pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Remaining Faithful and Diligent

Reading: Luke 18: 1-8

Verse 8: “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly”.

Our God is full of love and mercy and compassion. Our God is righteous and holy and good. Our God stands for justice and equality and truth. Our God works for restoration and reconciliation and redemption. As we continue to work out our faith journeys, we should seek to grow in all of these things, becoming more and more like our Lord.

Today Jesus focuses on being persistent in our prayers as we seek justice. Justice, like all of the other qualities or characteristics listed above, are intertwined and interconnected with the others. For example, love, mercy, and compassion lead us to seek a justice that applies universally to all people. These qualities lead us to stand up and even to sacrifice so that the oppressed and marginalized experience the same justice as we and others experience. As we do this, we are a bit like John the Baptist, seeking to become less so that Jesus becomes more.

In our parable today Jesus acknowledges that there is some injustice in the world. This is not pleasing to God. It should not sit well with us either. In verse eight we read, “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly”. God will see that justice prevails – at some point. A good example of this is found in the story of Lazarus that comes in Luke 16. Lazarus had a very hard life but receives his comfort in heaven. God’s timing is a mystery to us. This leads us back to the other focus of the parable: be persistent in prayer. We do not fully understand all the ways of God. But we are called to place our trust and hope in God alone.

As we come to God in prayer, may we remain faithful and diligent, assured that God will hear and bring justice… at just the right time – at God’s time.

Prayer: Lord, listen to your children crying. Lord, hear the voices of the oppressed and the marginalized. Raise up the cries to the ears of your people. Lead us to be your heart and voice, to be your hands and feet, O God. Amen.


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Even Me

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-4

Verse 2: “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given me for you”.

Paul experienced God’s hand in a powerful way. He had not always been Paul though. He was born Saul and was raised in the Jewish faith. Saul excelled at learning the Law and eventually became a Pharisee, one of their religious leaders. He was very devout and followed the Law inside out. When the Christians began to try and spread the good news of Jesus Christ, Saul made it his personal mission to persecute them, to stomp out this new religion. Saul was enemy #1 of the early church.

And then, one day as Saul traveled to Damascus to arrest and persecute the Christians there, he met Jesus. In a jarring encounter, Jesus changed Saul forever. The #1 enemy became the #1 evangelist, travelling all over the known world preaching about Jesus Christ and His love. Saul took on the name Paul, the Gentile version, and became the apostle to the Gentiles – all who were outside the Jewish faith. His conversion story is what Paul is writing about when he writes, “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given me for you”. His name alone struck fear into Christians; now, by God’s grace, he was one of them!

As I think about and reflect on this mystery, I am convinced of the fact that God can and will use anyone for His glory. He chose Saul. That means that God can do anything with anyone. God can turn the hardest-hearted atheist into a preacher of the gospel. He can take the most vile criminal and turn them into a leader in a church. God can grab ahold of the one we least expect and use them in amazing ways.

Yes, we are all within reach of God’s grace. We are all available ammunition in God’s battle with the evil and darkness in our world. God desires to use us all for the building of His kingdom of love and grace. Thank you God for using even me.

Prayer: Lord, you call me by name. You ask that I lay down my selfish desires, that I take up my cross, and that I follow you. May it be so. Use me as you will, O God. Make me fully yours. Amen.


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Be and Share

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul writes of the mystery of God.  This mystery is often seen as the wisdom of God.  Paul writes of the mystery being revealed to the prophets and apostles.  When we think back to Isaiah and Daniel and Elijah and to Paul himself, we can certainly see God’s wisdom revealed in and through these men.

Paul also writes of the whole body of Christ.  To Paul, in this writing, part of the mystery was about the Gentiles becoming part of the family.  As the New Testament unfolds, we come to understand ‘Gentiles’ as all people who do not know God.  We come to understand that there is no one God will not welcome into the family.  As the New Testament continues to unfold, we also come to see all people as messangers and bearers of God’s Word.  We look back on the great commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19 and see it as written to not only the disciples but to each of us as well.

For most of us, the mystery, or wisdom, of God is revealed through the scriptures.  As we read the Word of God and as the Holy Spirit works in us, we too come to better understand the wisdom of God.  In part, we apply this wisdom or understanding to how we live our lives.  We work to live lives that are pleasing to God as we seek to follow His ways.  In this manner we are living out the mystery.

We are also called to share the mystery.  As disciples of Jesus Christ living in today’s world, we are called to bear the great mystery of God to others – to make disciples of all nations.  Just as Paul spoke and wrote to the Ephesians so that they would come to understand the mystery of God so that they could live a life of faith, so too are we to bring the Word of God to the Gentiles of today.

Through the power of Jesus Christ, may we both be and share the holy mystery with others, all for the glory of God.


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Mystery of Love

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul speaks of the mystery in this passage.  Paul experienced a change in his own person that many would call a mystery.  In his conversion experience, he certainly felt and connected to the mystery of Christ.  Paul also speaks of the mystery of the gospel that includes Gentiles and all peoples into the family of God.  To me his speaks of the vast love of God, a love that encompasses all and is so hard to wrap our minds around.

Vast and endless experiences in nature remind me of God’s love.  When I stand on the shore of Lake Michigan and look out to the east, it appears endless.  Water goes on forever.  On a warm summer night when I lay out and look up at the sky, the stars seem endless.  In the endless nature of the sea and sky, I can see God.  In these settings, I begin to gain an idea of how big and unending God’s love really is.  Yet I also know God’s love is bigger than anything in nature and is beyond my comprehension.

The sky is vast and made up of millions and millions of stars.  But each star matters, each star has a place.  The sea is the same – many, many droplets of water, but each its own.  This parallels us and our place in the family of God.  Each of us is one of millions and millions, yet each is a special and unique creation of God – known since we were knit together in the womb.  Each of us individually loved.

In this I find mystery.  God’s love is as vast and endless as the sky or sea, yet God knows each of us by name.  God counts that hairs on our heads.  God knows and loves each of us in a deep and personal way.  His is a mystery I cannot fully understand, but one I am deeply grateful for.  For the mystery of God’s love, we say thanks be to God.


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Magi Faith

Reading: Matthew 2: 9-12

The Magi and the religious leaders in Luke 2 are an interesting contrast.  The religious leaders are steeped in the stories of the prophets, in their own long history with God, and in the prophecies of the much-awaited Messiah.  The Jewish people told their stories over and over again so that all knew the faith.  The Magi notice a new star and somehow connect it to a story they heard long ago.  God helps them begin to connect the dots and they head off on a two year journey to find the answer.

The Magi’s and religious leaders’ paths cross.  Herod brings them together in a meeting that could have been most fatal to his reign.  The Magi provide a thread of a prophecy they heard long ago and the religious leaders quickly rattle off the connecting prophecy from Micah.  The leaders knew the stories well.  It amazes me that the appearance of the Magi did not set off bells and whistles for the religious leaders.  It astounds me that the story of the Magi following a star for two years to this time and place did not draw their attention.  The religious leaders rattle off the prophecy and quickly head back to whatever they were doing.

It amazes and astounds me until I realize how much we today are like this story.  In the Bible, we too have the stories that we read and tell over and over.  In the Word, we clearly understand the call of Jesus upon our lives and how He calls us to live out our faith in the world.  We know the stories well.  But too often we rattle off phrased like “love your neighbor” then walk away from the one in need so that we can get back to what we were doing.  Too often we miss what God has placed before us.  Oh that we were more like the Magi – attuned to the holy mystery, pursuing that which God has placed before us, being faithful to the end of the journey.  May this be the faith we both profess and practice.


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This Most Holy Night

Reading: Luke 2: 1-20

Just as Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be registered for the census, many people will come tonight to worship on this most holy night.  Just as the light of the star signaled the birth of Christ, so too this evening the light of the Christ candle will recall this holy arrival.  As millions and millions hoist candles and sing “Silent Night” we remember the numberless heavenly host who gathered around the shepherds and proclaimed, ” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests”.

This most holy night is special.  To many, we gather to remember the birth of the divine baby.  Born of a virgin mother, come to dwell amongst humanity, come to die for our sins.  In Jesus we find not only the Savior of the world, but also our Savior.  This night invites us to come, to soak up the holy mystery, to be still and really hear the words of His birth, and to be filled with wonder, awe, and presence of our God most high.

Others come tonight searching, perhaps longing, for all that Christ offers: peace, hope, joy, and love. This night invites those who are lost or hurting or without faith to come in and to be filled.  Christmas Eve is about God giving the gift of Jesus to all people regardless of who they are, what they have done, or where they are from.  In the birth we find our connection to God because in the birth God took on flesh and walked among us.  In the flesh, tonight we are all invited to come and to take on the divine, to experience life lived as a child of God.  Tonight all are invited to become part of God’s family.

On this most holy night, may you and your family be truly blessed by the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


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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