pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Light

Reading: Matthew 5: 13-16

Upon entering the old gold mining shaft, it seems like the old coffee can lanterns are just not very bright.  But as we proceed and our eyes adjust to the darkness of the cave, those little candles seem awfully bright.  Usually when we get to the small room at the end of the main tunnel, we have a short devotional and then blow out all the candles.  In that moment it is absolutely dark.  After a short prayer, we relight one candle.  It seems so bright.  As we pass the light from one lantern to the next, the small room becomes brightly illuminated.

Jesus’ words today speak of us being a light in the darkness.  We need to be a light because, in the world, there is much darkness.  Satan created much darkness in people’s lives.  Through the lies and deceptions Satan tricks and leads many into sin.  Jesus calls us to be the light that shines into this darkness in people’s lives.  Just as the small candle lit up that room in the cave, the light of Christ within us can expose what lingers in the dark.  Sometimes the light is a relief as it spreads and casts out the darkness.  Sometimes the light is very bright at first and causes one to recoil – just like that one candle that was relit after the time in darkness.  But gradually the light is welcomed as the love of Christ begins to work in their heart.

The light we bring is so often what one living in darkness so desires.  When one feels stuck or lost in life and does not know where to turn or how to even get moving, the light can guide their path as the Holy Spirit gets ahold of them.  When one is mired in the pain or loss or grief that life has brought, the light brings warmth and hope in the arms of the great Comforter.  When one is trapped in addiction or some other situation, the light reveals the first steps of recovery as the loving Healer touches their life.  When one cannot see past their doubt or feelings of unworthiness, the light of the compassionate Redeemer takes them by the hand and pours in love and value as a child of God.

We are children of the Light.  “Let your light shine before all men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.  Be the light today!

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Light

Reading: Isaiah 9: 1-4

Today Isaiah brings a joyful pronouncement.  Although there was much darkness and oppression when Isaiah spoke this prophecy, it brought hope.  Yet the darkness and oppression remained.  When Jesus was born, the prophecy was fulfilled.  Out of Bethlehem, from out of the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, came Jesus, the Savior and light of the world.  Jesus was and is the great light of the world.  Yet still the darkness and oppression remained.  These forces of evil remain to this day.  So too does the light of the world.  The Lord Jesus Christ still reigns, still seeks to win people’s hearts, still works to shine light into the darkness.

In His day, Jesus walked the earth and taught and healed and brought hope.  Jesus Christ worked to bring the kingdom of God to the earth.  In doing so, Jesus offered hope and mercy and forgiveness and relationship to all He met.  His offer is the same today.  But for people to meet Jesus today, they must meet Him in the Word of God and in us.  One can begin with the Word, but I believe people learn best by seeing and experiencing.  The most effective way we have of sharing Jesus is not by giving someone a Bible, but by sharing what it looks like to live out the Bible by how we live our lives.

Jesus began a great work by defeating the power of sin and death.  Through the cross and the tomb, Jesus freed us from these chains.  He did this so that we who are imperfect could follow the example of He who was perfect.  It is our task, as loved and redeemed people, to help others to come to live as loved and redeemed people.  We do so by continuing the work of Jesus.  We go forth and shine light into the dark places; we work to end oppression and to bring justice; and, we live on people just as Jesus loves on us.

A light has dawned… we have seen a great light.  May we go forth, eager to share the light of Christ as we seek to bring the good news to the ends of the earth.


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Shine

Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Today is Epiphany!  Just as the wise men appeared to reveal and celebrate the birth of Jesus, so too do we arrive today, celebrating the gift of Jesus in our lives.  Like the wise men, we too are called to reveal Jesus to the world.  The star led the way for the wise men.  Today, the light of the Son of Man leads the way for you and me.  The light of Christ guides our path and illumines our decisions.  We need the light.  So too does a world living in darkness.

Verse one begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come”.  Yes indeed!  Jesus Christ has come and His light is in our hearts.  Verse two continues, “the Lord rises upon you, and His glory appears over you”.  God is present in us, His glory waiting to be revealed through us.  Our call as disciples of Jesus Christ is to take the light of Christ out into the world with us.  This verse reminds us that God is present with each of us and that His glory will appear over us as we live out our faith in the world.

The world can be a dark place.  Many people struggle with darkness in our world and in all of our communities.  For some, the struggle is with homelessness or poverty or prejudice or abuse or discrimination or injustice or addiction.  For others the struggle is with pride or control or possessions or position or ego or self-centeredness.  The world can be a dark place when we struggle with these issues.  There is great need in our world for the light of Christ.

We are each that light.  We each carry Christ in our hearts.  Can you see that light within you shining out into a dark world?  Can you see yourself being the light for just one person in need of God’s love?  We are called to arise and shine!  This day, this day of Epiphany, may we each shine God’s light into the world, bringing honor to Christ the Lord!


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Healing, Light, Justice

Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-9

As the new year lays out before us, it beckons us to look forward.  This time of year also causes us to look back, to consider the year that has just ended.  It is often a time of evaluation, of setting goals or realigning our priorities, and of taking stock of our lives.  All of these are good and healthy things to do.  When we take time to reflect on our lives, we live much more beyond ourselves and past the daily grind of life.

Today’s passage speaks of this idea of a life bigger than our own little worlds.  The opening verse begins by declaring, “Here is my servant… my chosen one in whom I delight”.  God speaks this of you and of me.  We each are so much more than this collection of cells.  We are God’s children, chosen by God to live a life of service to God.  This spiritual life calls us beyond ourselves and the day to day of life.  As God’s chosen ones, we are called to others.  The rest of verse one reads, “I will put my Spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations”.  As God’s chosen ones we are gifted with the Holy Spirit.  This gift helps us to live into God’s calling.  To me, this means truly living out the second commandment that Jesus gave: love neighbor.  There are, of course, many ways we can love our neighbors – bringing justice is just one of them.

After reminding us the He will take hold of our hand, will keep us, and will make us a covenant and a light for the Gentiles, God goes on to get specific about how we are to bring justice and to love our neighbors.  As a covenant to and a light for the people, God calls us to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release those in “dungeons of darkness”.  I believe this call is both spiritual and physical.  God wants us each to be a part of the healing of the world.  He wants us to help people through the power of Jesus’ name.  It may be physically restoring someone’s vision or helping someone learn how to make different choices so that they do not end up back in prison.  It may be opening their eyes to the Word of God so that they are freed from the chains and darkness of sin.  And for many, it is both physical and spiritual healing that God desires us, His chosen ones, to bring to the broken of our world.

As we each reflect back on our past year and look forward to the year ahead, may part of our time be spent considering how each of us can specifically bring healing and light and justice to those living in a broken world.


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Light

Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7

“On those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned”.  The light of the world reigns with righteousness and justice.  The good news of Jesus Christ is here.  In our world, where many live in darkness, this is very good news.  The light of Jesus both shows the way and also exposes the things done in the dark.

At times, life can be challenging, it can be hard.  This can be for a short season and often the holidays are a hard time.  For some it is because of loss – loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a relationship.  For some it is the stress of the season – so much to do and buy, so little time and money, such high expectations.  Into these and into all situations, Jesus wants to shine the light that shows the way.  Jesus’ light reveals hope, grace, contentment.  Jesus wants to remove pain and burdens and to give us peace, rest, and joy this season.

Jesus’ light can also shine into our darkness.  In the light, the dark is cast aside.  Nothing can hide.  For some, this illuminating light banishes fears and doubts and brings reassurance and trust.  For some, the light illuminates our sins and makes us aware of our need for repentance and change.  Maybe we realize we are being greedy with our wish list or gluttonous with our spending.  Maybe we are being stingy with our time or withholding of our forgiveness.  The light shines into our darkness and calls us back to the path of following Jesus.

We all need the light.  The light leads to life lived in peace, joy, contentment.  The light reveals what truly matters in our world – love, fellowship, family, presence, time.  This Advent season, may we joyously live in the light, sharing the light of the world with all who cross our path this day.


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Shine

Reading: Psalm 80: 4-7 & 17-19

It is dark outside.  The street lights and Christmas lights shine brightly in the cool, crisp air.  In dark places, even one small light can seem so bright.

The psalmist also writes of darkness, although it is a different kind of darkness.  Our Psalm today speaks of “eating the bread of tears” and drinking tears “by the bowlful”.  At times this is the darkness we experience.  Life has become difficult and we feel like we are alone in the dark.  If not us right now, it is true for someone we know.  This time of year can be particularly hard for folks.  For all those who are in pain and feel like they are in darkness or in a dark place, one small light can seem so bright.  God’s love is that light.

Light shines into darkness, casting the dark away.  There can be no darkness in the presence of light.  Whether it is depression or loss or loneliness, darkness can settle in like an unbearable weight.  Often with the darkness comes a loss of hope.  A kind word, a simple gesture, a warm invitation, a gentle hug, a short prayer offered, just our presence – all bring light into darkness.  All bring God’s love to bear.  None of these human efforts, by themselves, cures depression or loss or loneliness, but they bring in God’s love, they begin a step in the right direction.

The psalmist writes, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon us”.  When we reach out, when we pray, when we offer our presence, then we are helping God’s light to shine in dark places.  God’s love can restore anyone and can heal any brokenness.  May we be willing bearers of the light and love this day.  May our lives help God’s light shine into the dark places of light.  In dark places, one light can seem so bright.


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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.