pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Among Us

Reading: John 1: 1-6 and 19-28

Verse 26: “Among you stands one you do not know”.

John’s gospel begins in the beginning – literally – stating that Jesus was there at the beginning of it all.  Jesus is the creator, the giver of all life.  Jesus is the light that shines into the darkness.  Jesus has been present to mankind since the beginning of time.  For the Israelites, it feels almost that long that they have been waiting for the Messiah.  Their collective journey of faith has been long and winding, filled with ups and downs for a long time now.  And for a long time, hundreds of year now, they have been waiting for, longing for, anticipating the coming of the One.  It has been 400 years since the last prophet of God even spoke, so John the Baptist draws a crowd when he begins to preach and baptize out in the wilderness.

As a little buzz begins to grow around John, the religious leaders send out some investigators to find out just who John the Baptist really is.  It sort of sounds like he could be the One.  In response to the investigators initial question, John responds clearly, “I am not the Christ”.  For all real purposes, they quit listening.  But then they remember they were sent to find out, so they continue to ask who he is.  Okay then, who are you?  John tells them he is not Elijah returned or any other prophet that they know.  He simply tells them that he is the messenger that Isaiah prophesied.  John quotes from Isaiah 40, saying, “I am the voice of one calling out in the desert, ‘Make straight paths for the Lord'”.  Instead of hearing that the Messiah is about to emerge, they turn to other questioning, giving evidence that they did not really hear this answer either.  The religious leaders miss the point of why John is here.  It is not about John or what he is doing, it is about what is about to happen.  You’d think that for a people waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah, they’d be all over John’s news.

Many people are right here today, just where the religious leaders are.  They sense there must be more to life, they want more for their life, they sense the possibilities.  John says to the religious leaders, “Among you stands one you do not know”.  This remains true today.  Jesus is still right here, right now.  He stands among us.  May we, like John the Baptist, be the voices calling out in the wilderness today, helping others to know the One who stands among us, Jesus Christ.

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Patience

Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8-15a

Verse Eleven: “What kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives.”

The followers of Jesus that lived in His lifetime thought that He would return very soon – in weeks or maybe in months.  But as the months turned into years and the years into decades, it became harder and harder to wait.  Not only did Jesus not return, but the Jews and other non-Christians were more than willing to remind them.  Over time the faithful began to wait with a patient and enduring hope.  Peter writes of this, saying, “He is patient… not wanting anyone to perish”.  Maybe God has not allowed Jesus to return just yet because there are still more souls to be saved.

I read a story in my devotional this morning about a woman who also held onto hope.  The militia had arrested her husband and son three years before, yet she continued to come every Monday, to the local police station, to hold a prayer vigil for her husband and son.  One day a guard mocked her and she replied with faith: “God’s justice will never fail.  It may come today or it may come in a 1,000 years, but it is coming”.  Her rock-solid faith allowed her to stand in the face of beatings and other persecutions to continue to pray for her family.  She stood on God’s promise to one day return and make all things new.

While all this is to say that God is patient, Peter also reminds us that the return will come like “a thief in the night”.  It will be quick and unexpected.  This idea makes me think of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 attacks.  The Wall had seemed to stand forever – as long as anyone could remember.  Then one day, it was suddenly torn down.  The twin towers had always seemed to be in the skyline view, then one day they suddenly were not.  In light of this unknown time, Peter asks us, “”What kind of people ought you to be?”  Without pause he continues to answer the question, saying, “You ought to live holy and godly lives.”  He calls us to live as Jesus lived, holy and godly.

Yes, we will fall short at times.  Yes, we lose our grip on the promise now and then.  In our last verse, Peter adds a word of encouragement that we need to hold fast to: “Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation”.  It is a love that never ends and a mercy that washes over sin after sin.  Thanks be to God for your steadfast love and your patient mercy.


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Prepare the Way

Reading: Psalm 85: 8-13

Verse 11: “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven”.

Today’s passage is about when we and God meet.  It is about how we seek to live righteous lives so that others may come to know God the Lord.  It is about the beauty of being in relationship with God.

The psalmist begins where we need to begin – listening to God and what God has to say.  When we do, whether through reading and meditating on scripture or through prayer, then we will indeed hear His promises, will experience His peace and love, and will be less likely to “return to folly” (or sin).  The more we listen to God, the better our connection to God and our faith.  As our connections grows, our love of God deepens.  As this occurs, our love for mankind becomes more evident.  As the psalmist writes “Love and faithfulness meet together”, he is speaking of this process.  As our faith matures, these two come to be like one: love leads us to faithfulness and our faithfulness deepens our love.  Soon they mesh, almost as one.  The second half of this verse speaks of the results: “righteousness and peace kiss each other”.  We are walking lock-step with God.

Verse eleven beautifully illustrates this idea: “Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven”.  Our faith comes alive as we live it out, becoming more and more like Christ.  In turn, God looks down from heaven and gives us what is good, yielding a harvest.  The harvest is what Jesus speaks about in both Matthew 9 and Luke 10.  Jesus encourages us to call upon the Lord of the harvest to send us out into the fields.  All around us the harvest is plentiful – there are many lost souls seeking meaning and purpose in life, sensing there is more to this existence than just life.

Our Psalm today concludes with these words: “Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps”.  May we be the righteousness that goes out into the world today, preparing the way for the Lord to enter the hearts of the lost that they may be saved.


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His Love and Care

Reading: Isaiah 40: 3-11

Verse Three: “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.

Have you ever been lost, either physically or spiritually?  Have you ever lost your way because of a storm?  Maybe it was an actual storm – a good blizzard perhaps – that you can remember being lost in.  Before long you lose your sense of direction and the safest thing to do is to hunker down and wait it out.  At some point the snow and wind subside and, more often than not, the white-covered world that is revealed is beautiful to behold.

Sometimes our storm is not a physical one, but what we feel is very similar.  The storm could be the loss of a loved one or of a job; it could be the loss of a special relationship or the loss of a home.  It can be depression or anxiety or stress that rises up to an all-new level.  Many things can rise up and swirl around us to the point of feeling lost and not able to see where to go or how to proceed forward.  Often we want to hunker down at these times as well.

In these stormy times in our lives, Isaiah calls out to us as well: “In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord”.  He invites us to open our hearts and minds for God’s presence and activity in our lives.  In the midst of the storm, Isaiah encourages us to “Make straight in the wilderness a highway for the Lord”.  He is encouraging us to allow what God desires to do: to lead us out of whatever we are in, out of our proverbial wilderness.

Our passage closes with these words: “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart”.  It is both a beautiful image and a promise from God.  God loves us dearly and so desires to let us know and feel that love.  This day may we open ourselves up to His love and care, resting in our good shepherd, trusting Him to guide us through all that life brings our way this day and every day.


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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.


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Light

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verses 5 and 6: “You are all sons of the light… let us be alert and self-controlled.”

The Thessalonians are awaiting the return of Christ.  It has been twenty years and they are beginning to wonder.  They wonder about whether or not He is coming in their lifetimes and they wonder about their loved ones who are dying in the interim.  The anticipation of Christ’s return has begun to fade for some of the Thessalonians.  As Christians today we should be looking forward to Christ’s return too, but praying for Jesus to return today is not at the start of most of our prayer times.  For the most part, we live with the attitude that Christ could return today, but we do not live like He is returning today.

Paul’s words to the Thessalonians applies very much to Christians living in 2017.  The world is full of darkness and there are many who will face destruction and who will not escape.  They will be surprised when Jesus comes “like a thief in the night”.  Paul reminds us that we are all “sons of the light” and that we belong to Christ, who is our light.  Therefore, Paul says we should be “alert and self-controlled” as we live out our daily lives.  There is the implication then that we will not be surprised when Jesus returns (or when we go to meet Him).

Paul goes on to write about how we are to live our daily lives as children of the light.  He first says to put on faith and love as a breastplate.  The breastplate protects the heart.  If we begin each day by covering our heart with faith and love, then faith and love will be what guides our thoughts, words, and actions.  Paul then says to put on the hope of salvation like a helmet.  By doing so, we have the promise and hope of salvation right on the top of our minds, allowing that reassurance to be with us in all we do.

This day may we allow faith, hope, and love to be what others see as we live a s a child of the light.  May we shine brightly into the darkness of the world this day, bringing our God and King to all we encounter this day.


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Victory

Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17

Verse 16: Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.

Tonight is a “scary” night.  People of all ages dress up in fun costumes and go out to collect candy.  The reality is that the “trick” has largely left the “trick or treat” aspect of the night and it is largely about dressing up (which is fun) and collecting candy (which is yummy).  For the vast majority who will be going door to door, trunk to trunk, or table to table, Halloween is just a fun night.

Although the “darkness” of Halloween is largely gone, the world we live in still has plenty of darkness.  The world brings each person their share of hurt and pain in life.  It is part of the otherwise beautiful and loving world.  As Christians we can better face the forces of evil and the times of pain and suffering because we know the end of the story.  Today, in Revelation 7, we get a peak into the end of the story.  We see praise and worship around the throne.  We see those that have gone through the great tribulation – they have been redeemed and their robes are white as snow.  They join the elders and the angels in worshipping God and the Lamb.  It is a wonderful and beautiful image of the end of life as we know it here on earth.

Through the victory of Jesus Christ we know that “never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst”.  It will be a time of light and love as we dwell with God and the Lamb.  All will be amazing as we join the heavenly choir singing our praises to the Lord our God.  The Lamb will lead us by springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear.  This is the vision, the hope, the promise that we hold onto as we dwell in this time and place.  Thanks be to God for the victory won by Jesus Christ!