pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Filled with Joy

Reading: John 15: 9-11

Verse Eleven: “…so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”.

Jesus loves you. Jesus loves me! He invites us to remain in His love. It is a wonderful place to be – in Jesus’ love. Jesus tells us that to remain in His love we must obey His commands. Jesus obeyed God’s commands and remained in God’s love. He invites us to do the same. Why is Jesus telling us this? “…so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. Love brings joy. Jesus loves you and me.

Love brings joy primarily two ways. One way is by feeling loved. As children, when we felt especially loved by our parents, we felt joy in our hearts. The first time you kissed your first love, you felt joy in your heart. When we experience the love of God in the ways He interacts with and intercedes in our lives, we feel joy in our hearts. For example, today when we partake in communion and once again remember the love that Jesus poured out with His life, we will feel joy in our hearts.

The second way we can have our joy made complete is by being Jesus’ hands and feet, by bringing His light and love to others. When we take time to stop our busy lives to love and serve another in need, the Lord fills our hearts with joy. This happens frequently for me on mission trips. It can be through the changes I can see happening as God goes to work in that young person’s life. It can be in the absolute gratitude expressed by someone we have blessed with a handicap ramp or new roof. And sometimes this joy sneaks up on you. It happens when someone you have not seen in a while comes up to you and says, “Do you remember the time when…?” and goes on to tell you how much what you did or said meant to them. They say it made the difference. Your heart is suddenly filled with joy.

Jesus’ command was to love as I have loved you. His love was limitless and knew no bounds; it was given to all. Jesus loves you and me. May we go forth and love as He loves you and me. Amen and amen!


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Central Command

Reading: 1st John 3: 18-24

Verse 23: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”.

We are reminded many times in 1st John that we are “children” of God. In calling followers of Jesus children of God, John is establishing a certain relationship. As children of God we have a father who loves us and cares for us. God is a father that wants the absolute best for His children. God is an understanding father that accepts us as we are yet always wants to see more out of us as we grow to become more and more like His Son, Jesus.

Like we are with our earthly fathers, we too want to please God our heavenly father. John echoes this as he writes, “we obey His commands and do what pleases Him”. The result is also the same as it is with our earthly fathers as we “receive from Him anything we ask”. My dad would have given me anything I wanted on two conditions: if he could and if it was good for me. Our heavenly father does not deal with the first limitation but does give in accordance with what is best for us.

John identifies a central command in today’s passage: “This is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another”. The first part is to believe in Jesus Christ. To do so we first confess Jesus as the Lord of our life and we accept Him as our Savior. In belief we receive the Holy Spirit, which dwells in us and leads and guides us to be ever more like Jesus. The second part of the command flows out of this first part. As we grow to be more and more like Jesus, we naturally do more and more of what He did. Jesus’ key action was to love others. This too is our command: love one another.

Both parts of this command are challenging at times. Our inner self seeks to be in control as the desires of the flesh rise up from time to time. At other times we find it hard to love one another as Satan works to separate us from His love by deceiving us and by telling us lies. Yet even the powerful allies of self and Satan cannot ever fully overcome the love of Jesus Christ that is in us. This love is always in us. John writes, “this is how we know… by the Spirit He gave us”. The Holy Spirit is also always at work, countering the desires of self and the work of Satan, always reminding us that we belong to Jesus and that we are a dearly beloved child of God. Thanks be to God for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May the Spirit ever lead and guide us. Amen.


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Love, Obey, Truth

Reading: John 14: 15-17

Verses 15 and 16: If you love me… over my commands… ask the Father… give you another Counselor.

Today’s three little verses pack a whallop.  Jesus is very direct and to the point.  We begin with, “If you love me” and there is almost an assumption that the disciples do love Jesus.  Perhaps we too like to make this same assumption about ourselves and others in our church or small group.  Jesus then goes on with the ‘then’ of His if-then statement: “… then you will obey what I command”.  There is an implication here.  It is implied that we will follow all of His commands.  It is not a smorgasbord that we can pick and choose from.  This is what makes loving and obeying so hard.  Jesus does not say over six out of ten or most.  He says that if we love Him we will obey His commands.  It is hard to do ‘all’.  One would say it is even impossible for us to do this on our own.

God knows this.  God had a few years experience with mankind before sending Jesus.  The people had always listened for a while.  No matter if it was Moses or David or Elijah or Zephaniah or Amos or John the Baptist – on our own we can only one for so long.  Sad to say, but even when we love God and Jesus, we are still tempted and we sometimes even sin.  So God’s plan came to include help. Jesus told the disciples that He would “ask the Father” and that God would “give you another Counselor”.  We know this Counselor by many names, but the most common is Holy Spirit.  Jesus refers to it as the “Spirit of truth” in our passage today.

The Holy Spirit brings truth in many ways.  First, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the truth we find in the Bible.  Second, the Holy Spirit leads and guides us in the truth, helping us to over the commands that Jesus gave.  The Holy Spirit nudges and whispers to help us be obedient.  Third, the Holy Spirit corrects and convicts us when we go astray.  It reminds us of the true path and helps us to seek forgiveness and to repent so we can return to walking in the truth.

Today, may our love of Jesus lead us to obedience to His commands.  May the Holy Spirit ever be present to us and may we ever be attentive to this presence in our lives.  All to bring honor and glory to God.


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Love as He Loved

Reading: John 13: 31-35

If it is really lived out, Jesus command to love one another as He first loved us is hard.  I imagine as this new command first landed on the disciples’ ears, they recalled good things Jesus did – healings, teachings, even things not recorded in the Bible.  But as they continued to think about this new command, maybe their thoughts drifted back to when Jesus healed ‘that guy’ or when He offered loving words to a lowly Samaritan.  Who knows what their prejudices, hang ups, or inner struggles were – we all have them.

We too can spend time with Jesus by reading and meditating on the Word.  Through time with the Word we come to see and understand what Jesus meant by this new command.  We may not understand the ancient cultural reasons why a Jew and Samaritan did not talk to one another but we can see that Jesus offered Himself to all He encountered.  He did not judge or look down on or condemn anyone.  Even in His confrontations and exchanges with the religious authorities there is a feeling that Jesus is truly sad that they don’t get it.  Each time they return to come at Him again, He tries to continue to teach them, to help them see that He really is the Messiah.

The kind of people who came to mind for the disciples and the religious authorities that always came at Jesus are like the people who make it hard for us to love all as Jesus loved.  Yet hard is not impossible.  We have an excellent example to follow in He who gave the command.  We will at times fail.  But the key is to realize our failure, to repent, and to resume the journey.  When we seek to love all as Jesus first loved us, our love will grow and we come to love one we just couldn’t love just the other day.  May our love grow and grow as we come to be more and more and more like Jesus.


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By Our Love

Reading: John 13: 1-17 and 31b-35

During the meal, Jesus gets up from the table and washes the disciples’ feet.  Here He is offering the basic cleaning.  In the culture of Jesus’ time there were three basic cleanings.  Sandals (or no shoes) were common and all roads… were dirt.  To cleanse the feet often was necessary.  The next level is referred to by Peter as he asks Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head.  This would be the typical daily bath.  What we know as a bath, to fully immerse in water, was definitely not a daily practice for most and was often communal.

The lesson Jesus was teaching, however, did not really have to do with hygiene but rather with status and authority.  Jesus was Lord and Teacher to the disciples.  In their eyes, He was the one to be served.  But here Jesus reverses the normal order.  The most becomes the least as He stoops to wash their feet.  His closing line of this section – you too will be blessed – when we serve one another – applies to us as well.

Jesus goes on to reinforce the idea of humble service as an example of sacrificial love.  He issues a new command: as I have loved you, do you must love one another.  This command is given just after Jesus again speaks of His imminent death and resurrection.  Surely the disciples would hear these words echoing in their heads and connect them to the ultimate act of humble service that Jesus performed on the cross.

We are all called to follow His example, although for most of us it does not lead to death on a cross.  Our ‘death’ is to die to self, to the things of this world.  Jesus calls us to offer ourselves in sacrificial love to others.  To  love each other in the body of Christ, to love those who are hard to love, to love those who hurt us, to love those who cannot love us back, to love one and all – we are to love as Jesus first loved us.  Why? So they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.


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God’s Law

The psalmist declares how wonderful is it is live according to God’s laws.  These perfect and trustworthy laws are more previous than gold for the psalmist.  How these two ideas run counter to our secular culture!  Society is nothing if not tolerant and tells us to live however makes us happy.  In society today, little is more important than wealth, so how could one possibly hold the law above accumulating wealth?

The beginning of Psalm 19 speaks of how the sun encompasses all with its light.  The same is true of God’s laws.  Although many will try to hide from His law, it surrounds them like the sun.  No one can really hide because in the end there will be a consequence for this choice.  So as people living under this perfect law, it is our call and command to show others the joy and peace and contentment we find in God’s ways.

In following God’s law we find life that is truly life.  His ways bring wisdom, enlighten our path, and gives joy to our heart.  The law also protects us from our human nature within.  It leads us away from living for our human desires and helps us to find contentment and peace in what God blessed us with from out of His goodness.  His ways allow us to live good, orderly, happy lives.

To live according to God’s laws and as He intended us to live is harder than living by the world’s ways.  It is a hard choice to make in today’s culture.  The culture says that getting more and more and more is the path to the good life.  But we know where that path ends up.  There is a more perfect way – the way of God.  May we live by God’s ways this day and every day so that we find true peace, joy, and contentment in this earthly life and in the eternal life that is to come.

Scripture reference: Psalm 19: 7-14