentecost when the Spirit falls on ALL believers.  So Jesus said to the whole crowd, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.  He said it to the doubters and skeptics and those new to the faith as well as to those who would give their lives for the gospel.  Jesus was building up a community of faith, not a group of church leaders.  Jesus knew that the people would be won to Christ one heart at a time.  Therefore, it will require all of the believers to bring the good news to all nations.

That day in Galilee, there were certainly some names we know present.  But there were dozens and dozens there whose names we will never know.  All there that day were commissioned.  Why?  Because all who were there knew the love of Jesus and that is all one needs to share Jesus with others.  That is why the commission falls to us as well.  All who know the love of Christ in their hearts are called to go and make disciples so that all nations can be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This day and every day, may each of us seize the opportunities we have to share the good news of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


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Doubt

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 17: When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.

The disciples had to be elated that Jesus had conquered the grave and was alive forevermore.  All that He said came true.  They followed Jesus’ instructions to the women and have gone to Galilee.  There they too meet the risen Lord.  Their first reaction was to worship Jesus.  It is the natural reaction to seeing someone that has been so meaningful and life-changing to the disciples.  It would be our reaction too if the risen Jesus appeared to us.

But Matthew goes on – “but some doubted”.  It is the same doubt I would have if someone rang the doorbell and said they were there to deliver the new car I had just won in the raffle.  Even if I could see it sitting in the driveway, there would be doubt in my mind.  Even if I could remember buying some raffle tickets, there would still be a feeling that it could not really be happening.

Yes, they had spent three years with Jesus and, yes, He said He would return to them and, yes, they could see Jesus standing right there in front of them.  But some doubted.  Yes, I can remember feeling Jesus’ presence when I accepted Him as Lord.  Yes, I can remember the presence of God in that hospital room that day.  Yes, I can recall time after time after time when the Holy Spirit has been active in my life.  But at times I too doubt.  At times I allow the cares and worries of the world to creep in and to win out.  At times I too doubt.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.  Lord Jesus, be near to me, remove my doubt, fill me with your presence and love this day.  Allow me to walk boldly with you, bearing light to the world this day.  Amen.


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Good Advise

Reading: 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

Verse 11: Aim for perfection… be of one mind… live in peace.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to urge unity and cooperation and love in the church.  The church there is struggling with doing these things.  At times all churches, being filled with human beings with human egos and desires, can have some varied opinions and thoughts.  In Corinth, this has apparently gone beyond the typical disagreement over the carpet color.  Factions have been created and sides have been drawn up.  This can be an occurrence in today’s churches as well.

Paul’s words would have maybe drawn the same reactions​ today as I imagine they did back then.  First it was: who us?  We are getting along fine!  Then it was: get along with who?  Love who?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Paul clearly just did not understand how wrong “they” were.  Sometimes, and especially in the midst of conflict, it can be hard to give any ground or to begin to see the other side’s perspective.  But Paul is looking past the conflict to the bigger picture.  The church was not modeling the love of Christ to one another or to the people outside the church.  Worship as the one body of Christ was no longer occurring.  Times were tough.

Into this Paul writes, “aim for perfection”.  He does not mean for their opinion or argument to be perfect – he is calling them to be like Jesus Christ.  He was perfect in His love.  Paul is calling them to be like Christ.  He goes on to call them to “be of one mind”.  Take on the mind of Christ.  Love and see as Jesus loved and saw the world.  Lastly, also in verse 11, Paul calls on the church in Corinth to “live in peace”.  As Jesus was leaving this earth, He said to the disciples, “Peace be with you”.  In the midst of all they would face, Jesus offered them His peace – the peace that passes understanding.  This is the peace Paul is calling the church to live into.

Paul’s advice is good in conflict as well as in day to day life.  This day, may we each “aim for perfection… be of one mind… live in peace”.b