pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Into the Cloud

Reading: Exodus 24: 15-18

Many years ago my wife and I were in Switzerland.  One day we planned to go up into the Alps to see Jungfrau up close and personal.  Jungfrau is a rugged and beautiful mountain.  So we found the little mountain train and rode up the line.  It was a glorious summer day in June.  However, when we got to the small town nestled high up in the Alps, the clouds had settled in around Jungfrau.  I have a lovely picture of a very thick cloud to show what Jungfrau looked like that day.

In our passage today, Moses is not on vacation but is answering God’s call to ‘come up the mountain’.  Aaron and Hur are appointed to settle disputes while Moses and Joshua are gone.  The elders are told to wait for Moses to return.  A cloud descends on the mountain as Moses heads up.  On the seventh day God calls Moses into the cloud.  Stepping into the cloud, Moses enters into God’s presence.  Moses converses with God for a period of forty days and forty nights.  Moses emerges from the cloud filled with knowledge and empowered to lead.

There will be times in our lives when we feel as if God were in a cloud.  In the ordinary days of our faith, we can sense that God is near and in those sacred moments can feel as if we were in the palm of God’s hand.  But at times we feel as if God were distant or were shrouded in a cloud.  In these times, there is a scariness about stepping into the cloud, into the unknown or unseen.  But just as God called Moses, He too calls us to trust in Him and to faithfully walk forward in faith, knowing that God will guide our steps.  Of course, we know that God is never distant or gone.  It is only that at times we feel this way.  In those times of doubt and fear and uncertainty, may we step boldly into God’s presence, as Moses did, trusting God to transform and empower us as well.

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Hope and Promise

Reading: Isaiah 11: 1-5

In many places winter is settling in.  On the coldest of windy days, one just wants to hunker down inside with a good book and a cozy blanket.  In this way, one finds a little comfort and solace in a harsh world outside.  In today’s passage, Isaiah is offering a vision filled with words of hope and promise.  The people are in exile.  Their surroundings are secular, polytheistic, and oppressive.  To a degree, they have begun to ask God how long this season of exile will last.

Into this despair and a growing sense of abandonment, God uses Isaiah to speak a word of hope.  Isaiah speaks of a shoot that will come up.  Just like us looking for that first burst of green after a long winter, Isaiah tells of a time coming soon when hope and promise will rise up from the house of Jesse.  Isaiah goes on to describe this new King – He will reign with wisdom and understanding and power and knowledge.  To these Isaiah adds that the King will give wise counsel and will live with a fear of God.  And not only all of this, but the king will also stand for the needy and those dealing with injustice.  To a people living in oppressive exile, someone who reigns by righteousness and faithfulness would provide great hope and promise.

Many living today need to hear these words of hope and promise.  Many in our country and probably some in all of our communities need to find a little hope and promise.  Some in our congregations need to know hope and promise.  Hope and promise abound in this passage from Isaiah.  A king who loves and cares for the needy and oppressed, one who rules with justice and righteousness – this is a king many need.  This King comes to us again this year in a manger, soon to be celebrated in all of our churches.  In this season where we prepare to welcome again the baby Jesus, may we also share the King of Kings, the King of justice and righteousness with a world so in need.  May we each share the King’s hope and promise this day.


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Young and Powerful

Reading: 2 Kings 5: 1-14

The three central characters are varied.  Two are very powerful and one is apparently not.  On the one hand, Naaman and Elisha appear to have a great deal of power.  Naaman is a powerful military commander and Elisha is God’s prophet, empowered by the living God.  The slave girl appears weak and powerless.  She is a prisoner of war, being kept as a slave in a foreign land.

On the other hand, Elisha and the slave girl are powerful in a way that the world does not know.  They know the power of God and trust in Him absolutely.  Naaman does not know God.  He is powerless to affect the one thing in life that isolates him: leprosy.  In a mighty act of God, Naaman does come to see and experience God’s healing power, but we do not know if he claims it for his own.

In this story we cannot miss the young slave girl’s impact.  She is alone, away from her people, enslaved in a foreign land.  Yet she holds firmly to her faith in God.  Without the slightest doubt she makes known to Naaman that he can find healing in her homeland.  She is willing to share her faith and her knowledge with one who has enslaved her.  This young slave girl is a shining witness to her faith, loving her enemy.

We cannot miss that she is young, yet another example that God provides so that we do not overlook our young people.  It would have been easy and all too common for Naaman to simply dismiss her.  It is not common for those in authority to readily listen to those who appear young and powerless.  This happens in our churches as well.  How often do we miss what the young Davids, the young Samuels, and the young slave girls have to offer.

After spending a week with almost one hundred youth serving on the Navajo Nation, I can testify to the fact that they have much to offer.  They not only offered the labor of their hands, but they also witnessed to their faith.  They were, like the slave girl, amazing and powerful.  As individuals and as places of God, may we cultivate, encourage, and seek out young people as leaders and as contributors to the building of the kingdom.  Like with the slave girl, much power resides in our young people.  May we invite them in, allow them space to share and develop their dreams, gifts, and talents, and encourage them as they go forth to change the world.


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His Witness

Reading: Ephesians 1: 15-23

Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus is that the Holy Spirit would bring wisdom and revelation to the church so that they would know Jesus better.  Paul lists three reasons why he is praying this prayer: to know the HOPE of salvation; to know the riches of the larger church; and, to gain a sense of His power.

It is one thing to know who Jesus is.  A good teacher.  A man with the power to perform miracles.  A moral example.  Yes, Jesus is all of these things.  But to know Jesus more, to the depth of calling on Him as Lord and Savior, requires faith and belief that He is the Son of God.  Once our ‘knowledge’ of Jesus has reached this place, then we begin to live for Him and not for self, knowing that our salvation, the eternal rescue of our spirit, rests firmly in His hands.

As we become a part of a community of faith we become richer.  The fellowship, worship, mentoring, accountability, and love of the faithful makes our lives so much better.  In turn we too can discover and offer the gifts that God has bestowed upon us to enrich the lives of the church and the world in which we live.  These experiences of sacrificially giving of self to others and receiving from others unconditionally opens the way for us to begin to sense His power at work.  It is through these acts of love and sacrifice that we begin to truly live as Jesus lived.  As we connect others to Him, we ourselves deepen our relationship with Jesus as well.

May we be His witness and example today, growing in our knowledge of Jesus Christ by following Him in all we do today.


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Eternal Yet Present

Reading: Revelation 22: 1-5

This final chapter of the Bible provides a beautiful image of heaven.  God and Jesus seated on the throne will be the center piece of the city.  All will serve and worship them and all will be marked as their children.  Out of the throne will flow a beautiful river, crystal clear, carrying the water of life.  Along the banks of this river will stand the tree of life.  The tree of life will bear twelve crops in the twelve months and the tree’s leaves will bring healing to all nations or peoples.  The light and warmth that basks this scene will come from God.

Revelation 22 indeed paints an amazing picture of the new heaven.  It is a place one is drawn to, a place one yearns to be present in.  The promises of complete healing, of being constantly in God’s presence, the beauty that will be the new Jerusalem – all draw one towards eternity.

Yet this idea of finally getting ‘there’ can distract us from this life.  While living with one eye on eternity can help keep us focused on how we are called to live in this world, all of our focus on eternity can cause us to look past what God has placed before us in this life.  On the other extreme, if life here is instead consumed by making the next step up the ladder of success, God has almost no role in our life.  When we are focused almost exclusively on the next promotion, the next new car or home, the next gadget, then the role of God in our life is minimal or nonexistent.

May we instead live life with the knowledge of our eternal home in mind while being fully present and attentive to God’s hand at work in this life.  May we trust in His plan and in His love both in this life and the next.


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Growing

In our relationship with Jesus Christ we can be doing one of three things: we can grow to be more like Him, we can stay where we are, or we can become less like Him.  In Revelation 3:16 Jesus warns us that if we are lukewarm, He will ‘vomit’ us out.  Another word for lukewarm would be stagnant and no one wants to be stagnant.  The path of becoming less like Jesus is the path of sin and that only leads to death and destruction.  Paul instead urges us to seek to grow from “one degree of glory to another” as we strive to grow in our faith.

As Moses’ face reflected God’s glory, our lives should also reflect God’s glory that is within us.  The love that Jesus has for us is the love that we should reflect to others.  He challenges us to love others as He first loved us.  As we grow in our faith and in the depth of our understanding of Jesus, we come to know more and more how deep and vast and wide His love is for us.  As we grow in this way, we are in essence moving from one degree of glory to the next as our lives come to reflect His love more and more to those around us.

This transformation that is occurring in us should be noticeable to those in our lives.  If we are growing in our faith, others should see this.  The love and compassion we exhibit should slowly grow.  The care and understanding we offer should slowly become greater and greater.  The depth of mercy and forgiveness we extend should be ever-increasing.  In all aspects of our lives we should be seeking to become more and more like Christ.  This day may we strive to grow a little more in our faith, growing so that we may know Jesus more, reflecting His glory in increasing measure.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 3:17 to 4:2


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May His Love Abound

In the Philippian church, the love of God was evident.  Paul’s affirmation of this love must have been uplifting and encouraging for them.  But Paul also challenged them to let this love grow so that it yeilds knowledge and insight.  Like a good coach, Paul built them up with a positive and also gave them an area to work on.

Church is the place where we should find love.  Jesus was all about loving all He met.  As His hands and feet He calls us offer His love both to those within the church and to those outside our walls.  His love calls us forth to alleviate suffering, to right injustices, and to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  These efforts are the ‘fruits of righteousness’ that Paul writes of and they bring praise and glory to God.

This knowledge and insight gained through allowing our love to grow and abound also helps churches in their relationships within.  As imperfect human beings there will be times when we are less than God intends us to be.  This may cause hurt and even division within the body of Christ.  Paul reminds the Philippians and us that the same guiding force must be used here as well: love.  When we meet challenges with love, then the outcome and resolution will also bring glory and praise to God.

As we prepare ourselves to receive our King, may this love abound more and more within us.  As we seek to love each other and our world in need, may His love within us be pure and blameless, seeking to bring praise and glory only to God and Jesus Christ.

Scripture reference: Philippians 1: 9-11