pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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You Are Loved

Reading: Psalm 8:1

Verse 1: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice”?

God is wisdom. God calls out to us in many ways. God is understanding. God raises her voice to help us to have understanding too. God calls out with a raised voice to get our attention, to help us hear the message: you are loved.

In our world there is plenty of negativity. On social media we find lots and lots of negativity. News outlets of all kinds overflow with negative stories. In our personal lives we too often deal with critics and others who are negative towards us or our efforts. Add to all of this the normal trials and hardships of life. Taken together, this can be difficult to deal with and it can quickly feel defeating.

In the selection from Proverbs 8 that we read yesterday, we saw how God delights in us and rejoices over us. God calls out to us over and over in scripture to let us know how much we are loved and valued. In Genesis 1:27 we read that we were “created in his own image”. In Psalm 139 we are reminded that we were knit together in the womb by God’s own hand. In Jeremiah 1:5 we read that “before you were born you were set apart”. We are reminded in Matthew 6 that we are loved and cared for by God – and are much more beautiful than the lilies! In John 14:18 we are told that we will never be orphaned – Jesus will always be with us. These are but a handful of the many passages that tell us how dearly we are loved. In so many ways, God shouts out: you are loved.

We are loved indeed. Today, may we go forth to share that love with others, helping all to know God’s love today.

Prayer: God of love, so fill me with your love so that it overflows into the lives of all I meet today. Amen.


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Loved, Welcomed, Chosen

Reading: Ephesians 2: 11-22

Verse 22: “In Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by the Spirit”.

All of the early builders of the church had to work through age-old divisions and lines. The Jews, the chosen people of God, looked at all others as not chosen. It was like all other people were like that last kid that always gets picked last for any and all pick-up games. The Jews’ understanding of themselves as the chosen people led to a pretty isolated mindset. They did not intermarry, they did not adopt anything from another culture. ‘Just stay in our own little group’ was the thought. For any of us who were routinely picked last or who often found ourselves on the outside of the “in” crowd, we can relate to those who lived outside of the Jewish faith.

Saul was a Jew. He was proud of his position as a Pharisee. He was an ardent follower of the Law. He would have been seen as aloof and arrogant by most people. But then he met Jesus. Then he became Paul. Instead of saying you are not one of us, Paul preached that all are welcome. Instead of saying one must know and follow all of these laws, Paul preached that one must know Jesus. Paul was a radical shift from the norm. When he preached the message that, “In Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by the Spirit”. It was like saying to the one always picked last or to the outsider always looking in, you are invited, you are worthy, you are a part of us – we love you.

It was a message of love and inclusion and acceptance. But to those hearing it, there was hesitation. Is this for real? Is this some trick? Am I really wanted, really acceptable? Could God really love me? Some today see Christians as snobby, hypocritical, judgmental, hateful, isolated. We too may encounter doubting and questioning. We too may encoubter people who question our motivation. We too may encounter people who question their worthiness. For one and all, may our message be just like Paul’s: in Jesus Christ, you are loved. In Jesus Christ, you too are welcome. In Jesus Christ, you too are chosen. May we persist through the barriers, loving all as Jesus loves them. Amen.


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For God so loved…

Reading: John 3:16

Verse 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

Today’s passage is well-known. People write the reference on signs and hold them up at ball games. The verse is on zillions of t-shirts, magnets, coffee mugs, hats, and so on. “For God so loved…” is right up there with “Our Father who art in…” in terms of recognition and memorization. There must be a reason. There is: this verse is the gospel of love in one verse.

“For God so loved the world…”. At the core of God is love and God loves nothing more than his children. He is the best father one could ever imagine. He would do anything for his children. So as God looked down on the earth, He knew it was time. He had once walked in the garden with Adam and Eve and God knew it was time to come and walk among us again. So God took on flesh and became incarnate. He loved us so much that He left heaven and took on humanity.

“He gave his one and only son…”. God has only come in the flesh once. He came knowing that it would end with a cross. But a new covenant had to be established and only his son could do it. It was a sacrifice that he was literally willing to make. As the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, Jesus demonstrates not only obedience but the love of the Father as well. Yes, as He walked among us He revealed what God’s love looks like lived out. But ultimately Jesus came to defeat the power of sin and death. It is step one in reclaiming the world for God.

“That whoever believes… eternal life”. If we believe in Jesus as the Lord of our life, then we have the gift of him being Lord of our eternity as well. Not only does He dwell in us through the Holy Spirit, making this life so much better, but He also makes our relationship everlasting. This life is not all there is. Eternity awaits us all. I imagine when one gets to heaven, a first question will be, “You left this for us”? And He will say, yes, yes I did. He loved us that much. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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A Special and Chosen People

Reading: Exodus 12: 11-14

Verse 13: The blood will be a sign… I will pass over you.

The Hebrew people are the chosen people.  They stand in a special place because of their relationship with God.  As God is preparing to set them free from their long years of bondage in Egypt, there must have been some anticipation building up amongst the people.  God instructs them to mark their doors with blood and says, “The blood will be a sign… I will pass over you”.  Others will not be passed over.  Death will come to their houses.  The Hebrews are indeed a special and chosen people.  God also instructs them to eat a special meal in a specific way, all the while ready to go.  As a child we experience this same thing when Mom or Dad excitedly yells,”Everyone, get your shoes and coats on!”  We would know something special was coming our way.

It has been many years since the first Passover.  Yet generation after generation has celebrated the Passover meal each and every year.  The words have been the same almost forever; they are memorized at the earliest of ages.  The youngest one present always asks the same question about the special night.  The story and the words and the meal are passed on generation after generation so that the Israelite people can remember.  The Passover celebration tells them over and over that they are a special and chosen people who stand always in God’s presence.

When Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion, He too used similar words.  He wanted us to always remember that that we are a special and chosen people.  In the Gospel of Luke we read these words: “do this in remembrance of me”.  Each time we gather and celebrate Holy Communion we remember what Jesus did for each of us.  We tell the story over and over so that we remember and so that we are reminded that Jesus made His sacrifice for each of us.  Yet He also did it for all of us – to forgive the sins of the world.  What great love!  We are indeed a special and chosen people, dearly loved by our Lord and King.  May all we do and say this day bring Jesus all the glory and honor, reflecting a love that draws others into this special and chosen people, the church.


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Child of God

Reading: Romans 12: 17b-21

Verse 17b: Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

In today’s passage Paul encourages us to live a holy life.  The model that he looked to was Jesus and that is the model we are called to emulate as well.  So let us remember how Jesus lived a holy life – He served all He could, He fed and healed and forgave whenever the opportunity arose, He had time for one and all, and love guided all of His words and actions.  This is our goal as Christians: to live Christ-like lives.

Paul begins today’s passage with these words: “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody”.  To do right according to everybody means we strive to not offend or to be a stumbling block to anyone.  He goes on to encourage us to “live at peace with everyone”.  To do this means we avoid things that cause conflict.  That means we do not judge or condemn others, we do not gossip or slander others, we do not take advantage of others, we do not envy or covet…  Instead we are called to lead with love and grace and mercy.

Paul next addresses a natural tendency we have: do not take revenge.  He knows that at times we will be wronged or hurt or taken advantage of.  Paul says to let God deal with that.  “On the contrary” Paul says – feed your enemy if they are hungry and give them something to drink if they are thirsty.  We just need to keep pursuing holy lives.  In doing so we will “overcome evil with good”.

Paul’s invitation to holy living is not without its challenges.  It requires that we look past race, gender, economic status, sexuality, culture, religion, and any other thing that could be a barrier to loving the other.  To do so can be difficult.  So we must begin where Jesus began, seeing every person as they are: a dearly loved child of God made in the image of God.  When we first see God in others, then it is a natural next step to love and serve them as Jesus did.

All people are dearly loved children of God.  May we see each we meet this day as the loved child of God that they are.  And may we seek to love them with all we are.