pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Come and See

Reading: Psalm 66: 1-12

Verse 5: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”.

Psalm 66 speaks of God’s love for the faithful. The psalmist encourages us to shout with joy and to sing the glory of his name. When we consider the deeds of God, they are very awesome. Verse five invited us into praise and into these deeds, saying, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf”. Rejoice in what the Lord has done!

Yesterday I had the privilege of leading worship at the two assisted living facilities in town. The message I shared was based on 2nd Timothy 4. In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy to preach the good news with patience. As I was working on the message earlier in the week, it occurred to me that the second half of the passage, verses six through eight, spoke not only of how Paul had “fought the good fight” but of how many who would gather in those rooms had done so as well. I shared with them how it brought me great joy and how it encouraged me as I thought of the witness to the faith that they have lived out their 70, 80, and even 90+ years. With slightly teary eyes I thanked them for their examples of faith.

In Psalm 66 the writer first focuses in on when God led the people through the waters on dry land. Whether this refers to the parting of the sea or of the Jordan River or both does not matter. Either way it recalls the story of when God acted on behalf of the people. A little later, in verses ten through twelve, the psalmist recalls another time when God acted. It could refer to the exodus from Egypt or the return from exile in Babylon. Again, in either case, these were seasons of difficulty that ended with God’s action and in the long run increased their faith.

In our faith journeys we have these experiences too. We have all been rescued by God. We have all come through a trial with a stronger faith. We too have “come and see” stories of the awesome things that God has done in our lives. Like the psalmist, may we also share the story of our God who reigns forever.

Prayer: O God of all the earth, how wonderful are the works of your hands. I rejoice in the words of the Bible when I read of your actions. I also rejoice in the ways you have been and are at work in my life. Thank you for your abiding presence and for your constant love. Amen.

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Let Us…

Reading: Hebrews 10: 19-25

Verse 21: “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…”

Jesus opened the way for us – “a new and living way” – to enter into God’s presence. No longer is access limited to the one person chosen by lot to enter on everyone else’s behalf. “Since we have a great high priest over the house of God…” All who call on Jesus Christ as Lord can enter into God’s presence through Jesus.

In today’s reading there are four “Let us…” statements that are responses to the access provided by Jesus, our great high priest. They begin with “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart”. With an assurance that we are cleansed from our sins, we draw close to God. The second is “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”. We hold fast because God, the one who made the promise, is always faithful. The covenant to be our God and to always love us is neverending. We hold fast to our faith because we have the promise of God’s presence and love.

The third statement is “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. We begin by loving each other as Jesus first loved us. In this model, we will be people who go out and love others. Our good deeds are the vehicle to express that love. The fourth statement goes along with the third. “Let us encourage one another”. We do so by meeting together regularly – not just for Sunday morning worship but also for Bible study and prayer, for food and fellowship, and one on one to mentor and support.

These four statements are great reminders to us that we are in this together. They were given to a people living under pressure in an increasingly pagan world. This sounds familiar. In our post-Christian world, this day and each day may we cling to these “Let us…” statements. Amen.

Prayer: Lord God, today remind me of your promises and your love. Lead me to draw close in true faith, assured of your love. Help me to meet with and to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ so that we may encourage one another to be your hands and feet, your salt and light in a lost and hurting world. May it be so this day and every day. Amen.


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Foundation

Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 10-11

In the Old Testament, God was the foundation of the Israelites’ faith.  God drew near to them in the pillars of fire and cloud, in the fall of Jericho, in the fire that fell from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, and in other silimar events.  God also drew near through the voice of the prophets – sharing the Law and other instructions, plus blessings and warnings.  God spoke through Moses and Abraham and Samuel and Nathan and many other people.

As we move into the New Testament, the foundation becomes Jesus, God incarnate.  In Jesus, God draws nearer than ever before.  In Jesus, humanity could see and touch and talk to God.  In taking on the flesh, God chooses to accept human limitations and ultimately suffering and death – all to draw near to us so that we could draw nearer to Him.  In this, God demonstrates the depth of His love for us.  In this, we see a God who loves us so much that there is nothing He wouldn’t do to bring healing and hope to the world.

Paul came to know Jesus as the only way to salvation and, eventually, to eternal life.  While here in the flesh, God said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  After Paul encountered the risen Christ, his life was radically altered.  For the rest of his life, Paul worked tirelessly to proclaim faith in Christ alone.  In today’s passage, Paul writes of the one foundation being Jesus Christ.  For Paul, and for us, there can be no other foundation.

When we claim Jesus as our foundation, we choose to stand upon the Rock.  Jesus becomes for us the source of all of our strength and peace and the filter for all of our decisions.  In Him alone we find contentment, hope, peace, comfort, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and love.  Out of this great love for us, God dwells in our hearts so that we can be bearers of all this, bringing Christ to a world in need.  Like Paul, we too may lay a foundation of Jesus Christ in other people’s lives through our words, actions, and deeds.  May we also strive to be expert builders, sharing our Lord and Savior with all we meet.


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Heart Faith

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 17-18

Paul understood the role that Christ called him to: to preach the gospel.  It was a call he received directly from Jesus himself on the road to Damascus.  This would become Paul’s life work: preaching the gospel.  In proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul spoke from the hesrt, not from the head.  Paul knew that fancy words, the wisdom of the world, even impassioned rhetoric, would never convince someone of faith.  He knew these approaches “emptied the power of the cross” because one cannot be argued into believing.  One cannot be led through a linear progression to arrive at faith.  Paul knew his witness and testimony must come from the heart and not the head.

This is because the cross defies logic and understanding from the human perspective.  Paul writes, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing”.  That a loving father would allow his son to die for the mistakes of others is illogical.  That Jesus came for the very purpose of going to the cross for our sins is hard to understand.  Why would someone do that?  If one approaches the cross and the message of the gospel trying to make sense of it all, then it does appear as foolishness.  Faith comes from the heart, not the head.

Jesus spoke to Paul and gave him directions to follow.  In Paul’s mind this encounter had to seem crazy, really impossible.  “Did that just happen?” would have been foremost in his mind.  But Jesus wasn’t working in Paul’s mind, He was working in his heart.  Ananias was sent to Paul and, in the name of Jesus, healed his blindness and Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Paul was baptized and soon began preaching in the synagogues.  Paul opened his heart to Jesus and the Holy Spirit came flooding in.  From then on, Paul was dedicated to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with all he met.  The story was always from the heart, because that is where Jesus lived inside of Paul.

Our task is the same: “go and make disciples of all nations”.  Some of us will do that by telling others the good news of Jesus Christ and what He has done in our lives.  Some of us will show Jesus in our heart by how we live our life.  Some of us will let the love of Christ tell the story as it spills out of our hearts and into the lives of those affected by our actions.  There are many ways to proclaim the good news.  May we open our hearts today, allowing the gospel of Christ to radiate out in our words, actions, and deeds.


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Marvelous Deeds

Reading: Psalm 72: 18-19

Our short passage for today so well sums up the spirit of this time of year.  “Praise be to the Lord our God, who alone does marvelous deeds”.  In the bringing forth of the baby Jesus, God indeed did a wonderful thing.  But the list is much longer than this.  Take a moment or two and make a little mental list of the marvelous deeds that God has blessed you with in your life.  Praise be to the Lord our God indeed!

The passage ends with, “May the whole earth be filled with his glory”.  When we praise God for all of the marvelous deeds and wonderful blessings in our lives, we bring God alone the glory.  It is through us that glory is brought to God.  We can bring God glory in many ways.  It can be in our private prayer time.  It can be by singing a song or hymn that offers thanks to God or brings glory to God for the marvelous deeds that he has done.  It can be in the ways we speak to others and in the way we treat them that we bring glory to God.

This day, may we be cognizant of and thankful for all of the marvelous deeds of God.  And may our joyous and grateful response bring God the glory!  Amen and amen.


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His Love

Reading: Acts 9: 36-43

As human beings one of our greatest non-physical needs is to belong. As social creatures, we need to feel like we are a part of the group and that we matter to others.  In turn we feel a need to have others feel that they  matter to us, that they are important parts of our life.

In today’s reading this is shown as a dear friend, Tabitha, passes away.  She seems to be the glue that held this small community together, so the grief is especially deep.  She not only shared her presence and love with her friends, she also showed it in her actions and in how she gave physical gifts to them as well.  Her friends and the two disciples who are present decide to send for Peter, who is in a nearby town.  The depth of love in this small community is amazing.

The depth of this love has power.  The level of caring is evident.  Peter comes and cares for Tabitha’s friends by restoring their dear friend to life.  By the power of this miracle many outside the group of friends come to believe in the Lord.

We too use the love of Jesus to form bonds of friendship among fellow believers.  Through study and fellowship we can find deep, caring relationships that meet our need to belong and to matter to others.  In turn we care for and love one another in acts of presence and in acts of service and in sharing together the love we find in Jesus.

This same love and actions that emulate His love and example can be brought out into the world.  Just as Tabitha’s resuscitation brought new believers to faith in Christ, our words and acts of service to others can help them to come to know Christ.  Our words and deeds may not be miracles in and of themselves like the miracle in today’s story, but they are the seeds that one day can lead to another coming to know Christ.  It is all about planting seeds and sharing His love.  May we plant well today!


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Our Words

Isaiah 50:4 reads, “The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.”  God’s word is a guide to us too and can also be a mean of holding us accountable.  His word is always true.

Our words can be both good and bad, truth and lies.  We can use our words to teach about God, to encourage and bring hope, to counsel and correct.  But we can also use our words to bring conflict, strife, and disagreements.  Because our words are so powerful, we must choose them carefully.  The expression “Think before you speak” comes to mind.

Despite the power of our words, our actions often ‘speak’ louder.  Anyone can talk.  Anyone can say almost anything they want.  But most think that what we do is more indicative of who or what we really are.

The reality is that for all of us, both our words and our actions must mesh, must come from the same source.  The Word of God is that source.  To matter in our world, as Christians we must act and speak the words of love, healing and justice all the time.  The message of Jesus needs to come through loud and clear in all of what we say and do.  In order to speak and act on God’s word, we need to be in the word.  Happy reading!!