pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Faithful God

Reading: Acts 16: 25-34

Verse 34: “He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family”.

Paul and Silas find themselves in prison. They were falsely accused, beaten, and thrown into prison. They could have been angry at the magistrates or the people who falsely accused them. They could have been mad at God. Either of these would have been our reactions. But instead we find them praying and singing hymns. We do not know if they were joyful in their spirits, having suffered for Jesus’ name. We do not know if they were fervrently praying for God to intervene in their bleak situation. We do not know if they were seeking the next opportunity to witness for Jesus Christ. We do know that in spite of their circumstances their faith was still very strong and was what they looked to first in this time of need.

We probably will not be falsely accused, beaten, and imprisoned today. We might face hardship or a difficult situation though. Maybe there are big stressors at work. Maybe an illness or disease has beset us or a loved one. Maybe we are dealing with a loss or a major change in life. There are many things that can befall us. These trials and tribulations can easily lead us to be angry or upset or to blame God. We often teeter on that line when we face distress. We can also tend to try everything but prayer and faith, turning to these options only when all else has failed. Today in our passage it is what Paul and Silas turn to first.

Paul and Silas are faithful to God and the calling that God has placed upon their lives. They see faith as primary and mission as secondary. All else does not matter too much. Because they are faithful, so too is God. A violent earthquake opens cell doors and unlocks chains that bind. The jailer fears the worst but Paul seizes the opportunity and offers a better solution. The jailer seeks what Paul and Silas have to offer, asking, “What must I do to be saved”? They preached Jesus Christ to him and “He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family”. God worked in another unexpected way, bringing one and his whole family to faith in Jesus Christ.

Who will we encounter today that will recognize the faith we have? Will we be prepared to share the joy and hope we have in Jesus Christ, encouraging another to believe and to be saved?

Prayer: Lord of salvation, give me a faith that overflows into all that I do and say and think today. May I turn first and only to you in all things – good and bad. Let my faith in you open doors and break chains today. May it be so. Amen.


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God Story

Reading: Psalm 116: 1-4 and 12-19

Verse 12: How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?

The psalmist begins by declaring his love for God because God heard his voice.  Because of God turning His ear to him, the psalmist commits to call on the Lord as long as he lives.  If only we were so steadfast in our relationship with God.  Sometimes we are more likely to coast in our relationship with God and then to ramp it up when trial or suffering set in on us.

I began my working career as a teacher.  I soon added ‘coach’ to my titles.  Shortly thereafter I added middle school Sunday school teacher.  That was the beginning of a long transition in my life.  Eventually I taught high school Sunday school and that led to working with the youth program.  God continued to work on my heart.  Almost seven years ago I left coaching and went to work serving part time as the youth director at my church.  Almost five years ago I left teaching and became a pastor.  God blessed my path in life and opened many doors for me.  This is one story.  While it is all true, it is not the whole story.

Eleven years and nine years ago I applied for the youth director’s job.  Twice I was not selected as the church hired someone else.  Rejection is always hard.  But perseverance is part of who I am.  And God’s call helped me to continue to be a part of the youths’ lives, He kept me engaged.  Those four years were a part of shaping me, a part of preparing me to do the job when God decided I was ready.  God’s timing is excellent.  It is perfect.

The first part of my story tells how God was at work in my life, slowly drawing me in.  The second part involves some trial and a little suffering, but it too is an essential part of my story.  Like the psalmist, I too must ask, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me”?  The first response is to tell my story of what God has done in my life.  The second is to do what the psalmist did: praise the Lord!  What is your God story?  How can you tell it?  And what is your responsive praise to God?


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Universal Love

Reading: Romans 4: 1-5 & 13-17

Paul’s writing today is all about inclusion.  At the time of this writing, Paul was trying to show how universal God’s love is.  Some were hung up on being circumcised and living under the Law as the requirements to be in God’s family.  Paul states that it by faith alone that we receive the promise.  It is through the promise that we are saved.  His argument is based upon salvation by grace alone.  Paul developed this line of thinking from the realization that no one can follow the Law enough or do enough good works to earn or deserve salvation.  Paul knew that it was only by God’s grace that anyone can be saved.  Paul personally experienced this in his own redemption story and it was his life’s work to bring in any and all into God’s family.

This is also our call as individuals and as churches.  There are many people who feel as if they are outside of God’s love.  Some feel they have done too much wrong or have too great a sin, some feel they are too broken, some feel they could never be good enough…  The list is long, the barriers are many.  To all of these people, Paul’s message is that no one is too anything to step into the love of God. All are loved by God.  This is our message to carry forth as well.  The doors of our hearts and the doors of all of our churches need to reflect this idea of universal inclusion.  This means we see all as God sees them, as a child of God.  Yes, they may be less than perfect.  We all are.  News flash.  And yet God offers us all love and grace and forgiveness.  Who are we to draw lines and put up barriers?

May we all have the courage to live out our faith.  May we all be willing to see lost people simply as they are: just another broken child of God who needs to meet their Father.  May each person that crosses our path or walks through the doors of our places of worship encounter the pure and universal love of God in us, opening the way for them to experience God’s love and grace and forgiveness.  God is for all people.  May we help it to be so today.


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One Matters

Reading: Psalm 99: 1-4

Psalm 99 begins by speaking of God’s love of justice and the nation’s response.  They tremble.  God’s justice is universal – it applies to all people.  God’s justice removes power dynamics and the desire to elevate oneself over others and replaced them with equity.  When do much of our world is driven by power, position, and authority, justice stands counter to these forces, instead saying things like ‘the last shall be first’.  Of course the nations tremble.

The call of Christ leads us to stand alongside God and to champion His love for justice and equality.  Through the ages, great men of faith have gone just this, no matter the cost to themselves.  Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the church, preaching that faith alone saves.  All people can tap into faith, meaning all are loved by God, meaning all can be saved without price.  John Wesley stood for equality, believing that all people should have access to the Word of God.  He preached salvation in the fields, streets, and mines, welcoming all people, not just those who met certain qualifications.  Both of these men, and many others too, led to opening the church doors a little wider and expanding the circle of God’s love.

You and I may not be people of Luther’s or Wesley’s fame, but we too are people who are called to stand for justice and equality, to make a positive difference in our world.  We too are called to be people who say ‘no’ to injustice and inequality.  We too can each work to open the doors of our churches a little wider, to welcome all into our communities of faith, and to draw the circle of God’s love even wider.  One sheep that was lost and is now safely in the fold matters.  One son that was wayward and returns home matters.  One widow who finally receives justice matters.  Who will you matter to today?


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Grace and Peace

Reading: Romans 1: 1-7

Paul opens with a thought: “set apart for the gospel”.  We are called to this.  We are called to be different from the secular culture and the worldly values by which so many live.  We are called to Christian witness in a post-Christian time.  Jesus did say that the road is hard and the way is narrow that leads to eternal life.  It is work, at times, to hold fast to the faith we profess.  Although narrow, the way is open to all who choose to live with Jesus as Lord.

In Rome, Caesar was lord.  To call upon Jesus Christ as Lord was to be set apart.  As we we’ll know from our own daily struggles to keep Jesus #1, there can only be one Lord.  So to profess Jesus is Lord implies that Caesar is not.  This was risky back in Paul’s time.  Today many think it a bit risky to profess Jesus Christ as Lord all the time and in all aspects of our lives.  This can be risky to our jobs, our friends, our hobbies, our money, and, perhaps most significantly, to our self.

As a church we can choose to be set apart.  We can have doors that are open to any and all instead of just to some.  We can offer communion to any and all who seek to be made new instead of just to those who meet our qualifications.  We can invite and welcome the whole community into our sacred spaces instead of just our church members.

As individuals, we can take these ideals and apply them to our lives as well.  W can engage any and all as we live out our lives as slaves to the gospel.  We can welcome all guests who come to our places of worship and to the events we put on or host.  We can invite all of our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates to be a part of our communities of faith.  Our lives too can have open hearts and open doors.

Paul writes, “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.  May we choose to live as disciples and apostles each day, bringing peace and grace to the world, to any and all we meet.