pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


Leave a comment

Restore

Reading: Psalm 80: 5-7 and 17-19

Verse Five: “You have fed them with the bread of tears”.

Psalm 80 is a song of lament.  As one reads the Psalm, you can feel the people’s pain and hurt seeping out of the words.  They are calling out to God and and feel as if God were not there.  In the opening line of our passage, the psalmist asks, “How long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people”?  They are searching for God.  They long for God’s face to once again shine upon them.

Today our headlines are filled daily with stories of people who could use God’s face shining upon them.  And there are countless others who feel this way whose stories do not cross our TV screens or our Facebook feeds.  There is much hurt and brokenness in our world and even in some of our lives.  We continue today to ask where is God in the midst of the pain and suffering of our world.  We wonder why God would allow tings to be as they are for so many people.

On behalf of the people Israel, the psalmist laments to God: “You have fed them with the bread of tears”.  It is a sad image to have in our minds.  Instead of being filled with God’s love and compassion and healing, they are eating tears.  They long for God’s presence instead.  The psalmist goes on to ask, “Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.  The people long for God to look their way.

Many would voice this call today.  “Restore us, O God Almighty”.  You are powerful and can do anything.  You came down to earth and lived among us, healing many – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  You continue to be present both through the Holy Spirit and through us, your disciples.  So Lord, God Almighty, send us out, led by the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Send us out to bring healing and restoration to the broken people of our neighborhoods and communities.  Send us out to be your love and compassion to those who are eating tears.  Lead us and guide us to fill them with your bread of love and hope.  Send us out.  Amen.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Anticipate

Reading: Isaiah 64: 1-4

Verse One: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”

As we begin Advent today, we are preparing to remember when Jesus first came as a baby.  There is an anticipation that builds as we walk through this holy season.  There is an excitement that grows as we draw nearer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Part of our excitement and anticipation is built upon what comes next though.  The birth is exciting and grand partly because of the life that is then lived by Jesus the Messiah.  Jesus the Savior brought new life and love into the world.  Jesus allowed people to connect to God in a new way and also opened up the way to eternal life for all who believe.

As Isaiah wrote today’s passage, there was a deep longing for hope and God’s presence.  The Israelites had just returned from a long period in exile.  Things were not as they had been.  Life was hard.  Isaiah voices the people’s deep-felt need for God when he writes, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”  It is a plea.  He is begging for God to come down and to intercede for the people.  The people long for God to come down to “make your name known” as God once again does “awesome things”.  The people of God are anticipating the restoration of God’s reign.  It is a waiting they want ended very soon.

On the edge of Advent, we too anticipate God’s reign.  Many people long for God to intercede in their lives today.  They long for God to bind up their hurts, to end their season in exile, to make all things new, to once again feel hope and love.  We all long for the God who “acts on behalf of those who wait upon Him”.  We too wait with hope and excitement for Christ to come down once again, to begin His forever reign.  In the interim though, we live now with the risen Christ, daily looking forward to His presence and activity in our daily lives.

As we wait, we pray for Jesus to be near the broken, to heal their hurts, to restore their lives to wholeness.  We ask that we may be used in the process, to have open hearts and willing hands.  May it be so.  Amen.


1 Comment

Seeking and Searching

Reading: Ezekiel 34: 11-16

Verse 11: “I will search for my sheep and look after them”.

Our relationship with God is a two-way street.  We are created by God with a spark of God inside each of us as we are created in His image.  From birth God reveals Himself to us through the world and through the people in our lives.  As we grow and mature, we begin to sense our need for something more in life, for God.  If one chooses a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then this need is filled with faith and with God.  some folks choose to try and fill the God-hole in their life with many other things, none of which ever satisfy, all leaving them searching.

Once we choose God over the things of this world, then we begin to seek more of God.  Our journey of faith becomes one of continual learning and growth.  We always seek to know Him more deeply, more intimately.  We spend time in His word, time in prayer, time in worship, and time in fellowship with other believers.  This all deepens and strengthens our faith and our relationship with Jesus, enriching our lives and bringing us His joy, love, peace, and hope.  In turn, God eventually calls us to go forth and share all of this love, hope, joy, and peace with others.

God also pursues us.  God desires to be in a relationship with all people.  This is what today’s Psalm is all about.  Verse eleven begins with these words, “I will search for my sheep and look after them”.  Jesus, our good shepherd, desires to search for, find, bring in, and care for all the sheep.  The psalmist goes on to explain how, writing, “I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered”.  This speaks both of us during those days or seasons when we have wandered and also of those  who have chosen the wide path of the world.  He seeks to call all people to Himself.  Once the call is heard, Jesus will “bring them back into their own land”.  He will connect us into communities of faith where we find encouragement, support, learning, unity, fellowship, a sense of belonging.

Our passage today ends with words of healing and restoration: “I will search for the lost and the strays.  I will bind up the inured and strengthen the weak”.  Jesus searches for and seeks out all, both the sinners and the saints.  Thanks be to God that Jesus has found you and me.  Thanks be to God that He always calls our name.  Thanks be to God that Jesus continues to search for the least and the lost.  Thanks be to God that Jesus seeks to bring them healing and restoration and to bring them into the family of God.  Thank you Jesus for your love.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Teach and Share. Repeat.

Reading: 2Timothy 3:14 to 4:5

Timothy has been richly blessed in his life.  His family has encouraged and taught him on his early faith journey.  They planted and nurtured the seeds of faith that God watered and made grow.  Paul steps into Timothy’s life to continue to teach and correct and encourage him as he grows in his faith.  Timothy is now at a point where he is ready to preach the Word, to use his faith to help others on their journey of faith.  Timothy’s faith has grown to the point that he feels God’s call upon his life.

We too have walked (or are walking) a similar path.  Our faith is meant to be lived out in community.  It began that we with Jesus and a small group of followers.  Jesus taught them the faith so that they too could one day share the good news with others.  After they had been with Jesus for a sufficient time, He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  The disciples went out and shared their growing faith with others.  Their own faith grew and they returned to Jesus to learn some more.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples continued to learn and grow from each other and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We, as current disciples, are called to the same life.  Be in the community, be in small groups to encourage, support, and learn together.  Go out into the world to teach and Share our faith.  Return for more encouraging, supporting, and learning.  Head back out into the world to teach and Share.  Repeat often.  May we learn to follow Jesus’ example, modeled by Paul as well.


1 Comment

Sabbath Honor

Reading: Luke 13: 14-17

Laws are important.  Imagine for a moment living in a society that had no laws.  It is a frightening image.  In reality, all groups, societies, and cultures have laws or norms that they live by.  Even a band of thieves has some norms that govern life within that group.  Civil societies have many laws that govern behavior and establish order.  The purpose of laws is to protect us, to keep us safe, and help the community function.  And although the law is the law, there are times we see the law as optional or as flexible.  For example, we may walk across a street somewhere other than the crosswalk or we may drive a bit over the speed limit.  Other laws seem to be more absolute.  Election laws are followed precisely and none would ever condone breaking the laws against child abuse.

For the synagogue ruler in today’s reading and for other religious authorities in Jesus’ day, all of the law was absolute.  Keeping every letter of the law is what separated them from and elevated them about the rest of society.  Consequently, they held the view that if you break one letter of the law, you break the whole law.  Jesus grew up a practicing Jew.  He understood and knew the law.  He also understood that at times, as was the case today, that God’s law will at times trump man’s laws.

Jesus chooses to heal a woman on the Sabbath.  Jesus knew the laws against working on the Sabbath.  He also knew that almost everyone there had tended to the animals or the children or …  Jesus knew that the religious authorities had so defined the Sabbath through a myriad of laws that keeping all of the laws had superceded actually honoring God on the Sabbath.  They had lost sight of the day being about resting in God.  The leaders were so caught up in the laws that there was little time left to honor and worship God.  The laws had become the focus.  Lost was the renewing of the mind, body, and spirit that comes from a whole day dedicated to God.

On the Sabbath Jesus sees a women who needs mind, body, and spirit renewed.  She has been captive to her infirmity for many long years.  So Jesus frees her.  He heals her so that she can fully worship God, which she does immediately.  Instead of keeping the whole of the Sabbath law, Jesus instead chooses to honor the Sabbath by following one of God’s ultimate laws – love your neighbor.  Healing this woman was not work.  It brought honor to God.  It restored a child of God to wholeness.  May all we do this Sabbath day bring honor and glory to God.


1 Comment

Step Forth Boldly

Reading: Luke 10: 16-20

In a way Naaman and the 72 are opposites.  Naaman loads up the treasure to pay for his healing and heads off to find the man of God.  The 72 go out with nothing, taking the word of God, empowered by Jesus, to give away healing and hope.  In Naaman is healed, he may be drawn near to God.  The 72 are going out to bring the kingdom of God near to all people.  Even to those who reject the Prince of Peace, the disciples proclaim that He is near.  Too many of today’s Christians and too many of our churches today are more like Naaman, seeking to get something from God instead of striving to offer God to others.

Earlier in Luke 10 Jesus stated the reason for sending out the 72: “the harvest is plentiful”.  It is certainly plentiful today as well!  The disciples trusted in Jesus’ power and stepped out boldly to heal the sick and to proclaim that the kingdom of God was drawing near.  At first they must have been way outside their comfort zones.  Naaman too must have wondered a time or two what in the world he was doing as well.  But God rewarded their faithfulness.  Both the 72 and Naaman experienced firsthand the simple power of God to bring healing and to know personally how impactful the kingdom is in their lives.

Jesus calls on us today in the same ways.  Trust in Him and in His power to guide us.  Rely on Jesus alone.  Go forth and trust in the Lord of the Harvest.  May we too boldly step outside of our comfort zones, trusting that God will lead.  Through our simple faith, may we this day bring the kingdom of God near.