pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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He Died for Us

Reading: Romans 5: 6-8

Verse Six: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

To me, today’s three verses speak to the depth of God’s love for all of humanity.  The key words are ‘love’ and ‘all’.  It is an amazing, mighty, almost unfathomable love that would send His Son, knowing He would die a painful death.  And speaking of unfathomable – Jesus died for sinners, for you and me, plus all those who hate God and those who deny God and those who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence…  To die for the sinners we all are is one thing.  To die for the haters, the atheists, the non-believers… is a whole other level of ‘all’.

Verse six reads, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.  In His infinite wisdom, God initiated His plan to save us at ‘just the right time’.  God’s hand is often at work in the world.  Sometimes it happens in big ways, like this, and at other times God’s hand is at work in smaller ways, like the time that person said that thing to you at that time in your life.  There is another truth in this verse.  We are powerless.  Before the cross humanity was trapped in our sin and held captive by death.  But through the cross we find forgiveness and hope.  As Christ conquered sin and death, He opened the way for us too.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus we can claim salvation and eternal life.

In the next two verses, Paul returns to the idea of just who Christ died for.  He notes that maybe some would die for a good man.  I think some are even willing to die for a good cause.  But no one would be willing to die for an enemy or for a cause they do not believe in.  Jesus died for both.  “While we were sinners” – separated from God – He died for us.  That’s amazing, but it goes farther.  Jesus knew we would continue to sin.  He knew His death would not end sinning.  But He died anyway.  We, by our imperfect nature, are prone to sin.  And Jesus died for each and every one of us anyway.  Thanks be to God.


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Hope

Reading: Roman 5: 1-5

Verse Five: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Chapter Five opens with Paul’s declaration that we can claim peace with God through Jesus Christ because we are made right through our faith.  It is a bold statement but one we live into every day as Christians.  Our faith in Jesus Christ brings us into God’s grace, the unmerited gift of forgiveness that washes away our sins so that we can stand before God holy and pure.  It is an amazing love that makes us righteous day after day after day, sin after sin after sin.  It is a love without limit.  It is indeed the hope of the glory of God which leads Paul to rejoice.  May we rejoice as well!

In verse three Paul shifts directions but not end results.  Not only do we enjoy a peace with God that leads us to rejoice, but Paul also encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings as well.  Being made right through God’s grace allows us to have hope in our future.  For Paul, he saw this same hope as the end result of our suffering.  For Paul, suffering was a necessary part of our Christian journey.  As Saul the Pharisee he certainly had inflicted much suffering on Christians and as Paul the Apostle he definitely endured his share of suffering and persecution.

For Paul, he rejoiced in the sufferings because he knew it would lead to a deepening of his faith.  Paul had learned that in suffering righteously one learns perseverance.  When we lean into God and endure with the power and hope that Jesus Christ offers, then through the power of the Holy Spirit we can persevere.  As we trust in God and live within His presence, that develops our Christian character.  Our hope in God’s glory grows as we experience the power and strength of God carrying us through our trials.  We begin to see these earthly troubles as bumps along the way to experiencing God’s eternal glory.  This in turns leads to an ever growing hope.  It is a hope that is everlasting.  It is the hope that will not disappoint or fade.  It is the hope that thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.  It is the hope we come to know beyond the shadow of a doubt because we come to fully know that “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.

As Christians we face each new day with God’s love deep in our hearts.  May we walk in faith and hope this day and every day, trusting in the God who loves us beyond all measure.


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God Kept the Dark

Reading: Genesis 1: 1-30

Verse Two: … darkness was over the surface… the Spirit of God was hovering.

The creation narrative begins with the world being formless and empty.  There was darkness over the surface and “the Spirit of God was hovering”.  Sometimes we feel as if life were a bit formless or out of control and sometimes we feel a tad empty.  Life would not be the same if the world were void of these times.  God’s first act of creation is to form the light.  God chooses to separate light from dark instead of simply eliminating the darkness.

As Christians we often look at light as good and at dark as evil.  We reference Jesus as being light and we pursue “walking in the light” as a way to represent following Jesus.  We use the phrase “shine the light” to describe living out our faith as we seek to share our faith with others.  The implication here is that our ‘light’ drives away or at least exposes darkness.  And it does.  In the end, we know that light will triumph over the dark because only light can drive away darkness.  Darkness simply cannot drive away light.

Although we prefer to walk in the light, at times we​ do struggle with the dark.  On one level, sin and temptation are always near, lurking right around the edges as Satan is always at work.  On another level, life itself sometimes brings darkness.  In this sense, it is not necessarily evil.  It comes in a loss we experience or maybe it is caused by the actions of another person.  Sometimes we find ourselves in darkness as a result of our sins.  In any case, being here is uncomfortable and maybe painful.  We do not like being here.  But God kept the dark for a reason.  It is here, in the dark of the valleys, that we must trust and hold onto God the most.  It is here that we learn how much we need God.  It is often here that our faith grows the most.

We love the light.  This is our preference.  It is where we are called to live as here we reflect God’s love back out into the world.  The light is also our hope in times of darkness.  For God’s presence in both the light and the dark, we say thanks be to God.


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Suffering

Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11

Verse Nine: Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith.

Suffering is the overarching theme in today’s passage.  Peter opens by reminding us that we may suffer for our faith.  He says, “do not be surprised” and encourages us to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”.  To really suffer for our faith is foreign to us, isn’t it?  To rejoice because we are suffering for our faith seems even more foreign!  Yet over the course of our faith journey, most of us can look back and see times when holding fast to our faith led to some decisions and choices that had a ‘cost’ and came with some suffering.  Maybe it was a relationship that you had to let go or a work decision that kept your integrity but cost a promotion or a windfall in your bank account.  This is the type of suffering that most Christians we know suffer.  But the reality is that there is much pain and suffering just beyond the doors of our beautiful churches and just down the street from our nice neighborhoods.

Every community, big or small, has its share of suffering.  When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, He knew we would.  We find suffering clustered here and there.  In my town it is called “housing” and in all communities there is a similar neighborhood.  The housing conditions are poor, people go without heat and/or electricity for stretches, and food is sometimes scarce.  In larger communities there are also homeless shelters, safe houses, and halfway houses.  In big communities there are the “projects” and in some huge cities whole communities are built out of cardboard and scrap metal and there is no running water or electricity.  Go to this place in your community and you will see that there is pain and suffering, there is hurt, and there is a loss of hope.

Our call as Christians is clear: go.  Go!  Go and do what you can when you can.  Alone you and I cannot end the suffering…  But we can alleviate some and lessen some.  We can bring food and clothing and whatever else material is needed.  We can bring food and sometimes clean water.  We can fix a leaky roof, a broken window, or a creaky set of steps.  We can sit and hear someone’s story and offer some words of hope.  We can also work to address some of the root causes and systematic forces that cause the pain and suffering.  This can be through education, through voicing opposition to the systems that work against those in poverty, and through fighting things like prejudice and stereotyping and judging.  This day and every day may we “Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith”.  Evil comes in many forms.  Today may we resist all forms if evil and suffering as we seek to bring the hope and love of Christ to a world in need.


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Christ as Lord

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 13-17

Verse 15a: In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.

In our passage today, Peter addresses suffering for our faith.  In the context of when Peter wrote these words, suffering was a real and very present obstacle.  In the time right after Jesus’ death, there was much skepticism and a lot of persecution against those who professed Jesus as Lord.  It was a hard, difficult time to be a Christian.  Many people suffered a lot for their faith.  Some were even martyred.  In spite of this, Peter still takes on the reality and offers a reminder of the hope and promise believers have in Jesus.

Peter begins by asking “Who would harm you for doing good”?  We tend to think the answer is ‘no one’ but this is not always the case.  At times people may question a Christian’s motivation or may react negatively to attempts to help.  Peter reminds us to count it as a blessing if we suffer for Christ.  To him, this showed a willingness to follow Christ when there was a cost.  It shows a high level of commitment.

Peter encourages us to not fear what the world fears – rejection, abuse, threats, being ostracized – but “in our hearts set apart Christ as Lord”.  To endure suffering does bring us closer to Christ as we are, in our sufferings, being ‘like Him’.  To keep or set apart Christ as Lord brings us strength and peace in the midst of it all.  Living with Jesus as Lord keeps us focused on the eternal and not on the things of this world.  Through this we have hope.  Peter knows this hope firsthand.

Peter also knows that others will notice our peace and hope in the midst of trials and sufferings.  And they will be curious.  Therefore Peter advises us to be prepared to explain our hope and peace to others when they ask.  Perhaps knowing that being in a time of trial and suffering can be hard on us, Peter also reminds us to respond with gentleness and respect.  Love all.  Always present His love first.

“Then they will know we are Christians by our love…” speaks of these concepts.  And not only will they know, they too will come to desire the peace, hope, and strength that Jesus alone offers.  Love first.  Love all.


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Trust

Reading: Psalm 31: 1-5 and 15-16

Verses 1 and 2: In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge… be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Today’s Psalm 31 verses really represent the best of King David, “a man after God’s own heart”.  It demonstrates for each of us the relationship we all should strive for with God.  It speaks of refuge, strength, redemption, and deliverance.  In the verses not in our reading, the Psalm recalls some of the trials and sufferings of David’s life.  It is good to balance out the verses we read with a reminder that even the great King David hadn’t his struggles as well.  As we too face trials, temptations, and struggles it is good to know that we are not alone.  To acknowledge this makes the verses for today all that much more relevant to each of us.

At times, life does seem to storm about us.  The Psalm opens with David taking refuge in God.  There is a trust in this action that we should emulate as well.  Seeking refuge in God signals our admission of our inability to handle it or solve it on our own.  It admits our absolute need for God.  David goes on to extend the place of refuge to be a place of leadership and guidance.  Once David feels the safety and protection of God’s refuge, then he begins to seek the next steps.  David asks God to lead and guide him.  He does not say, “The storm has calmed” and then step back out on his own.  David’s example maintains the trust in God and the dependence on God.  We would do well to follow his example.

The last two verses of our reading reiterate these points.  David writes, “my times are in your hands” and asks for God’s face to shine upon him.  He also seeks saving through God’s unfailing love.  All we have and are rests in God’s hands as well.  May we trust into this reality as we spend our days.  When we trust and love God with all of our being, His face shines upon us too and we will certainly walk each day in the light of His love.  Amen!