pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Bear Witness

Reading: Luke 21: 9-19

Verse 12: “They will lay hands on you and persecute you… all on account of my name”.

Our passage today continues from where we left off yesterday. Jesus goes from the broad back to the personal. The world will experience wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and other “fearful events”. These will be signs to the earthly world that the end is drawing near. But these things are not imminent for the disciples. Jesus says, in verse twelve, “but before all this they will lay hands on you and persecute you… all on account of my name”. For the original disciples, a time of trial and suffering will come first.

The disciples will be arrested and persecuted. They will be brought before kings and governors. They will be asked about this Jesus they proclaim. The result: the disciples will witness to their persecutors. In the face of trial and suffering, the disciples will continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus encourages them not to worry about how to defend themselves. He promises, “I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict”. Jesus will give them all they need in their times of trial. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we too can claim this promise and can trust that Jesus Christ will be present to us in our trials and sufferings.

While almost none of us will face what those first disciples faced, we will have moments when we do need words from Jesus. Whether in a conflict or in a hospital room, whether in a theological argument or in a home that just experienced loss, we will call upon Jesus and the Holy Spirit will give us the words of healing and hope, of light and life. When we turn to Jesus and call upon his power, we too will bear witness to our faith and to our Lord and Savior.

Our passage ends with one more word of hope – eternal hope. Jesus tells the disciples plainly, “They will put some of you to death”. He goes on to tell them that “not a hair… will perish”. The disciples will need to stand firm. By doing so they will gain life. Hardship and trial are difficult to endure in this life. But this life is not the end. Remain faithful, Jesus says, and the disciple will gain true life. One day they will walk with Jesus in eternity. May this be true for us as well. Each day may we bear witness to Jesus Christ, in the good and in the bad, so that we too may one day gain true life.

Prayer: Lord, whether in the good or in the bad, may all I do and say and think bear witness to you, my Savior. In me may others see you. Fill me with the words that bring hope and healing, light and love. Fill me with what you want others to hear and know this day and every day. Amen.


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Always Comes Through

Reading: Psalm 126

Verse 1: “When the Lord brought back the captives… we were like men who dreamed”.

Today’s Psalm is a song of ascent. It would have been sung as the people were heading to worship. Our Psalm today is both one of remembrance and one of longing. Verse 1 remembers: “When the Lord brought back the captives… we were like men who dreamed”. The people were blessed to return to Jerusalem from captivity. God kept them safe and provided for them. The people dreamed about restoring the temple and the city. It was a time when God was surely present. We too all have times that we can look back to and see when God led us out of the valley or through the darkness.

Then, in verse 4, there is a transition. The author writes, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord”. Life has been a struggle. Things have not gone well lately. Maybe there has been a drought and ensuing famine. Maybe those around them have been more hostile than usual. There is weeping and sorrow in the land. We too have been here – in a season or time when we felt hard-pressed, when we felt that God has forgotten about us.

Yet in our Psalm the people still look to God. Even in the hard time. The people still trust that God will restore them. Even when hope begins to dim. They look to God in faith. They know that God will never abandon them. In faith, we too trust that God will never abandon us. God is always faithful and true.

In one of my daily devotions, the author spoke of our God “who may not come when we want but always comes on time”. It was a wonderful reminder. Sometimes we do have to wait a bit, but God always comes through. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer: Lord, help me to always trust in you. Give me your patience when mine runs thin. Give me the faith of the psalmist when my faith teeters. Thank you for the many experiences of your restoration and grace in my life. May I remember them in my times of need, gaining assurance that you are always on the way. Amen.


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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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Remove the Waver

Reading: 1 Kings 18: 20-21

A severe famine and drought has settled in on the land.  As time drags on, people’s desperation rises.  They question and doubt.  Elijah is about the only prophet of God left alive.  The prophets of the local folks apparently cannot persuade their gods to end the famine.  Yet the people of Israel are still turning to these foreign gods.

Elijah had been in hiding to avoid being killed, but God sends him to meet with the king.  Elijah first runs into Obadiah, the king’s right hand man, and arranges for a meeting.  King Ahab agrees to meet with Elijah on Mount Carmel.  Ahab agrees to Elijah’s demands to gather the Israelites and the prophets of Baal and Asherah.  Elijah begins be asking the people how long they will waver.  In essence Elijah is asking them to fully choose the Lord God.  Their response: silence.

What is our response when the Holy Spirit whispers into our hearts and asks us how long we will waver between the ways of God and the ways of the world?   “How long?” the Spirit asks.  When we feel the conviction, we often choose God.  But not always.  Like the Israelites who were led astray by the world around them, we too can be drawn in by the things of the world.  Like the Israelites who saw the people of the world and the gods they worshipped, we too see the gods our world worships.  And at times we too chase after that bright, shiny object.

How long will you waver, O people of God?  I can hear Elijah shouting this at the Israelites.  But I can hear it being quietly whispered by the Holy Spirit as well.  This day, O Lord, give the strength to fully choose Your ways.  This day, Lord God, keep the path straight, remove the waver, and allow each to live fully for You and for Your glory.


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Hold Onto God

A famine at home forced the family of four to move to a foreign land.  They left behind their kin, the culture they knew, their faith base, and all else that mattered to find food.  The family made the move to survive, to be in a better situation.

In smaller ways we do this all the time.  We make a little change here or there seeking to be happier, healthier, or somehow better off.  Sometimes we too make larger changes.  Maybe you have moved to a new city or state or even country to have a better ‘opportunity’.  If you have done this, you can relate to this family – strangers in a foreign land.

Just as they were getting settled, the father dies. The mother at least has her two sons.  They each eventually marry a foreign woman.  The sons are happy and the possibility of grandchildren may some day bless her life.  Slowly the foreign land becomes les foreign as they learn the ways and begin to put down roots.  Ten years later, no grandkids.  Both boys die.  She is left with just two daughters-in-law.  And more pain and loss.

Perhaps a change you have made did not work out either.  Maybe the job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Maybe something outside of your control changed your situation too.  Maybe like you, this woman found herself in a tight spot.  Virtually alone in a foreign land, she turned to her foundation, to God.  In Him she laid her trust.  In Him she laid her future.  Although tragic to this point, it is just the beginning of her story.  In the end it is a story of God’s blessings.  Hold onto God.  He wants to bless you too.

Scripture reference: Ruth 1: 1-5