pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Big Plan

Reading: Genesis 21: 8-21

Verse 12: It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

God’s big plan is at work.  Sometimes it is hard to see the big plan from our own limited vantage point.  From our small view sometimes we cannot see very far.  In today’s passage, God knows the big plan.  He says to Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”.  This is the big plan.  The nation of Israel will come through Isaac – his child with wife Sarah.  It fulfills the promise made long ago.  The covenant involves divine guidance and blessing.

The big picture even influences the writers of Genesis.  Notice that in our passage the name ‘Ishmael’ is not used.  The writers instead use ‘son’ and ‘boy’.  Maybe the story is less personal that way.  Yet when we look at Abraham, we see that this is very personal.  It is his son Ishmael that must be cast out.  It is his first born son that he must send out into the desert.  Even though it is part of God’s big plan, this is a hard thing that Abraham is being asked to do.  He is stuck in his small view.

As Abraham teeters in the balance, God gives him some reassurance.  In a way, God is saying, ‘truth’ me’.  Abraham has had lots of experience trusting God when he could not see the big plan, so he trusts once again in God and follows obediently.  At times we find ourselves in a situation similar to Abraham’s.  The things that we need to ‘send out’ are often sins or other things that we can see we need to let go.  Once in a while, though, we find ourselves in a spot like Abraham, having to make the “more right” choice.  We have to let go of something we kind of love to remain obedient to God’s big plan for our lives.  In these moments, may we recall God’s faithfulness in our lives and trust in Him to be faithful once again.


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Harvest Fields

Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38

Verse 38: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Jesus spent most of His three years of formal ministry being out and amongst the people.  Our opening line reminds us how Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching, preaching, and healing.  He spent time in the synagogues, but He also spent a great deal of His time outside the walls of the church building.  When we think about all of the stories of Jesus that we find in the Gospels, not too many actually take place in the formal church setting.  This is our first lesson today.

As Jesus spent time with people, as He saw the crowds, “He had compassion” for the people.  Jesus saw the people and their need for a Savior.  Matthew writes that they were “harassed and helpless”.  We too are called to the last, the least, and the broken.  These are the harrassed and helpless of our day.  We are called to also offer compassion as we feed, clothe, visit…  We are called to offer what we can to those in need.  But moreso we are called to share our faith.  Verse 36 ends with, “like sheep without a shepherd”.  To not know Jesus is to wander through life, bouncing from one thing to another in our search for contentment and satisfaction.  Only through knowing Jesus Christ do we find peace and hope in this life.  Jesus had compassion on the people, loved on them, and gave them all He had to offer as He served among them.  This is our second lesson.

Our passage ends with, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”.  Jesus is encouraging the disciples to go out into the harvest fields.  In the very next verse, 10:1, Jesus sends the 12 out to do what He has been doing: to teach, preach, and heal.  When I think about my community, I see harvest fields.  There are many who do not know the love and grace that Jesus Christ offers.  They have never heard the good news.  Relatively speaking, yes the workers are few.  My prayer is to be sent out into the harvest fields.  My hope is to share the faith I profess with others today.  May it be so.


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God Reality

Reading: Genesis 18:9-15 & 21:1-7

Verses 18:14 and 21:7 – Is anything too hard for the Lord?…. Yet I have born him a son in his old age.

Most of us live a very patterned life.  Sunday morning we go to church.  Wednesday night is youth group or a Bible study.  Monday through Friday morning we go to work.  Third Friday of the month is date night.  Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring.  Even within all of our routines are routines.  Worship is in the same order every Sunday.  First thing each morning is prayer time with a cup of coffee on the couch in the living room.

Within all of this we are called to live by faith.  But here too we like patterned or at least predictable.  Sure, we love for God to show up big on Sunday mornings in worship and we hope for His presence in our small group this Wednesday night.  We may even pray “your will be done” but hope it fits within our boxes.  We’d rather not have God show up unexpectedly as a coworker unburdens themselves at lunch.  We’d rather not have the Holy Spirit lead us to engage and love on that person we really don’t like so much.  All in all, even in our faith we prefer to stay well within our comfort zones.

Now we enter Abraham and Sarah’s story.  They are very old.  Her barrenness has caused much hurt and pain.  Years and years ago God promised Abraham descendant as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But it never came to be.  Now, as they near 100 years old, God again appears and says now is the time!  Sarah laughs.  You can’t blame her.  Her laugh is partly an expression of her deep sadness and her unrealized dream of a child.  It is also part honesty – really, a baby at 100?  Funny God, very funny.

God responds with a question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord”?  We all know the answer.  Nothing is impossible with God.  We know this to be true.  Yet most of the time we still prefer God in our boxes.  As Sarah becomes pregnant and begins to live into the reality of God, her mindset shifts.  She is experiencing the almost impossible through God’s power.  She is well outside her box.  You can picture her musing out loud as she asks the “who woulda thought” question.  Our passage closes with the reality, God’s reality: “Yet I have born him a son in his old age”.  Sarah fully understands now that nothing is impossible with God.  She knows this God reality.  May we live it each day as well.


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Forever with Them

Reading: John 20: 19-23

Verse 19: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

It has been quite a week for the disciples.  There was the big splash of the triumphal entry on what we call Palm Sunday.  It seemed as if everyone in Jerusalem was out there supporting Jesus.  But right after the parade Jesus again speaks of His coming death – but it oddly seems closer now.  Jesus teaches through the week and clashes with the Jewish authorities – seemed like a pretty ordinary week.  Until Thursday night.  They set up to celebrate the Passover and Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.  He speaks of them becoming like servants too.  Among other words, Jesus again promises them the Holy Spirit and explains some of what the ‘Counselor’ will do for them.  Then, in a whirlwind of activity, Jesus is arrested, tried, and crucified.  Suddenly their world is turned upside down.  Their leader is gone and they fear for their lives.  Hope died on that cross.  They have seen the empty tomb and have heard Mary Magdalene tell of seeing the risen Lord.

But this night the disciples remain huddled together, hidden behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews”.  Doubt and fear and grief and confusion had to be swirling in their heads.  And then Jesus comes to them.  He opens with, “Peace be with you”.  He shows them His hands and His side.  In mere seconds, the disciples’ mindset changes drastically.  Again Jesus offers them peace then says,  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”.  More than one probably thought back to the cross and wondered about being sent out into the world.  Next Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into and into them.  In His presence, with His breathe covering them, they must have physically felt the Holy Spirit enter them.  Doubt and fear and… must have vanished in an instant.

These disciples will go out and spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  They will speak with power and authority.  All will give their lives for their faith.  The Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to live out their faith without any fear of this world and without any fear of death.  They knew that Jesus Christ was forever with them.  May we follow their example as we live out our faith today and every day.


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Reflecting His Glory

Reading: Acts 17: 22-28

Verse 24: … the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands.

Today’s passage finds Paul in Athens.  He is there doing what he always did: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  But Athens is not Jerusalem.  It is the center of the Greek world and has overlays of the Roman world as well.  Centuries of philosophers have sat in the Aeropagus and argued and debated all aspects and facets of life.  They have covered mortality and religion, ethics and justice, their own existence and the meaning of life.  Paul observes that the culture is very polytheistic.  They worship many different gods.  Paul takes all of this into account as he begins his sermon this day.  He begins by sharing the observation that they are very religious and then turns to the “unknown god” statue.  Paul goes on to proclaim the unknown god to be the God of all creation.  He even quotes a couple of Greek philosophers to help his case.  Paul is using a piece of the dominant culture to win over his audience.  We too have an opportunity to do this as well.

Where will you find yourself coming up against non-believers today?  Will it be at work?  At lunch?  Out on your walk?  And will they be worshipping an unknown god?  As we consider all of this, we also must how we could do that Paul did – use some of today’s popular culture to tie back into our God and our faith.  Maybe it is by working with integrity and honor and finding success on God’s terms.  Maybe it is by being gracious and by practicing Good listening skills while at lunch.  Maybe it is by noticing the person on the street and by taking a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them.  There are many ways to meet people where they are at and to bring our faith into the situation.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead!

But maybe you are not quite here yet.  Maybe today’s passage speaks to your own ‘unknown god’.  Is it parked in the garage?  Does it sit on a large lot?  Is it kept safe in a vault?  Or is it fragile and rests upon the opinions of others?  At times it can be easy to worship idols.  So maybe our challenge today is to identify our idol and to begin to let it go.  Paul stated, “the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands”.  Are we living or acting as if God did live here?

Wherever we find ourselves in today’s passage, may we strive for our life to reflect His glory, “for in Him we live and move and have our being”.


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Seekers

Reading: John 14: 1-14

Verse 5a – Lord, we don’t know…

Our faith requires some honesty.  Life is much the same.  We must be honest with ourselves and with others if we are to live lives of integrity and character.  We must also be transparent enough that others can know who we are and what we are all about.  At times this requires us to be open and vulnerable.  Philip and Thomas demonstrate all of these qualities in today’s passage.

Jesus is teaching the disciples some last-minute instructions before beginning His journey to the cross.  This “farewell discourse” is full of powerful emotions, moving experiences, and great teaching.  The disciples are like sponges, soaking it all up.  And is often the case, they need a bit more explanation.  Philip and Thomas could have kept quiet and tried to figure it out later.  They could have remained silent and not disrupted the Teacher.  Thankfully they did not remain silent.  Thankfully they were willing to be honest and transparent and vulnerable.  Thankfully they were willing to stop the Teacher and ask a question.  They were probably not the only ones a bit confused.  They were the two honest enough to ask Jesus a question.  Understanding was more important than looking like they understood.

Philip and Thomas were also seekers.  They were hungry for all Jesus had to offer.  Yes, they had been with Jesus for three years, but they still hung on His every word.  Jesus spoke the Words of Life.  Oh that we would live such a faith.  Too often we get comfortable and content and complacent.  Too often we simply go through the motions and fail to experience what God has for us that day in worship or in our Bible study or in our time of prayer.  Oh that we were all like that 96 year old woman, a Christian all her life, who still comes to church and to a Bible study because she seeks to always grow closer to her Jesus.  May we too be seekers always, ever wanting to grow deeper in Christ, ever desiring to know Him more.


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Living Stones

Reading: 1 Peter 2: 2-10

Verse Five: You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood.

God desires to always be at work in our lives.  God is always looking to build us up, to ever draw us closer to the image of His Son.  But we don’t always cooperate.  Sometimes we halt the building progress.  Sometimes we even tear down what God has built.  Sometimes we wander far and become a total reclamation project.

Peter is the author of today’s text and is a disciple we relate well to.  At times he jumps all in for his faith and does amazing things.  He was the one who climbed out of the boat and walked on water.  And at other times Peter stumbles and falls.  Peter was the one who swore total allegiance to Jesus and later denied knowing His three times that very same night.  In Peter we can see how God kept working on him, kept growing his faith.  In Peter we also see the “rock that made them fall”.

As we look back over our faith journeys, we too can see how we, “the living stones”, are constantly being shaped and formed and reshaped and reformed by God as a “spiritual house to be a royal priesthood”.  As we reflect on our lives of faith, we also can surely see times when we too “rejected the stone” or when we were “out in darkness”.  Just as Peter did, we too experience being called back into the “marvelous light” of Jesus.  As we journey and grow in our faith, we continue to become more and more like Christ.  It is a wonderful journey.

It is a journey that God starts us on and it is a journey that God keeps us on, constantly seeking to be at work in our lives.  No matter what, God continues to lovingly work on us and to call us ever closer to the image of His Son.  When we stumble, God lovingly picks us up and continues us on our journey.  As children of God, “now you have received mercy”.  For God’s love and grace, we say thanks be to God.