pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Honor, Glory

Reading: Romans 16: 25-27

Verse 27: “To the only wise God be the glory fever through Jesus Christ”.

We tend to go through life largely on cruise control.  Our daily routines are comfortable an established.  We are generally content with our lot in life and we live with a sense of joy and well-being.  Our jobs, our families our friends are satisfying.  Our place in God’s family feels good and we feel known by God and feel we know God.   Yes, there are trying moments and temporary frustrations, but for the most part, life is good.  It makes the Christmas season seem even better.

But once in a while, life takes a turn.  Then we find ourselves in uncomfortable or painful places.  An unexpected loss or a sudden change in life takes us for a loop.  Our routine, our joy, our contentment are disrupted.  We feel lost, insecure, alone.  Yet God remains present.  God is our constant.  We all know people dealing with loss or change.  It is important this time of the year to connect a little deeper, to be a little more aware, to remind them more often of your love and of God’s love for them.

Maybe this is you.  If so, know that God loves you and that your family and friends love you and want to be there for you.  If this is someone you know, remind them often.

Today’s passage from Paul is the closing reminder to the Roman church that God established them in the faith through the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ.  All Christians are established by this same good news.  Jesus Christ came and lived and died and was resurrected for us all, showing us how to live out God’s love here on earth and showing us the way to life eternal.  Hope and love all in one life.  This is our truth in Christ.  It is the path we joyfully and assuredly walk as children of the light.  May all we do bring honor to Him.  As Paul closes, so do I: “To the only wise God be the glory fever through Jesus Christ”.

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Testify to the Light

Reading: John 1: 1-8 and 19-21

Verse Eight: “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light”.

Today’s passage is about what is and what is not.  John begins by establishing just who Jesus is.  John draws on Genesis imagery to remind us that Jesus was there in the beginning and that He was with God.  He reminds us that all things were created through Jesus.  And, lastly, John reminds us that Jesus is the light that shines into the darkness.  This is an ongoing reality that many in the world struggle with today.

John’s Gospel then turns to John the Baptist and who he is.  John the Baptist is first a man sent by God.  He came as a witness to the coming of Jesus in the flesh.  Our passage defines John’s role this way: “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light”.  John the Baptist is not the light; he is the witness to call people to the Light or to Jesus.

Sometimes is is easier to describe or understand who we are not.  This is usually a much longer list than the one that attempts to define who we are.  As the priests and Levites that have been sent by the Pharisees begin to question who John the Baptist is, he begins with the most important who He is not: he is not the Christ (or the Messiah).  They press on.  No, he is not Elijah.  No, he is not the Prophet.  Despite telling them who he is, John the Baptist is still pressed for more detail.  He is the witness to the light that is coming into the world.

Who John the Baptist is should sound familiar to us because this is the role that we are called to play.  The Light himself spelled this out for us in the Great Commission: “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  We too are called to testify to the light that has come into the world and that continues to shine into the darkness.  We are not John the Baptist and we are not Elijah ad we are not some other great prophet.  We are simply followers of Christ called to share the good news of what Jesus has done in our lives so that the Light can shine into other people’s darkness, helping them to begin to walk in the Light.


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Joy

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 16-18 – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ”.

The Christmas season is a time when joy and love seem to abound in extra measure.  At our churches, the Children’s Christmas Program brings smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts long after the program itself has ended.  The Christmas songs on the radio or our play stations and the specials on television also add to the joy of the season.  Extra time with family and friends is an added bonus that brings us even more joy.

On the past two Sundays in many churches we have lit the candles of hope and peace and have been reminded of how, in Christ, God brings these things to the world.  This Sunday we will light the candle of joy and will be reminded of how Christ also brings us joy during the Advent season.  Joy is an emotion that naturally surrounds a birth as well.  So it is fitting that we await the birth of Jesus with much joy.

Yet very quickly after December 25, for many the Christmas season will end.  We turn from time with family and celebrations with great food and merriment to times of being alone and figuring out how we can lose what we gained and pay for what we gave.  Christmas is too often moved on from and picked up long before the season is actually over.  And if we are not careful, the joy that filled us and lifted our spirits can also slip away.

To be joyful in Christ is a trait that Christians should have all year round.  Christ does not go away with the trees and bows and songs.  But our heightened sense of joy can go.  To keep our sense of joy requires some intentional effort on our part.  We must choose to cultivate a sense of joy in our hearts all year long.  Whether we make it a portion of our daily prayer time or whether we keep a little “thank” journal that we write in each day or whether we post a few things that we are thankful for each day on social media, we must thank God each day for His presence, love, and activity in our lives.  As we practice being joyful, we will find that joy becomes a natural part of our daily lives.  It is then that we begin to live into these words:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ”.  May it be so.  Amen.


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Opportunities

Reading: Mark 1: 1-8

Verse Three: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him”.

At a school that I taught at for a long time, one year the theme was to performs RAKs – random acts of kindness.  The staff had t-shirts made up, we sought opportunities to do nice things for each other, and we tried to ‘catch’ students performing RAKs.  It spurred us all on to be on the lookout for opportunities to do random nice things for our students and for each other.  It was a good year at old DMS because whenever someone went out of their way to do something nice for you, it caused you to be mindful of finding something to do for someone else.  In this sense, it was contagious.

This same feeling seems to persist around this time of the year.  During the Advent season, love just seems to be a bit more in the air.  We hold the door open more readily, we buy and extra item or two at the grocery store for the food bank table at church, we smile and say ‘hello’ a little more warmly.  In many churches, we seek to go a bit further, doing something special during the Christmas season.  Some churches assemble Christmas Shoeboxes, some host a free Christmas dinner for the community, some collect a Christmas Eve offering for a cause in the community or in the world.  While all of these are just wonderful, they are just a part of what we are called to at the time of Christmas.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are also called to shine the light personally.  Just as John baptized in the wilderness, so too are we to call others to Jesus Christ through our words and actions.  Through the ways we demonstrate love, kindness, mercy, compassion, forgiveness… we are seeking to “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him”.  It is by being Jesus’ hands, feet, and heart that we invite others to come to know Him.  One of my devotionals put it this way this morning: “When we love, He will come”.  It is a great thought.  Each day, from now through Christmas, may we individually seek opportunities to give another person a random act of kindness, allowing Jesus to shine His light and love into another’s heart.  May it be so.


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Coming Soon

Reading: Mark 13: 24-31

Verse 28: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.

At first glance, today’s text seems odd for Advent, the season where we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The sun being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens quaking don’t quite have that Christmas vibe.  But if we dig a little deeper, the reading makes sense.  There are signs all around that the world is more ready than ever for what this passage speaks of.  Each year we can look back and think the world is more ready than ever for Jesus to return and make all things new.

If we dig down into the core of why Jesus came, we find our answer in the fullness of God’s love: for God so loved the world…  Because God looked down and saw His children living in darkness and sin, He sent Jesus.  We remember too that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  God looked down upon a world dead in its sin and did something about it.  Today many people still live in darkness and the only true, lasting light remains Jesus.  As we await the return that today’s passage speaks of, we do so following our call to bring the light and love of Jesus to all people and to all nations.  This call is a great reason for us to celebrate the birth and life that brought hope and love to a world in great need.

We wait, though, in a tension.  Verse 28 speaks of this tension: “You know that it is near, right at the door”.  Just as the fig tree shows signs and calls people to anticipate summer, so too are we to live with the sense that Jesus is coming soon.  Soon is a good place to be.  When we live with a sense of Jesus coming soon, we live with a faith that is active and alive.  We live with a faith that matters today in the present.  We live with a faith that seeks to share the hope and love of Jesus with all we meet.  We live with a faith that is full of promise and expectation.  As we live out a “coming soon” faith, may we live so that others may sense that Jesus is right at the door of their hearts too, seeking to come in.


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Awake and Alert

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Verse Nine: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Paul encourages us to stay awake on our faith journey.  He calls us to be alert to what is going on around us.  He contrasts this with those who are asleep.  There is a great difference between having a faith that is awake and alert and journeying through life asleep and oblivious to God.  The difference matters in both the day to day living and on the day when Jesus returns.

In our daily walk with Jesus we must be awake and alert and self-controlled.  Paul calls us children of the light.  In the light, all of our deeds and words – both the good and the bad – are exposed.  Paul is implying that in all we do and say we must bring honor to God.  Faith and love and the hope of salvation must be what others see in our lives.  It is through these three that we encourage one another and it is how we draw others to the light.  When we are awake and alert we also see the world as Jesus sees it.  We see those in need.  We see how we can make a positive difference for the lost.  Only when we are awake and alert do we see so that we can then respond with compassion and care.

Paul contrasts the daily walk with Jesus with those who are asleep and with those who live in the night or in the darkness.  They have a false sense of security in the dark and will be caught unprepared when Jesus returns.  They live in the dark and think their sins are covered by the darkness.  They live enjoying the pleasures of the flesh and the world, not realizing that God sees in the dark just as well as He sees in the light.

at times, however, we too wander into the dark.  At times we succumb to the temptation and we dwell in the darkness.  But out of His great love for us God calls us back into the light.  Verse nine reads, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Thank God for that love that died for us so that we may live with Him forever.  This day may we be awake and alert, having a servant’s heart and hands and feet that bring His love to all we meet today.


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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.