pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Body, Mind, Heart

Reading: 1st Corinthians 6: 12-20

Verse Fifteen: “Do you know know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself”?

The believers in Corinth were not quite living a 24/7 faith.  They were living a faith that at times was disconnected from daily life.  Paul begins today with a statement that sums up this attitude: “Everything is permissible for me”.  The Corinthian believers were living however they wanted to, falsely thinking that they body and soul could be separate.  They were involved with prostitutes and were trying to say that this just involves the body – the soul is disconnected from this immoral act and therefore remains faithful to God. But Paul reminds them that when one unites with another they become “one flesh”.  He reminds them that they are part of the body of Christ and then asks if we should unite Christ with a prostitute.  “Never!” is Paul’s answer.

Prostitution is the apparent issue in the church in Corinth, but it is not the only struggle we wrestle with today.  The battle to keep our bodies and minds pure includes pornography, alcohol and drug addictions, verbal and physical abuse, gluttony, gossip, judging, and many, many more.  Just as Paul asked the church in Corinth, “Do you know know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself?”, so too must we ask ourselves this question today.  We cannot allow these sins to enter our bodies or minds without facing negative consequences both to our physical as well as spiritual being.  What we do with our bodies and minds is connected to our hearts and therefore to our relationship with God.

Paul goes on to write, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”.  As such, we should be careful how we treat our bodies and minds.  Paul reminds us, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price”.  Christ gave all for us.  This is another way of reminding us that since Christ dwells in us, we need to guard against sin entering our bodies and minds and hearts.  Just as Christ is pure and holy, so too are we called to live pure and holy lives.  As we seek to do this daily, we will bring all of the glory and honor to God in all we do, say, and think.  May it be so.

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Love Well

Reading: Galatians 4: 4-7

Verse Seven: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son [a daughter]; and since you are a son [a daughter], God has made you also an heir”.

When? “…when the time had fully come”.  It happened when the time was just right for what the world needed, a time that could only be known by God.  What?  “…God sent His Son”.  Only Jesus could do what needed done.  Only One sent from God’s side could take on flesh and dwell among us.  Why? “…to redeem those under the law”.  In offering himself as the perfect sacrifice, Jesus poured out His blood to redeem us from our sins that are made known through the law of God.  How? “…God sent the Spirit of the Son into our hearts”.  Because the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, we are aware of when we sin and are led to repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

Jesus came once for all.  It is through the new covenant of His blood that all can be saved.  It is a covenant based on love that is without limits and without price.  It is a covenant that will wrap any and all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in grace.  It seems an offer too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Some people feel this way.  Because of the choices they have made or because of the circumstances they found themselves in or because of the abuse or injustices they faced – some feel this offer isn’t really for them.  They feel unworthy or too far outside of God’s love and grace.  To these, may we be the love and light of Christ.  To those who feel outside of God’s love, may our witness to God’s love bring them closer to God’s love.  Sometimes it is easier to accept love from a fellow human being than it is from an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God.  So may we be the ones to first offer love and grace to those who feel outside of His love.  In doing so, they too will one day come to see the live we offer as God’s love.  Then they will begin to live into verse seven: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son [a daughter]; and since you are a son [a daughter], God has made you also an heir”.  All need to experience God’s love and to know that they also belong to the family of God.  Christ came once for all.  May we live well today.


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Big

Readings: Psalm 126 and Isaiah 61: 1-4 and 8-11

Key verses: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. (Psalm 126:5) and “The Spirit of the Lord is on me… to preach… bind up… release… proclaim…” (Isaiah 61:1)

In our Advent study this week we are looking at humility – at having the mind of Christ spoken of in Philippians 2.  One of the men in our Tuesday morning study said humility is thinking less of yourself so that you could think more of others.  Humility is an active practice.  These profound thoughts fit well with the humble servant hood that Jesus modeled and calls us to follow.  Our world is certainly in need of more humble servants.

Both the bigger world out there and many people’s lives are filled with hardship and suffering and trials.  There is plenty of oppression and abuse of power, lots of violence and other senseless actions, many struggling with addictions and unhealthy relationships, and a host of other issues.  Individuals we know face some of these issues as do whole groups in our communities.  There are lots of people in lots of places who would love to live into this verse: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”.

As humble servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to help those in need to do just that.  It is what Jesus did and what He calls us to do.  For all who follow Jesus, we live into the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”  When we read on, we find the “why” – to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken, to bring freedom to the captives, to release prisoners from all that binds them, and to proclaim God’s blessings on all.  These are big words and big ideas.  But guess what?  We serve a big God.  We serve a God who wants to work in and through us – just like He did with Jesus – to see all these things to come to be.

Sometimes we don’t see God big enough.  Sometimes we fail to dream and other times we fail to trust.  Sometimes we doubt.  Into all of this God speaks through the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  May we serve a big God, trusting that all things are possible when we call on the One who can do all things.  Amen and amen.


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, & 45

Verse Four: Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

Our Psalm today opens as a song of praise, recalling the works and wonders that God has done for His people.  The psalmist encourages the people to remember in song and to retell of God’s activity among the people through music.  It is through music that we best rejoice and give glory to God.  In verse four we read these words: “Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always”.  In looking to God and in remembering God’s mighty acts in song, we are reminded over and over of God’s strength and we are drawn back again.

Giving thanks and singing praises to God is not limited to the times when life is good.  It is also not limited to singing about just the times of blessing either.  The entire Psalm recalls both times of abundance and power as well as times of want and oppression.  In fact, it is often in and through trying times that we see God’s hand at work.  When God enters into our pain or when He relieves our burdens are experiences where we feel especially close to God and His strength.  They are moments that really remind us to look to God and to seek His face always.

Just as in Israel’s past and at points in our lives when life was hard, in some communities and neighborhoods life is hard.  Poverty and lack of decent employment opportunities couples with violence and substance abuse to create difficult environments to live in.  Poor schools and inadequate housing add to the hardships that exist in many inner cities and on some reservations.  All of these factors lead to higher levels of crime and gang activity and to higher rates of incarceration.  These places can be difficult places to seek His face.  Yet there God is, working in and through people’s lives, being worshipped in vibrant faith communities that joyfully sing of God’s goodness and love.  God’s presence is there in full force, allowing faithful disciples to both trust in God in the midst of hardship and also to go forth to be used by God to bring healing and hope and love.  May we all be encouraged and uplifted by God’s presence so that we can share His love and hope and peace today.


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Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.


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One Matters

Reading: Psalm 99: 1-4

Psalm 99 begins by speaking of God’s love of justice and the nation’s response.  They tremble.  God’s justice is universal – it applies to all people.  God’s justice removes power dynamics and the desire to elevate oneself over others and replaced them with equity.  When do much of our world is driven by power, position, and authority, justice stands counter to these forces, instead saying things like ‘the last shall be first’.  Of course the nations tremble.

The call of Christ leads us to stand alongside God and to champion His love for justice and equality.  Through the ages, great men of faith have gone just this, no matter the cost to themselves.  Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the church, preaching that faith alone saves.  All people can tap into faith, meaning all are loved by God, meaning all can be saved without price.  John Wesley stood for equality, believing that all people should have access to the Word of God.  He preached salvation in the fields, streets, and mines, welcoming all people, not just those who met certain qualifications.  Both of these men, and many others too, led to opening the church doors a little wider and expanding the circle of God’s love.

You and I may not be people of Luther’s or Wesley’s fame, but we too are people who are called to stand for justice and equality, to make a positive difference in our world.  We too are called to be people who say ‘no’ to injustice and inequality.  We too can each work to open the doors of our churches a little wider, to welcome all into our communities of faith, and to draw the circle of God’s love even wider.  One sheep that was lost and is now safely in the fold matters.  One son that was wayward and returns home matters.  One widow who finally receives justice matters.  Who will you matter to today?


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Shine

Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Today is Epiphany!  Just as the wise men appeared to reveal and celebrate the birth of Jesus, so too do we arrive today, celebrating the gift of Jesus in our lives.  Like the wise men, we too are called to reveal Jesus to the world.  The star led the way for the wise men.  Today, the light of the Son of Man leads the way for you and me.  The light of Christ guides our path and illumines our decisions.  We need the light.  So too does a world living in darkness.

Verse one begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come”.  Yes indeed!  Jesus Christ has come and His light is in our hearts.  Verse two continues, “the Lord rises upon you, and His glory appears over you”.  God is present in us, His glory waiting to be revealed through us.  Our call as disciples of Jesus Christ is to take the light of Christ out into the world with us.  This verse reminds us that God is present with each of us and that His glory will appear over us as we live out our faith in the world.

The world can be a dark place.  Many people struggle with darkness in our world and in all of our communities.  For some, the struggle is with homelessness or poverty or prejudice or abuse or discrimination or injustice or addiction.  For others the struggle is with pride or control or possessions or position or ego or self-centeredness.  The world can be a dark place when we struggle with these issues.  There is great need in our world for the light of Christ.

We are each that light.  We each carry Christ in our hearts.  Can you see that light within you shining out into a dark world?  Can you see yourself being the light for just one person in need of God’s love?  We are called to arise and shine!  This day, this day of Epiphany, may we each shine God’s light into the world, bringing honor to Christ the Lord!