pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Presence

Reading: Psalm 77: 1-2 & 11-20

Psalm 77 begins with, “I cried out to God for help; I cried out for God to hear me”.  In this opening line we can feel connection.  Whether recent, long ago, or present, we have all had occasions to cry out to God and to lay out great need at His feet.  When we find ourselves at the end of our hope, we desperately reach out to God and beg Him to hear our prayer.

Then the psalmist goes on remind himself of all that God has done.  In this way we too can recall times we have been in God’s presence in our past and can again rejoice in the blessings we have and are currently experiencing.  Then he goes on to recount God’s goodness and the many miracles God has worked in the past.  In the midst of a difficult time it is important to think on God’s love, goodness, and power.

As the Psalm concludes, the writer recalls God’s leading of the people.  God still desires to lead us each day of our lives as well.  God seeks to be an active and engaged participant in our lives.  In times of stress or trial it can be easy to forget God’s role in our lives.  Even in those times that He seems to be absent, He is always ad near as our next prayer.

God’s desire is to heal and save the world.  The master plan is to make all things new again.  There is hope in our faith.  We do go through dark moments in our lives, but we also dance in God’s light and love.  May today be a day of dancing.  And even if the dance is slow and mournful, may it also be bathed in God’s presence.

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Follow

Reading: John 10: 22-30

The Jews in the temple ask Jesus a question I think we ask often.  We may not always ask it verbally but I think we certainly do with our decisions and actions.  They ask Jesus if he is the Messiah.  Is he the one coming to redeem Israel, to restore them to their rightful place amongst the great nations?  They are looking for Jesus to do something grand.

His response perplexes: “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep”.  Believe that you are the Messiah?  I’m sure they are thinking something along these lines: ‘Rid us of these Romans and make Israel great and then we will believe and then we will follow.  For now though, we’ll just do our own thing.  Yes it is nice that that guy can now walk and that that guy can see and that you fed all those people.  Really neat stuff (for them), but when will you really start leading, doing really important stuff (for us)?’

We are sometimes a lot like them.  Yes Jesus, I love you and believe in you and want to dedicate my life to you, but first I need to…  Yes Jesus, I will serve and follow you, but first would you…  We like Jesus, but too often on our terms and conditions.  Like the Jews in the temple that day, we expect or maybe even demand something grand from Jesus.  Then we will be all in.  Then…

And Jesus says to us: my sheep follow me.  It is not about what I can do for you.  It’s about what I do to you, about what I do in you.  The miracles, they just show that I am who I say I am: the Son of God, the Word made flesh.  Follow me, be my sheep, do what I did: love, serve, sacrifice, forgive.  The you will be my sheep.  Then you will know a peace that passes understanding.  Then you will begin to live eternal life.  Follow me.


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His Love

Reading: Acts 9: 36-43

As human beings one of our greatest non-physical needs is to belong. As social creatures, we need to feel like we are a part of the group and that we matter to others.  In turn we feel a need to have others feel that they  matter to us, that they are important parts of our life.

In today’s reading this is shown as a dear friend, Tabitha, passes away.  She seems to be the glue that held this small community together, so the grief is especially deep.  She not only shared her presence and love with her friends, she also showed it in her actions and in how she gave physical gifts to them as well.  Her friends and the two disciples who are present decide to send for Peter, who is in a nearby town.  The depth of love in this small community is amazing.

The depth of this love has power.  The level of caring is evident.  Peter comes and cares for Tabitha’s friends by restoring their dear friend to life.  By the power of this miracle many outside the group of friends come to believe in the Lord.

We too use the love of Jesus to form bonds of friendship among fellow believers.  Through study and fellowship we can find deep, caring relationships that meet our need to belong and to matter to others.  In turn we care for and love one another in acts of presence and in acts of service and in sharing together the love we find in Jesus.

This same love and actions that emulate His love and example can be brought out into the world.  Just as Tabitha’s resuscitation brought new believers to faith in Christ, our words and acts of service to others can help them to come to know Christ.  Our words and deeds may not be miracles in and of themselves like the miracle in today’s story, but they are the seeds that one day can lead to another coming to know Christ.  It is all about planting seeds and sharing His love.  May we plant well today!


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Faith and Mystery

The book of Job has a happy ending.  Job’s suffering ends and God restored him beyond all he had before.  Job is blessed with large herds, many sons, and beautiful daughters.  He lives for 140 years as a very blessed and dies full of life.  One could say all ends well but our questions are left unanswered.  We do not know why Job had to endure this trial.  We do not know Job’s take on what happened either.  In the end we see that God remains mysterious.  For our faith, this mystery is essential.

Try as we might, mankind cannot explain all that is in the world.  There is much that has been figured out but we only seem to be able to go so far.  Great minds have studied and observed and analyzed and calculated to learn much.  We can split atoms and see far into space.  We can trace the evolution and extinction of many species.  We can replace hearts and we can restart hearts.  Yet there is much that cannot be explained by scientists, doctors, mathematicians…  Events and things that happened and happen remain a mystery.  In our world miracles still occur and a shrug of the shoulders is the best explanation that can be offered in intelligent response.

There is still mystery to God as well.  There are may questions that cannot be answered.  The ‘why’ questions of life and death and illness remain as do the ‘how’ of miracles that occur.  There is much we do not know of God.  But there is also much we do know.  God is love, compassion, peace, comfort, understanding, forgiveness, mercy, grace.  He has plans for each of us and those plans are good.  Yet there is still much mystery and this is also good.  Faith and hope are still required of us in our relationship with God.  Faith draws upon trust and experience.  As we live out this life in relationship with God, our faith grows.  In faith and hope, we live with the mystery of God because above all else, we know that God is love.

Scripture reference: Job 42: 10-17


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Head to Heart

Faith rests upon the bedrock of Christ crucified and risen.  It is only through His sacrifice that we are made right with God and only through His resurrection that we have the promise of eternal life.  We ourselves can do nothing to earn forgiveness or to earn our way into heaven.  It is only by His grace and with the power of the Holy Spirit that we walk daily as a child of God.

For many today, this seems foolishness and is very hard to accept.  Like the Jews and Greeks in today’s reading, people today still want amazing signs or miracles or they want to be able to reason out faith.  Many in Jesus’ day saw miracles but failed to believe.  Many today believe that Jesus exists but fails to follow Him.  They observe the rules and diligently check off the boxes.  They know the stories in the Bible.  They practice religion but do not have a living faith.

But until Jesus makes that journey from head to heart, religion is all one has.  Once Jesus starts to live in our hearts, our lives change radically.  Instead of thinking how nice it was that Jesus did all those wonderful things for people, we want to go and do in His name.  Once Jesus lives in our hearts, our faith grows hands and feet.  The Spirit comes to dwell within us and life is never the same.  It is then that we can see with Jesus’ eyes, love with His heart, and serve others in the saving name of Jesus Christ!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25


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His Constant Presence

After feeding the 5000, Jesus sends the crowd and the disciples off and takes the time to go up the mountain to pray.  As night falls, He walks out to the disciples, who have been struggling against the wind.  In faith, Peter even takes a few steps on the water.  As they climb into the boat, the winds die down.  What they had been struggling against is taken away by Jesus’ presence.  In response they say, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I wonder why we at times recognize Jesus as so much more and at other times fail to even notice His presence.  For the disciples, why does Jesus walking on the water and calming the wind draw such a response when feeding 5000 from a couple fish and a few loaves does not?  Yet we are the same.  Why does seeing someone’s cancer suddenly disappear seem so much more than a simple day blessed by God’s presence?  Isn’t God as present in one as in the other?

We are drawn to the big and flashy but God also resides in the day to day as well.  It is from His constant presence that we truly draw our strength.  Today, may we notice God in all of the little things of life.  And at the end of the day, may we sing His praises for this gift.

Scripture reference: Matthew 14: 22-33