pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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As One Approved

Reading: 2nd Timothy 2: 8-15

Verse 13: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful”.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are in tune with the Holy Spirit. The still small voice and the gentle nudge are ever at work is us to draw us closer to Jesus and to lead us to share his love with a world in need. The Holy Spirit is like a skill or a muscle – the more we use it, the better developed in becomes. The reverse is also true. If we ignore or reject the Holy Spirit over and over the voice dims and grows harder and harder to hear.

Paul was one to hear the voice loud and clear. The letter to Timothy that we read today comes from prison. Hence his reference “God’s word is not chained”. Paul has been arrested many times, has been beaten often, and has even been stoned and shipwrecked. Yet his focus has always remained on his calling to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Nothing has deterred him. In verse ten we read “I endure everything for the sake of the elect”. It is all for those who “may obtain salvation that is in Jesus Christ”.

If you are reading this, you are seeking to grow closer to Christ. It is very likely that today we will all have opportunity to share Jesus’ love with another. In some cases it will be easy because it is a natural extension of who we are. It may be showing empathy to a friend or loved one. It may be offering words of encouragement or support to a co-worker. In situations like these, we hear the Holy Spirit very well. But we may also find ourselves in a situation that is hard. Maybe our opportunity involves someone that is very different than us or is someone we dislike. Maybe the opportunity means risking something or stepping into a difficult situation.
Some of the time we feel like what is being asked is too much and we fail to follow the lead and guide of the Spirit. Here we recall verse thirteen: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful”. God does not ever give up on us. The Holy Spirit continues to be at work. As we strive to grow closer and closer to Jesus Christ, our ability and likelihood to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit grows with us. We too, like Paul and Timothy, are called to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved”. May it be so.

Prayer: Leading God, I fail less than I used to, but I still fail to always be your love in the world. Forgive my failures. Thank you for your unending love. May it ever work within me to make me more and more like your son. Amen.


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Vindicated through Presence

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verses 7-8: “Therefore have I set my face like Flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near”.

Our passage from Isaiah speaks of one who is faithful. He or she finds strength in the word of God, is one who wants to be taught, and has open ears to hear. The faithful one also knows that suffering may come. They will accept the beating, the hair pulling, the mocking and being spat upon. The faithful are willing to suffer for their faith and for their God. This comes from an assurance that because God is with them, “I will not be disgraced”. There is a sure trust and confidence in God.

The faithful have been present for a long, long time. In the Old Testament many a prophet sought to faithfully walk with God, sharing God’s word, warnings, and encouragement with the people. They often faced suffering because of the role they had. In the New Testament Jesus picks up this mantle. After Jesus, many of the disciples assume this role. Down through the ages and even this day faithful disciples continue to seek God with all their hearts while facing suffering because of their faith and the life their faith calls them to.

As we draw nearer, as we remember the last days of Jesus’ life, the focus of the Suffering Servant becomes Jesus Himself. Jesus was always seeking to do the will of God, was always speaking truth into people’s lives, was always willing to engage the other. Because of these practices, Jesus was often criticized, challenged, looked down upon. Yet Jesus always pressed on, fully aware of the role that He had been called to play. He was always humble and full of integrity. He was always loving and honest. He was always forgiving, even to His persecutors. In the end Jesus was beaten and spat upon and ridiculed. Always He trusted in God and the plan. “Therefore have I set my face like Flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near”.

God is near to us as well. The world continues to clash with our faith. It always will. They are built upon two very different kingdoms. As we walk in faith this day, may we walk with a confidence in God: God is here, with us every moment. God will vindicate the faithful. “It is the sovereign Lord who helps me”.

Prayer: Lord of all, walk with me daily, filling me with your presence. May I delve into your holy Word, seeking to know your ways and to discern the path you call me to walk. May I trust in you alone, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


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Good Friday

Reading: John 18:1 to John 19:42

Verse 19:30: “Jesus said, ‘It is finished’. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”.

Today’s reading, known as the passion of the Christ, is a hard read. It is the story of how a man was unjustly accused, was tried for crimes that did not happen, was beaten, whipped, and mocked, and was put to death by being nailed to a cross. Today, as we read this story and as we participate in Good Friday services tonight, we are drawn into the circle. To me it is much like being in a hospital or hospice room as a person peacefully draws their last breath and exits this life.

Today we join those who have not turned away. We join who walk with Jesus through this horrendous experience. We join those who have seen it all unfold and now wait for the inevitable. After caring for His mother’s well-being, Jesus gets a sip of wine vinegar and then simply says, “It is finished”. With that, John reports, “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”. Jesus takes a peaceful exit from this life.

Today we join Jesus’ mother, John, Mary Magdalene, and a few others. As Jesus completes what He came to do, the lifeless body hangs on the cross. As those there did, we certainly join them in prayer and meditation. As those there undoubtedlyly felt, we too sit with our grief and pain today. And as I am sure they did, we also linger. We remain present and allow all the emotions and thoughts to come and go.

It is Good Friday. It is a day to be present with Jesus. May your time with Him bless you today. Amen.


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Reading: Matthew 21: 33-41

Verse 40: When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants?

Jesus is teaching in the temple courts.  He is in Jerusalem and each day people gather around Him to hear His interpretation of the scriptures and to hear the stories He likes to tell.  Others are there to listen for a way to trap Him or to catch Jesus in a blasphemy.  He is aware of both aspects of the crowd.

This day Jesus tells the story of the landowner who plants a vineyard and builds a wine press and watchtower.  Then he rents the vineyard out and goes on a journey.  Harvest time comes and he sends for his share of the crop.  But the tenants beat and stone and kill those who were sent.  The landowner sends a bigger group, but the results are the same.  AND then the tenants do it again when he sends his very own son to collect.  Then Jesus asks them a question: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants”?  The answer seems obvious.

At this point, most everyone in the crowd has the same answer.  Most of us would give the same answer too.  But Jesus’ stories always seem to have an edge or twist to them.  There are probably a few in the crowd besides His twelve disciples who are wary – they know there is more to the story.  But for now, for today, the story ends here.

When we consider the story, are we thinking we are more like the owner, like those sent, or like the tenants?  At times we certainly think we are the owner.  We look at our life and our possessions and our talents and think they are all ours.  At times we can see ourselves as those who are sent.  We try and share the good news but are rejected and/or abused.  And at times we are the tenants – living for self, disregarding all else.

Jesus is also framing larger questions too.  The first is who really owns the ‘vineyard’?  The second is who is the son that is finally sent to re-establish the correct relationship between owner and tenants?  And the third is, what is our response to the one who is sent?  From these perspectives, the story takes on new meaning and depth.  From here we must consider how we see and relate to God, how we see and relate to Jesus, and what role we are or should be playing in the vineyard.


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Hope

Reading: 1 Kings 17: 8-24

As Elijah enters into a relationship with the widow, he realizes right away that she is struggling.  The famine has been long and surely this has worn on her.  She has been in survival mode for some time.  She is down to her last bit of food and is mentally resigned to death.  Life has totally beaten her down.

There are people like the widow in almost every community in which we reside.  Life has been uphill for so long that they can remember nothing but struggle.  They have come to feel like it is just them against the world and no one seems to care.  An added burden for some is the child or children in their care.  Where they will sleep that night or if they will find food that day are their greatest and often only real concern.  Their whole focus is consumed with things we do not even ponder.

The widow’s desperation and surrender are equally present in her words: “as surely as your God lives”.  She must have emphasized the word ‘your’.  In her mind no god would allow her to struggle as she has.  In her heart and soul any and all gods have been pushed far away, pushed out by the anger at life.

There are people today who think just like the widow.  You can see the exhaustion and fear in their eyes.  When life is nothing but a struggle to find the basics of food and shelter, there is no room for hope.

Elijah chooses to engage the widow.  He chooses to step into her life.  He asks her for the one thing she San provide: a little hospitality.  All people have something they can offer.  Often it is just a few minutes of help – sweeping the front patio or helping organize some clothes.  Sometimes it is just a few moments of conversation.  In doing and sharing, people can find worth in themselves.  In giving of themselves they can begin to find hope.

We can choose to engage the other or we can choose to not even look their way.  We can choose to enter into a relationship with them or we can maybe  choose to toss a little money their way.  Or we can choose to invest of ourselves, to show one in deep struggle that we care and that God cares.  May we follow Elijah’s example – engaging one whom others have ignored or shunned, loving and bringing God’s love to one so in need of hope.