pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Carriers

Reading: Acts 9: 1-16

Verse 16: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles…”

Saul has become the face of the enemy for the early church. He has taken on the role of chief persecutor, judge, and executioner. Saul hears the church is starting to grow in Damascus, so he heads there, armed with letters of authority to arrest all the Christians. But on the road to Damascus, Saul meets Jesus. Jesus asks him, “Why do you persecute me”? Saul is struck blind and told to go into Damascus, where he will be told what to do. Saul spends three days fasting and praying.

The Lord also calls upon Ananias. He is a disciple in Damascus who knows Saul’s reputation. Jesus instructs him to go to the house where Saul is staying. There Ananias is to lay hands on Saul to heal him of his blindness. Ananias questions this idea – he knows who Saul is. But the Lord knows who Saul will become. The Lord says to Ananias, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles…”

Ananias is being sent to the enemy. He probably knows some of the people that Saul has arrested or killed. To go to him is risky. To heal him seems like the last thing to do. It calls on Ananias to trust God and to imitate the loving forgiveness of Jesus. It calls on Ananias to allow God to work through him. God has clearly chosen Saul to use for His purposes. Ananias will dutifully obey and go to heal Saul.

God has chosen Saul to be His instrument to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. This is a big audience. The Gentiles are all the non-Jews. This represents almost all of the known world since the Jews are a relatively small group of people. It is a big mission. Saul is tasked with carrying the message to the people. This is different than bringing the message. To bring is to share the message that someone else told you. To carry is to be the message, to live it out with all you are. Saul will carry the good news. He will become so filled with Jesus that he will preach and heal just as Jesus did.

When we consider our role in following the Great Commission to make disciples of all people, are we bringing the message or are we carrying the message? May we be infectious carriers.

Prayer: Fill me with you so that I carry the message of your love and hope and healing to all I meet today. Amen.


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Light

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verses 5 and 6: “You are all sons of the light… let us be alert and self-controlled.”

The Thessalonians are awaiting the return of Christ.  It has been twenty years and they are beginning to wonder.  They wonder about whether or not He is coming in their lifetimes and they wonder about their loved ones who are dying in the interim.  The anticipation of Christ’s return has begun to fade for some of the Thessalonians.  As Christians today we should be looking forward to Christ’s return too, but praying for Jesus to return today is not at the start of most of our prayer times.  For the most part, we live with the attitude that Christ could return today, but we do not live like He is returning today.

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians applies very much to Christians living in 2017.  The world is full of darkness and there are many who will face destruction and who will not escape.  They will be surprised when Jesus comes “like a thief in the night”.  Paul reminds us that we are all “sons of the light” and that we belong to Christ, who is our light.  Therefore, Paul says we should be “alert and self-controlled” as we live out our daily lives.  There is the implication then that we will not be surprised when Jesus returns (or when we go to meet Him).

Paul goes on to write about how we are to live our daily lives as children of the light.  He first says to put on faith and love as a breastplate.  The breastplate protects the heart.  If we begin each day by covering our heart with faith and love, then faith and love will be what guides our thoughts, words, and actions.  Paul then says to put on the hope of salvation like a helmet.  By doing so, we have the promise and hope of salvation right on the top of our minds, allowing that reassurance to be with us in all we do.

This day may we allow faith, hope, and love to be what others see as we live a s a child of the light.  May we shine brightly into the darkness of the world this day, bringing our God and King to all we encounter this day.


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Compassion

Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21

Verse 14: When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Jesus always seemed to be in demand.  Once He began to teach and heal, there always seemed to be a group or a crowd gathered around Him.  He had interesting and sometimes challenging parables and His interpretation of the Scriptures and what it meant to have faith all seemed to center around love and hope and forgiveness.  There was a hunger for these things and Jesus offered them.  For each, there was draw to Jesus.  This day, many are seeking healing.  The people are seeking Jesus’ touch to heal them physically or spiritually or mentally.  So this day is no different than all the others.  Jesus is tired and seeks to withdraw to a solitary place, but the people follow along on shore.

“When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick”.  Instead of being mad or getting back in the boat and heading off someplace else, a tired Jesus has compassion.  He gets out of the boat and starts healing them.  We do not know how or what He healed them of, but we do know that He healed many because as evening approaches, the disciples come to Jesus with a practical concern.  Feeding the people – one more way to care for them.  But Jesus’ response challenges the disciples: “You feed them”.  Their answer: but, but, but.   Our answer would have been the same.  What can we do, Lord?

Instead of being angry with the disciples or seeking to walk away from them, Jesus has compassion.  He solves their problem too.  With five loaves and two fish, Jesus feeds the multitude.  His compassion never ends.  Even though tired and seeking solitude, Jesus heals many and as the day draws long, He feeds them too, tending to a physical need of the people.

Jesus continues to do all of this today.  In those times of hurt and pain, Jesus heals our brokenness.  He heals our physical or spiritual or emotional hurts.  He also provides for our needs – our daily bread and so much more.  Jesus offers us Hope and love and forgiveness today as He has compassion on us.  Whatever our need or our hurt, Jesus says to us, “Bring them to me”.


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Go Out

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verses 17 and 21: I will pour out my Spirit… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Come, stand in the disciples’ shoes for a few minutes.  You have gone from grief and despair to joy and courage in quick order.  Jesus has breathed the Holy Spirit into you and you are told once again to go out into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  You are being asked to trust your life to this Holy Spirit that you just met for the first time.  And then Pentecost comes and you experience the power of the Holy Spirit as God pours it out on all the believers gathered there that day.  It would have been like seeing Jesus perform His first miracle.  Back then you thought something like, ‘Now we’ve got something here’!  The scene of all the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in a wide variety of languages reveals to you the power of this Holy Spirit.

And just as the crowd begins to question what is happening here, Peter stands up to address the crowd.  You’re one of the eleven so you stand up too.  But as Peter speaks you find that he isn’t just talking to the crowd that day – he’s talking right to you.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel.  You recognize the words, “I will pour out my Spirit…”.  You know that Joel was speaking of you.  You experienced Jesus pouring out the Spirit upon you as He breathed it into you.  You will prophesy and dream dreams and have visions.  You will see and feel God at work as the Holy Spirit leads and guides you.  But most of all you find a peace that passes understanding in the last line from Joel: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  That’s you.  No matter what comes in this earthly life, the power of the Holy Spirit resides in you and your salvation is secure.  You are ready to go out and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now, come back to June 3, 2017.  The great commission remains in effect.  God still reigns.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  Go out and bring the gospel to the world!


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Suffering

Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11

Verse Nine: Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith.

Suffering is the overarching theme in today’s passage.  Peter opens by reminding us that we may suffer for our faith.  He says, “do not be surprised” and encourages us to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”.  To really suffer for our faith is foreign to us, isn’t it?  To rejoice because we are suffering for our faith seems even more foreign!  Yet over the course of our faith journey, most of us can look back and see times when holding fast to our faith led to some decisions and choices that had a ‘cost’ and came with some suffering.  Maybe it was a relationship that you had to let go or a work decision that kept your integrity but cost a promotion or a windfall in your bank account.  This is the type of suffering that most Christians we know suffer.  But the reality is that there is much pain and suffering just beyond the doors of our beautiful churches and just down the street from our nice neighborhoods.

Every community, big or small, has its share of suffering.  When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, He knew we would.  We find suffering clustered here and there.  In my town it is called “housing” and in all communities there is a similar neighborhood.  The housing conditions are poor, people go without heat and/or electricity for stretches, and food is sometimes scarce.  In larger communities there are also homeless shelters, safe houses, and halfway houses.  In big communities there are the “projects” and in some huge cities whole communities are built out of cardboard and scrap metal and there is no running water or electricity.  Go to this place in your community and you will see that there is pain and suffering, there is hurt, and there is a loss of hope.

Our call as Christians is clear: go.  Go!  Go and do what you can when you can.  Alone you and I cannot end the suffering…  But we can alleviate some and lessen some.  We can bring food and clothing and whatever else material is needed.  We can bring food and sometimes clean water.  We can fix a leaky roof, a broken window, or a creaky set of steps.  We can sit and hear someone’s story and offer some words of hope.  We can also work to address some of the root causes and systematic forces that cause the pain and suffering.  This can be through education, through voicing opposition to the systems that work against those in poverty, and through fighting things like prejudice and stereotyping and judging.  This day and every day may we “Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith”.  Evil comes in many forms.  Today may we resist all forms if evil and suffering as we seek to bring the hope and love of Christ to a world in need.


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Beautiful Feet

Reading: Isaiah 52: 7-10

Christmas fills the air!  In our churches, in our homes, in our cars, and even in some of our offices the sounds of Christmas fill the air.  In church we have been singing carols.  Playlists are filled with our favorite Christmas songs.  Music gets us in the mood to celebrate.  As Christmas itself draws near, the songs remind us both of the stories and serve to build up our anticipation and excitement as we wait.

In Isaiah 52 the watchmen are atop the wall waiting for news to come.  There is anticipation and excitement, hoping for good news.  The psalmist writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.  In one way many people today are much like the men on the wall: they long for good news.  They peer out into the world, longing to hear something good.  For followers of Christ, at times we too long for good news.  Then a song like “Joy to the World” or “K the Herald Angels Sing” floats into our ears or minds and we are reminded: good news is indeed on the way!

In Christmas we celebrate the gift of Jesus.  We celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world.  In acknowledging the babe as the Savior, we connect the baby to the good news.  The baby will grow into a man willing to give all of himself for the world.  The good news of Jesus Christ is that through Him sin and death have been defeated.  Jesus conquered them.  We know the end of the birth story and it gives us hope.  Yes, this life will have its trials and troubles, but ultimately we we will rise to eternal life.  This is the gift we find in the manger on Christmas Eve.  What a wonderful gift indeed!

As believers we know the story.  We sing the songs to remember and to remind ourselves.  May our voices carry the good news to those who wait along the wall, eager to hear some good news.  May our feet be beautiful today.


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Truly Blessed

Reading: Psalm 14

The psalmist paints a grim image of society.  It speaks of fools who say there is no God and of people who are corrupt.  The writer says all have turned away from God.  We hear of evildoers frustrating the poor and of the masses being overwhelmed with dread.  It is bleak indeed.

As I read this Psalm, I was reminded of the doom and gloom prophets of our day.  One does not have to wait too long into a conversation about politics or the economy to hear something along the lines of: “our country is going to heck in a hand basket”.  If the conversation turns to young adults or teenagers, there is similar doom and gloom spoken.  In both cases, it makes me pause.  I think one of two things: “Do you live in the same place I live?” or, “Boy do you need to spend some time at Youth group” in response to the bleak thoughts.

Yes indeed, it can be all too easy to become self-focused and to lose site of God.  Yes indeed, it can be easy to fall into temptation and sin.  Yes indeed, it can be easy to allow busyness to steal our attention and to then ignore the marginalized of our society.  But our God is greater than all of this and will overcome any sin, apathy, or misstep on our part.

For most of us, life us truly blessed.  We live a life of comfort, of peace, of belonging, of freedom.  Our faith calls us to help all people live this life.  It is a life founded and centered in a relationship with God.  As we live in this place, connected to God, we are led to be other-centered, righteous, and compassionate.  There is much good in the world.  May we bring a little more of it with us today.