pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Missionaries

Reading: Mark 6: 6b-13

Verses Twelve and Thirteen: “They went out and preached that people should repent… They drove out demons… anointed… and healed”.

After a period of watching Jesus in ministry, the disciples are empowered by Jesus and are sent out two by two. Jesus is beginning to train them to be His replacement. Full of faith in Jesus, “they went out and preached that people should repent… They drove out demons… anointed… and healed”. The disciples are able to model the ministry of Jesus. They preach the gospel news of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They encounter the demon-possessed and they drive out the demons. They anoint people and heal them of their illnesses and diseases. In all these actions, the disciples are restoring people to wholeness and into faith in Jesus Christ.

Each of these actions drew people to Jesus, depending on their need. These three things continue to be at the core of the ministry of the church. The sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ is still the central activity of the church and of all followers of Christ. This is usually the first step. Belief often leads then to restoration of the person – body, mind, and soul. It is through faith in Jesus that we all find healing.

The sending of the twelve (and later the sending of the 72) establishes the idea that all believers are sent out into the world to be Jesus to the lost, the lonely, and the hurting. Some are sent someplace on the other side of the world and some are sent right next door. All of us are sent. This passage also contains a reality. Although all believers are sent, not all non-believers are ready to receive. Some will not welcome us as we come in the name of Jesus. We offer Jesus as best we can and then we move on. Remembering that we once were lost too, we trust that other believers will follow as God continues to work at saving the whole world.

We go forth today, into our day and into our world, willing missionaries sent with the power of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. May we ever be faithful missionaries of the gospel. May our words and actions bring healing and wholeness, leading others to Jesus Christ. Amen.


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Prayer for Disciples

Reading: John 17: 6-19

Verse Eleven: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.

In the moments before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being arrested, Jesus offers this prayer for the disciples. He knows what lies ahead for Himself and the impact His death and resurrection will have on His followers, so He prays for them.

This prayer begins with thanks for the relationships that He has developed with these disciples. Jesus is thankful for the opportunity to pour into them and to help them know that He was sent by God. Through these three years together, the disciples have witnessed Jesus living amongst and loving fully all kinds of people.

In the first half of verse eleven Jesus acknowledges that it is time for Him to leave the world. The disciples will remain in the world and will be charged with continuing the building of the church. In the second half of verse eleven He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”. He is praying for these disciples who are no longer of the world to be protected by God. He is also praying for unity. Jesus knows the trials and persecution they will face. Unity with God and with Jesus and with each other will carry them through all the world can throw at them. They will each remain protected and in unity up to the time of their death.

In the bigger sense, Jesus is also praying this prayer for all of the believers who come after the disciples. He is praying it for you and for me. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are not of this world any longer. Our home is in heaven. Our lives here are but a mist compared to eternity with Jesus. But in the meantime, we do have a role to play. Jesus sent the disciples and He also sends us into the world. In unity with God and Jesus and each other, may we too faithfully go out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear this message of hope and love. May we share it well.


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Shining Light

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 4: 3-6

Verse Five: “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord”.

Paul knows the light of Christ in his life. He first experienced it on the road to Damascus where he came to know the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. When Paul speaks of the gospel being veiled and of God blinding the unbelievers, Paul has firsthand knowledge. Through his encounter with Jesus on that road, Paul came to see the light of the gospel and to know Jesus as his Lord. His passion becomes sharing Jesus with the world so that they too can have what he has.

Paul reminds the Corinthians, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord”. Paul wants to be sure the people are drawn to Jesus and not to them or their preaching. It can be easy to be drawn to a great speaker, so Paul wants to keep his audience focused in on Jesus and the gospel. To help them do this, Paul wants them to see the light of Christ that is in their hearts. To begin, Paul recalls God’s words in the Genesis 1 account, “Let light shine out of darkness”. Paul understands that because they were all created in God’s image, they all have the light in their hearts. It is this God-given light that can ultimately allow all human beings to see the true light of Jesus Christ.

The light that Paul has in his heart is the light that he wants all believers to feel in their hearts. The love of Christ is the light in Paul’s heart and he wants all of the people in the church to see the light in their hearts and to understand it as the love of Christ as well. For them and for us, once we start to sense this light and love in our hearts, it is something that begins to draw us in and eventually to grow as we come to know and trust and have faith in Christ. As our relationship with Jesus deepens, that light begins to shine out into the darkness of the world around us. It is then that we come full circle in our scripture. As our light shines, we begin to help lift the veils that were over the eyes of the unbelievers, drawing them in and helping them to see the light in their own hearts. May we fully trust in Christ, shining the light whenever and wherever we can today.


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Approved

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Four: We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

Paul comes to his position as an apostle through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  He encountered Jesus in a powerful way and has been a devoted follower ever since.  All that Paul does and says he credits to the presence and guidance of God.  This comes to him through the Holy Spirit and through his relationship with Jesus.  For Paul, his authority as an apostle comes from God.  He writes, “We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”.  Note the plurality in the “we”.

Paul does not work alone.  He has a group he travels with and each shares the same goal – to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  They have all been entrusted with the gospel.  Because of this trust, Paul and his fellow workers are honest and hard-working.  They are shining the spotlight on Jesus and His good news, not on themselves.  Paul and his fellow believers want to please God alone.  What men think of them does not matter.

The “we” that Paul writes of does not stop with Paul and his contemporaries.  In Matthew 28, when the great commission was given, Jesus was also speaking to all who would claim a personal relationship with Him.  Both Jesus and Paul knew that the work of spreading the gospel was a long-term project.  When Jesus said, “therefore go and make disciples” He was and is speaking down through all generations.  Jesus went on to say to do so “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.  In the same way that Paul was “approved” to speak the gospel, we too have been commissioned and approved to speak the good news of Jesus Christ.

May we each claim our authority today as people approved by God as we go out into the world to be the light and love of Jesus Christ as we share the good news with all we meet.


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A Willingness

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 2: 1-8

Verse Two: With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition.

Having faith can be difficult.  What is happening to the Thessalonians happens to believers today.  Their faith is wavering, the voices of the world are clamoring, Jesus has not returned yet.  In the midst of all that life can bring, it can be easy to have our faith waver.  Those voices of the world and the temptations of Satan can put us hard to the test.  As we look around at the world and perhaps even at our own lives, we can long for Jesus to return to redeem all things.

The culture of Paul’s world and the culture of Thessalonica is much like ours today.  The Christians are a minority within a culture and society that worships many false idols and chases after many earthly pleasures.  It can be a dangerous place to preach the gospel.  It was in Paul’s day too.  Fresh off a testing and trying experience in Philippi, Paul declares, “With the help of God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition”.  Not one to be deterred, Paul fondly recalls sharing the gospel in Thessalonica.  At times we too must dare to share  the gospel.  For Paul, it was well-received and a strong church emerged.  This letter comes some time after the initial visit and Paul is writing to encourage and to teach this new group of believers.

Paul states a couple of different ways that God is the center of it all.  He speaks as a man approved by God and tested by God.  He speaks with God as his witness, never seeking praise or approval from men.  As we seek to engage the least and the lost of our communities, we too must begin here.  God must be at the core and we must lead out as God guides and directs, keeping our focus on God alone.  Paul says that he was “like a mother caring for her little children”.  This is the second imperative we get from today’s Word.  We must genuinely love those we share the gospel with.  This means a willingness to fully commit, to humbly serve, to offer all we can to help another grow closer to Jesus Christ.  May our focus be on God and on loving others as He first loved us; God will take care of the rest.


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Cry Out, Trust

Reading: Psalm 31: 9-15

Verses 14… 15… and 16: I trust in you O Lord… my times are in your hands… save me in your unfailing love.

Reading verses nine through thirteen one cannot help but to think of Jesus at the end of His earthly life.  His last days certainly contained distress, sorrow, anguish, affliction, contempt, slander, and plotting against Him.  These last days were certainly a trial and struggle for the human side of Jesus.  They would have been for us as well.  Probably moreso.

Each day in our world, there are people who live through these emotions and experiences on a regular basis.  There are places in our world where Christians are persecuted and where life is very difficult because of their faith.  Those living in such conditions need our daily prayers.

There are some in our country that will face trials today because of their faith.  There is the young person whose faith is challenged by the new pressures and pulls of college life.  There is the new believer whose faith is foreign or counter to their family’s belief system.  There is the middle schooler who experiences taunts each day because she prays over her food in the cafeteria.  There is the Dad who just lost his job.  There is the young couple who just lost a child.  This is only a sampling.

Perhaps we are one of those listed above.  Regardless, we all have struggles and trials that we face.  While most of ours and even those listed above pale in comparison to those Jesus faced, they are still very real and front-and-center for us.  They are significant because they affect our lives and our faith.  Just as the psalmist did, just as Jesus did, just as those in foreign land do, just as all other faithful disciples before us did and do, may we too place our hope in God.  May we too cry out, “I trust in you O Lord… my times are in your hands… save me in your unfailing love”.  All like all of these, may His “face shine on you”.


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Reap

Reading: John 4: 27-38

Verse 35b: I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.

The disciples return just as Jesus finishes His initial conversation with the Samaritan woman.  It is an unusual scene by the norms of the day, but the disciples have seen Jesus engage any and all time after time.  He does not appear to be a man with any barriers.  The woman heads back to town to tell others of her encounter with Jesus and people from town head to the well to meet Jesus.  As the disciples have returned with food, they offer Jesus some.  His response puzzles them: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about”.  Staying on the surface level, they wonder if someone else has brought Jesus some food.  Further explanation is clearly needed.

Jesus then explains that the true ‘food’ that feuls Him is to do the work of God.  Perhaps knowing that the townspeople are heading their way, Jesus says, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest”.  Jesus and the disciples are about to be joined by people who are searching for the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Jesus has down the seeds, now the harvest is at hand.  He tells them that the hard work is done – He planted faith in the woman who has in turn planted seeds in the people who approach.  The disciples will now “reap what they did not work for”.  Where do we fit in the story?

First, Jesus’ call to look to the fields applies to us.  There are many in our lives ‘ripe’ for the truth and saving grace of Jesus Christ.  It is our role to help people to the well so that they can drink of the ‘living water’ that Jesus offers.  Second, we need to be ready to reap what the Holy Spirit works in someone’s heart once they accept Jesus as Lord.  This “work” is the work of the Spirit.  We can only plant seeds and inspire searching.  God alone makes the seeds grow into faith.  Lastly, we need to be ready to step in and walk alongside that new believer, nurturing and guiding their growth.

As we look at those in our lives, who is searching, who is ripe to meet Jesus Christ?  What can we do today to sow seeds of faith?  How can we be ready to reap and walk with those new to faith?


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Witnesses and Teachers

Reading: Galatians 3: 23-29

Paul writes of the Law being put in charge to lead people to Christ.  For those living under the Law, the prophecies and teachings of the Old Testament certainly shaped Jesus, the disciples, and all the other followers of Christ who had Jewish roots.  The basic way of life of a practicing Jew as established by the Law and Old Testament is the life Jesus lived out.  After all, Jesus was God incarnate, in the flesh, so all that God is in the Old Testament is embodied by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Many of the believers, however, were Gentiles.  They did not have the basic way of life down since birth.  It would be logical to assume that some of the basic customs such as offering hospitality to the stranger would have been practiced because they were cultural norms.  But concepts such as Sabbath, fasting, loving neighbor as self, loving your enemy, and serving only one God would have been new to many Gentile believers.  So it was necessary for the Law to be replaced by the teachings of Jesus shared by His followers.  As the church grew, people in their local communities came alongside Peter, Paul, Timothy and the other apostles to teach, mentor, correct, and witness to the people of God.

This process of learning, accepting, maturing, growing in, and defining our own faith has been continued by the generations right up to and through many of us.  Some are first generation Christians, but for each of us someone poured into us and helped us along as we grew in our faith.  For each believer we can name parents, pastors, friends, and others who guided us in the development of our faith.  In turn we have and will pass faith in Jesus Christ along to others.  Each and everyone who calls on the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior are witnesses to and teachers of the faith.  May all we do and say serve to draw all we encounter each day closer to the one true King, Jesus Christ.


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Love, Unity, Love

Reading: John 17: 20-26

In the prayer we read for today, Jesus is praying for His disciples and for all disciples who will follow in His footsteps.  He is praying for those who call on Him now and He will be praying for each generation of disciples who follow Him until He returns.  Jesus prays for unity, love, and a connection to God.

Jesus prays that we may be one.  He is praying for a big ‘we’ here.  He prays not only for a disciples connection to Him, but also for a connection to God.  It is through knowing Jesus that one comes to know God.  Jesus then takes this a step further in praying for the unity of all believers with one another.  In the immediate time it was for His disciples as they were about to face losing Jesus and for the new church that would emerge and grow in the midst of persecution and trial.  And Jesus is praying for each disciple who will follow and become a part of building His church now and in the future.  Unity in the body of Christ remains essential to the growth of the kingdom.

Jesus also prays that His disciples be known for love.  It is love alone which brings unity.  It was love alone that guided all that Jesus said and did.  It is love alone that connects disciples past, present, and future into a personal relationship with Jesus and therefore with God.  It is love alone that should guide how the world comes through Jesus as we witness to our faith.  When the church is love, the church shares Jesus in a most powerful way.  When non-believers question why someone is loving them in an unexpected, radical way, Jesus is beginning to work in their hearts.

This day may we find ways to be love.  Maybe it will be as the body in worship and fellowship.  Maybe it will be with a stranger who crosses our path, either in church or later in the day.  May the love of Christ that is within us pour out into all we meet this day.