pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Our Assignment

Reading: Mark 13: 1-8

Verses 5 & 8: “Watch out that no one deceives you… nation will rise against nation… earthquakes and famine… these are the beginnings of birth pains”.

Leaving the temple, one of the disciples observes, “What magnificent buildings”! Jesus then indicates that a time is coming when “every stone will be thrown down”. A bit later, in private, the disciples want to know when this will happen. They want to know the signs so that they can be prepared for Jesus’ return.

Jesus gives them some signs to look for. In addition to wars, Jesus says, “Watch out that no one deceives you… nation will rise against nation… earthquakes and famine… these are the beginnings of birth pains”. There will be deceivers – false prophets and teachers trying to gain power and wealth for themselves, hiding behind lies and fake religion. There will be wars where nations square off against one another. These wars will have many injuries, much destruction, and large loss of life. Nature will also be heard from – earthquakes! Masses will struggle as famine grips parts of the world. All if these will be signs – “birth pains” – indications that the end is drawing near.

Ever since these words were spoken and later recorded, many generations have read it, reflected on the words, and thought that the end is at hand. We do today as well. We have had no shortage of false teachers, wars, famines, disease, and natural disasters of all kinds. Yet here we remain. We continue to ask: when? The best answer is: when God is ready. God’s plan is unfolding according to God’s plan. That simple. I think a big part of the “not yet” is the work yet to be done by the church. There are many unsaved people that still need to hear the gospel and to experience the saving power of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission remains unfinished. Our assignment is still to make disciples of all peoples. When will the new creation come? Maybe when we have accomplished our assignment.

Prayer: Patient God, guide me to the next person that needs to hear the good news if your Son, Jesus Christ. And then guide me to the next and the next and the next… May it be so, all for your glory. Amen.

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Deep Need

Reading: 1 Samuel 1: 4-20

Verse 10: “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord”.

Yes, Elkanah loved Hannah more than anything in the world. Yes, Elkanah treated Hannah much better than his other wife. But shame of shames – Hannah could bear him no children. The second wife, Peninnah, had lots of children. Peninnah frequently reminded Hannah of this fact. This only added to Hannah’s already deep sadness and bitterness. Each year when the family would go up to the temple to worship, Hannah would bring her situation before God.

This particular year the provoking by Peninnah and the deep sadness over her barren state seemed especially painful. Instead of simply praying once more, we read, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord”. Hannah felt like she was at the end of her rope. It was not an ordinary prayer that she offered up to God. The Spirit was moving in her as she poured out her soul. This was a deep, gut-wrenching prayer. It was as ripe with emotion as it could get.

We too have uttered this type of prayer. We too have been at the end of our rope and have cried out to God. We too have been at the bottom of our pit and have begged for God to reach down and pull us out. We too have felt so desperate that the prayer just poured out from the core of our souls. Our circumstances or the cause of our situation may have been different, but we have all prayed like this before.

What does Hannah’s prayer reveal? What do our prayers of deep emotion reveal? First, they reveal our utter dependence on God. Sometimes we are weak, unable to alter the situation. But God can. Second, they reveal a trust in God not only to hear but to respond. He alone can rescue. He alone can save. God is faithful to Hannah. Samuel is born. God will be faithful to us as well. May we pour out our souls in those times of deep need, trusting in God to do what we cannot.

Prayer: God, thank you for the reminder today of your deep, deep love for us, your children. Like Hannah, may I always seek you in my deepest times of need, trusting in you and in your plan for my life. Amen.


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God Is Greater

Reading: Mark 9: 30-32

Verse 32: “They did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it”.

Jesus found some private time with His disciples. He wants to begin to prepare them for a radical change that is coming. Jesus tells them plainly that He will be betrayed and killed and then will rise. I imagine most of the disciples did not hear much after the word betrayed. It is one of those words that stop us in our tracks. It takes time, perhaps a lot of time in some cases, to get back in the conversation.

Some words do this to us. We hear just that one word for a period of time. There are some universal words that do this – cancer, stroke, dementia, and so on. Sometimes the words are more specific. If it is a conversation between spouses, words like infidelity and divorce halt the mind’s thoughts. In today’s passage, the disciples are Jesus’ most intimate and personal friends. They have spent 24-7 with Him for quite a while now. Betrayed. At that word, most probably recoiled and began to look first around the group and then within. Who? Who could do such a thing? Could I? The word stung.

What causes words such as these to have this halting effect? It is because they trigger fear. They cause doubt. They raise up the unknown and the uncertainties. Our mind can quickly create worst case scenarios or it can simply get stuck right there. What choice do we have? What alternative can we take?

We can choose to trust in God, to turn to Him in prayer, to seek His presence. God may not answer our prayers right away or even the way we want (eventually), but He will be immediately present. In that presence we find peace in the experience and hope for all possibilities. We are also reminded of the end of the story. For those in Christ, it is always a beautiful ending.

Our passage tells us, “They did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it”. Fear is powerful. But God is greater. Turn to God, place your trust in Him, abide in His love.

Dear God, help me to quickly turn to you when fear rises up. Make this my natural reaction. Always remind me of your eternal love and promises. In those days, draw me near to you, strengthen me for the trial, walk with me. Amen.


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Encourage One Another

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 3: 13-18

Verse 17: “And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

When we think of the end times or of the end of our earthly life, many people experience fear and worry.  For many there is an unknown feeling that comes when we think of death.  When a loved one or good friend passes on, some left behind wonder where that person has gone to and some even wonder if death is just the end.  They grieve without hope.

In today’s passage, Paul reminds all believers of the hope and promise that is given to all who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.  It is a promise that we can live and trust into.  Paul begins by cautioning us not to think as the pagan world thinks, as those who have no hope.  Instead, Paul reminds us of the death and resurrection of Jesus that provides the way for all who die in Christ to gain eternal life.  We too will one day experience resurrection into the glory and wonder of heaven.  Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that this is true also for all who have already died in Christ.  Paul assures them and us that our loved ones will also rise in Christ.  In verse 17 he writes, “And so we will be with the Lord forever”.

Our passage today closes with these words: “Therefore, encourage one another with these words”.  Paul exhorts us to take these words of hope and promise and to be encouraging one another with them.  At times in our lives we need to remember and hear these words.  Maybe that is today.  We also know people who need to hear these words of hope and promise today.  With whom and how can we share these words of hope and promise today?  May we be open to the lead of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be Jesus’ light and love this day.


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Ends of the Earth

Reading: Acts 1: 6-14

Verse Eight: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth.

In His last words to the disciples, Jesus promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit and reminds them that they will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.  This last part is a restatement of the great commission.  Although Jesus does not tell them how to accomplish this task, He does let them know that the Holy Spirit will bring them power for the task.  In addition, Jesus has spent the last three years training the disciples.  He has shown them by His own example and He has sent them out on their own – like on-the-job training.  Although the disciples probably do not realize it, Jesus has been preparing them to take the good news to “the ends of the earth”.

Verse eight reads, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth”.  His is what the disciples would soon go on to live out.  It is what God intends us to experience too as followers of Jesus Christ.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus we too come to a point where we make the decision to follow Jesus.  We profess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.  At this point we receive the Holy Spirit and our lives begin to be led by the power of the Spirit.  But in our humanity, we wrestle with the Spirit for control.  We question and sometimes even ignore the voice and nudges of the Holy Spirit.  But as we spend time in the Word, as we develop a deeper prayer life, and as we grow in our love of God, we become better followers.  We become more disciplined and our following improves.  The Holy Spirit gains more voice and power in our lives.  Soon enough we become like those first disciples, bearers of the good news, heading out to the “ends of the earth” with the gospel message.

Wherever we are on our journey to share the good news of Jesus Christ, may today provide us with opportunities to grow in our discipleship and in our love of Jesus Christ.


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Each Day

Reading: Revelation 1: 4-8

Part of our experience of Holy Week was the grief of knowing that Jesus had to die for our sins.  There is a personal connection for each of us to Jesus’ act on the cross.  He not only died for the people’s sins who were living in His time, but for all sin of all people in all time.  We are included, we have a share in the cross.  Through the cross, we also have hope.

In the book of Revelation, John again reminds us that Jesus will come again.  He writes, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”.  There is not a doubt that one day Jesus will return.  The day is known only to God.  So in the interim God brings us peace.  He removes the guilt of our sin so that we may ever be kneeling at the foot of the cross with our eyes turned to Jesus, the light and love of the world.

John also reminds us that Jesus too offers us grace and peace each day.  Because if His love for us, He frees us from our captivity to sin.  Jesus calls us out of this life to a life lived in His grace and peace.  He calls us into living an abundant life now, serving as priests working to build His kingdom here on earth.

To do so we must cast aside the disobedience that is within and strive to live the true life of faith that brings purpose to our days.  Jesus said, ” I am the alpha and the omega, who was, and is, and is to come “.  He is the beginning and the end and He is everlasting.  For each of us to find God’s renewing grace each day and for us to have true life now, we must live with Jesus as Lord and Savior at the beginning of each day, at the end of each day, and at all times in between.  May it be so.


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Love: Sacrificial and All-In

Throughout our lifetimes many relationships will end.  Some childhood and high school and even college friends drift apart and life takes each a different way.  Sometimes people have to move to a new state or city.  Sometimes life comes to an end for one of the people in the relationship.  Sometimes our approach to marriage is similar.  They drift apart, one moves in a new direction, or one passes.  For some couples, divorce is the solution.  It is just a little easier to part ways than it is to keep it together.  For some people their marriage with the church comes to an end.  Both of these endings may be because of drift or because one changed or because of  hurt that occurred.

Both of these marriage relationships should reflect the love of Christ for us.  Recently scientists discovered that over time in a long-term, committed relationship something called ‘pair bonding’ occurs.  As it was once written: the two shall become one.  The love of Christ must be at the center of our human marriages as well as at the heart of our relationship with God and His church.

Every relationship has the potential to end.  In our human marriage the goal when it begins is ‘to death do us part’.  We pledge love and loyalty through thick and thin.  And couples really do mean it on day one.  When one chooses to join and be attached to a church, the words are much the same as is the intent.

The reality is both marriages take work.  A lot of work – both personal and as a ‘couple’.  Although there are circumstances that cause a split, these should be far fewer than they are.  Our love in these marriages needs to reflect the pure love that Jesus Christ demonstrated.  Our effort in these relationships should reflect His effort and commitment at the cross.  May our love also be sacrificial and all-in.

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 2-12