pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Spirit Led

Reading: Galatians 5: 1 & 16-25

Verse 25: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”.

The passage for today contrasts the fruit of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In many ways these are polar opposites. The works of the flesh are the selfish desires that we all have inside and that lead us to living a life that is not in alignment with God’s plans and purposes for our lives. On the other side of the spectrum are the works of the Spirit. When we live in alignment with these godly things we produce good fruit.

The works of the flesh are many. We are each familiar with these things. Paul provides a list in verses 19-21 that are “obvious”, to use Paul’s word. This list of sins contains many that most of us struggle with: jealousy, selfish ambition, envy – just to name a few. We each could add to the list as well: pride, lust, greed, and gluttony – again, just to name a few. Paul warns us that those living this way “will not enter the kingdom of God”. It is the reality that we all live within and that we all struggle with because we are creatures of the flesh.

Even though we are of the flesh, our inheritance does not lie here on earth. As heirs with Jesus Christ, we are children of God. When we keep ahold of this side of our character, then we are led by the Spirit. There is still this conflict within us, but we are not fighting the war alone. We are not even in charge. When we live by the Spirit our lives are different. Instead of the fruit produced by the flesh, we produce Holy Spirit fruit. Instead of guilt and shame and doubt and fear and condemnation we experience love and joy and patience and kindness and… The fruit is both within and without. When led by the Spirit we produce good fruit for the building of our faith and for the building of the kingdom of God here on earth. Therefore brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. May it be so!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my battle within is almost constant. But the presence of your Holy Spirit is always constant. Attune me better to the lead of the Holy Spirit so that the fruit of my life may ever be pleasing to your sight. Amen.


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Jesus’ Healing Touch

Reading: Luke 6: 17-19

Verse 19: “All tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all”.

When I read the verse above, I first think that maybe Jesus was in a level space right next to the biggest hospital in the region. “All” came to touch Jesus. It is not four friends bringing a lame man on a his mat so that Jesus can heal the man. It is “all” people who seek Jesus’ touch so that they can be healed. But what if people are not just seeking physical healing?

What if the majority of the “all” are seeking Jesus for spiritual and/or emotional healing? Why then, they are just like us today. When I consider all the people I know today, most of them are healthy physically. Maybe a little high cholesterol here or a cold there, but otherwise pretty healthy. When I turn my thoughts to our emotional and spiritual health, there is a whole different picture that comes to my mind. Then “all” is the correct word for who needs Jesus’ healing touch.

I, you, everyone we know is in need of healing from the sin in our lives. Sometimes they are sins that occur spontaneously – jealousy over another’s success or anger at an unintentional slight. Sometimes sins are more regular – battles with pride, ego, judging, lust – just to name a few. This alone includes at least 99.999% of us. All of us need the healing touch of Jesus to be cleansed of our sin. Many are also dealing with emotional issues from experiences in their past and/or situations in their current realities.

I would wager that most reading this are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. If not, it is as simple as asking Jesus into your heart, finding a local church to worship and learn in, and committing to reading the Bible and following its ways. But for most of us, we have wandered our path to Jesus and have come to know and follow Him. We’ve humbled ourselves and admitted our need for Jesus’ healing touch.

One last “all” – all of us know someone (or many someones) who need Jesus’ healing touch today. May we be intentional about connecting them to the touch of the great Healer, Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, may I connect others to you. As I engage others and share Valentine’s cards, may I help folks to feel your love and healing power. Amen.


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What a Love!

Reading: Isaiah 43: 1-7

Verse 2: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine”.

All great things begin small. They begin as an idea or as a thought. They are brought to life or to reality. Sometimes the greatness is only revealed over time. Such is God’s love.

God’s love was first revealed in creation. God formed the light and waters and land… and plants and animals. Then God formed Adam and, shortly thereafter, Eve. God’s love was revealed more as He walked and talked with them in the Garden. God’s love, like many great things, was tested now and then. It grew to become a covenant love for a whole nation of people – Israel. In today’s passage we see God’s love in action, calling back the chosen people.

God’s great love is a love for all people. Later in the book of Isaiah, in chapter 49, we can read about the bigger yet love of God, as Isaiah prophesies about “a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”. The light is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the fuller revelation of God’s love. Jesus modeled a love that welcomed not only the Jews but the sinners, outcasts, lepers, broken… as well.

God’s love is a love that I don’t think we will ever fully understand until we stand in His presence in eternity. Over and over again, the more we study and especially the more we experience God’s love, the more we come to realize we thought it too small. God’s love exceeds our wildest imagination. I think of all the times I have sinned – of all the unkind thoughts and words, of my pride and ego, of my desire to be in control, of my lustfull nature – and have come to know that God’s love is always bigger than my failures. As we journey through this life, we come to know more and more the truth spoken in verse 1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine”. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: God of grace and love, thank you. I stumble, but you do not let me fall. I fail and sin, but you never leave me there. I hurt our relationship, but your hand always reaches out to me. What a great love you have for a sinner like me. Thank you God. Amen.


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Secure?

Reading: Luke 12: 13-15

The issue of greed is the central focus of today’s reading.  One brother asks Jesus to help him get his share of his father’s estate.  We do not know his status – rich, poor, comfortable, in deep need.  Nor do we know his brother’s situation.  Jesus does not seem to care about this.  He aims right at a huge issue in the day and probably for these brothers: greed.  This focus may or may not be related to the man’s request for his share of the inheritance.

Greed us certainly an issue still today.  So Jesus’ teaching on greed is still very relevant today.  It always will be so.  Just as the brother is warned to be on their guard against greed, we too are warned.  We must be on our guard against greed because it can so easily become consuming of our focus and attention.

In the parable Jesus is clear that greed is not the possessing of things but in being possessed by what we have or what we lust after.  It is entirely possible to have much and be possessed by none of it.  We can be richly blessed and be very generous in offering what we have when a need arises.  But it is hard.  To attain wealth takes some time and effort, therefore we tend to develop an attachment to our wealth.  This is hard especially in our culture.  The main message of society is more, more, more.  Society encourages us to own or have as much as we can.  This easily leads to the mindset of greed.

So Jesus is right to warn us of greed.  We must be on our guard to not be drawn into being possessed by what we possess or desire to possess.  To do so our focus must be on Christ and the treasures of His kingdom.  This is the true inheritance we must seek.  It is the only inheritance that matters.  Our possessions do not secure our future.  It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that secures our future.  He is the only way, truth, and life.  May we do all we can to seek Jesus as our all in all.  Holy Spirit work in us this day to set Jesus as our all in all. 


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He Is Faithful

Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13

Paul opens chapter ten reviewing the sins of the Israelites out in the desert.  It was a time of God’s constant presence in the cloud and pillar of fire, yet the people must have gotten used to having Him around.  They stumbled in a number of ways, sometimes repeatedly – idolatry, overindulgence in food and drink, sexual immorality, testing or doubting God.  Paul uses this review lesson as a way to mirror the sins of the church in Corinth.  As we read these sins, we realize they are still common to man in 2016 and perhaps some are even common to us.

Even though God physically was present to the Israelites, they wandered.  As we fast forward to today, we now have the living presence of God present to us in the Holy Spirit.  At times we too can pretend to not hear that little voice in our head or we can shrug off that little nudge that we felt.  Paul issues a warning that applies to us as well: if we feel we are standing firm, be careful that we do not fall.

In this season of Lent, a time of introspection and repentance, let us look hard at our lives.  We may not make golden calves to worship, but are we freely generous with our resources and time?  We may stay away from overindulgence, but do we treat our bodies as temples?  We may not engage in affairs, but does our eye occasionally wander?  And then there is gossip, envy, judging, laziness, …

All is not lost or hopeless.  Paul also reminds us that God is faithful.  God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  He will provide a way out.  As we consider the state of our soul this day, may we be willing to use the strength God offers and may we follow the way He provides, lest we too fall.


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God’s Wisdom

We as Christians have the opportunity each day to take the wisdom that God offers and to share it with the world.  God’s wisdom is pure and holy, gentle and peaceful, accepting, willing to serve, and is sincere.  When we look at and live out our lives in this manner, not only is our life better, so are the lives of all around us.

When we allow God’s wisdom to be our guide, we build bonds of true community.  Here we grow seeds that will become the fruits of love and harmony and unity.  Living in God’s wisdom allows us to begin to build His kingdom here on earth.

In contrast to and opposing this is the world’s wisdom.  Characteristics like envy, greed, lust, mistrust, and selfishness tear down community and destroy relationships.  They give rise to anger, conflict, disputes, and separation.

As individuals and as communities of faith, we have opportunities to be bearers of God’s ways and wisdom.  We can choose to live lives of mercy, grace, love, compassion, and service.  If this is the ‘flavor’ of our lives, then we in turn will flavor those around us.

In the world there is plenty of negative, plenty of the world’s wisdom.  God’s wisdom can counter this and be a light to all we are in relationship with.  When we allow patience and goodness and righteousness to saturate our entire beings, then these things seep out in to those around us.  May God’s wisdom and love be our guide as we seek to build His kingdom here on earth.

Scripture reference: James 3: 13-18


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Good Choices, Good Practices

When one ascends to the top of the heap, when one attains a certain position of power, then temptation to abuse that power can be great.  The desire for more and the lure of greed often drive the poor choices that people in authority make.  From politicians to star athletes to celebrities to CEOs of companies, the list of offenders is long.  As is the list of victims.

David was like one of these men.  Powerful leader chosen by God Himself to lead Israel.  Victory in all he does, adored by the people.  So as the army heads off to war, David chooses to stay home.  Mistake 1.  As he strolls the roof of the palace he sees a beautiful woman bathing.  Instead of turning away, he allows his eyes to linger.  Mistake 2.  He sends for her.  #3!  It all goes downhill from there and David falls from grace.

None of us is in a position of power quite like David.  Yet none of us is immune because power is a relative thing.  There is usually someone else one rung down on the ladder.  The choice is to remain true to our faith and to be righteous in all we do begins early on in the thought process.  Those first few thoughts is often where the choice is really made.  It does not take too many poor choices to find oneself in a bad spot.

Good choices are rooted in good practices.  By reading His word daily, by confessing our sins daily, by drawing near in regular worship, by being in an accountability group – all are ways we gain strength to make the right choice.  And we must also remember, a poor first choice does not have to lead to a poor second choice.  Temptation is real, but so is the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Listen to the Holy Spirit.  Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 11: 1-5