pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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God in Us

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 16-23

Through Jesus we have a personal, tangible connection to God.  Just as at Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended and dwelled in Him, so too does the Spirit come and dwell in us once we ask Jesus into our hearts.  Once we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then we live with God’s presence within us.  This personal, tangible connection is so much more powerful than God just dwelling in the temple or only being found in our churches today.

Because Christ dwells in us once we accept His Lordship, the living presence of God makes each of us holy.  Once the Spirit dwells in us, we are carriers of Christ’s holiness, we are bearers of His light and love.  There can be no presence of darkness in our hearts once Jesus dwells there.  Yes, Satan can whisper lies and dangle bright, shiny objects before us, but he cannot abide in our hearts.  Once we invite Christ in then Satan must work on the perifery of our lives.  Once we begin to live as a Christ-follower, we are filled with Christ’s goodness and are able to tap into that to make Satan flee.

There also communal aspects to Christ dwelling in us.  The living Spirit within causes us to look outward instead of inward.  Christ living in us gives us eyes that see with compassion and empathy and understanding and hope and love.  Through His eyes we see needs and places to share our faith.  Through Christ’s presence in us we are moved to action, being His hands and feet in our world.  This same outward focus helps us build community with our fellow believers.  In the same way that we focus outward with those in need, we also look to be of service to one another and to our communities of faith.  We share and use the gifts and talents that God has given each of us to build up one another for service outside the church walls.

The indwelling of God in us is a wonderful thing.  It forever changed us and our role in the church and in the larger community.  Each day may we live into all God calls us to be, allowing God to work in, through, and out of us.


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Gospel of Love

Reading: Isaiah 58: 9b-12

Isaiah calls upon faithful Israelites to live out their faith by being compassionate and by reaching out to the hungry and others in need.  He calls for God’s people to break the yokes of oppression and to “spend” oneself meeting the needs of the less fortunate.  There are two components that drive this call.  One is outward and one is inward.  The outward component is the love that flows throughout the Bible.  The call to love one another without limitation is modeled by God in the covenant with Israel.  It is the promise to love no matter what.  This model is continued in the love for all of mankind exhibited and lived out by Jesus.  The call to love our neighbors as self that began in Leviticus 19:18 is repeated in the New Testament ad Jesus declared this one of the two great commandments.  This love involves “spending” oneself for others.

The second component is inward.  When we live life as compassionate people spending ourself for others, then God is at work within us.  When we are givers instead of takers, we see and live life in a new way.  We ourselves become so much more aware of and grateful for all the ways that God blesses us.  This inner attitude of gratitude is contagious, leading us to reach out to others, to meet their needs, to work to root out injustices they face, and to end any oppression that they are living under.  When we are faithful in living out the gospel of love, God renews us with His love and watches over us with His care.

On our mission trip last summer, one group was working in a park.  During a morning water break a man in need wandered over.  The group gave him some water and talked with him for a few minutes.  Later, at lunch time, a girl noticed the man on a bench across the park.  She walked over and gave the man her sack lunch.  Another youth brought over a bottle of water.  Compassion for one in need.  Loving others as God loves us.  Thinking of others above self.  It was a great witness to God’s love.  May we too be willing bearers of the light and love of Christ.


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Every Day

Reading: Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Isaiah opens today’s passage speaking about a people who appear to be in search of God.  They appear to be seeking God and to be eager to draw near to God.  The people are fasting and ask God, ‘have you not seen it’?  Isaiah goes on to explain how the fast they are choosing is far from pleasing to God.  They may be skipping the food, but they are not drawing close to God.  Instead they exploit their workers and quarrel and fight amongst themselves.  Their fast is only lip service to God.

I believe this problem persists to this day.  Some go to church every Sunday morning but are not engaged in worship.  They consider their day or week ahead during the message, they nod off during prayer time.  Even though they were only physically present, they still ask God and others, ‘Didn’t you see me in church’?  Isaiah asked if a fast consisted of only bowing one’s head and wearing sackcloth.  We could ask, is Sunday only for warming a pew and standing and sitting when everyone else does?

Isaiah goes on to describe the fast that is pleasing to God.  It is one that loosens the chains of injustice and unties the cords of the yoke, one that sets the oppressed free, one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.  It is a fast that draws one close to God so that one is transformed to be more like God, to be filled with compassion and to be moved to act on behalf of the lost, the least, and the lonely.  It is a fast that takes place in the heart, not upon the lips.

This too must be how we practice our faith.  We cannot preach compassion on Sunday morning and then turn our backs on those in need.  We must be moved to engage those who are struggling and are in need.  We cannot worship God on Sunday morning and then exploit our workers on Monday.  We cannot lift our voices in praise on Sunday and then curse and gossip at the restaurant on Tuesday.  The faith we practice on Sunday and each day as we read our Bibles and say our prayers must be the same faith we live out every moment of every day.  It must be so.  May it be so today and every day.


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Praying for Our Leaders

Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7 and 10-14

A good king in Israel would rule with justice and righteousness.  A good king would protect the people and provide for their needs.  A good king was sensitive to the needs and concerns of the poor and needy, giving them voice and meeting their basic needs.  A good king ruled according to God’s will.  The people prayed daily for the King, asking God to bless their reign with justice and righteousness.  Life was simply better when a good king reigned.

Today we do not have kings but have presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, senators, representatives, judges, governors, legislators, mayors, councilmen, and councilwomen.  The titles have changed by the roles should not.  As whatever level one serves, it should still be with righteousness and justice.  All should serve for the good of the people and the prosperity of the nation, state, city, or community.  It should not be a self-serving role.  Our role should not change either.  Our role is still to pray daily for all of our leaders.

As the people of God, we should pray each day for our leaders, at all levels, whether or not we align with their political leanings.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to govern with righteousness and justice, with compassion and understanding.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and the outcasts, for those without voice.  Each day we should pray that our leaders would lead according to God’s will.  And each day we should pray for our leaders to know and walk with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

May we be faithful in our daily prayers for our leaders so that God’s blessings and justice and righteousness may touch the land.  May we ever lift up our leaders so that God’s glory may shine through them.


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Love Lived Out

Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44

No one knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return.  There will be no mistaking it when He returns.  Our passage today speaks about one being taken and one being left behind.  The rapture will be the first unmistakable sign.  With all this in mind, Jesus urges us to always be ready.  If we are ever seeking to live a life worthy of Jesus’ example, we will always be ready for the moment He returns.

Salvation is something we do not lose once we declare that Jesus is Lord and Savior of our life.  Once we receive Jesus into our heart, we are saved.  This status does not change.  But for many people, they have not chosen to accept Jesus as Lord.  For some, it is an intentional choice.  They are still choosing self even though they fully understand what Jesus offers.  They are not willing to surrender.  For others, they do not know who Jesus is or how Jesus can work in their lives or maybe how to begin a relationship with Jesus.  In all of these scenarios, all are lost and need to enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

One of our primary roles as followers of Jesus is to share the good news with the world.  We do this in our daily lives.  It is both our words and our actions.  In our words are love, compassion, mercy, grace, understanding, forgiveness…  In our actions we are a servant to all, humbly doing for others.  Another role we play is prayer warrior.  Just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for each of us, we too are called to pray for one another.  Sometimes our prayers are general – asking God to help our church reach out or helping us see opportunities that God places before us.  Some prayers are more specific – for a certain person or situation, for God to work in a loved one’s heart, for someone we know is sensing God’s hand at work in their life.

Each and every day may we be God’s love lived out – in our actions, in our words, in our prayers.  May we be love to the world.


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The Journey On

Reading: Colossians 1: 15-20

Jesus, Paul declares, is the “firstborn of all creation”.  Since the beginning of time, Jesus has been the creator and the purpose for all that has been created.  He is therefore supreme over all.  Yet counter to all of this, Jesus is also the one who humbled Himself to death on a cross, becoming the “firstborn from among the dead”.  In doing so, Jesus became the way to true and eternal life.  Only through His blood can we be made righteous.

Jesus rule and example were so countercultural.  Jesus loved instead of conquered.  Jesus healed instead of killed.  Jesus forgave instead of holding grudges.  Jesus sacrificed instead of taking advantage.  Jesus offered compassion instead of judgment.  In all these ways, Jesus gave us an example we can each follow.  Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, servant.  Jesus’ power comes from His heart, not from His brain or His brawn.  We are each born with the spark of the divine in our hearts.  We can thus all live a life that follows the ways of Jesus.  We were created in His image, intended to follow after Jesus as His disciples.

Next Sunday begins a new year in the church calendar as Advent begins.  Like the end of the calendar year, may it be a time when we pause and take stock of our journey of faith.  John Wesley called this life of faith a “journey towards perfection”.  It is a place we never reach, yet one we should always be arriving towards.  Jesus was the perfect example of God’s love lived out.  This week may we look at our journeys of faith – at both our times moving forward and at our times of failure.  May we each commit to a year of growth in our faith, seeking to ever become more and more like Jesus Christ, the one true King, the one and only Way.  May it be so.