pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Trust Fully

Reading: John 6: 60-69

Verse 68: “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'”.

Our passage today picks up where we left off yesterday. Jesus has shared a teaching that was hard to accept. Some folks were having a hard time with the requirement that Jesus was placing upon them. Jesus has claimed to be of God and that to find true or eternal life, one must believe in Jesus. The proof of belief is daily living with Jesus – abiding in Christ. In response to the people’s grumbling, Jesus says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life”.

Jesus states plainly that some there do not believe and that one can come to Jesus only if God enables it. Elsewhere in the Bible this idea is phrased “eyes to see” or “ears to hear”. It is a willingness that God must open in our hearts to accept Jesus for who He is. Many of the disciples are not at this point as the Word tells us that many “turned back and no longer followed Him”. They left and turned back to their old way of life or to their old belief system.

For most of us modern disciples, we too come to this same point now and then on our faith journey. We realize that we are not quite where God wants us to be and know in our heart that our full trust in Jesus is falling just short. In those moments, God is calling us deeper. He has led us, or ‘enabled’ us in this passage’s language, to the place of taking the next step. We have heard Jesus’ words of life and felt the invitation to take another step of faith.

In our passage, Jesus asks the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you”? Peter, the one who would become the “Rock”, answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. Peter knows that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Peter knows that Jesus us the Messiah and the only way to eternal life. He knows and is willing to take the next step with Jesus, wherever it might lead. This day may we join Peter in declaring that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, trusting fully in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And this day or tomorrow or whenever it may come, may we be willing to take that next step of faith, trusting fully in the Holy One of God. May it be so.


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To Belong Fully

Reading: John 20: 19-31

Verse 29: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.

John and Peter have seen the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene has seen and spoken with the resurrected Jesus. This much all the disciples know. Yet the way forward is unclear. Jesus is not in the grave and He has conquered death, but He is clearly not coming back to live amongst them either. So on that first Easter Sunday, they gather behind locked doors. It is into this room still heavy with doubt and fear that Jesus comes. He shows them His hands and feet as proof of who He is. The disciples are overjoyed.

Jesus then announces the plan: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. He then breathes on them the Holy Spirit and commissions them to forgive sins. This was a big deal between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus was questioned about this and healed a lame man to prove that He had power and authority from on high. And now Jesus gives this power to His disciples. They were there and witnessed the conflict and anger that the forgiving of sins had caused, so they must know that their road ahead will be hard too. Jesus breathes this same Holy Spirit on you and me. It also empowers us to overcome our doubts and fears and will lead us to help people find a relationship with Jesus Christ that will heal them of their sins.

In the second half of our passage today we focus in on Thomas. He was not there for Jesus’ first visit. When told about it, he says, “Unless I see…”. He too wants to experience what the others experienced. He too wants to see Jesus. A week later Jesus appears again to the disciples and invites Thomas to put his finger in the wounds, to touch and feel that this really is Jesus. For Thomas and all of the disciples it was hard to come to believe. But Thomas does when he sees Jesus for himself. Predicting the many who will come to know Jesus without ever seeing Him, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. It is just the reality for the church as it moves forward without the physical Jesus.

Part of Thomas’ story that we cannot miss is his need to belong. He wants to experience what his friends and future co-workers for the gospel experienced. He wants to be fully included. It is a desire we all have – to know we really belong. As we live out our faith this day, week, and life, may we always seek to help others to step inside the story, to help them know that they belong fully to Jesus as well. May it be so.


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Layers, Ripples, and Depth

Reading: Exodus 20: 12-17

Verses 12-17: “Honor your mother and father… you shall not… murder… commit adultery… steal… give false testimony… covet…”

Today we look at the last section of the Ten Commandments. These six deal with our relationship with each other. They are not written in isolation but within the context of all ten. The covenant relationship that God establishes with us in the first four commandments influence our relationships with each other. Just as the first four revolve with loving God fully, so too do the last six center on loving each other completely.

On the surface level the last six are pretty straight forward and easy to understand. Yet each also has layers to it. For example, the command to “honor your mother and father” is generally about our relationship with our parents and the lifelong benefits of doing so. But this commandment can also extend to all who help parent us – grandparents, teachers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, and even some of our bosses.

The layers on some can come from the ripple affects they cause. For example, committing adultery is simply not an act that affects just the two people involved directly. It also impacts families and friends and self and maybe even employment or social standing. The same can be said of all of the other six. We never sin in isolation.

The depth or breadth of a couple are also amazing when we take time to really ponder them. The command to not give false testimony is about not lying. Simple enough, right? But is not telling the whole truth or not being fully honest the same sin? When we think of a few other ways that false testimony can play out we can see how deep and wide this sin can really be. Do we gossip? Do we slander? Do we compare others unfairly to elevate ourselves?

The last of the Ten Commandments fits all three of the above. When we covet it can begin as an attraction. But it can soon become an obsession. The layers or levels of covetousness can also create ripples. Who we use or what we are willing to do to get that “thing” can leave a wake of hurt and pain in our trail. The sin of coveting can also become widespread. While it certainly is in our society, it can also become contagious in our lives. Finding joy or pleasure in getting some “thing” can lead us to search for joy or pleasure in other things and in other ways.

But all is not lost! When we love others as God intended, all is good in our lives and in the world. May we love well today!


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Worship Fully

Reading: Psalm 111

Verse Seven: “The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy”.

The psalmist feels all-in to me. He does not just love God a little. He loves God with all that he is. The psalmist declares that he will “extol the Lord with all my heart”. The love is complete and fills him up. He then praises the works and deeds of the Lord: great, glorious, majestic. These are all-in words too. The psalmist then remembers how God is gracious and compassionate, always providing for the people’s needs. Psalm 111 paints a picture of God being totally worthy of our praise and adoration. Verse seven is a nice summarizing verse: “The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy”. God is indeed worthy of all of our praise and adoration!

Today many of us will have the opportunity to praise and worship the Lord our God. May we enter our sanctuaries and meeting spaces with hearts turned fully to a God who desires to pour into us today, filling us with His love and compassion. May we focus on connecting on a deep and intimate level. Let us not come halfway but fully ready for God to meet us and change us today. Do not allow your worship to just be part of the routine, to just be something you did today. Jump all in and seek God with all your heart. Allow God to fully claim you today as you feel His loving presence wash over you today. Amen.


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Fully Known

Reading: Psalm 139: 1-6

Verses One and Three: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me… You are familiar with all of my ways”.

Our Psalm today speaks of a deep intimacy with God.  It reminds me of a best-friend relationship where you finish each other’s sentences and you seem to have this connection so you know what the other person is thinking.  But when I think of God, to have such a relationship could only be one-sided.  I could never know God so completely.  Yes, we can know God well and our knowledge of and intimacy with God can grow as our faith develops, but there will always be so much more to God that we cannot even begin to fathom.

Our psalmist opens with this line:  “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me”.  The Psalm goes on to say that God knows our every coming and going.  God knows all of our thoughts and all of our actions.  Verse three finishes with, “You are familiar with all of my ways”.  God knows everything there is to know about us.  God could finish our sentences even if we only gave God the first word.  It is both a beautiful and a scary thought to realize that we are this well known by God.

It is beautiful because it means that God is constantly aware of us.  That means God rejoices when we love or serve or care for anther.  It means God knows when we extend mercy or grace or forgiveness.  It is beautiful because it means that God knows all of the desires of our heart and knows our prayers before we ever put them to words or even think them.

But these thoughts are also scary.  God knows the impure or unkind thought before it is ever fully formed in my heart and mind.  God knows all the things that I have done and said that I told myself were just my little secrets – no matter how big or how small.  Not only does God know my sins, but God knows all of my fears, all of my doubts, all of my questioning, all of the times I was less than God created me to be.

It is a deep, deep intimacy that God has with us.  God knew us before we were ever formed in the womb and God knows us inside out all the time.  We are fully known.  In that thought, I realize how little I know of God and God’s love.  In spite of knowing all about us, God loves us anyway – the good and the bad fully included.  It is a glimpse into the depth of God’s love for you and me.  All we can say is thanks be to God.


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Like Moses and Joshua…

Reading: Deuteronomy 34: 9-12

Verse Nine: Now Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.

How would one ever follow Moses as the leader of the Israelites?  His shoes were mighty big to fill.  Moses actually talked face to face with God.  He came down from the mountain and his face was aglow. Moses had turned water to blood, caused hail, and brought in frogs, flies, and locust.  He had even orchestrated the passing of death over the Israelite homes.  He had called down manna and quail from heaven.  He had parted the sea and made water come from a rock.  How in the world would one follow this guy?

Moses comes down the mountain one last time, knowing his life has drawn to a close.  He comes to Joshua and passes the torch.  Verse nine reads, “Now Joshua was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him”.  Just as Moses was, Joshua has been chosen by God to lead His people.  Moses has already addressed the people and established Joshua as his God-given successor.  Moses spoke of God’s plans for the nation in the Promised Land with Joshua as their leader.  Joshua has been empowered to lead and the people now look to him as their leader.

Joshua steps forward boldly not because of his own strength and abilities.  He steps up not because Moses has passed the torch to him.  Joshua steps up because God has chosen him and has filled him with the Spirit.  All those miracles and signs and wonders during Moses’ leadership?  They were 0% Moses and 100% God.  It will be the same with Joshua.  God will lead and guide them.  Anything done or accomplished will be by God alone and in accordance with His will.  Joshua is a man of deep faith and trust in God.  This is his greatest strength.

Each and every day, Joshua will seek God’s guidance and direction.  Each and every word and action will come through the lead of the Spirit.  Joshua will lead fully trusting in the Lord.  These things are what made Moses a great leader.  They will make Joshua a great leader.  They will also make us great leaders.  In all we do and say and think, may we also strive to lead like Moses and Joshua, fully trusting in the Lord our God.


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Idleness

Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3: 6-13

Our passage today is dangerous.  Paul is getting on the church in Thessalonica for laziness.  It is laziness in a few ways.  The laziness is something we continue to fight.

The first area Paul addresses is being idle.  This idleness in the faith is perhaps the most dangerous of the three forms that Paul addresses.  Many of the people are living as if Jesus has already returned.  They are not following what has been taught by the apostles.  Instead of faithful participation in worship and in the life of the church, their lifestyle has become a bit wild and has become a stumbling block to others.  They are not living a life worthy of the example taught and set by Jesus.

The second area of laziness that Paul addresses concerns working.  Some are taking advantage of the generosity of others.  Jesus and the apostles after Him taught about loving one’s neighbors and caring for the needy.  Apparently some who are capable of working are choosing not to work.  Instead they are taking advantage of others.  Paul says, in essence, if you want to eat then work.  He encourages them to follow the example they set when they were with them.

The third concern of Paul are the busybodies.  Some are appearing to be working hard or to be faithful to God, but are really deceiving themselves and others.  They are busy doing nothing.  Paul encourages them to drop the pretense and to get serious about living as a disciple if Jesus Christ.

I am guilty of all three charges at times.  At times, one can go through the motions of worship or Bible study.  One can pretend to be busy instead of making time to volunteer or serve.  On occasion, one might respond to a personal text or phone call while at work.  At other times, one may take advantage of others or a situation for one’s own benefit.  And every now and then, one may be idle while appearing to be busy.  That may really be a game of Solitaire up on the computer screen instead of that report.

It is a challenge to always faithfully serve  God and others and to always worship and love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  But it is our calling.  It follows the example that Christ set for us. Lord, help me in my weakness.  God, strengthen me when I am tempted.  Holy One, fill me with your Spirit when I feel weak.  Walk with me daily Jesus.