pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Step Two

Reading: Acts 8: 14-17

Verse 17: “Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit”.

The early church fascinates me. All they knew was Jesus. They preached about salvation – the blessing that came with entering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They told others about how Jesus changed their lives and offered Him to them so that they too could be born anew. The early church lived out their faith boldly and as a witness to Jesus and His love. They lived out in and with the world, sharing the good news with any and all. In them we can see just how easy it is to share the good news – we just have to tell others what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives, opening their eyes to what Jesus can do in their lives.

The early church learns that some in Samaria have accepted the word of God and were baptized with water. The Spirit had not yet come. So Peter and John are sent to help these new believers through step two. There, in Samaria, “Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit”. It was simply an invitation to go one step further, one step deeper – to not only be baptized into Jesus’ name, but to invite and accept into themselves Jesus’ living presence, the Holy Spirit. This second step brought the relationship with Jesus to fullness.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is still the second necessary step. One can come to understand that Jesus is the way, truth, and life. One can come to know that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. We can share Jesus and people can comprehend that Jesus is the Messiah. All of this is just head knowledge. Until they claim Jesus as their own and invite Him into their heart, to dwell in them, then Jesus is just head knowledge. This second step – inviting Jesus to be a daily presence – is essential. The invitation brings the daily guidance and presence of Jesus into a believer’s heart. Then Jesus becomes king not only of their mind but also if their heart. We can lead people to know who Jesus is and we can share the power He has to change lives, but only that person can invite Jesus into their heart.

Prayer: God, allow others to know Jesus through my life – my words, my actions, my teaching. Allow my witness to draw others closer to you so that they can invite indwelling presence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, into their lives, making them fully yours. If I am but one step in their journey to you, thank you for allowing me to play that role too. Thank you Jesus! Amen.

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18″ Journey

Reading: Job 42: 1-6

Verse 5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”.

In our passage today, for Job, God has made that 18″ journey. Previous to his great trials, Job was a righteous man. He was obedient in following the Law. He worshipped God on the Sabbath, he gave to his local synagogue, he spoke to God daily. In life, Job was an honest man, a hard worker, a person who could be counted on. Job lived a blessed life – a wife, lots of children, large herds and flocks, many servants, good friends. Job was blessed and saw God as the source of his blessings.

Then one horrible day the storm hit and Job’s world was rocked. It was not a doctor saying they had found cancer. It was not a spouse saying they were done with the marriage. It was not a boss handing him a pink slip. These are horrible things that we and those we love experience. For Job, it was losing all of his kids, flocks, herds, and servants. And then being covered in painful sores.

Job succeeded in two things during his trial: he knew that God was still with him and he knew that God was ultimately in control. Yes, Job questioned why all this was happening to him – much like we do in our trials. But Job held onto God. In the wrestling with and questioning of God, Job was transformed. Verse 5 speaks of this: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”. Job knew who God was and he followed all His rules – because that is what you do. He knew who God was and he followed out of obedience. But then Job experienced God up close and personal. He got to know God because of and through the trial. God made that 18″ journey from head to heart. Job now had a personal relationship with God.

If God exists in your head, may the Lord bless you with a season of wrestling and questioning, drawing you into relationship. If God dwells in your heart, join me in rejoicing as we shout “thanks be to God”!

Lord, I thank you for dwelling in my heart. I thank you for such a great love that loves even me. I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters who have begun their journey but gave yet to surrender their heart. Move in them, Lord, to become the king of the throne of their heart as well. May it be so. Amen.


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In Love

Reading: Ephesians 4: 15-16

Verse 15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”.

Words are powerful. James compares our tongues to the rudder of a giant ship. This small piece of equipment can easily direct a huge ship. He also compares the tongue to a spark – with just a quick flash it can set a whole forest on fire. Perhaps like me you too have said a word or two in anger or in the heat of the moment and have just been engulfed in a firestorm. Words are powerful.

In today’s passage Paul advises us to “speak the truth in love”. There are two parts to this statement. The first is to speak the truth. We have all been in situations where this is hard. We will all encounter times and situations when truth needs to be spoken. Perhaps a child has gone a little astray or a brother or sister in Christ is struggling with some poor choices. They need us to be prophets, reminding them of God’s ways and to call them back to faithful living.

The second half of Paul’s advise is to speak the truth in love. Yes, at times it is harder to speak in love. Yes, at times it is downright challenging. Yet it is still what we are called to do. This may require taking a deep breath or even stepping away for a little while. It will definitely include swallowing our pride or our inclination to judge or condemn now and then. In spite of the difficulties, we can make the choice to speak truth in love. In the Gospels we have a wonderful example to follow: Jesus Christ. He is also the “why” behind speaking the truth in love.

The rest of verse 15 reads, “We will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”. When we practice Paul’s advise, we will grow in all things to be more and more like Jesus Christ. That is ever our goal on this journey of faith. Our short passage today concludes with this: “From Him the whole body grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work”. Each of us – each of us – doing our part, helps to build up the whole body. May we each be connected to Him, the head. May we each allow His Holy Spirit to lead and guide our words and actions today so that they will build up our family of faith. Amen.


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Grow

Reading: Ephesians 4: 7-16

Verse 15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”.

Our goal in life is to grow. As little children we dream about what we will be – a firefighter, a football player, and eventually a teacher then a pastor. Even once we settle into our “career” for life, the desire to grow remains in us. We do not just want to be a ___, but we want to be the best ___ that we can be. To do so we must continue to read and study and go to conferences…

These same ideas are true of our faith journey. And God has a plan for this! In verse 11 Paul tells us that God created some people to be apostles and some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. At different times in our journey we need people to play these various roles so that we can continue to grow. For example, when we were young we relied on our teachers to plant the stories of faith in us. As we move into our adult years we continue to need teachers to grow in our faith but also find a need for pastors to shepherd and guide us. All of these roles are intended for the same purpose: “so that the body of Christ may be built up”.

Paul tells us why – so that we are no longer “infants”. When we are infants we are not sure of our faith so we are easily influenced and we are more susceptible to temptation and sin. This is a place we can choose to remain and some do. Paul wants more for us. We should each want more for ourselves too. To this, Paul writes, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ”. Sometimes this truth is hard to hear. Accountability is a necessary part of the maturation process. We must be willing to accept “the truth in love” to move into spiritual maturity.

Our goal as faithful followers of Jesus Christ is to attain the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. Although we will never be perfect as Christ was perfect, the goal remains to grow more and more into Christ. As we each play the role that God has blessed us with, the body of Christ, the church, “grows and builds itself up in love”. The question for today is this: how will you help another to grow in faith?


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In Christ Alone

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

In order to both stay strong and to grow in our faith, we must be well connected to Christ.  We accomplish this by being in a close personal relationship with Him.  As God incarnate, Christ came to earth and lived among us so that we could better relate to Him and could better connect to His example and teachings.

Today’s reading gives us three ways to see our connection to Christ.  The first is that of a tree.  Christ is the soil that nourishes our faith and allows us to grow in Him.  We, like a tree, need to sink down deep roots.  The winds of life will try and blow us this way and that.  If we are not deeply rooted in Christ, we can be easily swayed and perhaps could even topple over.  When we are deeply rooted, we can pull from deep within ourselves to withstand what life brings.

The second metaphor is that of a house.  In this example, Christ is our strong foundation.  Christ and His teachings are the solid rock upon which we build our lives.  The solid foundation of our faith keeps us anchored when the storms of life come.  The trials and struggles will surely come.  But when we are rock solid in our faith and our foundation is built on Christ alone, then we can handle the things that happen that will test our faith.

Christ as the head is the third way we need to connect to Him.  In our own bodies the brain controls everything.  The brain controls all function and thought.  The brain is the complete control center.  We do not do anything without impulses, thoughts, and decisions passing through our brains.  In our lives, Christ needs to function in the same way.  All we do and say and think needs to come through Christ dwelling in us.  All must be filtered through the ‘what would Jesus do’ question.

Each day we need to be in the Word, to spend time in prayer, and to reflect on God’s will and direction for our lives.  Each day we need to take His teachings and go forth to be the light and love our world so needs.  Each day may we be firmly rooted in Christ, standing strong upon the foundation He provides, so that we may humbly and faithfully be His hands and feet in the world.


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Good, Heaven, Life

Reading: Colossians 1: 15-23

“Christ is the firstborn over all creation… He was before all things… All things were created by Him and for Him… And He is the head of the body, so that in everything He might have supremacy…”  These are powerful words that remind us of who Christ is and God’s intent for Him.

To bow to Christ, to give one’s life to follow Him, to declare Him the Lord and Savior of one’s life, all require a choice on our part.  That choice is part of the free will that God gave mankind.  From the time that sin and evil entered the Garden, making has had the free will to choose good or evil, to choose heaven or earth, to choose life or death.

One does not have to surf a media source for too long to find evil rearing its head in the world.  Warfare here, persecution of someone there, violence in the streets here, the shooting of police officers there.  These acts of violence and hatred, plus the evil that we deal with ourselves, are not God’s intent for His children.  He did not create us to be sinful but evil and sin and temptation are a part of this world, so we encounter these things.  For each of these acts of violence and evil, and for the temptation we face personally, there is a remedy.  But to find the remedy we must be willing to look at the root causes that lead to these acts and to sin and then to address these causes and triggers.

“God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things”.  All things.  God desires to reconcile all to Himself.  God desires to draw all people to Him.  “…and making peace by His blood, shed on the cross”.  The key to helping the lost choose good, heaven, and life is to share the love of the cross with them.  It is what allows us to daily choose Christ.  May we be love in our homes, at our jobs, in our whole life, so that all around us may come to know the love of the cross.


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Obeying Truth

If I were king I would expect my word to be like law.  If I said it was to be so, then I would expect it to be just so.  I assume this is the line of thinking common to kings.

But in today’s story we find that King David’s order is not followed.  There is no “I didn’t know” here because the Bible specifically mentions Joab’s presence when the order was given.  There is no “I had no choice” as the victim was killed while hanging in a tree, trapped and vulnerable.  David weeps over Absalom’s death but there is no record of harsh words or anger at Joab for disobeying orders and killing Absalom.

Perhaps this is because David gave the order from the heart instead of from the head.  It is natural for a father to overlook a son’s sins and even rebellion and to continue to love him in spite of all he has done.  It is not hard for me to imagine doing this myself.

So why did Joab kill Absalom anyway?  It was not for power or revenge – Joab serves David faithfully for the remainder of his reign.  Joab, however, saw the reality and acted upon it.  He knew that if allowed to live, Absalom would always challenge to be king and would remain a thorn in David’s side.  One could even argue that Joab did this for the kingdom.  Joab did what David knew needed to be done.

Although the result has not been death, at one time or another we have done or said what was right instead of ‘obeying orders.’  If you have not, you will one day.  What allows us to discern such a course of action?  The Spirit will guide.  Prayer will bring clarity.  Scripture will reveal truth through the words of the prophets and Jesus.  In short, our faith and our God will bring us discernment.  We just need to seek Him and hear His voice.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 18: 15 and 31-33