pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Lent and Ashes

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-17

Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday.  We mirror Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness with a season in which we too prepare ourselves and look forward to Easter, when we celebrate our risen Lord.  On this Lenten journey we pray, study, meditate, fast, and repent as means of preparation.  We begin this journey with ashes.  As we repent and work to mirror Jesus, we must work to prune away all that is impure and force certain parts of ourselves to die.  The mark of the cross on our foreheads reminds us that we belong to Jesus.  The one we seek to follow and emulate walks with us.  As we undertake this Lenten journey, we know that we do not walk alone.

Psalm 51, the Ash Wednesday choice forever, opens with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love”.  Verse three reminds us, “My sin is always before me”.  We live each and every day with this reality.  We are always in a battle with temptation and sin; Satan remains vigilant, always seeking to derail us, to draw us away from God.  We seek and desperately need God’s mercy because we fail.  We are assured of God’s unfailing love.  This is a beautiful thing.  In verse ten we read, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be said often tonight.  This is our goal in this life – to live with a pure heart.  Creating a pure heart is the focus of our Lenten journey.  May we use verse ten often as a prayer to God in this holy season of Lent.

Lent is certainly a time to look inward and to prepare for the risen Christ.  But we must also look outward.  We do not live in a vacuum.  We live as a part of humanity.  As such, we are all connected together.  Verse thirteen reads, “then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”.  We are called as Christians to shine the light of Jesus out into the world.  Many are broken and hurting.  Each needs to experience God’s unlimited mercy, unfailing love, and endless forgiveness.  As we journey through Lent, preparing ourselves, may we also help others on their journey, bringing friends and strangers alike to the cross so that they too can know our risen Savior.

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Thanks

Readings: Philippians 4: 4-9 and John 6: 25-35

Thanksgiving is an awesome day where we gather with friends and family to give thanks for all that God has blessed us with.  All that we have comes from the Lord.  This day we give thanks.

Our Israelite forefathers recognized God’s provision from day one.  Adam was grateful for God’s love and care in the garden.  His son, Abel, brought the first lamb of his flock and sacrificed it as a thank offering to God.  The Israelites continued to give thank offerings and have a festival at harvest time where they thank God for all of their blessings.  Other festivals, such as Passover, also give thanks to God for the role God has played in their history.

Our American forefathers began Thanksgiving out of gratitude for surviving in a new and wild land.  They were grateful for those who God had sent to teach them what they needed to do to survive here.  They too recognized God’s hand at work in their lives and gave thanks.

Today, as we gather with family and friends, may we too give thanks for all of the ways God brings blessings into our lives.  May we celebrate today with a grateful heart full of thanks to God our Father, the giver of all good things.


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Be in This Place

Reading: Joel 2: 23-32

Our lives, our situations, our communities sometimes reflect the scenario of Joel’s writing.  Devastation and doom loom large in our lives.  A time of exile pervades our thoughts.  This can be in our personal lives or in our communal lives.  Yet Joel also brings us words of hope.  Joel writes words of hope that speak of God at work to bring healing and restoration.

The small community in which I live has been hit hard recently, losing many individuals.  There was a memorial service yesterday, there are two today, one tomorrow, and one more on Monday.  Each and every one affecting the family and wider circle of friends.  Each bringing pain and tears.  One involved a student and has touched the lives of every student and classmate plus the hearts of all in our community.  The exile we feel is maybe best named as grief.  But we too feel the shadow of loss hanging over our town.

In the midst of our brokenness and grief, we hang onto God.  Like in Joel’s writing today, we too know that God remains present to us, working to bring healing and wholeness.  God’s Spirit weaves among us, reminding us of His goodness and love in the midst of our hurt.  Our faith draws us to each other.  Through that faith we hug each other a little tighter, we tell each other we care a bit more often, and we turn again and again to God for comfort and strength.

Lord God, pour out your Spirit in this place.  Rain down upon us your love and grace.  Surround each with your arms of strength and comfort.  Draw us together as you draw us to you.  Touch each hurting heart with your unending love.  Dry every tear with your breath of love.  Be in this place.  Reassure us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Be in this place O Lord.  We need you.  Be in this place.


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Cast Love

Reading: Luke 12: 49-53

Love is patient, love is kind.  Love is not rude, love is not easily angered.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  These words from 1 Corinthians 13 seem so appropriate when we consider today’s passage.  Jesus’ words today seem harsh and challenging.  “I have come to bring fire to the earth” sounds ominous and destructive at first.  He states He came not to bring peace but to bring division.  The passage ends telling of the hardest division: the division of families.

I come not to be served but to be served.  Let me wash your feet.  Love thine enemies.  How can Jesus speak these words elsewhere in the Bible and then say He came to divide families?  While all Jesus did and said was based on love, He knew that not all would choose to follow Him.  Jesus knew that many would reject Him.  He also knew the choice to declare Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was a personal and individual choice.  Because of all this, Jesus knew division would come as we each make our own decision concerning following Him.

The dividing line between follower and nonfollower is sharp.  As followers of Christ we are called to a radical life of love, self-sacrifice, and absolute dedication to our faith.  One cannot be half way dedicated to following Jesus – lukewarm is not following.  So Jesus knew this decision would cut across family lines, through friendships, and would come to define where we stand and who we are.

Over this reality we cast love.  The great commission calls us to go forth to make disciples of all peoples.  Our faith calls us to go forth in love, as Jesus went forth.  Just as He loved the outcast, the sinner, the anyone, so too are we to love all we meet.  In doing so we become the conduit through which Christ’s love reaches others.  It is a love that conquers all fear, doubt, hate, mistrust.  It is a love for all people.  Perhaps this is the fire Jesus wants to bring – His love spreading like wildfire across the communities in which we live.  Today may we cast out love.


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Lead and Leading

Parents often try to nudge or encourage their children to try or do something they think their child will enjoy or benefit from.  Sometimes a parent sees something in their child and tries to develop that skill or gift.  And a lot of the time the child responds with some resistance!  This is the case in today’s passage.  Mary nudges Jesus to exercise the gifts He has.  He responds with basically “not now”.  Maybe those things she treasured in her heart and perhaps a thing or two she has observed since then are promoting her to ask Jesus to perform a miracle and to begin His public ministry.

Sometimes in our lives we too are encouraged, invited, nudged… by others.  Maybe it is our parents.  Maybe it is our spouse or a coworker or a friend.  People often see gifts or talents we have that sometimes we do not.  At times we too can do the same for others in our lives.  It is a wonderful thing to see and affirm the God-given gifts we see in each other.

Often the nudge or encouragement comes from the Holy Spirit.  We see or find ourselves in a situation and we can almost physically feel the guidance to do or say something.  In other instances we can hear the voice whispering to us.  It may be in the moment or it may be later as we reflection our day or as we spend time in prayer.  These “too late” or after the fact prompts prime us for action the next time out.  It is still God at work in us.

God always continues to be active and involved in our lives and in the world.  He encourages all followers to use the gifts and talents He gave us through the nudges, prompts, … of the Holy Spirit and those around us.  We too at times invite, nudge, … others.  In all cases, may we be willing servants of His kingdom, whether leading or being lead, all for the glory of God.

Scripture reference: John 2: 1-5