pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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God’s Presence

Reading: James 2: 14-17

Verse 17: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.

Our faith rests in our relationship with God. As our journey begins, we first sense God’s presence in the world and in those around us. Then we come to a point where we realize that we too can have a relationship with God. Our faith journey leads us to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, as our hope, and as our salvation. We realize that grace is big enough for even our sins and we commit our lives to faith in Jesus’ saving power. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart and we live from then on with Jesus’ presence within us, leading and guiding our continuing journey. Others begin to sense God’s presence in us.

Each day we will encounter others who do not have faith. Like we once did, they too can sense God’s presence. And here is the crucial moment, the time that really matters, the litmus test of our faith. As we encounter the lost, do we just offer to pray for them and maybe give them a Bible, really keeping our faith to ourselves? Or do we allow the words to become actions, walking alongside them, guiding them through the next steps of faith? As we encounter the needy, do we do like the man in our passage, simply wishing them well? Or do we spend time with them, understanding their needs so that we can actually meet them as best as we can, taking advantage of the opportunities to share our faith as they arise? As we encounter the broken and hurting, do we only offer a few words of sympathy or give our condolences? Or do we make the time to be present to them in their grief or pain? Do we bring a needed meal or mow an overgrown lawn? Yes, we have many opportunities and many ways to be both God’s presence and Jesus’ hands and feet in the lives of others.

In our passage today, James asks, “What good is it?” if our faith does not lead to action. What good is it if our faith does not make a positive difference in the world? James plainly states, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”. How true.

Lord God, move me past my comfortable, easy inner faith. Move me outside of my tidy, little, personal relationship with Jesus and out into the real world. Help me to live a real faith that is shared and given to others, leading them to know you and the gift of salvation. Use me today, O Lord. Amen.


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Holy Spirit Speaking

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Six: “When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language”.

Jesus had been out there in the public eye during His ministry. Yes, He was a regular in the temple and synagogues, but most of His ministry was spent out in the world. In the days since Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples have gotten a bit bolder but they are still relatively quiet about spreading the good news. And then Pentecost happens.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. More properly named “Shavuot”, it occurs fifty days after Passover and celebrates the end of harvest season. Also known as the “Feast of Weeks”, this holy event drew pilgrims to Jerusalem from all over the world. This is why the list of places in verses nine through eleven is so long.

The Holy Spirit, the gift that Jesus has promised, arrives large and loud. No more quietly spreading the good news. With a “sound like the blowing of a violent wind”, the Holy Spirit enters the house where the believers have gathered. We assume that the group numbered about 120 or so. Tongues of fire fall on each one and they begin speaking in many languages. The noise of the Holy Spirit’s arrival drew a large crowd of Jews and these people from all over the world hear the Word of God proclaimed in their own native tongues. The Holy Spirit allowed ministry to happen. Peter goes on to preach to the crowd and about 3,000 are added to their number that day. The church grows by leaps and bounds as the Holy Spirit moves the church out into the wider world.

This same Holy Spirit wants to be at work in our lives as well. This same Holy Spirit wants to speak through you and me to draw others to Jesus Christ. This same Holy Spirit will give us the “language” we need to use to share the story of Jesus, the good news, with all we meet. Holy Spirit, pour out upon all of us today, allowing each of us to be used to speak the hope and love of Jesus into the lives of the unsaved and the hurting. Use us today, O Lord.


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News to Share

Reading: 1st John 1:1 to 2:2

Verse 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”.

1st John opens with some excitement in the writing. In his words we can still sense the excitement related to the recent resurrection. John bases his authority to proclaim the gifts of eternal life and salvation from sins on his firsthand experience hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus. The opening section concludes with, “We write this to make our joy complete”. John receives joy from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Coming off Easter Sunday we too should be full of good news to share with those in our world. Yesterday we joyously celebrated the risen Lord. Will we go out into the world sharing the joy? Will you?

John goes on in the remainder of 1st John 1 to encourage us to walk in the light. He writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness”. We must walk in the light to remain connected to God. John writes of the benefits of this choice. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, we experience the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. For our part, we must confess and seek to repent of our sins. John also acknowledges the reality of sin in our lives. He reminds us that we do walk in darkness, in our sin, at times. John also warns us not to claim that we do not sin because then we “make Him out to be a list”. Don’t want to do that!

In 1st John 2, John goes on the address when we sin. He reminds us of two important details in our battle with sin. First, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between God and our sins. Second, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. He has already paid the price for our sins and, in fact, has paid the price for the sins of the whole world.

All of this is indeed good news worthy of sharing. There are none more in need of hearing this news than our broken and hurting brothers and sisters who are living lost lives. If we do not share the stories of the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, how can they come to know the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ in their lives? Yesterday we were reminded that we are Easter people, that we are resurrection people. The good news is always good. It is always worthy of sharing. May we each live our love of Jesus out loud each and every day, helping others to walk in the light of God’s love. Lord, give us the strength and courage so that it may be so. Amen.


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By How You Live

Reading: Psalm 112

The psalmist expresses how life is different when our lives are lived in a relationship with God.  The Psalm speaks of mighty children, riches in the home, and good coming to the believer.  The writing also speaks of light in the darkness, of having no fear of bad news, of having a secure heart with no fear.  The Psalm also shares that a God-follower is gracious and compassionate, generous to the poor.  It is not a perfect life, free from all trouble, but it is the only way to truly live.

When one follows in the way of the cross, life is much different than the life of a non-believer.  Life in Christ is marked by joy and peace and contentment.  There is a steadiness that guided through both the highs and the lows.  This all comes from our eternal assurance.  God’s love permeates our interactions with our fellow human beings as we seek to live and serve others as Jesus did.  Non-believers will see us, will notice how we are different – in a good way – and will be curious, will be led to inquire about why we are the way we are.

It has been said the we are the only Bible some people will ever read.  I hope this is only partially true.  Living as a witness to Christ will open the door for us to eventually share our faith with someone who is curious or hurting or broken or lost.  Once that door is opened, we can gently lead them to Jesus.  When the Spirit nudges us to do so, we can share a Bible with the seeker because reading the Bible is a next step for someone seeking Christ.  Yes, how we live our lives is an introduction to faith in Jesus Christ.  But at some point, we must share the Bible too.

Where can you be a light today?  With whom can you share the faith?  How are you living as the Word of God this day?


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This Most Holy Night

Reading: Luke 2: 1-20

Just as Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be registered for the census, many people will come tonight to worship on this most holy night.  Just as the light of the star signaled the birth of Christ, so too this evening the light of the Christ candle will recall this holy arrival.  As millions and millions hoist candles and sing “Silent Night” we remember the numberless heavenly host who gathered around the shepherds and proclaimed, ” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests”.

This most holy night is special.  To many, we gather to remember the birth of the divine baby.  Born of a virgin mother, come to dwell amongst humanity, come to die for our sins.  In Jesus we find not only the Savior of the world, but also our Savior.  This night invites us to come, to soak up the holy mystery, to be still and really hear the words of His birth, and to be filled with wonder, awe, and presence of our God most high.

Others come tonight searching, perhaps longing, for all that Christ offers: peace, hope, joy, and love. This night invites those who are lost or hurting or without faith to come in and to be filled.  Christmas Eve is about God giving the gift of Jesus to all people regardless of who they are, what they have done, or where they are from.  In the birth we find our connection to God because in the birth God took on flesh and walked among us.  In the flesh, tonight we are all invited to come and to take on the divine, to experience life lived as a child of God.  Tonight all are invited to become part of God’s family.

On this most holy night, may you and your family be truly blessed by the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.