pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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To All the World

Reading: Luke 24: 44-53

Verse 48: “You are witnesses of these things”.

Today is Ascension day. We are forty days after Easter and Jesus is returning to the Father. Just as his own earthly ministry began with forty days of preparation and testing in the wilderness, so too does he prepare his own with forty days of teaching and challenge. In today’s passage Jesus begins by reminding the disciples of his eternity. One can trace the fingerprints of Jesus from Malachi right back to Genesis 1. The Old Testament is filled with words about Jesus and all of it has now been fulfilled. It is now time for Jesus to return to heaven, to once again be “home”.

Jesus is ever the teacher. In verses 46 and 47 he reminds the disciples of their last days with him. He reminds them of their new assignment: “preach in his name to all nations”. This remains the assignment. Sometimes it feels daunting just in our neighborhoods and communities, nevermind “to all nations”. For taking on this collective task there are two important facts that Jesus uses to encourage them. First, “you are witnesses of these things”. The disciples have seen and heard all that Jesus has done and taught. We too become witnesses through our journey of faith. We do this in worship, in study, in prayer, and through our own personal experiences with the risen Christ.

The second fact is the giving of the power to accomplish the task. Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to send the Holy Spirit. This will fill them with Jesus – in a way they’ve never felt or experienced. Just as he did during his earthly ministry, the Spirit will lead and guide, teach and remind, unpack and apply the scriptures, convict and lead to repentance, heal and comfort, build up and restore. The Spirit will do what Jesus has done for three years. This same Holy Spirit remains the gift of Christ to all who believe. As followers of Jesus Christ, there is not some checklist of obligations or a long list of rules to adhere to. It is simply about following the voice and nudge of the Holy Spirit, Christ within us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are made one with Jesus Christ. In that unity may we go forth into all the world, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God of all grace, today we rejoice in the heavenly reunion. We rejoice also in the gifts Jesus left: his witness of humble servant obedience and his Spirit to continue to dwell in our lives. In the time as one of us Jesus fully revealed your love. May I do so today as well. Amen.


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The Footstool and the Mountain

Reading: Psalm 99

Verse 5: “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy”.

Psalm 99 establishes that God reigns over all the earth and is to be worshipped by all the nations. Above all, God is holy. Because of this God loves justice and equity. God answers prayers. The Lord is pleased with Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and others who have walked faithfully. When one such as these calls on the Lord “he answers them”. All this leads the people to praise God. Verses five and nine speak of this and are almost identical. Verse five reads, “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy”. Verse nine just substitutes “holy mountain” for “footstool”. The affect is the same.

The call to walk faithfully and to worship God is a call that we hear well. When we consider the presence of God in our lives and the contentment, peace, joy, hope… that God brings us, our responses are to keep walking and worshipping. Even though we know these practices to be true and right and worthy of our time, we can also struggle to always be obedient.

Being fully human we desire to walk our own way at times. We want what we want. Our selfishness seizes control and we claim to know better than God. As we begin down this road we find other idols to worship. They can be the common and obvious ones: possessions, status, or power. Or they can be the ones harder to see from the outside: pride, ego, jealousy, envy, gossip, anger… When we get off track come to the point where we find ourselves far from God.

When we are reawakened by the call or the nudge of the Holy Spirit, we can again seek to be faithful and obedient. In his great love and mercy, God welcomes us back. From this place of humility we bow and worship God at his footstool. God does not leave us there long. In that same great love and mercy God lifts us up. He restores us to fullness of life once again and we worship him as Moses did – on God’s holy mountain. Praise the Lord!

Prayer: Lord God, you are rich in mercy and abundant in love. Your grace washes away my failures and your light guides me back to the path of faithful obedience once again. Thank you for always seeking me out by the power of your Holy Spirit. May my life be one of worship and praise, bringing others into your love and grace. Amen.


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Preach and Testify

Reading: Acts 10: 34-43

Peter opens today’s passage with an important statement, with one of the significant learning and understanding shifts in the early, early church: “God does not show favoritism”.  It is a shift away from a small, select ‘chosen people’.  Instead, Peter tells us, God is willing to accept all who fear God and who do what is right.  When the church came to understand that God is for all, the whole world became the mission field.  It was not just throughout Judea that they were called to bring the good news, but out into the entire world.  People of all races, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, religions, ecenomic classes, social classes… must hear the good news.  This philosophy of accepting and welcoming all is the essence of Jesus’ ministry and is foundational to many of our churches today.

Peter then goes on to give a brief summary of Jesus’ ministry: bapitzed by John, anointed with the Holy Spirit, did good and healed, died on a cross, rose from the dead.  After the resurrection, Jesus returned and commanded “us” to preach the good news and to testify that all who call on Jesus as Lord will receive forgiveness of sins.  Again, Peter chooses words like ‘everyone’ and ‘all’ – anyone is welcome to hear the good news, to profess Jesus as Lord of their lives, and to receive forgiveness of their sins.

In the last few verses of chapter eleven, the people Peter was preaching to are overcome by the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, and are baptized in the name of Jesus.  The power of God entered that situation and welcomed some new members into the family.  The command to preach and Testify is our command as well.  To tell the good news and to share the story of what Jesus has done in our lives is our great commission as well.  We accomplish this call with words, actions, deeds – whatever it takes for others to come to know Jesus Christ.

Today, may all of us who call on Jesus as Lord share the good news of Jesus Christ with any and all we meet.


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Big

Reading: Jeremiah 1: 4-10

How big is the God you serve?  Is God big enough for just you?  Is God big enough for just your family or your church?  Is God big enough for the whole world?  In Jeremiah’s day, the people would have said God was just big enough for Israel.  They self-identitied as ‘God’s chosen people’ and, while this is true, it did not mean they had exclusive rights.  God is the God of all creation, of all people.  God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet” to the nations” and not just to Israel.
When we are children we see the world from this self-centered view.  We look at everything from the perspective of how it affects us, of what’s in it for us.  It is a very egocentric way of life.  This is where Israel’s faith was stuck.  Like them, when one remains stuck at this phase if life, the focus is bent only inward.  One thinks that God loves only them.  This view is of a little god, of a small god.  But we love and serve a BIG God.

In Jesus’ ministry we see the inclusion of all peoples as His ministry develops.  At first Jesus stays within Israel, ministering only to the Jews.  But over time we see a shift to include the Gentiles as well.  Nearing the end of His ministry, the great commission is to bring the Word to ALL nations, echoing God’s sending of Jeremiah.  Our faith develops along similar lines.  The more we come to know and love God, the more we begin love others more.  Our vision of God and how big God’s love is expands as God’s love grows in our lives.

As we live out our faith, may it be a big faith.  As we look at someone and anyone and everyone, may we see them as the beloved children of God that they each are.  Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the whole world’s sins.  His love encompasses all people everywhere.  May our love do the same.