pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust and Live It

Reading: Exodus 16: 2-15

Verse Eight: You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.

Complaining is something we can slip into pretty easily.  When the grass looks a little greener over there, when we did not quite get our way, when we have to wait for something, when we feel we have been treated unfairly, …  There are many reasons we can find to complain.  And sometimes we too may blame God or question God at a minimum.

The Israelites are out in the desert and they are starving.  The quick food they took with them when they hastily exited Egypt is gone and the desert does not provide much to eat.  The people come and complain to Moses and Aaron – if only we’d “died by the Lord’s hand back in Egypt”.  Die in the Passover plagues rather than be free?  But we are hungry!  Oh to be back in Egypt where “we sat around pots if meat and ate all we wanted”.  Oh for the good old days!  The Israelites ‘long’ for death or at least slavery again.  We too can be pretty immature and a bit whiny in our complaints.

When one resorts to complaining, one usually needs to look within oneself to find a cause.  Sometimes we forget all of the blessings we have in our life and focus on that one thing instead.  Sometimes we simply forget to be grateful and skip right to discontent.  We dwell on envy and jealousy and want.  And sometimes we forget to trust God.  We forget all the times God did and we don’t believe God will ever provide again and the grumbling begins.

In our passage today, the people grumble to Moses and Aaron, but they are just the middle men.  Moses says to the people: “You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord”.  It is true for them just as it is true for each of us at times.  We too can flout a sense of entitlement and can put on a pout when we do not get our way or when we feel like we are being treated unfairly.  But this is not the witness we get elsewhere in the Bible when we look at the faithful.  We see Jesus always looking to give, not to receive.  We see Paul being content in all circumstances, even when in want.  We see God providing for His people over and over and over again.  When we really take the time to reflect on our own lives, we see the same constant provision.  May we trust in His Word and His love and may we live it out in our lives this day!

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Unity

Reading: Psalm 133

Verse One: How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

The Psalm for today is written to a community.  It may be to a specific congregation or group of people or it may be to all the Israelites.  It is believed that at the time of the writing, the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms and the psalmist wrote this Psalm to try and help unite the two kingdoms.

Whether it is a sports team or a book club, a family or an office staff, a congregation or a nation, the goal and hope is always unity and peace.  Our Psalm today opens with “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity”!  This is indeed true!  Unity and peace are signs of love and togetherness.  The image of oil being poured out in the Psalm represents God’s blessings being poured down.  The dew represents well-being and is also a connection to God’s blessings.  It is God’s plan and intent for creation to get along – from the two friends to the couple to the family to the neighbors to the community to the nation to the world.  To live in peace and unity and love and harmony is God’s intent.  If we all loved neighbor as Jesus first loved us then God’s intent would be our reality.

Although this is God’s intent, there is no shortage of conflict in our lives and world.  Much of it is interpersonal.  Society’s bent towards individualism and self-gratification pits one against another in the battle for power and status and wealth.  In the larger society there is much tension between groups of people as well as between nations.  One only has to look at Charlottesville and North Korea to see the seeds of hatred and bigotry and mistrust and evil.

If God’s intent is unity, as followers of Jesus Christ, what is our role to play in bringing unity to our world?  It begins by loving all we meet as Christ loves us.  Loving and seeing as Jesus loved and saw leads us to stand up for what is right, to stand against what is wrong, and to seek to bring peace and justice and unity and love into all situations we find ourselves in.  We are to be the light and love.  We are to bring peace and hope.  May it begin in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches, and in our worlds.


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Thanks and Gifts

Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21

Verse 19: He gave thanks and He broke the loaves… the disciples gave them to the people.

This morning is the last day of a middle school youth mission trip.  We have spent the past week in a large city.  We have learned about poverty and homelessness.  We served food to men and women in need.  We sorted and stocked food in a free pantry.  We worked in a gigantic warehouse sorting and packing food that goes to many agencies who feed people.  We spent two afternoons at a large thrift store sorting about anything you can imagine and preparing it for resale.  The profits all go to people with disabilities in the state.

Through all of these acts of service, we learned about the great need that exists in our world.  It exists in many of our communities and maybe even in our own neighborhoods.  Prior to this trip our youth were unaware of the poverty many face each day.  Yes, they new some lived with very little.  But learning that some parents must choose between paying for their child’s field trip at school and putting gas in the car so they can go to work was a new reality for our youth.

Jesus lived a life of compassion.  He spent time in and among the poor and needy of His day.  They needed Him most.  In our passage today, He begins by healing many.  Then He feeds many.  We read, “He gave thanks and He broke the loaves… the disciples gave them to the people”.  There are two important lessons in today’s passage.

First, Jesus gave thanks for the gifts that God has given Him.  Second, the disciples used the gifts Jesus gave them to also be a part of this miracle.  In faith and trust, they were part of the feeding of the thousands.  Our group learned the first lesson well this week.  We are going home to nice houses with an excess of food, clothing…  We do not know true want.  We are truly thankful for the many, many gifts that God has given us.  We began to learn the second lesson this week as we saw how God can use each of us to make the world a better place by sharing His love as we serve others.  It is a great gift that we have to offer.  This day, what will we offer to meet another’s physical or emotional or spiritual need?  May we remember that gifts that God has given us, may we be truly thankful, and may we seek to share them each day for the building of God’s kingdom here on earth.


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Blessed Are…

Reading: Matthew 5: 1-12

The Beatitudes are a wonderful teaching that Jesus shared with His followers.  The list of “blessed are…” statements offer hope and encouragement, promise and strength.  Jesus is proclaiming the work of God in the current time and place as well as pointing to the future glory that faithful followers will inherit.  Rather that a “to-do” list or requirements to check off, Jesus lists these blessings as a way to cast vision for what the kingdom on earth will look like when we live out these blessings every day.

We are blessed.  We are blessed when we are poor in spirit because when we are ‘poor’ in something we work to get more of it.  We are blessed when we search for righteousness because God wants to fill us up.  We are blessed when we are pure in heart because then we are in a connected, personal relationship with God.  We are blessed when we are humble and merciful and when we seek peace because then we are bearing witness to the love and example of Jesus.  When we mourn, we are blessed with God’s comfort.  And when we are persecuted and insulted, we are blessed not only because of what we will inherit, but for being the light and truth of Jesus Christ amidst the darkness of the world.

The Beatitudes are part of Jesus’ vision of what the kingdom here on earth will look like.  The blessings of living a life in Christ are not protection against all harms and trials, but are the blessings of His presence in all of life.  When we live as witness to all of these ‘blessed are…’ statements, we are blessings to all we meet as we live as faithful disciples of the Savior of the world.  May it be how we live each day.


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Living Right

Reading: Psalm 119: 137-144

The psalmist declares that God’s righteousness lasts forever.  Because of this, all of God’s laws and ways are also righteous.  Since God’s laws and ways are always righteous, we should ever seek to understand and live out God’s statutes and precepts.  If we do so, then we draw near to loving them as the psalmist does.  Even in times of trouble and distress, the writer declares that God’s commands bring delight.

To this understanding from the Old Testament, we can apply our understanding of Jesus.  Jesus was the fuller revelation of God as He lived in the flesh.  Jesus allows us to see what it looks like to live out God’s laws and ways.  Even though Jesus was in the flesh, He was still divine and lived a life without sin.  In the life of Jesus, in the things He taught, and in how He lived, we have the example of what it means to live fully in God’s righteousness.  Jesus defined and lived out the essence of all of God’s laws and precepts that we find in the Old Testament.  He did so by loving God with all He was and by loving others as God loves them.  Jesus saw all as beloved children of God and treated each accordingly.

Jesus exemplified verse 142: “Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true”.  God does not change.  God’s love never ends.  God’s ways are true.  Within these truths we seek to live as Jesus lived.  Living out our faith us living right.  Living out the love that Jesus pours into us is living right.  Living out the truth of God so that God’s word spreads to those around us and so God’s love and light grows is living right.  Whether filled with joy because of God’s blessings or struggling through a trial, these truths do not change.  No matter what life may bring, God’s love and God’s ways remain true.  May we always follow Jesus’ example, seeking to be God’s love and truth lived out.


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Praise

Reading: Psalm 65: 1-8

What a beautiful work we find in Psalm 65.  Read it slowly.  Let the words form meaning in your heart.  It speaks of how we praise our God who hears our prayers and forgives our transgressions.  It speaks of the blessedness of being chosen by God and the way we experience the good things of life with God.  It speaks of the hope we find in God’s righteous deeds and in God’s power.  It speaks of how the morning dawn calls forth songs of joy.

We find salvation, hope, strength, and joy in God alone.  We find all of this through a personal relationship with God.  In our personal relationship with God we find the salvation of our souls.  Through the power and blood of Jesus Christ we are made new every morning as we are washed clean from our transgressions.  In our personal relationship we find a God who hears our prayers, who has plans for our good, not for our harm.  In our personal relationship with God we many blessings.  True, some may be physical, but most are spiritual.  The goods things we experience are peace, comfort, and strength in the trials and joy, contentment, and happiness in the every day.

All if this indeed calls forth our praise!  Today may we praise the Lord our God for the many ways we will experience God in our lives.


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Blessings

Reading: Hebrews 13: 1-8 and 15-16

Throughout the New Testament we are reminded to love as Jesus loved and to be a servant to all.  The examples abound and the expectations are clear.  The idea that whenever we “do this for the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), we do for Jesus.  We are called to do as Jesus would have done.  Jesus loved all people where they were at and gave to each as they had need.  There was never one that came to Jesus and was rebuffed or ignored.  He treated all with love.

Verse 8 of today’s reading states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.  Who Jesus is does not change.  He loves all people still.  He will love all people forever.  As Jesus’ agents of love, we are to continue to live out our lives as Jesus did, offering love and care to all.  In doing so, people come to experience Jesus and His presence in their lives too.  It is a blessing to them.

But perhaps it is a greater blessing to us.  In following Jesus’example and living out our call to be Jesus’ light in our world, we are in His presence each and every time we offer His love to another.  We are reminded that Jesus is in us each time we serve another.  Each time we do so we too are touched by His love.  It is a blessing to us.  In the process we too are changed as we are increasingly transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.

As we share Christ’s love and offer ourselves as living sacrifices for God’s glory, the world is impacted by love.  So are we.  Today may we be pleasing to the Lord our God in all we do and say.  May the blessings ever flow!