pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Go Out

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verses 17 and 21: I will pour out my Spirit… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Come, stand in the disciples’ shoes for a few minutes.  You have gone from grief and despair to joy and courage in quick order.  Jesus has breathed the Holy Spirit into you and you are told once again to go out into the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  You are being asked to trust your life to this Holy Spirit that you just met for the first time.  And then Pentecost comes and you experience the power of the Holy Spirit as God pours it out on all the believers gathered there that day.  It would have been like seeing Jesus perform His first miracle.  Back then you thought something like, ‘Now we’ve got something here’!  The scene of all the believers being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in a wide variety of languages reveals to you the power of this Holy Spirit.

And just as the crowd begins to question what is happening here, Peter stands up to address the crowd.  You’re one of the eleven so you stand up too.  But as Peter speaks you find that he isn’t just talking to the crowd that day – he’s talking right to you.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel.  You recognize the words, “I will pour out my Spirit…”.  You know that Joel was speaking of you.  You experienced Jesus pouring out the Spirit upon you as He breathed it into you.  You will prophesy and dream dreams and have visions.  You will see and feel God at work as the Holy Spirit leads and guides you.  But most of all you find a peace that passes understanding in the last line from Joel: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  That’s you.  No matter what comes in this earthly life, the power of the Holy Spirit resides in you and your salvation is secure.  You are ready to go out and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Now, come back to June 3, 2017.  The great commission remains in effect.  God still reigns.  The Holy Spirit dwells within you.  Go out and bring the gospel to the world!


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Steps

Reading: Psalm 23: 1-2

Verse 2: He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul.

David opens the Psalm by declaring God to be his shepherd.  Because of this, David knows he shall not be in want.  Above all else, he has learned that God provides for him.  Whether dealing with a bear while tending sheep or facing a giant on the battle field or avoiding the insane king, God has provided for way more than David’s basic needs.  But God has provided for them as well, so David has a deep and abiding trust in God.  It is a trust that had grown with experience and practice.  It is one we can enjoy too if we are willing to “let go and let God”.  But it is sort of a two-edged sword you see.  If we never trust God enough to face our giants, then we never truly understand just how great our God can be.  Deep and abiding trust requires us to take another step.

David goes on in verse two to another way that God cares for him and us: rest.  God knew since the beginning how important it was for us to rest.  God himself rested on the seventh day and made Sabbath rest one of the ten commandments.  It is a practice that is deeply ingrained in the lives of Orthodox Jews to this day.  David writes, “He makes me like down in green pastures… He restores my soul”.  David is so in tune with God that he feels God leads him to a place of rest.  David’s place is out in nature, the place of his youth.  The green pastures and quiet waters are calling and David finds restoration for his soul in this place.  It is a place that God invites us to as well.  It is a space that requires deep and abiding trust as well.  It requires that we trust God enough to rest.  This means that we trust God can and will take care of tomorrow – with all of it’s requisite work and worries.  This is also a “let go and let God” practice.  It is also a means of trusting all that we have and all that we are into God’s hands.  To trust in this way also requires another step – another step towards God and away from the world.

This day may we step a little further in our trust in God, entering deeper into His love.


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Big

Reading: Jeremiah 1: 4-10

How big is the God you serve?  Is God big enough for just you?  Is God big enough for just your family or your church?  Is God big enough for the whole world?  In Jeremiah’s day, the people would have said God was just big enough for Israel.  They self-identitied as ‘God’s chosen people’ and, while this is true, it did not mean they had exclusive rights.  God is the God of all creation, of all people.  God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet” to the nations” and not just to Israel.
When we are children we see the world from this self-centered view.  We look at everything from the perspective of how it affects us, of what’s in it for us.  It is a very egocentric way of life.  This is where Israel’s faith was stuck.  Like them, when one remains stuck at this phase if life, the focus is bent only inward.  One thinks that God loves only them.  This view is of a little god, of a small god.  But we love and serve a BIG God.

In Jesus’ ministry we see the inclusion of all peoples as His ministry develops.  At first Jesus stays within Israel, ministering only to the Jews.  But over time we see a shift to include the Gentiles as well.  Nearing the end of His ministry, the great commission is to bring the Word to ALL nations, echoing God’s sending of Jeremiah.  Our faith develops along similar lines.  The more we come to know and love God, the more we begin love others more.  Our vision of God and how big God’s love is expands as God’s love grows in our lives.

As we live out our faith, may it be a big faith.  As we look at someone and anyone and everyone, may we see them as the beloved children of God that they each are.  Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the whole world’s sins.  His love encompasses all people everywhere.  May our love do the same.


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Fully Trust

Reading: Luke 10: 1-11

For most of us, when we wake up in the morning, we know what our day is going to look like.  We tend to be creatures of habit, creatures of routine, creatures of schedules and lists.  We tolerate interruptions to our day fairly well if we perceive them as something good.  Not to say we plan every second, but we do not like the unknown too much and we feel more in control when we plan, organize, and prepare.  For as long as mankind has walked the earth, this has been true.  Societies like order, law, and norms; this is a reflection of who we are as individuals.

Step into the shoes of one of Jesus’ disciples.  He seems to be a wanderer of sorts.  He seems to get up every morning and goes where He is led.  You wake up in Jericho but may not go to sleep there.  The day begins heading toward Bethlehem but you end up in Bethany.  At first it was a little uncomfortable and disconcerting just going wherever.  But over time you’ve come to see that no matter where you are or who us around, Jesus seems fully in control.  You seem to usually get fed and there is almost always a roof over your sleeping spot.  Over these months you’ve really come to trust in Him and to rely on Him for, well, for everything.

Then one morning you get up and gather around for the usual morning devotional.  You smile because today you see Jesus is leading the devotional time.  But today, instead of teaching Jesus gives instructions.  He says we are to go out two by two, by ourselves.  We are to try and bring His peace into the towns and villages that He will soon come to.  We are to preach that the kingdom of God is drawing near.  We are to heal the sick.  What?  Heal the sick?  He goes on – take nothing with you.  Nothing.  Jesus says we are to rely on those we go to for food, shelter…  Then He says, “Go!”

Jesus was calling on the disciples to trust Him.  He told them that He will still be with them even though He is not physically present with them.  Jesus tells them that they can go out and do what He has been doing because He is empowering them to go forth in His name to proclaim the good news and to bring healing to people’s brokenness.  Jesus is calling them to trust fully in Him.

What lies ahead for us today?  What all is on our to-do list?

Maybe not today because it’s already planned, but one day soon, may we each do what those first disciples did.  May we wake up and go out into our communities and neighborhoods, taking nothing but Jesus with us, but fully trusting in Him to lead and provide.  May we fully trust in Jesus Christ on that day.  It is a start.


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Where You Go

The famine passes in Judah and Naomi decides to return to her homeland.  She urges Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab, to remarry, to start life over again.  It is certainly within the realm of possibilities – both are young enough to do so.  To go against Naomi’s wished and to instead move to a foreign land would be a risky and challenging move.  Naomi knows this as she herself made the same type of move just ten years ago.

Often we too are faced with a similar choice – to stay in the comfortable, know place or to step out into uneasiness and the unknown.  It is easy to stay comfortable.  Orpah chooses to stay with her people.  But Ruth decides that she will go.  Her love for Naomi makes her willing to be that stranger in a foreign land.

Where is your ‘foreign land’?  Is it taking the time to sit and have lunch with the homeless person who asked you for $5 for lunch?  Is it going to that part of town to replace the kitchen faucet for a single mother with lots of young children?  Is it going to the jail to visit and share the love of Christ with an inmate?

Ruth said to Naomi: “Where you go, I will go.”  Christ calls us to go to many places where His light is dim and His love is unknown.  But He always goes with us.  May we, like Ruth, say to Christ and live out those same words: Lord, where you go, I will go.

Scripture reference: Ruth 1: 6-18


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Led by the Spirit

Philip was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, a place that is usually unsafe, especially alone.  He followed the Spirit’s lead.  In our own journeys of faith how often have we felt the nudge to go somewhere we questioned?  In those times when we allowed our inner fears to trump the nudge, each of us probably missed an opportunity to share our faith.

As Philip drew near to the eunuch, he heard him reading from Isaiah, “.. led like a sheep to the slaughter…”  Again led by the Spirit, Philip engaged the man in conversation.  How many times has God opened our eyes to someone who was wrestling with a passage of scripture or some other challenge life has brought their way?  Here to we each probably felt the nudge or heard the still, small voice saying “Go.”  Again we maybe missed the chance to share our faith or to bear another’s burdens as we chose to flee instead of to go.  We allow all the questions and doubts to again trump the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Philip was not seminary trained, he was just Spirit-led.  He did not have some extra-special connection or pipeline to the Holy Spirit. He had the same connection we have – through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Philip trusted the nudge.  Philip was committed to sharing the good news.  In this instance he forever changed a man’s life.  This week we will all probably have the opportunity to share our faith.  May our faith allow us to make the same decision Philip made: to go where the Spirit leads and to trust in our Lord and Savior.

Scripture reference: Acts 8: 26-40