pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Catch

Reading: Luke 5: 1-7

Verse 4: “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch”.

Our passage begins with the words, “One day…”. The words sound so casual, so happenstance. Jesus is there by that lake that day because that is the day and place that He is going to call His first disciples. Jesus could have been many places that day. As Jesus is teaching the crowds build. He steps into a boat. There were two boats. Jesus steps into Simon Peter’s boat and asks Simon Peter to put out a bit. The boat was empty, just like the second boat. In putting out, Peter had to join Jesus in the boat.

Jesus finishes teaching and asks Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch”. He asks His captive audience to do something that is probably the last thing on his mind. Peter does call Jesus “Master”, showing some recognition of who Jesus is said to be. But Peter is tired and just wants to go home. Yet Peter chooses to honor the request that Jesus has made of him.

In the request, Jesus has told Peter what is going to happen. Jesus says, “for a catch”. He knows how many fish will swim into Peter’s nets. Jesus is not in that boat with that man by happenstance. He is about to do a miracle that will change a man’s life forever. It is something that we see Jesus do often in His ministry. But often the role is reversed. The blind man calls out to Jesus for sight. The lepers cry out to Jesus to be healed and made clean. The friends bring the lame man to Jesus. Today Jesus is the seeker. Today Jesus is the one calling out.

Some of us have perhaps sought Jesus – in the midst of a devastating loss we turned to Him. Or in the depth of a life-threatening illness, we cried out to Jesus. But most of us were like Peter, aware of who Jesus was, heard a few of the stories. But just going through life. And then suddenly Jesus is there and He climbs in our boat. Almost unexpectedly we meet Jesus up close and personal. We did not see it coming, but we cannot deny the relationship that has suddenly burst to life.

The miracle that Jesus offers is amazing. It is not just a catch – a few fish for lunch. It is not just a good catch – enough to sell and earn some wages. The catch is enormous. It was so big that Peter needed help containing it. It is like when Jesus catches us – we are filled with Him to overflowing and we just want others to know of this Jesus that called us to new life. We want to share this amazing thing that has happened in our lives. Can you remember that day, that season?

Connect to the day that you were the catch. Recall the emotion. Recapture the energy and the passion. Then go out and tell the story of how Jesus caught you over and over.

Prayer: Lord, rekindle that fire within me today. May I again be so filled with you that you overflow. May I tell the story of your love and power in my life today and every day. Amen.

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Fellow Children of God

Reading: Mark 12: 28-34

Verse 34: “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.

Today’s passage contains what I believe are the two quintessential requirements of our faith. Jesus is asked about the most important commandment and the two He gives summarize our faith practices. If all we do is love God completely and love our neighbors as ourselves, then we will be living out an excellent witness. Today, though, I want to focus on the relationship between Jesus and the man.

We know that today’s interaction occurs within a group of people, but it is as if they are the only two there. In my mind it is a personal conversation that others happen to overhear. It does not matter to Jesus or the man who else us there that day. This happens elsewhere in scripture too. Jesus focuses in on that person and they are all that matters. This is the type of relationship and personal interaction that we are called to have with one another.

People can treat each other poorly. We can have an “I’m the boss and do as I say” attitude that leaves others feeling of little value. We can have a “this is just the way it is (or has always been)” attitude, leaving others feeling powerless. We can interact with people in other ways that diminish, exclude, overlook, discount the other. This is not the way of Jesus; it is not loving God and neighbor.

Instead, Jesus focuses in on the man. I envision Jesus looking him right in the eye the whole time. Maybe He even steps a bit closer or places a hand on his shoulder. This should be the model for our personal interactions with each other. The focus and attention communicate value, worth, importance, acceptance. It says they matter to us, that our relationship is important. As they prepare to part ways, Jesus appreciates the man’s faith, saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. This statement also says “you are drawing close to God”. Jesus sees the heart of God in this man. May our words and actions convey the same to others today as we encounter each fellow child of God. May it be so.

Lord God, slow me down, focus me in. Help me to be one-on-one with each I encounter today. Help me to see you in them. Amen.


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Close to a Big God

Reading: Mark 10: 35-40

Verse 37: “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory”.

James and John’s request can be heard two ways. Their bold request is generally viewed as over the line when one includes the reaction of the other ten disciples. When James and John say to Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory”, it can be seen as trying to elevate themselves over the other disciples. James and John have clearly heard that Jesus will soon return to His place beside God in heaven and they want to secure their places too. On the right and left would be two pretty good places. Jesus then asks them if they think they can walk the path that He will walk and they respond affirmatively. Jesus acknowledges that they will walk the path but concedes that it is God who has determined who will sit at the right and left.

Perhaps, though, James and John are not asking for selfish purposes. What if they are asking simply because they have heard Jesus’ plan and have caught His portrayal of heaven? What if they are just asking to go with Jesus when He goes, rather than to remain on earth? Maybe staying close to Jesus is their focus. Maybe Jesus’ answer to them is affirming the desire to remain with Him with a bit of “not yet” added on. Jesus does indicate that James and John will remain faithful and will indeed suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Whichever was the case, whatever the motivation was that led to the request, James and John wanted to remain close to Jesus, no matter the cost. They were bold enough to ask a big thing of Jesus. May these be the examples we take from our passage today. First, may our primary focus be on remaining close to Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Second, may we have a faith big enough to ask bold things of God. James and John were bold for their faith. Let us follow their example as we walk out our journey of faith.

Lord God, help me to always seek your presence, to always be willing to walk closely with you in this life. And when I drift, may the Spirit’s voice be loud and insistent. Open my eyes to see you as you are – almighty, without limit, fully able. May my walk and my faith reflect who and what you are. Amen.


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God Moments

Reading: Exodus 24: 19-25

Verse 21: All that night the Lord drove back the sea.

The Israelites experience God’s presence in several ways in today’s passage.  God moves the pillar of cloud to be a barrier to keep the Egyptian army at bay.  This same cloud gives light in the darkness so the Israelites can move.  God next provides a way: “All that night the Lord drove back the sea”.  The sea floor is made dry and the people of God pass over.  That same sea bed is made muddy and the Egyptians get mired down.  Chariots wheels fall off, stalling them out completely so that the waters can come over them all – drowning every single Egyptian soldier.  God at work in powerful ways.

Al times we too can see God at work n our lives.  Some of the time we can see how God has opened a door or provided a way when we saw none, bringing hope, relief, joy…  Other times a door closes or we become stymied.  After our initial frustration we find a new way or a path forward.  In both cases we can see God at work when we look back and reflect.  It is almost as if there were step by step instructions being worked out as we wandered along.  It is only with some reflection that we can see God’s hand at work.

Just as with the Israelites, we too remember these times of God’s hand at work and we rejoice.  Our faith grows as we see how God has worked plans once again for our good, demonstrating His great love for us.  This day may we look back at some of our God moments and bring God our praise.


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When We Pray

Paul calls on us as believers to rejoice always, to allow our love or gentleness to show to everyone, and to not worry about anything.  Always, everyone, anything are pretty complete and all-encompassing.  When I look at my life, I realize I fail in all three.  I can and do rejoice in the Lord often, but not always.  I try to let me love and gentleness show to all people, but not to everyone all the time.  I tend not to worry very often, but I do at times.

For some, one or more of these areas are struggles as well.  For example, a lot of people worry.  We worry about health, terrorism, finances, family, decisions, jobs, and so on.  Worry can be a consuming emotion.  Paul’s answer to those who worry or don’t rejoice always or fail to show God’s love all the time?  Prayer.

Paul suggests that we “take it all to the Lord in prayer.”  Again, one of those absolutes: all.  Not just some of the things we struggle with, but all that is on our hearts and minds, both the good and the bad.  Time in prayer shifts the focus from us to God.  Time in prayer builds our trust and reliance on God and His activity instead of on our own efforts.  Prayer also reminds us of God’s absolute love for us and His constant presence in our lives.  Lastly prayer acknowledges that we must trust God with our lives.

When we pray and focus on all we have to rejoice over in our lives, somehow our worries seem less.  When we come to realize how much God loves and cares for us, His love seems to flow to of us and into others.  May we learn to take it all to God in prayer.  May we learn to trust in His steadfast love for us.  Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you.

Scripture reference: Philippians 4: 4-7


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How Deep and Wide

As Christians, we have this idea in our minds that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.  God blesses those who love Him.  He brings consequences to those who fail to walk in His ways.  We like to feel that we are on the righteous end of this continuum, but the reality is that we do at times sin and can tend towards the wrong end of the scale.

When our faith is strong and we are walking close to God in our daily lives, we sense His presence, we feel we are being fruitful in the world, and we feel His protection.  We feel centered and confident that we can handle what life brings our way.  God feels like a good friend.  Then we drift.  Or maybe we fall hard into sin in what feels like an instant.  We look up and feel like God is nowhere to be found.  The source of life feels like a distant memory.  Then we are like chaff, blown easily this way and then that way.  Yet there is hope.  There is always hope.

Jesus Christ is the living water, the way, the truth, and the life.  When we are lost, He gives direction.  When we are empty, He fills us up.  When we are confused, He pours wisdom into us.  When we sin, He offers grace and forgiveness.  As inconsistent and changing as we are, Christ is as rock-solid and unchanging.  As often as we stumble and fall, Jesus is there over and over and over again, extending us that grace and love that never ends.  How deep and wide is His love!  He calls us to walk in His ways, to be His disciples, and to love as He loves.  May we reflect His love today.

Scripture reference: Psalm 1


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Walking Closely

“I promise.”  When do we have to say these words?  It is not usually in everyday life – your boss doesn’t make you promise to finish the project…  We have to promise when we have been exceptionally forgetful or when the other person doubts we will follow through or thinks what we have said is unlikely or impossible.  As adults, in general we do not have to make promises.  Saying we will do something if usually sufficient.

God never has to promise.  His word is always good.  When we come to the point of trusting in God, we come to faith.  True, at times we can struggle, but this too passes.  We may momentarily wonder how God could ever forgive ‘that’ but in time we see God offers forgiveness to all who come with a truly repentant heart.  And we get ourselves to that point and find His grace and love again.

Sometimes we are called to believe something that seems impossible or highly unlikely.  Sometimes our faith calls us to step out into the unknown.  Abraham is a great example for us.  At almost 100 years of age, God told him he would not only have a child but would be the father to many nations.  Abraham chose to believe God with all his heart.  He did not waver.  For this act of full obedience, abraham was credited as being righteous.

Paul tells us that we too are credited with righteousness when we actively pursue and fully trust in God.  Our willingness puts us in a right relationship with God.  When we walk in righteousness, God is close to us.  When we pursue Him, He is easy to find.  May we walk closely with God today, removing all doubts and barriers, so that we can experience His full love, mercy, and joy!

Scripture reference: Romans 4: 18-25