pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Ring, Ring

Reading: 1st Samuel 3: 1-20

Verse Nine: “If He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening'”.

Today we have Samuel’s call story. Before he was born his mom dedicated him to the Lord. As soon as he was able he began serving in the temple. This life is really all Samuel has known for his twelve or thirteen years of life. I suppose he could have rebelled as a young boy, deciding this was not the life he wanted for himself. He wouldn’t be the first. Today people do this all the time – leaving one vocation for another or transferring to someplace else where it must be better.

Then one night God calls out to Samuel. Three times. It is only when old, wise Eli realizes that it was God calling did Samuel know to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”. Only with Eli’s help. This makes me think of my call story. God began to give a call to me way back when I began adult life as a middle school teacher in the early 1990s. As I grew in my own faith and became more involved at my church, volunteering in various capacities, the call grew louder. The voices of good friends and total strangers eventually joined the echoing of God’s call. Then, twenty-something years later, I accepted the call to full-time vocational ministry.

Although the span of time was much greater that Samuel’s, over and over I heard God calling. It was a long process convincing me that God was indeed calling. It was like a slow sunrise that quietly creeps across the landscape as God’s light spread more and more into my life. Certainly not all are called into vocational ministry. Most folks are called into a relationship with God that leads them to serve God in their daily lives as doctors or construction workers, as secretaries or teachers, … A few receive a lightning bolt call – one day an overwhelming voice or event catapults them into a relationship with God.

This all leads to the question: what is your call story? Or is God still calling you? We all have a story to tell. When someone asks, as one surely will, about this joy and peace that you have, what will you say? What is your story of faith? How will you explain how God has been and is at work in your life? When someone asks, how will you explain the call of God upon your life?

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Spirit of Truth

Reading: John 16: 4b-15

Verse Thirteen: “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth”.

In a lot of ways, our faith journey is much like the disciples’ faith journeys. At some point we too heard Jesus calling us, saying, “Come, follow me”. Maybe right then, maybe a bit later, we accepted the call. As we began to walk through life with Jesus, we too came to a point of saying, like Peter, “You are the Messiah” and we confessed Jesus as the Lord of our life. Then the journey really began.

In today’s passage, Jesus tells the disciples, those who have been with Him for three years, that He has much to share with them – “more than you can now bear”. This is not the first time that Jesus had to meter out a concept or skills to these men. At times, after teaching to a group or crowd, Jesus would have to explain the teaching to the disciples. In other cases, they take in the words, only to get the meaning later. Such was the case when He spoke of His death and resurrection, for example.

We too experience these things. We can read a Bible passage for the tenth time and suddenly God speaks a new truth to us. The other nine times we read it, those same words were there. We just were not open to or ready for that truth yet. Other times we take in the words and then later, in a different setting, suddenly the meaning springs to life. That voice that speaks to us is the same voice that Jesus promised the disciples in today’s passage. In verse thirteen Jesus says, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth”. The same Holy Spirit reveals new truths and brings life-giving meaning to us as we read or meditate on scripture.

Jesus also speaks of the Holy Spirit convicting the world of its sin. We still experience this gift of the Spirit of truth in our lives. This is part of the guiding us to live in the truth. The Spirit redirects us when we’ve gone astray, convicts us when we sin and when we miss opportunities, reminds us when we forget, teaches us when we don’t quite get it, and nudges us when we need prompting or a push. I am grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit in my life. Thanks be to God for this gift of constant presence. Amen.


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Hear

Reading: Matthew 13: 36-43

Verse 41: The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

After telling the parable of the weeds, Jesus next tells two more parables.  They are short and speak of how the kingdom of God will spread and grow and affect all it touches.  After these two parables Jesus withdraws to the house.  Here the disciples ask for an explanation of the parable of the weeds.  In private, Jesus unpacks the parable for the disciples.

When Jesus told the parable to the crowd, it followed the parable of the sower, where Jesus talks about what kind of soil we are.  In explaining this parable to the disciples, Jesus explains why He speaks in parables.  For those who understand, Jesus says more will be given.  He goes on to say that some who hear never understand and He laments that some have closed their eyes and hardened their hearts.  Jesus is using a prophecy from Isaiah to do all this.  Tied into the parable of the soils, this leads us to introspection: what kind of soil am I today?  What kind of soil do I want to be?  As we grow in our faith, we come to understand more and then more will be given.

In today’s passage, Jesus is giving more to the disciples.  He begins by explaining who the real characters are: the Son of Man, the evil one, humanity, and the angels.  The story isn’t about storing up the crop and getting rid of the weeds.  It is about the end of the age, when a resurrected Jesus will return.  There is a foreboding and ominous feeling to the explanation.  There is a stark contrast between the two outcomes.  When Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil”, there is a finality.  Instead of simply telling stories, Jesus has become very serious.  Again, Jesus is leading those who have ears to hear what He is saying.  He is leading those who hear to gain more understanding.

As we ourselves reflect on the interpretation of today’s passage, we must ponder: are we those weeping and gnashing teeth or are we those shining like the sun?  Do we take what Jesus has to say and allow it to change and challenge us?  Our passage ends with, “He who has ears, let him hear”.  May it be so with us today.


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Faith and Mystery

The book of Job has a happy ending.  Job’s suffering ends and God restored him beyond all he had before.  Job is blessed with large herds, many sons, and beautiful daughters.  He lives for 140 years as a very blessed and dies full of life.  One could say all ends well but our questions are left unanswered.  We do not know why Job had to endure this trial.  We do not know Job’s take on what happened either.  In the end we see that God remains mysterious.  For our faith, this mystery is essential.

Try as we might, mankind cannot explain all that is in the world.  There is much that has been figured out but we only seem to be able to go so far.  Great minds have studied and observed and analyzed and calculated to learn much.  We can split atoms and see far into space.  We can trace the evolution and extinction of many species.  We can replace hearts and we can restart hearts.  Yet there is much that cannot be explained by scientists, doctors, mathematicians…  Events and things that happened and happen remain a mystery.  In our world miracles still occur and a shrug of the shoulders is the best explanation that can be offered in intelligent response.

There is still mystery to God as well.  There are may questions that cannot be answered.  The ‘why’ questions of life and death and illness remain as do the ‘how’ of miracles that occur.  There is much we do not know of God.  But there is also much we do know.  God is love, compassion, peace, comfort, understanding, forgiveness, mercy, grace.  He has plans for each of us and those plans are good.  Yet there is still much mystery and this is also good.  Faith and hope are still required of us in our relationship with God.  Faith draws upon trust and experience.  As we live out this life in relationship with God, our faith grows.  In faith and hope, we live with the mystery of God because above all else, we know that God is love.

Scripture reference: Job 42: 10-17


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Love Always Wins

Today we have a picture of Jesus that is not all warm and fuzzy.  In today’s passage He is giving it to the Pharisees.  I think in our minds we usually cheer Jesus on in this type of scenario.  It is almost like the new kid on the block stood u to the bully and all around cheer him on.  This direct and confrontational Jesus is alright until we realize that He is talking to us as well.

Hypocrite?  Me?  Hold on a minute Jesus!  Theft?  Murder?  Adultery?  Surely not.  Greed?  Envy?  Arrogance?  Well, I can explain.  Can’t I?  No, I really cannot.  Jesus is right.  At times what is within me is not so good.  Those unkind thoughts and words that sometimes come out of me are not so beautiful and loving.  Jesus is right.

One cannot explain sin away.  All one can do is to come before Jesus, to kneel down, and to offer up our confession and repentance.  The good news is that Jesus does not expect perfection.  He knows we will stumble and even fall at times.  It is not His desire for us but He did walk this earth.  Although Jesus was without sin, He certainly felt pain and sorrow and other human emotions.  Jesus saw firsthand the battle that rages in every human heart.

We are guilty as charged.  Sinners one and all.  But, thanks be to God, our story does not end here.  Confession and repentance leads to forgiveness and restoration.  Through grace we are made new again, pure and clean and worthy to call Jesus Christ our friend.  We are humbled by our failures.  But love alway wins.  The love of God made known through Jesus is an unending gift that is always given to al who draw near to Christ.  This love came to save one and all.  Praise God.

Scripture reference: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, and 21-23