pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Community

Reading: James 5: 13-20

Verse 16: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”.

Suffering, pain, illness, sin – all are a part of our world and our lives. To go through these things alone is a terrible tragedy. For James, and for us, being a part of a faith community and having a personal relationship with God offers the best methods of dealing with suffering…

James invites us to begin with prayer. It is through prayer that we bring our suffering to God and that we seek relief or repentance. In verse 16 James writes, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”. Prayer is very powerful. The power is amplified when we pray in community, when we pray as a gathered community. Each day we also lift one another up in prayer just as others do the same, praying together spiritually. Communicating our needs to God also serves to remind us of our absolute need for God’s presence and activity in our lives.

In a similar manner, James encourages us to gather around those in need of healing, to anoint them with oil, and to pray over them. As we encircle them, anointing and praying in the name of Jesus Christ, we are naming our need for God to come and be at work in our lives. James tells us, “The Lord will lift them up”. May we hold to this promise.

James closes our section today with a good accountability reminder. He gives us the example of Elijah’s prayer that brought repentance to a wayward people. Yes, it took three and a half years. Sometimes our sin is stubborn too. Are you prepared to pray three and a half years for a brother or sister and their struggle with sin? I hope so! When the people repented and humbled themselves, Elijah prayed for God’s mercy and blessing to rain down, and they did both spiritually and literally.

These practices done in community – prayer, anointing, accountability – are all more effective and powerful when done together. As the body of Jesus Christ, may we seek to live and be in community, building up one another and the body of Christ each day.

Lord God, help me to build a sense of community with my family, friends, small groups, and with the congregation. May I lead by example with honesty, transparency, and love. Amen.


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Glory and Strength

Reading: Psalm 29

The voice of God is everywhere.  It is both powerful and majestic.  We can recognize it in the loud thunder, in the forceful winds, and in the shaking of the lightning.  In the storms of life, it can be harder to hear God’s voice.  Yet God is everywhere.  It can be hard to hear God’s voice amidst the raging, but God is there.  God never leaves us.  Verse three reads, “the voice of the Lord is over the waters”.  If we tune into the rhythmic falling rain or the steadily moving waters, we can discern the voice of our God who “gives strength to His people: the Lord who blesses His people with peace”.  In the storm, if we can tune in and seek God’s voice, God is there.

It can be so hard to only see the chaos swirling around us in a storm or trial.  It can be hard to focus on anything other than the chaos.  But God is not in the chaos.  In times of chaos, it can help to go simple.  Taking a couple moments to utter a simple prayer over and over can be very powerful.  It can bring the peace and blessing promised in the Psalm.  One can use the Psalm, praying “O Lord” as you slowly breathe in and praying “give me strength” as you slowly breathe out.  Or one can pray “Lord God” and then “bless me with peace” as one breathes slowly in and out.  The short breathed prayer can also be specific to the need or trial at hand.  In those times of need, taking a few minutes to pray over and over as we breathe in and out certainly invites God in and provides fertile ground for the promised strength and peace to take root.

Simple prayers that invite God into our lives are powerful and effective.  They remind us of the power and majesty of our Lord.  The Psalm opens with the line, “ascribe the Lord glory and strength”.  In our times of trial and need, may we seek the Lord our God, trusting in God’s glory and strength.


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Pray

‘The prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.’  Elijah prayed and held the rain off for three and a half years. Then he prayed and it rained right then.  Mordecai and Esther prayed for the deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s plot and they were saved.  The people cried out to God in the desert and manna fell from heaven.  Since these example of prayer were lifted up and answered, people have continued to pray and God has continued to answer.

For each of us, part of our divine appointment is to pray for one another.  We are to confess our sins and struggles to one another and then to lift each other up in prayer.  We are to share our burdens with one another so that we can share the load and also pray for one another.  We are to share our joys and good news as well so that we can lift up prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the giver of all good things.

Our prayers must also extend to those outside of our small group or church community.  We are to pray for victims of violence and social injustice both near and far.  When we read or hear of these things, pray for them.  We are to pray for the family who lost their home in a fire, for the parents who suddenly and unexpectantly lost a child, for the person struggling to feed their family, and for all others in need.  Our prayer for the ‘stranger’ can be just as effective and powerful as the prayer for our own family.

We ar called to pray.  And to pray and to pray and to pray.  Pray without ceasing.  Take everything to God in prayer.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Pray.

Scripture reference: James 5: 13-20


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Rest

There are times we get run down and tired.  Life can just seem to consume us and suddenly we find ourselves with very little left in the tank.  As the disciples returned to Jesus after being sent out two by two, they were excited by all they had done but Jesus could see they were exhausted too.  His desire was to find them rest.  So they load up the boat and head out.

But a buzz moves on ahead of them and by the time they land ashore, a large crowd has gathered.  And it is not a welcoming committee.  It is a crowd full of people with needs.  The Bible tells us Jesus saw them as “lost sheep” and that He takes compassion on them.  Jesus steps out of the boat and begins to teach and to heal many people.

I can imagine that Jesus saw the crowd flowing to where they were headed to land.  So I can surmise that He made the decision not to change course and to go away from the gathering crowd.  Jesus knew or felt He was up to the task ahead so He chose to engage the crowd and to minster to their needs.

At times we too must make that assessment.  As we see a potential need coming our way we to must assess if we have enough left in the tank to meet that need.  We must remember that at times even Jesus stepped away for solitude and refreshment.  A time of Sabbath is essential to being able to minister effectively.  When we are dry and empty, we have nothing left to pour out into others.  We must care for ourselves so that we can offer our best to the care of those in need.

Mark 6: 30-34 and 52-56


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Times of Rest

After healing many and casting demons from many, Jesus got up early and headed out alone to find a quiet place to pray.  After spending a lot of energy He needed to connect with God to be renewed and refreshed.

We too are called to this practice of Sabbath and rest.  We too are called to find times of rest where we lay aside job and other responsibilities to center in on God – to reconnect, to renew, to refresh.

Pretty soon Simon and the rest of the team find Jesus and call Him back to work.  They tell Him all of those people need something and He is the only one that can provide what they need.  Can’t you almost hear Jesus’ heavy sigh and see the slumping of His shoulders as He rises to return to the people?

We too hear the cell phone ringing or we cannot silence the voices in our own heads calling us back into action.  Maybe we are pretty good at convincing ourselves or just maybe the world really needs us that bad – and our rest ends all too soon.  We have only claimed a bit of the rest, renewal, and reconnection that we needed.  We too sigh and shrug our shoulders as we head back to the world.

Just as the times of rest were essential for Jesus to be most effective in His ministry, so too are times of rest essential for us.  Today may we all find some space to slow down, to center in on God, and to enjoy a time of rest with Him.

Scripture reference: Mark 1: 35-39