pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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I Am Sending You

Reading: Matthew 10: 1-23

Verse 16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to “drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease”.  In this passage today, they are being sent to fellow Jews.  Jesus calls these the “lost sheep” – tying back to why He had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9:36.  The twelve are first to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and then to heal diseases, raise the dead, and drive out demons.  The authority Jesus gives them to perform miracles will lend credence to the message they bring.

As we go out into the world, we go for the same reasons.  We go to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we work to heal a broken world.  Each of us who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior has a story to tell that will be good news for others.  Each of us can love and serve others too.  We may not be able to work miracles, but by caring for basic needs and by giving of our time and talents we do bring healing.  It is through our loving acts of service that we too gain footing to share Jesus with the lost.

Jesus warned the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”.  There is a defenselessness that comes to mind with this statement.  It requires trust in the Shepherd.  He goes on to advise them to be on guard against men.  Jesus warns them that persecution is going to be a part of the journey.  He also tells them that the Spirit will be with them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  And then Jesus encourages them, stating that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  Keep the faith, I am with you.

We too are sometimes sent to people or places that make us feel like sheep among wolves.  We too must trust into the lead, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit.  In those uncomfortable or outside our comfort zone times, if we keep the faith the Spirit will give us just the right words to say as well.  May we be like the twelve, trusting He who sends, going forth to share the good news and to bring healing to our broken world.  May our light draw others in to Jesus Christ – the One who saves.


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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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Therefore Go

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus came and stood among the believers one last time.  In that crowd were people with a range of faith.  Some were fully sold out and were ready to go and do anything Jesus said to do.  Some were simply full of doubt – was this really Jesus?  Does He really expect me to do this?  The bulk of those there that day in Galilee as followers of Jesus Christ probably fell somewhere between these two extremes.  And in reality, that is where most of us live out our faith lives each day.

It is important to note that Jesus did not talk to the group of believers and then call aside the few that were on fire to give the commission to.  He did not pull aside Peter, James, and John and give them special instructions or powers.  This same inclusiveness is seen on Pentecost when the Spirit falls on ALL believers.  So Jesus said to the whole crowd, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.  He said it to the doubters and skeptics and those new to the faith as well as to those who would give their lives for the gospel.  Jesus was building up a community of faith, not a group of church leaders.  Jesus knew that the people would be won to Christ one heart at a time.  Therefore, it will require all of the believers to bring the good news to all nations.

That day in Galilee, there were certainly some names we know present.  But there were dozens and dozens there whose names we will never know.  All there that day were commissioned.  Why?  Because all who were there knew the love of Jesus and that is all one needs to share Jesus with others.  That is why the commission falls to us as well.  All who know the love of Christ in their hearts are called to go and make disciples so that all nations can be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This day and every day, may each of us seize the opportunities we have to share the good news of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


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Walk

Readings: Micah 6:4 and Matthew 5: 1-2

When one reads these verses together, there is a connection that forms between Moses and Jesus.  The concept of going up the mountain is sprinkled throughout both men’s stories in the Bible.  Moses often meets God on the mountain – it is there that he receives his call and it is where he commonly interacts with God.  For Jesus, the mountain is often where He goes to pray, to connect personally with God.   Some of the time Jesus also teaches from the mountain, as is the case today.

There is also a parallel in the idea of teaching from the mountain.  God taught Moses, who in turn taught the people, from the mountain.  In our passage from Matthew, we see Jesus in this same role – teaching from the mountain.  With both Moses and Jesus we see God being actively engaged with helping the people grow in their faith.

This process continues today.  God continues to be active in our world, teaching us in the mountaintop experiences, in the valley trials, and everywhere in between.  God continues to teach believers through the words of the prophets, disciples, and apostles.  God continues to be active in our lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding believers.  God continues to be active by taking individuals like you and me, sending us out into the world to share the good news with others.

At times we learn slowly and at other times in sudden and moving revelations.  At times the Holy Spirit gently nudges and quietly whispers – at other times the compassion to act or the conviction of sin hits us like a sledgehammer.  At times we inch into service at a glacial pace and at other times we burst into action.  It is a process.  It is a journey.  May you be blessed on your walk today.  Whether on the mountaintop, in the valley, or somewhere in between – be blessed as you bless others today!


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One More

Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25

One more.  We wait.  One more week.  We wait.  In one more week it will be Christmas.  We will celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior.  One more week.  It is a significant day because it marks the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah – the one who forever changed the world.  Jesus began a new era in His birth.  Emmanuel, God with us, forever changed our relationships with God, with each other, with sin, and with death.  Jesus is the full revelation of God’s love and the example of how to live this love out in our daily, human lives.

One more second.  On more month.  Twenty-three days.  Right now.  All of these are also available options of times to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.  Our Emmanuel, God with us, is an ever present God.  We can have Jesus’ presence with us all the time.  Jesus does not just come once a year on Christmas.  Jesus continues to be present to us in the here and now and will continue to be present to humanity until the end of this age.

The Messiah came to initiate a new age: the age of peace.  It is a work in progress.  It is a work in the midst of labor pains.  It is a work that seems far from complete.  It is a work that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, continue to carry out day by day, person by person.

Just as Jesus was the revelation of God and the evolving story of the Old Testament, we too are the continuing revelation of Jesus and the story of the New Testament.  The story of the good news of Jesus Christ continues to grow, to spread, to reach new ears, and to transform lives.  Everyone who comes to Jesus as Lord and Savior helps to complete the narrative of peace and to draw the world a little closer to the return of Jesus.  One more soul at a time.  Matthew writes, “He will save his people from their sins”.  May all come to know this wonderful peace of Christ.


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Represent

Reading: Galatians 1: 1-12

Paul is angry with the Galatians for living a gospel that is less than what he taught them.  They have come to accept a gospel that is less than they first believed.  Although the way of the cross is hard and the path is narrow, there is only one way, truth, and life.  There is only one good news.

Before we condemn the Galatians, let us look within first.  Have you ever bought an imitation product before?  Even though you knew it wasn’t the real thing?  Maybe it was a watch or pair of sunglasses or a handbag.  We buy such things because we want to appear to be something or someone we are not.  If we were really what those items represent, we would buy actual Rolex or Oakley or Gucci.

Our faith is not very different.  If we were to honestly assess the faith we are practicing daily and living out in the world, then we would have a good look at the gospel we have accepted.  I am guessing it is also less than what we first accepted.  At some point we have read “with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and thought, ‘not yet, but one day’.  To fully love God with our all is the goal.  When we fell in love and gave our lives to Christ, this was our goal: to make Him #1 in our life.

Maybe tomorrow you will worship the god of green pastures and little white balls.  Maybe tomorrow you will worship the god of still waters and drowning worms.  Maybe tomorrow you will worship the Lord of you life and sing and praise His Holy name with your church family.

Either we are living a sold out, 100% in faith or we are living something less.  Are we really who we say we represent?  May the true gospel of Jesus Christ be our all in all, our way, truth, and life.  All of it.


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Holy Spirit Power

Reading: John 16: 14-15

I think the same fears that gripped the disciples also grips us.  Without Jesus in their midst, how would the work continue?  Without Jesus leading the way, how do we have the power to do it?  Without Jesus, how do we know what to say or where to go?  They were full of doubt and questions.

Jesus closes out His earthly time by reassuring the disciples that He is not leaving them alone.  He promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit to answer all of their questions and to ease all their fears.  In essence, Jesus is giving them His continued presence in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus assures them that in the Spirit they will find both Him and God.  The coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives will bring them the courage to do the work, the direction on where to go, the guidance on the words to say, and – most importantly – it will be the power of Jesus and God in them.

A frequently asked question on journeys is, “Are we there yet”?  On our journey to complete the great commission the answer to this question is obvious.  If Jesus has not returned yet, we are not there yet.  Until He comes again in glory, our work must continue.  Each follower of Jesus Christ must continue to be at work to bring the good news to all people.

The same fears that gripped the first disciples still grip us.  We ask how, what, where, when, and why questions all the time.  Our answer is the same as theirs was.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, with God and in Jesus.  We too are called to trust in the presence, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit.  We too can cast aside our fears and can go out to bring Jesus to the world.  May we go filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and with His light shining out from within!!