pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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A New Earth?

Reading: Isaiah 65: 21-25

Verse 24: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”.

God’s vision for a new heaven and earth begins with caring for basic needs. The people of God will have houses to live in and food to eat. This leads to enjoying the work of their hands and to a better quality of life. People will live longer and children will not experience misfortune. In Isaiah’s day this vision gave hope to those living without these basics. The realization of this vision would bring hope to many yet today.

Many in our community and likely in yours struggle to meet basic needs. It is currently 7° outside. There are families that are cold this morning because there is no propane in the tank. They are running the oven with the door open for heat. In many pantries and freezers there is food aplenty. Yet many children will go to school hungry. There they will receive breakfast but the adults back home do not. The vision in Isaiah is wonderful. But we cannot be content with waiting for that future reality. It is too distant from many people’s daily reality. In our communities this should not be so. As people of faith, we should not be comfortable with the poverty and inadequacy of food and safe shelter in our midst. Bringing a better version of life for all could be more of our vision.

Father God is casting a vision for all of his children. God promises, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”. God is eager to be in connection with us. In my mind’s eye I see God leaning in, hand cupped to ear, waiting to hear our prayers and our praise. The vision we find in Isaiah ends with a beautiful image – all of creation living in harmony and peace. There will be no harm or destroying on God’s holy mountain. This is a reference to the new Jerusalem, the new earth.

Can this not be an image for today, for our communities? Caring for and meeting basic needs begins to build a relationship. The building of a relationship can lead to sharing God’s hope and peace. As people of faith, may we seek to enter the lives of the hurting and broken, first meeting basic needs and then sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to bring hope. May it be so.

Prayer: Father God, we have so much and are blessed over and over. Make us aware of and responsive to the needs around us. Bend my heart towards what breaks yours. Lead me to action. Use me to make this place more like Isaiah’s vision. Amen.


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A Cup of Water

Reading: Matthew 10: 40-42

Verse 42: And if anyone gives even a cup of water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple…

After reading today’s passage, I think about how we sometimes wrestle with who we serve.  In Jesus’ words we hear that if we receive Him, we receive God – the one who sent Jesus.  But if we only see Him as a prophet or teacher or just some good guy, then that is all we receive too.  Then the last line shifts as Jesus speaks of offering a cup of cold water to another.  When we extend the love of Christ to others, we are told that we will not lose our reward – eternal life will remain ours.

The closing verse today reads, “And if anyone gives even a cup of water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple…”. Today I am on a bus headed home from southern Texas.  Our six teams of high school youth and the adults with them served six families in need.  Each family was a victim of a natural disaster and did not receive government assistance for a variety of reasons.  All were immigrant families so language was a barrier.  All are barely getting by.  Three teams put new roofs that these families could not afford in a thousand years.  One team hung, finished, and painted new drywall.  One team ran new wire then hung and mudded new drywall.  The sixth team did a myriad of projects.  It was offering a cup of cold water to these families in southern Texas.  The materials and labor were certainly a huge blessing to each family.

But the deeper blessing comes to the ones who extended the cup of cold water.  Being exposed to and becoming aware of the needs of others opens us up to so much more than we know in our sheltered worlds.  We learn to love others more and to value what we have less.  A simple question about what to do with a dollar we found in the parking lot on day one blossomed into $150 gift cards for five families and a new stove for the sixth.  It is indeed a deep blessing that we were changed ourselves as we chose to extend the love of Christ to others.  As Jesus said, now go and do likewise.


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Light

Reading: Luke 1: 68-79

There is a certain peace and solitude that comes with winter camping.  The air is crisp and clear.  Usually you are the only one in the campground.  At night the only sound is the crackle of the fire.  Once you settle into your tent, just a thin layer separated you from the world outside.  Sounds of nature fill the air as a chill settles over all.  I usually wake up early and it is dark and quiet and very cold.  It is a time of solitude and peace.  But it also is a time of waiting.  For the next bit of time I cannot hardly wait for the sun to poke out and to begin to cast its light and warmth on this quiet and cold place.

The Jews had a similar experience awaiting the Messiah.  Except it has been hundreds and hundreds of years.  Prophets of old spoke of the coming of the Messiah.  After long periods of exile, of times of war and defeat, and of occupation by the oppressive Romans, the people long for a Messiah.  The Jew’s hope for a Messiah hangs on the thinnest of threads.  Some even wonder if God has forgotten the promise.

This is the context into which Zechariah breaks forth with his prophecy.  The time has come!  Zechariah prophesies that his son, John the Baptist, is here the “go on before the Lord” to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.  The time is very near for the “horn of salvation” to come into the world.

There is hope now.  Just as the sun’s first rays burst forth ending the cold night, bringing light and warmth, so too does the coming of Jesus as He enters the world.  Jesus is that light that shines into the darkness, chasing away oppression and loneliness and fear and doubt.  Because of the tender mercy of God, Jesus came into the world.  His light continues to shine.  May we, as Jesus’ followers, continue to bring forth Jesus’ light this day.