pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Called to Go

Reading: Matthew 25: 31-46

Verse 40: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”.

Today’s passage is an interesting one to begin the new year with. I think it is very appropriate. As we consider our year ahead, our faith should be our first consideration. Our faith calls us to follow Jesus and this passage speaks directly to what that looks like. He is the light and hope and love of the world. Matthew 25 challenges us to be all of these things. It especially calls us to the poor and to the marginalized.

In all of our cities, towns, communities, neighborhoods, and churches, we have folks who are hungry and thirsty – physically and spiritually and emotionally. To these, may we offer sustenance, God’s Word, and support and encouragement. We all have folks around us who are strangers or on the outside looking in. To these may we offer fellowship and belonging. We all know others who are lacking adequate clothing or other necessities. To these may we offer a coat or whatever else we can to meet their needs. We all know folks who are sick or who are incarcerated. To these may we offer our presence and our prayers. We can go and spend time, offering encouragement and the light of Jesus Christ.

For many of us, today is a day off. Who can we take a little time to bless today? Will it be one who is hungry or thirsty? Will it be one who is sick or imprisoned? Will it be one in need? It is to these that we are called to go. In going to these, we meet Jesus in their presence. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”. May we do for Jesus today.

Prayer: Lord, put me where I can see you today. Lead me to those in need, to those on the edges. Amen.

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Be the Light

Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7

Verse 2: “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”.

Our passage today from Isaiah 9 is a good place to start Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is a wonderful day of worship and celebration and anticipation and joy and hope and love. Tonight we worship the birth of Jesus Christ!

Isaiah 9 is a good place to start today though. The prophet announces that “on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”. Jesus is the light and there is much reason to celebrate the light. But read again these first few words: “on those living in the land of the shadow”. Other translations render this a “land of darkness”. This too is a reality as we sit on the edge of the coming of the light.

Many people today live in the shadow or in the darkness. They’re nice enough folks, but they do not know the light. For some, their hearts are hard and they love the darkness. For some, circumstances have led them into the darkness – addictions, upbringing, poverty… And for some, they simply have never heard the good news that the light of the world brings. It is to all of these that we are called.

As the children of God, we are called to the hardened, to the sinners, to the lost and broken, to the outsiders. We are called to carry the light to them. We are called to go out and to enter the darkness, allowing the light of Christ in us to penetrate the hearts of those living outside of Jesus Christ and His love. May we be the light today so that all will know the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Be the light today!

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be the light today and every day! Amen.


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All in All

Reading: Philippians 3: 10-14

Verse 12: I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

There is great power in today’s passage.  There is great hope.  There is great promise.  There is great encouragement.  Pail is fully rooted in Christ and in His love.  He has given his all for the gospel and is willing to suffer and even give his life if that will advance the gospel and bring glory to God.  Paul opens today with a clarion call for all believers: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection”.  Like Paul, we also want to know these two things.  We want to know Christ for this earthly life so that we can love and serve others as Jesus did.  We want to know the power of His resurrection for this life and the life to come.  In this life, the power of Jesus’ resurrection brings us victory over sin.  Jesus’ resurrection power defeats the guilt and shame and chains of sin so that we can be made holy and pure in this life.  It is a power we call on again and again.  Jesus’ resurrection power also looks to the future – His resurrection power enables us to defeat death and to live eternally with Jesus in heaven.

Knowing all of this is what allowed Paul to be sold out for Jesus and the gospel.  It is what allows us to have the faith and the courage to live as sold out, all in Christians.  If we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, we too can live as Paul did: willing to do anything and willing to face anything to advance the kingdom here on earth.  This is what Paul is talking about when he writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.  Christ took hold of Paul to give him a hope, a love, a promise, a future.  Paul did not take hold of all this and sit on it to keep ut for himself.  He gave his all and eventually his life so others would gain it too.

Paul concludes today with these words: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.  Hear these words – straining ahead, pressing on, the prize, called, in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s life reflected the fact that Jesus Christ was his all in all.  May our lives and faith reflect this as well, all for God’s glory and the building of His kingdom here on earth.


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Harvest Fields

Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38

Verse 38: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Jesus spent most of His three years of formal ministry being out and amongst the people.  Our opening line reminds us how Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching, preaching, and healing.  He spent time in the synagogues, but He also spent a great deal of His time outside the walls of the church building.  When we think about all of the stories of Jesus that we find in the Gospels, not too many actually take place in the formal church setting.  This is our first lesson today.

As Jesus spent time with people, as He saw the crowds, “He had compassion” for the people.  Jesus saw the people and their need for a Savior.  Matthew writes that they were “harassed and helpless”.  We too are called to the last, the least, and the broken.  These are the harrassed and helpless of our day.  We are called to also offer compassion as we feed, clothe, visit…  We are called to offer what we can to those in need.  But moreso we are called to share our faith.  Verse 36 ends with, “like sheep without a shepherd”.  To not know Jesus is to wander through life, bouncing from one thing to another in our search for contentment and satisfaction.  Only through knowing Jesus Christ do we find peace and hope in this life.  Jesus had compassion on the people, loved on them, and gave them all He had to offer as He served among them.  This is our second lesson.

Our passage ends with, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”.  Jesus is encouraging the disciples to go out into the harvest fields.  In the very next verse, 10:1, Jesus sends the 12 out to do what He has been doing: to teach, preach, and heal.  When I think about my community, I see harvest fields.  There are many who do not know the love and grace that Jesus Christ offers.  They have never heard the good news.  Relatively speaking, yes the workers are few.  My prayer is to be sent out into the harvest fields.  My hope is to share the faith I profess with others today.  May it be so.


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Called

1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

There is a definite focus on “call” in today’s passage.  Paul opens with his call “to be an apostle of Jesus Christ”.  He then reminds the church in Corinth of their “call to be holy”, right along with all others who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This culture of call is one that is present throughout the Bible and is alive and well today.

Before Paul there is a long list of those called in the Bible.  Noah was called to build an arc.  Jonah was called to save Nineveh.  Moses was called to lead his people.  Job was called to endure much while remaining faithful.  Joshua was called to lead into the Promised Land.  Rahab was called to risk her life for God’s spies.  Fast forward and we find simple fisherman and unpopular tax collectors alike called by Jesus.  Almost all of the people that God called are much like us – normal, ordinary people.  Some were even outcasts and others were hated by their siblings.  Some served for just short periods and others served for years.  Some were even like Paul, who as Saul killed many Christians in his attempts to stamp out the new church.  The long and short of it is that God can and will continue to call any and all for service in the kingdom.

In addition to calling us, God also equips us.  Paul reminds us that in Christ we have been “enriched in every way” and that we “do not lack any spiritual gift”, that God has already given us what we need for the tasks at hand.  Paul then shares a promise: “He will keep you strong to the end”.  And lastly, Paul shares, “He has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Pretty good company as we answer God’s call on our lives.

We are each called and equipped by God to go forth into the world with Jesus Christ.  May we faithfully answer the call this day.


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Do You Hear?

What name best identifies you?  Is it father, mother, sister, grandma, brother, grandfather?  Is it accountant, teacher, lawyer, mechanic?  Is it artist, athlete, musician, dancer?  Is it giver, helper, volunteer, caregiver?  In our life we fill many roles and sometimes the roles vary by who we are around and what we are doing at the time.  Often the names others give us and know us by reflect who we are and how we are known.  Sometimes we even live into the names we are given.

In the quiet alone times with God, do you hear Him calling your name?  He does call out to each.  God calls out to each of us by name – Susan, Paul, David, Alice, Greg.  Jesus called the twelve to follow Him and become His disciples.  In doing so they were called to a new way of life.  Through their time with and in relationship to Jesus, they came to see themselves as worthy, loved, redeemed.  As we hear Him calling our name and begin to live into that call, we too come to see ourselves as worthy, loved, redeemed.

As God calls out and stakes an increasing claim on our lives as we grow in the faith, one of or true names becomes more and more evident: child of God.  As we grow into this name our other names become secondary.  Instead of father we become known as a Christian father.  Instead of a lawyer we become known as a Christian lawyer.  What we ‘do’ becomes secondary to who we are as God increasingly is our first consideration in all of our choices, decisions, priorities.

Being a child of God is a journey.  Once we realize we are a child of God, we begin living into a new identity.  We will still stumble, fall, make mistakes.  But as a child of God, when we stumble, we will fall into His arms of grace.  As a beloved child of God, we never walk alone.  Do you hear Him calling your name?

Scripture reference: 1 John 3: 1-7


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He Is Risen!

Let us rejoice – He is risen!  All hope seemed lost but hope has returned forever.  Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty and went to tell the disciples.  Peter and John found the tomb empty as well.  Mary returned and stood outside weeping.  No one knew Jesus was alive.

When Jesus calls her name, saying “Mary”, she recognizes Him through her tears.  In an instant she knows – He is alive!  Tears turn to joy!  Jesus calls her by name and instructs Mary to go and tell the disciples.  Mary is the messenger and she tells them that Jesus is alive.  There is resurrection after death.  What seemed lost has new life.

Jesus called Mary by name and He calls each of us by name.  His call is the same to us as it was to Mary: go forth and share the good news.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!!

Scripture references: Psalm 118: 24 and John 20: 1-18