pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love One Another

Reading: John 13: 1-17 and 31-35

Verse 34: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

Today is a special day in Holy Week and in the life of the church. Today Jesus sets two examples for us that we continue to implement to this day. It is the last time that Jesus will be with His disciples in this life. Tonight many will gather in places of worship to celebrate Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday.

Rather than rushing through the Passover meal to get on to the inevitable arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus slows down the pace and spends one last intimate night with His disciples. As verse one states, “He showed them the full extent of His love”. To do so, Jesus begins by washing the disciple’s feet. This is lesson one for the evening. The Master, the Teacher, kneels at each disciple’s feet as the servant and lovingly washes and dries their feet. After Jesus rejoins them at the table, He says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you”. Lesson one is to serve one another in love.

This night, while still gathered around the table, Jesus will share the first Holy Communion. He will share the bread as His body that will be broken on the cross and He will share the wine as His blood that will pour out on the cross. This act of love is recorded in the other gospels. In Mark, Jesus calls it the new covenant through which all mankind will be forgiven our sins. Through the body and blood we are restored and made holy once again. Jesus’ great sacrifice – in giving His life as an atonement for our sins – it screams love.

After telling the disciples that the time has come, saying, “I will be with you only a little longer”, Jesus issues a new command. In washing their feet and in the sharing of communion Jesus has added two more examples of what this new command means. Jesus says to them, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Today’s passage finishes with the bug ‘why’ – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. This day, by our love, may all we meet know that we too are His disciples.

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Love and Faith

Reading: John 2: 18-22

Verse 22: “Then they believed the Scriptures and words that Jesus had spoken”.

Our passage today begins with the religious leaders asking Jesus a question: by what authority? It is an interesting question when we apply it to Jesus and us. Jesus does not use authority to force us into a relationship with Him. Jesus does not use authority to make us behave. For us, our connection to Jesus is based on love and faith. But for those leaders, they were all about being fully in charge and about having absolute authority within their spheres of influence – the temple and God’s chosen people.

In many ways the leaders were teaching the people to follow a religion or an institution. Judaism had become about making sure you did this and avoiding doing that. And there was a lot of this and that. At the pinnacle of this religious system were the religious leaders. Their authority was absolute and they kept a good grasp on it by hammering home the rules. For them it was largely about establishing and maintaining that authority. Then along comes this outsider, turning over tables and disrupting things. So when they asked Jesus about his authority, they were really asking: when did we give you permission to do this? They thought they had the corner on God.

Jesus is not about a checklist or a system of rewards and punishments, nor is following Jesus about any of these things. Jesus was all about love and that manifests itself through our relationships with God and with each other. Our relationship with God is based upon a covenant that says I will be your God and I will love you no matter what. It says I will love you when you do and when you don’t. It says I will love you when you sin and when you walk in faith. It says I will love you because I am love. Jesus is about as far from an authority figure as He could be. Yes, Jesus did set for us an example to follow but following is based upon love and faith. We enter relationship through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, as the way, truth, and life. Our belief comes just as the disciples’ faith did: “Then they believed the Scriptures and words that Jesus had spoken”.

As we live and grow in Jesus, He continues to love us through our ups and downs, through our failures and victories. For His love and for the faith in a Savior who loves us no matter what, we say thanks be to God.


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Lead

Reading: Matthew 23: 1-12

Verse 11: The greatest among you will be your servant.

Leadership today is usually about having good people skills, making wise decisions, knowing the intricacies of the trade, carefully using ones power, and gaining experience in one’s field.  Society may even overlook some behaviors or actions if the bottom line is healthy enough.  In our world we also see some trying to lead, but they lack some of the necessary qualities and skills to lead well.  Others are following their own agendas and are leading a very small band or a group of one.

Jesus addresses leadership in Luke 23.  He is talking once again about the religious leaders and the Pharisees.  He begins by acknowledging that they sit in the seat of authority.  Therefore, He says they deserve obedience.  But from here, Jesus addresses their woes.  First, they do not practice what they preach.  Second, they use the Law to place heavy burdens on the people but they themselves do nothing to help the people live out the Law.  Third, they love recognition.  They desire to be noticed and recognized for their apparent holiness and esteemed positions.  It is all about them and little about helping others to know God and to live devout and righteous lives.

Jesus then shifts the focus to who we should really be following.  He insists that there is really only one true Father and only one true Teacher.  God alone is to be worshipped and we should follow Jesus alone.  As John the Baptist said, we must become less so that Jesus can become more.  Jesus also speaks of this today, saying, “The greatest among you will be your servant”.  The greatest here on earth will be the servant.  Faith is about loving God and, in turn, loving others.

The humble servant loves and serves and then points to Jesus Christ and His love as the reason why.  This is the task of all Christians: through our lives we are to point others to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.  To a degree, we are all called to lead.  By our prayers, our presence, our witness, our service, and our gifts, may we always lead others to Christ.  As we live out our lives and as we love others as humble servants of the Lord our God, may we ever shine the light on Jesus, the author of our faith.


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Overflow

Reading: Philippians 1: 21-26

Verses 21 and 23: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain… I am torn between the two!

Paul writes today from a Roman prison cell.  Death looms in the air.  The executioners could come at any moment.  Yet even in this place Paul is full of hope.  He has come to a place in his life where his faith is absolutely secure.  He is assured that if this day were his last that he would depart and be with Jesus – “which is far better”.  This is what Paul means when he says, “to die is gain”.

But Paul also feels this pull to living.  He feels a pull to live so that he can continue in his ministry.  He knows that if he “stays in the body” that he will continue to have fruitful labor.  His work will continue to be about bringing people to Christ and about helping people to grow in their faith.  This is what he means by “to live is Christ”.  He also acknowledges another “better” – it is better for the church in Philippi if he continues to live so that he can continue on with them on their faith journey.

Although Paul is “torn between the two”, there are some lessons in his circumstance and attitude for us.  First, his focus is on others.  It would be far better to be with Jesus in heaven.  Many people today feel this way.  But like Paul they know God has more in store for them.  Paul loves Jesus and the church more than himself so he joyfully remains.  Second, he finds joy in the suffering.  Paul is living into the idea of being worthy to suffer for Christ.  He has stood firm in the faith and gladly faces the consequences for doing so.  And lastly, Paul is reflecting Christ.  His desire and will to serve others regardless of the cost to self models Christ’s example to others.  Just as Paul has chosen to closely follow Christ, his example here beckons us to do the same.  In all we do and say each day, may we strive to allow our “joy in Jesus Christ” to overflow into the lives of all we meet.  May it be so.


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Binding and Letting Loose

Reading: Matthew 18: 18-20

Verse 20: For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.

What do we bind on earth?  What do we let loose on earth?  And more importantly, what does God desire us to bind and to let loose on earth?  Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom here on earth.  If we look at the example set by Jesus, we can get a glimpse of the answers to these questions.  Jesus first sought to bind with love.  Love was at the center of and bound all of His relationships together.  He also spoke of love covering over sin (which we see on the cross in its fullest form) and of love overcoming evil.  When we bind love to things, sin and evil flee.  In addition, Jesus sought to bind joy, peace, kindness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to all He said and did.  Jesus bound Himself to these things and they flowed through His very being as He brought the kingdom of God to the earth.  These same things that Jesus bound Himself to here on earth remain bound to Him in heaven.  He says the same will be true for us in eternity.

What did Jesus let loose on earth?  Jesus let loose God’s justice and mercy for all, a radical hospitality that welcomed all sorts of people, an inclusivity that drew all into God’s love, and an unending well if healing and restoration that sought to make all things new and whole.  Jesus burst open the doors of the church and the kingdom of God flowed out into the world.  And lastly, when Jesus departed this Earth to return to the right hand of God, He let loose the Holy Spirit.  He let loose the Holy Spirit to live in and to move amongst us, keeping Jesus’ words and actions fresh in our hearts and minds, ever leading and guiding us to live and love as Jesus did.

As individuals and as churches, we choose what we bind ourselves to and what we let loose here on earth.  When we choose to closely connect ourselves to Jesus, what we bind and let loose mirrors what Jesus bound and let loose.  In doing so, we also bring the kingdom of God here to the earth.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to spread the gospel to all peoples and to all nations.  Jesus encourages us to move out together, promising, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them”.  May we bind ourselves to Jesus Christ this day as we seek to let loose the kingdom of God here on the earth.


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Love Our Fellow Man

Reading: Romans 13: 8-10

Verse Eight: He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

God has always loved humankind.  Mankind was created in His image and we are intended to be like Him.  The essence of the relationship between God and human beings is love.  God loves us and cares for us in so many ways.  In return, we love God and try to live lives that are pleasing to God.  To help us understand what love is really all about, Jesus came and walked among us, revealing what it looks like to live out God’s love for humanity.  Jesus did not really come to teach us a bunch of new things but to better understand what was already there.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He did not make up something new.  Instead He reached deep into the scriptures and named two from the Old Testament.  Both centered on love.  Jesus said, in fact, that if we love God with all we are and if we love neighbor as self, then all the other commandments will follow.

Paul picks up on these themes today.  In an increasingly diverse church, Paul is sensing a growing need for unity and community.  So he returns to the foundation: love.  It is at the center of God, was at the center of Jesus, and must be at the center of all believers.  In verse eight Paul writes, “He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law”.  For Paul, we must love one another.  This is where unity and community begin.  Once we truly love one another then things like trust and cooperation and hospitality are soon to follow.  Once we begin to understand this aspect of God’s love, we begin to practice it with others.

Being human himself and understanding that the church is made up of other sinful creatures, Paul also knew another aspect of God’s love was also important.  Paul knew the church also needed to know and live out God’s love revealed in His mercy.  At times our relationships require forgiveness and reconciliation.  This side of God’s love is all about renewing and restoring and forgiving.  This too is a part of God’s love for us.  This too is a part that we are called to share with one another.  In all ways this day, may we each love our fellow man.


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Love Our Fellow Man

Reading: Romans 13: 8-10

Verse Eight: He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

God has always loved humankind.  Mankind was created in His image and we are intended to be like Him.  The essence of the relationship between God and human beings is love.  God loves us and cares for us in so many ways.  In return, we love God and try to live lives that are pleasing to God.  To help us understand what love is really all about, Jesus came and walked among us, revealing what it looks like to live out God’s love for humanity.  Jesus did not really come to teach us a bunch of new things but to better understand what was already there.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He did not make up something new.  Instead He reached deep into the scriptures and named two from the Old Testament.  Both centered on love.  Jesus said, in fact, that if we love God with all we are and if we love neighbor as self, then all the other commandments will follow.

Paul picks up on these themes today.  In an increasingly diverse church, Paul is sensing a growing need for unity and community.  So he returns to the foundation: love.  It is at the center of God, was at the center of Jesus, and must be at the center of all believers.  In verse eight Paul writes, “He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law”.  For Paul, we must love one another.  This is where unity and community begin.  Once we truly love one another then things like trust and cooperation and hospitality are soon to follow.  Once we begin to understand this aspect of God’s love, we begin to practice it with others.

Being human himself and understanding that the church is made up of other sinful creatures, Paul also knew another aspect of God’s love was also important.  Paul knew the church also needed to know and live out God’s love revealed in His mercy.  At times our relationships require forgiveness and reconciliation.  This side of God’s love is all about renewing and restoring and forgiving.  This too is a part of God’s love for us.  This too is a part that we are called to share with one another.  In all ways this day, may we each love our fellow man.