pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Pray, Trust, Know

Reading: Matthew 14: 22-25

Verse 25: Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

After feeding the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples off across the lake.  They were a crew that liked to stay with Jesus.  We do not have very many examples where Jesus creates separation from the disciples.  But in today’s passage, Jesus “made” them get in the boat and head across the lake.  Our passage reveals three reasons Jesus did this and they are lessons for us as well.

The first is Jesus’ desire for solitude.  After dismissing the crowd, Jesus goes up the mountain to pray.  Jesus often found space and alone time to talk with God.  It is one of the best models He gives us and one we should seek to practice often.

The second is Jesus’ desire for the disciples to trust Him.  We do not know if Jesus foresaw the storm but we do know the last time they were out on this lake they feared for their lives.  They have a recent bad experience with this lake and a storm.  It was when Jesus awoke and calmed the storm that they felt safe again.  Now they head out without Jesus.  They must trust in His continued care even though He is not physically present with them.  At times, so must we.

The third is to demonstrate Jesus’ absolute power over everything.  In the middle of the night, as the boat is buffeted by wind and waves, “Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”.  As the storm goes on, the disciples’ fears must have escalated.  Memories of almost sinking and now being without Jesus must have created some tension in the boat.  Jesus finishes praying and He returns to the disciples.  To see Jesus walking on the water must have helped solidify their belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  Just as God is, so too is Jesus omnipotent.  Knowing that Jesus is truly Lord of all brings us great comfort and reassurances as we journey through life.  To pray often and to trust always and to know Jesus Christ as Lord of all, these are the building blocks of our faith.

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I Am Sending You

Reading: Matthew 10: 1-23

Verse 16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to “drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease”.  In this passage today, they are being sent to fellow Jews.  Jesus calls these the “lost sheep” – tying back to why He had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9:36.  The twelve are first to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and then to heal diseases, raise the dead, and drive out demons.  The authority Jesus gives them to perform miracles will lend credence to the message they bring.

As we go out into the world, we go for the same reasons.  We go to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we work to heal a broken world.  Each of us who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior has a story to tell that will be good news for others.  Each of us can love and serve others too.  We may not be able to work miracles, but by caring for basic needs and by giving of our time and talents we do bring healing.  It is through our loving acts of service that we too gain footing to share Jesus with the lost.

Jesus warned the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”.  There is a defenselessness that comes to mind with this statement.  It requires trust in the Shepherd.  He goes on to advise them to be on guard against men.  Jesus warns them that persecution is going to be a part of the journey.  He also tells them that the Spirit will be with them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  And then Jesus encourages them, stating that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  Keep the faith, I am with you.

We too are sometimes sent to people or places that make us feel like sheep among wolves.  We too must trust into the lead, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit.  In those uncomfortable or outside our comfort zone times, if we keep the faith the Spirit will give us just the right words to say as well.  May we be like the twelve, trusting He who sends, going forth to share the good news and to bring healing to our broken world.  May our light draw others in to Jesus Christ – the One who saves.


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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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Therefore Go

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus came and stood among the believers one last time.  In that crowd were people with a range of faith.  Some were fully sold out and were ready to go and do anything Jesus said to do.  Some were simply full of doubt – was this really Jesus?  Does He really expect me to do this?  The bulk of those there that day in Galilee as followers of Jesus Christ probably fell somewhere between these two extremes.  And in reality, that is where most of us live out our faith lives each day.

It is important to note that Jesus did not talk to the group of believers and then call aside the few that were on fire to give the commission to.  He did not pull aside Peter, James, and John and give them special instructions or powers.  This same inclusiveness is seen on Pentecost when the Spirit falls on ALL believers.  So Jesus said to the whole crowd, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.  He said it to the doubters and skeptics and those new to the faith as well as to those who would give their lives for the gospel.  Jesus was building up a community of faith, not a group of church leaders.  Jesus knew that the people would be won to Christ one heart at a time.  Therefore, it will require all of the believers to bring the good news to all nations.

That day in Galilee, there were certainly some names we know present.  But there were dozens and dozens there whose names we will never know.  All there that day were commissioned.  Why?  Because all who were there knew the love of Jesus and that is all one needs to share Jesus with others.  That is why the commission falls to us as well.  All who know the love of Christ in their hearts are called to go and make disciples so that all nations can be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This day and every day, may each of us seize the opportunities we have to share the good news of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


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Be and Share

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul writes of the mystery of God.  This mystery is often seen as the wisdom of God.  Paul writes of the mystery being revealed to the prophets and apostles.  When we think back to Isaiah and Daniel and Elijah and to Paul himself, we can certainly see God’s wisdom revealed in and through these men.

Paul also writes of the whole body of Christ.  To Paul, in this writing, part of the mystery was about the Gentiles becoming part of the family.  As the New Testament unfolds, we come to understand ‘Gentiles’ as all people who do not know God.  We come to understand that there is no one God will not welcome into the family.  As the New Testament continues to unfold, we also come to see all people as messangers and bearers of God’s Word.  We look back on the great commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19 and see it as written to not only the disciples but to each of us as well.

For most of us, the mystery, or wisdom, of God is revealed through the scriptures.  As we read the Word of God and as the Holy Spirit works in us, we too come to better understand the wisdom of God.  In part, we apply this wisdom or understanding to how we live our lives.  We work to live lives that are pleasing to God as we seek to follow His ways.  In this manner we are living out the mystery.

We are also called to share the mystery.  As disciples of Jesus Christ living in today’s world, we are called to bear the great mystery of God to others – to make disciples of all nations.  Just as Paul spoke and wrote to the Ephesians so that they would come to understand the mystery of God so that they could live a life of faith, so too are we to bring the Word of God to the Gentiles of today.

Through the power of Jesus Christ, may we both be and share the holy mystery with others, all for the glory of God.


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Fully Trust

Reading: Luke 10: 1-11

For most of us, when we wake up in the morning, we know what our day is going to look like.  We tend to be creatures of habit, creatures of routine, creatures of schedules and lists.  We tolerate interruptions to our day fairly well if we perceive them as something good.  Not to say we plan every second, but we do not like the unknown too much and we feel more in control when we plan, organize, and prepare.  For as long as mankind has walked the earth, this has been true.  Societies like order, law, and norms; this is a reflection of who we are as individuals.

Step into the shoes of one of Jesus’ disciples.  He seems to be a wanderer of sorts.  He seems to get up every morning and goes where He is led.  You wake up in Jericho but may not go to sleep there.  The day begins heading toward Bethlehem but you end up in Bethany.  At first it was a little uncomfortable and disconcerting just going wherever.  But over time you’ve come to see that no matter where you are or who us around, Jesus seems fully in control.  You seem to usually get fed and there is almost always a roof over your sleeping spot.  Over these months you’ve really come to trust in Him and to rely on Him for, well, for everything.

Then one morning you get up and gather around for the usual morning devotional.  You smile because today you see Jesus is leading the devotional time.  But today, instead of teaching Jesus gives instructions.  He says we are to go out two by two, by ourselves.  We are to try and bring His peace into the towns and villages that He will soon come to.  We are to preach that the kingdom of God is drawing near.  We are to heal the sick.  What?  Heal the sick?  He goes on – take nothing with you.  Nothing.  Jesus says we are to rely on those we go to for food, shelter…  Then He says, “Go!”

Jesus was calling on the disciples to trust Him.  He told them that He will still be with them even though He is not physically present with them.  Jesus tells them that they can go out and do what He has been doing because He is empowering them to go forth in His name to proclaim the good news and to bring healing to people’s brokenness.  Jesus is calling them to trust fully in Him.

What lies ahead for us today?  What all is on our to-do list?

Maybe not today because it’s already planned, but one day soon, may we each do what those first disciples did.  May we wake up and go out into our communities and neighborhoods, taking nothing but Jesus with us, but fully trusting in Him to lead and provide.  May we fully trust in Jesus Christ on that day.  It is a start.


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Planner Extraordinaire

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

God is a planner and schemer extraordinare.  The coming of the Holy Spirit came at a time and place that He chose.  A day or two earlier or later and the impact would have been vastly different.  And just like the doctor that can understand all the medical and physical events with his patient except for how the cancer is suddenly gone, we too must simply smile and chalk one up for God.

Thousands of years prior God had promised Abraham that His descendants would be as numerous as the stars.  Then hundreds of years later, once God’s people were settled into the Promised Land, He began Shavuot, a festival that would draw all faithful Jews from all over the known world to Jerusalem.  When God put these two events into motion, I believe He had already planned the day of Pentecost.

God clearly had a plan.  As those first disciples gathered and the Holy Spirit descended upon them, God also produced a wind loud enough to draw a large crowd.  Only by God’s divine hand would that crowd be a group of devout Jews from all over the world.  The Holy Spirit that had descended caused the disciples to speak the Word of God in each person’s native tongue.  Imagine the impact this had as each foreigner first picked up their language being spoken and then tuned in to hear the Word proclaimed!  Each one would have two amazing stories to tell: one of these simple Galileans speaking a language they did not know and, two, the story of the powerful Gospel.  3,000 believed and were baptized that day after Peter stood and preached the Gospel.  3,000 were ready to go back home, to carry the story of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  What a plan!

God has a plan for each of us as well.  May our eyes be open and our hearts willing to speak the words that one who crosses our path needs to hear today.  May we be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and may we faithfully speak the Words of Life that the Spirit brings to our lips!