pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Remember

Reading: Genesis 28: 16-19a

Verse 18: Jacob took the stone… and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.

During the night, Jacob has an amazing encounter with God.  When he wakes up the next morning, he reflects back on this encounter.  His first thought is of surprise – he did not expect God to be in this place.  It was simply where Jacob stopped because it was getting dark out.  As he lay his head down on his rock, sleep was all he expected.  Jacob’s comment, “I was not aware” reveals his surprise.  On the one hand, we think God is everywhere all the time.  But on the other hand, it surprises us when God shows up in a big and unexpected way at a random place.

Once Jacob realized that God was very present, he shifts for a moment to fear.  The text reads “he was afraid” so it is not a healthy fear or a reverence for God.  If God were to speak to me in an audible, direct way, true fear would also be part of my reaction.  When our omnipresent God becomes direct and personal, one reaction would be fear.  God is talking to me?  Gulp.

Jacob quickly moves past fear and into celebration.  He says aloud, “How awesome is this place”!  Here God has chosen Jacob as being worthy of direct conversation.  Jacob is excited that God spoke to him here.  It is a place he always wants to remember, so “Jacob took the stone… and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it”.  It will always be a place of remembrance for Jacob.  It is where God spoke to him.  He builds an altar, using the rock that was his pillow, and he consecrates it with oil.  The altar will also help others to know and remember.

When we have significant personal encounters with God, how do we remember them?  At a meaningful and powerful remembrance of baptism service, I was given a small stone.  I carry it daily in my pocket as a reminder of when God drew especially close to me.  In your next powerful encounter with God, seek a physical way to remember the experience.  It will be a tangible reminder that will lead you to rejoice and give thanks for God’s hand at work in your life.


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Be in the Word.

Reading: Luke 24: 22-27

Verse 27: … He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Jesus has just been present to these two followers as they expressed their emotions concerning what has taken place over the last few days.  In today’s section, a still ‘hidden’ Jesus gives these two a great study that arches through and over the scriptures that make up our Old Testament and brings them right to the current moment.  Jesus begins this great teaching with what is almost an admonishing: “How foolish you are and how slow of heart”.  Just as He was often with the disciples, so too is He with these two: saddened with their lack of understanding and insight.  Jesus spent three years teaching and being with the disciples and His followers and…

Jesus does not linger long here though.  He jumps right into the Scriptures and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself”.  As they walked along the remainder of the seven mile journey to Emmaus, Jesus unpacks the Scriptures for them and connects all the Law and prophets to the Messiah, to himself.  It had to be amazing to experience how the whole Bible connects both to the Messiah and to itself.  It must have been wonderful to see how all of those individual books were part of one large story.  These two must have been astounded at this stranger’s teaching ability and knowledge.

And just think – all of this is available to you and I as well.  We have the Scriptures available to us – probably several copies.  It sits on the table or on our desk or on the nightstand.  We carry it with us and have instant access to it via our cell phones.  There are a ba-zillion reading plans, commentaries, studies, … out there to help us navigate through and to understand the Word of God.  When we regularly make the time to spend with the Word and when we invest in meditating on the Word, then we will be like these two walking along the road: we will encounter the risen Christ.  He is alive.  When we spend time with the Word of God, we encounter the risen Jesus there.  Be in the Word.  Encounter Jesus.


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The Rich man, Lazarus, or…

Reading: Luke 16: 19-31

If asked which character we would like to be in today’s reading, there would be a long pause before we answered.  If we look at the end of the story, we all want to be Lazarus.  We would all choose heaven as our eternal destination.  But within the story, do we want to be poor beggars in this life?  When we are really honest, we’d prefer to be both the rich man and Lazarus – the rich man now and Lazarus later.

So we finally settle on being Lazarus?  Or do we settle on being the rich man?  Truth be told, when we look at the model of our faith, at Jesus, we see the middle ground.  Jesus certainly did not pursue wealth yet was definitely content with life.  He did not dress in expensive clothes or eat gourmet food.  But He was not starving and always had a place to live His head at night.  Jesus trusted fully in God alone.  He knew God’s love intimately and fully trusted that God would provide for His every need.

The rich man only truly saw Lazarus when he died.  He finally saw what Jesus sees all the time.  He saw them as they were.  In everyone Jesus saw and encountered, He sought to meet their need.  Sometimes even they did not know their own real need, so Jesus sometimes delved below the surface.  He got to know people that others avoided or shunned.  He entered into their lives and walked alongside them.  He did what the rich man never would have done.

The rich man, Lazarus, or Jesus?  Who do we strive to be more like?  It is an obvious answer but a hard path to walk.  May the power and presence of the Holy Spirit lead us on the path of Jesus, fully trusting in God, loving all of God’s children.


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Blessings

Reading: Hebrews 13: 1-8 and 15-16

Throughout the New Testament we are reminded to love as Jesus loved and to be a servant to all.  The examples abound and the expectations are clear.  The idea that whenever we “do this for the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), we do for Jesus.  We are called to do as Jesus would have done.  Jesus loved all people where they were at and gave to each as they had need.  There was never one that came to Jesus and was rebuffed or ignored.  He treated all with love.

Verse 8 of today’s reading states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.  Who Jesus is does not change.  He loves all people still.  He will love all people forever.  As Jesus’ agents of love, we are to continue to live out our lives as Jesus did, offering love and care to all.  In doing so, people come to experience Jesus and His presence in their lives too.  It is a blessing to them.

But perhaps it is a greater blessing to us.  In following Jesus’example and living out our call to be Jesus’ light in our world, we are in His presence each and every time we offer His love to another.  We are reminded that Jesus is in us each time we serve another.  Each time we do so we too are touched by His love.  It is a blessing to us.  In the process we too are changed as we are increasingly transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.

As we share Christ’s love and offer ourselves as living sacrifices for God’s glory, the world is impacted by love.  So are we.  Today may we be pleasing to the Lord our God in all we do and say.  May the blessings ever flow!


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Good News

Reading: Acts 9: 1-9

Saul had quite the dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus.  Ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection, Saul had been persecuting and often killing followers of “the Way” – those who followed Jesus and His teachings.  ‘Zealous’ is the word often used to describe Saul’s pursuit of Christians.  The mention of his name brought fear and caused Christians to slip into the shadows and to go into hiding.  Saul was one who needed a dramatic encounter with the Light.

In our lives, we often have encounters with the truth and light as well. In general they are nothing like Saul’s – but at times they can be.  For the most part, our encounters come as gentle nudges and soft whispers as we are guided back to the path God calls us to and away from the path of the world.  On occasion the nudge is more like a shove as we strayed a little too far away and something stronger is needed to bring our life back into alignment with Christ’s desires for us.

For some the encounter is much like Saul’s.  We have been wandering far and wide and God must also bring us to our knees.  It usually comes in the form of hitting rock bottom.  It comes at the end of a long road of addiction or a trail of dishonesty and lies that leaves us wondering how in the world we ended up ‘here’.  One little step after one little step has added up to a journey into the wilderness.  Amazing thing about God though – He can call us back just as quickly from a long detour as He can from a temptation to a much lesser evil.

The great gift is a love from God that never ends, a mercy that never stops, and a grace that always is given.  Saul became Paul and we too will always be rescued, always brought back into a righteous relationship with Him.  No matter where we are or who we are, God wants to use us just like Paul – to go forth and share the good news of Jesus Christ with others on their own detours.  Only one way leads to eternal life.  May we share this news today!!


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Good Newd

Reading: Acts 9: 1-9

Saul had quite the dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus.  Ever since Jesus’ death and resurrection, Saul had been persecuting and often killing followers of “the Way” – those who followed Jesus and His teachings.  ‘Zealous’ is the word often used to describe Saul’s pursuit of Christians.  The mention of his name brought fear and caused Christians to slip into the shadows and to go into hiding.  Saul was one who needed a dramatic encounter with the Light.

In our lives, we often have encounters with the truth and light as well. In general they are nothing like Saul’s – but at times they can be.  For the most part, our encounters come as gentle nudges and soft whispers as we are guided back to the path God calls us to and away from the path of the world.  On occasion the nudge is more like a shove as we strayed a little too far away and something stronger is needed to bring our life back into alignment with Christ’s desires for us.

For some the encounter is much like Saul’s.  We have been wandering far and wide and God must also bring us to our knees.  It usually comes in the form of hitting rock bottom.  It comes at the end of a long road of addiction or a trail of dishonesty and lies that leaves us wondering how in the world we ended up ‘here’.  One little step after one little step has added up to a journey into the wilderness.  Amazing thing about God though – He can call us back just as quickly from a long detour as He can from a temptation to a much lesser evil.

The great gift is a love from God that never ends, a mercy that never stops, and a grace that always is given.  Saul became Paul and we too will always be rescued, always brought back into a righteous relationship with Him.  No matter where we are or who we are, God wants to use us just like Paul – to go forth and share the good news of Jesus Christ with others on their own detours.  Only one way leads to eternal life.  May we share this news today!!


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Each Opportunity

While at the wedding at Cana, Jesus experiences something we all experience – a request to help someone.  In this case Jesus must have known the wedding party as He and the disciples were invited to the party.  As I reflect on who I struggle most with when asked for assistance, it is with the stranger that I most often struggle.  In this story from the book of John, Jesus teaches us both what we are to do and what we are not to do.

The first thing Jesus did was to be open to the needs of others.  When His mother asked, He could have ignored her or dismissed the request.  Much like when the Spirit prompts us, do we pay attention or do we act like we did not hear or feel anything?

The second thing Jesus did was to decide what the greatest need was.  This can be hard to weigh or evaluate correctly.  At times people in need of assistance have a root need that is much deeper than the asked for need.  But we are called to be in relationship with and to walk alongside people in need.  Warning: to be in relationship and to walk alongside another is a much deeper commitment.  But it is only when we do this that we can begin to understand and address these deeper needs.

The third thing Jesus teaches us is something not to do: He did not judge the situation or the person.  This is often where I struggle most.  It is usually in the immediate need requests that I struggle with this the most.  When I have entered into a helping relationship with another, I learn that they are much like me and it is easier not to judge them.  But in the immediate request from a person I encounter on the street who is asking for $5 for food, for example, it is harder to not judge the validity or worthiness of the request.  In God’s view, we are to help if we can, no questions asked.

The last thing Jesus teaches us is to respond and act to the best of our ability.  He didn’t just make wine, He made good wine.  We too are called to be honest, genuine, and fully invested.  Each of our relationships and encounters should receive our best efforts.  Jesus offered no less.

May each opportunity to come alongside another be done with all the love, compassion, and ability that God has placed within us.  Lord, may it begin with me.

Scripture reference: John 2: 1-11