pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Joy and Peace

Reading: Romans 5: 1-2

Verse 2b: “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”.

In the first part of Romans 5, Paul writes about the peace and joy we find through faith in Jesus Christ. The peace we feel comes because we have been “justified by faith”. To be justified means to be made right with God. This is an ongoing process, one that happens over and over. Paul goes on to explain that it is through Jesus that we find access to the grace necessary in the justification process. It is Jesus’ grace that says his love is greater than our sins.

Because we experience grace, we are forgiven people. Because we are forgiven, we experience a peace that the world does not know. People living outside of a relationship with Jesus struggle with feeling peace in their lives because they do not know grace. The lack of a vertical relationship with God impacts their horizontal relationships with their families, friends, co-workers… The inability to receive and extend grace and mercy and forgiveness limits and hampers their relationships. Peace with others and with self becomes an elusive target. Soon joy is harder to find as well.

As people of faith, we know both joy and peace through our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is something that should be and usually is evident in our lives. The peace that passes understanding and the joy in the midst of difficult or challenging situations is something the children of the world notice. When asked what makes us different, when asked have joy or peace in those unlikely times, we must be ready to share our story of faith. It is through our story that we invite others to know Jesus, the source of our joy and peace.

Verse 2 concludes with these words: “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”. We have hope in Jesus Christ, the glory of God. We rejoice because we know the end of the story. Whether we are thinking of the end of our own story or of the end of humanity’s story, we know that eternal life awaits all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We rejoice in this truth. Jesus brings us joy and peace in this life and in the life to come. Today may our joy and peace help another to know our truth.

Prayer: Jesus, my savior and my hope, thank you for the joy and peace that comes through knowing you. May these blessings flow out of my life and into the lives of those who need to know your joy and peace. Amen.

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Do It Quickly

Reading: John 13: 21-32

Verse 21: “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me”.

At the start of John 13, Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. He has “set you an example” and encouraged them to do as He has done. Next Jesus goes on to predict that one of His own disciples will betray Him. In verse 21 we read, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me”. The disciples react as we all would in Jesus’ presence – at a loss. They each think in their own hearts – surely not I! They are all curious and Peter prompts John to ask. By sharing the bread with him, Jesus reveals it is Judas Iscariot. Jesus directs Judas to “do quickly” what he will do. At this, Judas slips off into the night.

Reading the story, we think poorly of Judas. Yes, it had to be done to fulfill the scriptures. But we still dislike him because he betrayed Jesus, the one whom he had spent the last three years with. It feels like a worse betrayal than if it had been one of the Pharisees or a stranger. It could have been Matthew or John or James or Bartholomew or Thaddeus or even Peter, the one who most seemed like a leader. In the next section, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial. It could have been any of the twelve.

It is Judas Iscariot that slips off into the night to betray Jesus. John tells us “it is night”. Night and darkness symbolize evil and Satan. By contrast, day and light represent God, Jesus… Because Judas does not question or linger, but acts, we can infer that he has been wrestling with this. He has been brought to the decision point this night: light or dark? Good or evil? When he takes the bread, we read “Satan entered into him”. On this night, the darkness won. The scale tipped in favor of evil.

We are all in this place often. The Spirit works to keep us walking in the light and the evil one tempts us to step off the narrow road and off into the darkness. The temptation may be to gossip or to tell a little white lie. It may be to steal that set of headphones that is just lying there or to cheat on that big test. Maybe it is to turn in a false tax report or to click that pop-up that is so enticing. Perhaps it is to falsely accuse another to paint a better picture of ourselves or it is finally consummating that affair. The degree of sin matters not to God. Yes, the human or earthly impacts and affects will be greater for one scenario versus another. But to God, all temptation that leads to sin is the same. We are choosing dark over light, evil over good, Satan over God. Each week, each day, each hour, we face temptation. May we each turn to God and may we do it quickly. May we allow the light to chase away the darkness. May we strive to walk in the light.

Prayer: Lord, the battle is hard. Satan is ever at work. So I pray that the voice of the Holy Spirit is loud and strong in me today. Quiet the call of the earthly and fleshy desires within me. When they rise up, remind me quickly of your will and your way and your word. Strengthen me, O God. Amen.


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Uriah’s Path

Reading: 2 Samuel 11: 6-15

Verse 11: “As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing”!

In today’s passage there is quite a contrast in characters. David chose to stay home from war, to sleep with another man’s wife, to get her pregnant, and to try and cover it all up. Uriah has dutifully gone off to war, chooses not to lie with his wife, and honors the men out in battle. He walks a different path. What a contrast to David’s path.

David knows Uriah. He is one of David’s thirty mighty men – elite warriors who have spent much time with David. David sleeps with his friend’s wife. News of Bathsheba’s pregnancy hatches a new plan. Bring Uriah home under the guise of getting a report about the war and then send him home for the night. Surely he will lie with Bathsheba and all will think he’s the father. But Uriah sleeps outside the entrance to the palace. David asks why he didn’t go home. Hear the integrity in Uriah’s response: “As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing”! How could I? This response must have stung David a bit. No worries – plan B. That night David gets Uriah drunk and tries to send him home again. Again Uriah sleeps outside the palace. He does the right thing again. Plan C begins to unfold. It works as Uriah is killed in battle. After mourning, Bathsheba will become a wife to David and the child seems legitimate.

David implicated and affected many people in his sin. Some were impacted in small ways, but impacted nonetheless. Others were obviously affected more – Uriah, Bathsheba, Joab. When we sin, we too affect others. In our minds we also try to rationalize it or to minimize the ways it affects others. But sin never affects only us. At the very minimum it impacts us and our relationship with God. Indirectly there is always a list of others negatively affected. And then there are those we hurt directly.

Just as sin has ripple effects, so too does doing good. Let us not lose sight of Uriah. In our passage today, we can also learn from Uriah. Doing the right thing is always an option. When presented with the choice today, may we choose Uriah’s path – the path of righteousness. May it be so today.


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Wait Patiently

Reading: Romans 8: 22-27

Verse 25: “If we hope for that we do not yet know, we wait for it patiently”.

Paul writes in today’s passage of the anticipation of things to come. He writes of creation itself “groaning in the pains of childbirth”. Paul is not writing of the physical pain that comes with childbirth but of groaning in anticipation of the new life that is to be born. Creation will one day be restored too.

Paul goes on to write of our “groaning inwardly”. We too wait eagerly for our time of “adoption as sons” when we will experience the “redemption of our bodies”. Whether we meet Jesus in heaven or when He returns, it will be a glorious meeting. While no one wants to die today, there is an eagerness and a longing for being with Jesus in paradise.

In the meantime we live as His children here on this earth. In our day to day lives we seek to love as Jesus loved and to help others know a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the hope we have. It is a hope not yet realized, for we are still in these earthly bodies, yet it is a hope we eagerly await. Paul writes, “If we hope for that we do not yet know, we wait for it patiently”. We wait patiently because we trust in God’s plans for us and for the world and because we have souls to help save in the here and now.

As we wait patiently for our gathering together with Jesus we faithfully live lives that actively lead others to Jesus, the hope of the world. We try and plant seeds of faith in others by doing the things Jesus did – helping those in need, touching the untouchable, welcoming the outcast, living the least. In and through all of this is the power of the Holy Spirit at work. Paul reminds us that we have the “first fruits of the Spirit”. These allow and help us to impact others for Christ. The Spirit leads and guides and informs us as we seek to build the kingdom here on earth. As we wait patiently with hope, may our words and our lives help others to do so as well.


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Stumble Behaviors

Reading: 1st Corinthians 8: 1-13

Verse One: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”.

Paul is dealing with a controversy in the church in Corinth. Because of their life experiences, one group in the church feels that eating meat sacrificed to idols is sinful. To them it has been tainted, so it should not be eaten. But to others in the church, they do not think there are other gods than God himself. Therefore, they see meat sacrificed to gods that do not exist as being okay to eat. These two groups are at odds.

Paul opens our passage today with these words: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”. He is referring to those who know it is okay to eat the meat as being ‘puffed up’ or arrogant in their stance. Instead of looking down on those struggling with this issue, those Paul calls ‘weak’ or who are less mature believers, Paul encourages them to choose love instead. Paul goes on to acknowledge that idols are “nothing at all” yet reminds the puffed up believers that some are still so accustomed to idols that eating this meat defiles them. Paul then asks the mature believers to abstain from eating such meat because it has become a stumbling block to the less mature Christians. Paul even goes so far as to call it a sin when they intentionally do something that is not a sin if that causes another believer to stumble.

We do not eat food sacrificed to idols today, but we do practice behaviors that cause others to stumble. Imagine the impact on one considering a walk with Christ if they see you regularly joining the office gossip circle or if they hear you harshly judging a fellow worker. Imagine the effect of a Christian using unethical business practices or acting in immoral ways concerning their marriage. Imagine the consequences of making your children go to youth group or Sunday school when you use the same hour to grab a coffee or to do the grocery shopping. As the world witnesses the words and actions of Christians, they can draw others to Christ or they can lead them away from Christ. Through and through we must reflect the love of Jesus Christ first and foremost. We must be diligent in our walk with Jesus, guarding our words and our actions so that we always build one another up. May it be so today and every day.


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Present and Active

Reading: Psalm 114

Verse Three: The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back.

This song of praise celebrates God’s mighty acts during the exodus from Egypt.  This journey to the Promised Land is the fulfillment of a promise God made to His chosen people.  For those who were there, it was an amazing experience.  For all the generations after, that is brought back to life every time they sing this Psalm.  These events are just more witness to God’s love and care for the Israelites.

There are three God moments remembered in the Psalm.  The first is when they were hard-pressed.  As the Egyptian army closed in, “the sea looked and fled”.  The Israelites were saved.  The second is when they faced the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land.  Even though at flood stage, “the Jordan turned back” and the people once again crossed over on dry land.  The third came when the people were put hard to the test.  Water was scarce in the desert and the people were almost dying of thirst.  Moses struck the rock with his staff and water poured forth.  God turned the “hard rock into springs of water”.  Once again God saved the people.

Over the course of their history God would act again and again on behalf of the people.  Some were mighty acts like at Jericho when the walls came tumbling down and others were relatively small – the quiet call of Gideon or the simple act of Rahab.  To this day God continues to be present and active in the world and in our lives.  Some are ‘small’ things like the miracle of birth.  Others are ‘bigger’ – someone’s cancer is suddenly gone.  Even in the midst of tragedies and natural disasters, God is present in powerful ways.  Faith-based groups and agencies will have huge impacts in Texas and Florida as they come in to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, helping to restore people’s lives and their hope.  God continues to love and care not only for His people but to love and care for all people.  May we do the same today as we celebrate and participate in God’s continuing involvement and presence in the world.


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Community

Reading: Jeremiah 29:7

In our lives connections are important.  We live within a web of connections or relationships.  We have connections first to our families.  Here we gain our sense of belonging and here we develop who we are – all within this safe web of family.  Next we form connections with our friends and significant adults in our lives.  Soon we come to understand that how we live, act, and treat others matters.  How we are treated matters.  We learn how impactful our lives can be on others and vice versa.  Both for the good and the bad, we know that our connections to others is vital.

Jeremiah advises Israel to seek prosperity and peace for the city of Babylon.  He goes on to advise them to pray for the city too.  The welfare of the exiles is bound up in the welfare of the city.  One does not have to look too far in America to find examples of this concept.  When there was unrest and protest and violence in a city, the impact was felt by all inhabitants of that city.

In our lives we have many layers of connections and relationships.  The closer in, the more they impact us.  For example, a parent losing a job impacts us more than a third cousin losing a job.  We still feel for that cousin, but don’t necessarily deal with the affects.  This distance can lead us to not be as connected to those we do not know and to those who we see as the stranger.

Our reality is that we are connected to all in our community.  Our faith calls us to be aware of all in our community.  The idea that our community as a whole is less when even one member suffers is an extension of God’s love for all of us.  It is when we choose to address basic needs and to correct injustices that our whole community prospers and flourishes.  When life is better for one, it is better for all.  This sense of equality and well-being for all is deeply rooted in our faith.  For whom in our community could we make life better?