pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Be the Light

Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7

Verse 2: “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”.

Our passage today from Isaiah 9 is a good place to start Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is a wonderful day of worship and celebration and anticipation and joy and hope and love. Tonight we worship the birth of Jesus Christ!

Isaiah 9 is a good place to start today though. The prophet announces that “on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”. Jesus is the light and there is much reason to celebrate the light. But read again these first few words: “on those living in the land of the shadow”. Other translations render this a “land of darkness”. This too is a reality as we sit on the edge of the coming of the light.

Many people today live in the shadow or in the darkness. They’re nice enough folks, but they do not know the light. For some, their hearts are hard and they love the darkness. For some, circumstances have led them into the darkness – addictions, upbringing, poverty… And for some, they simply have never heard the good news that the light of the world brings. It is to all of these that we are called.

As the children of God, we are called to the hardened, to the sinners, to the lost and broken, to the outsiders. We are called to carry the light to them. We are called to go out and to enter the darkness, allowing the light of Christ in us to penetrate the hearts of those living outside of Jesus Christ and His love. May we be the light today so that all will know the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Be the light today!

Prayer: Lord God, help me to be the light today and every day! Amen.

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Promises

Reading: Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Verse 15: “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line, he will do what is just and right in the land”.

Chapter 33 begins with the promise to restore Israel. God promises to heal Israel and to bring them out of Babylonian captivity. They will return to their homeland and rebuild what was destroyed. God promises that the sounds of joy and laughter will return and the fortunes of the land will be restored. God will again bless them with flocks on the hills – all under God’s hand.

God speaks into their immediate situation to remind them of the promises that were given to their ancestors. The promises of healing and restoration, of forgiveness and love, are still there. God always keeps His promises. God’s side of the covenants to Abraham… are kept by God regardless of the failings and sins of His children.

In our passage today, God speaks of a ruler or king who will come, saying, “I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line, he will do what is just and right in the land”. As Christians, we read these words and think, “Jesus”! However, the people who received these words from the prophet Jeremiah probably did not think “Messiah”. They would simply think of a king like the great King David – one who was strong and powerful, one who brought peace and justice to the land. The idea of a good king ruling over a restored and free people back in the Promised Land would have been how Jeremiah’s audience would hear this promise from God.

Chapter 33 goes on to reiterate the promises of God to establish an heir of David on the throne and of the covenants that will continue like the day and night, each going on at their appointed times. Many, many years later and scores and scores of kings later, there is a true King on the throne of God’s people. The family looks a bit different. But the reality is that Jesus is Lord over God’s people. The Righteous One came from David’s line, just as we can read these into today’s passage. With Jesus came not only healing and restoration, forgiveness and love, but salvation as well. Thank you Jesus! Thank you God for the gift of your Son, Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, we still cling to your promises. Use me to bring the hope and light and love of the good news and its saving power to all I meet today who are lost or hurting or broken. For my King, I say thank you too! Amen.


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Kingdom Fruit

Reading: Matthew 21: 42-46

Verse 42: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Jesus transitions quickly from the parable of the tenants to today’s passage.  We recall that in this parable Jesus revealed that God is true owner of all and we are simply tenants.  In today’s passage, Jesus opens with a quote from Psalm 118. But before the quote, Jesus says to the chief priests and Pharisees, “Have you never read in the scriptures…”?  He transitions from God and the kingdom to claiming His own place in it.  He is proclaiming this role as He quotes from Psalm 118, saying, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”.  Jesus’ implication is that the chief priests and Pharisees are rejecting Him but that He will still become the cornerstone of the church.

Yes, Jesus is giving it to the chief priests and Pharisees and many of us relish these scenes.  But, we must also evaluate our own faith and see where we place Jesus in our lives.  Is Jesus the cornerstone – that upon which all else stands?  Or is He in a room that we go to just in our times of need or want?  Is He the first and last consideration in all the decisions we make, in all of our words and actions?  Jesus wants to be our cornerstone.  Is that where He is in our lives?  If so, we will see kingdom fruit producing a deeper faith within us as well as the fruit that comes from sharing the good news with others.

The chief priests and Pharisees are not producing fruit.  More than anything, Jesus sees them and all of their man-made rules as barriers to people connecting with God.  He blatantly tells them, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce fruit”.  Ouch.

Are we people who are producing fruit?  To produce fruit, our words and actions must always draw people to Christ.  To produce fruit, we must be humble servants, allowing others to see the example set by Jesus as the way of life that we are all called to follow.  To produce fruit, our love must be Jesus’ love – a live for one and all that places self last.  In all we think and do and say, may we love God first and neighbor second.  Then we will produce much kingdom fruit.


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Mercy

Reading: Romans 11: 1-2a and 29-32

Verse 29: God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.

Romans 11 deals with Israel, the people of God, and their rejection of Jesus as Messiah.  Paul writes from the perspective of one who used to be a very devout Jew but is now a follower of Jesus Christ.  He looks at the people he dearly loves, his fellow Jews, and is heartbroken that by and large they do not accept Jesus as the Messiah.  Through his own personal encounter with Jesus and his subsequent faith journey,  He knows Jesus intimately and he loves Jesus deeply.  Because of this, Paul wants all people to know Jesus as Lord – especially the chosen people of God, his own countrymen, his fellow Jews.

In today’s passage, Paul emphatically declares that God has not rejected the Jews.  Paul writes, “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable”.  The call of God upon the Jews is irrevocable.  Since the beginning of time, God has been in relationship with this people.  In the beginning He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  The conversation continued through Moses and Samuel and Elijah and… as God continued this relationship with His chosen people.  The conversation continued with Jesus, who was born of the chosen people, born from the line of David.

Paul then turns the conversation to present reality.  Because of the Jew’s rejection of Jesus (which Paul calls disobedience), the way was opened for the Gentiles to end their disobedience and to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  It was through God’s mercy that the relationship was extended beyond the chosen people.  For Paul, God’s mercy is still present, waiting for the Jews to respond.  God’s call to the chosen people is still in tact.  But to Paul, the tables have now been turned.  The people who were not chosen have accepted Jesus and through this merciful act of God, they now are called to minister to the Jews, “that they too may have mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you”.  In other words, because of the mercy they have received others may now receive it.  

Jesus commissioned all believers to go out and share the good news and to make disciples of all nations.  Part of the good news for us is the mercy we receive from God.  Paul saw the chosen people as one of many nations who needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  There continues to be many who need to experience God’s mercy and to hear the good news.  Like Paul, who did all he could to share Jesus with others, may we too do all we can to help others know Jesus and God’s mercy.


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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.