pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Praise the Lord!

Reading: Psalm 147: 12-20

Verse 15: “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly”.

Our Psalm of praise comes from a time of joy and draws praise for God. The exile has ended and the people are back in the Promised Land. Jerusalem and Zion extol their praise to God. God has restored them, has strengthened their gates, and has provided them with the finest wheat. It is indeed a time to praise the Lord!

Fresh from the consequential time in exile, the people of Israel reconnect to God and to the law. In verse fifteen we read, “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly”. The people rejoice now in what was rejected just a couple of generations before. The psalmist compares God’s word to the snow and hail that completely covers the land. But the word and the law are not hard or burdensome. Through understanding the precepts flow and bring life to the people. The psalmist rejoices in Israel’s role as God’s chosen people. To them alone has God revealed the word and the law.

Reading today’s passage from a 21st century Christian lens, we understand that the fuller revelation of God has expanded the circle greatly. The direct descendants of Abraham are not the only people to enjoy the word of God. Jesus Christ revealed the breadth and depth of God’s love as he broke down barriers and defeated the power of sin that had so long kept God’s children enslaved. Jesus burst the circle wide open as he sent the disciples to all people and to all nations. The incarnate word of God was not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles, for the slaves and the free, for men and women,… Because we too have been drawn into the circle of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we praise God for his word that guides us as well as for the gift of the Holy Spirit that leads us. With all that we are, may we too praise the Lord!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your love continues to extend. Through Jesus Christ it has grown to encompass even sinners like me. As the disciples of Jesus Christ continue to carry the good news to every corner of the world and to each neighborhood in our communities, your love continues to grow. Use me today to share the good news with others. Amen.


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Overflow

Reading: Romans 15: 7-13

Verse 7: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”.

Stop. Read verse seven again. Slowly. The words “as Christ accepted you” are powerful. Jesus accepted me as I am. That includes my sin, yes. But, more than that, Jesus accepted me knowing that I would sin again. And again. And again. A love so perfect, accepting me as I am, is a powerful love. The “you” is also universal. Jesus’ love and acceptance knew no bounds. Many rejected Jesus. But that did not stop him from loving even these.

Rejection is something we must consider if we are to really live out this verse. To the proper Jews, the Gentiles were base and vile. They were to be avoided. But to Jesus, to Paul, to the early Christians, the Gentiles became ones to accept, to love as Jesus had first loved them. The Gentiles were simply people in need of Jesus’ saving love. The rejection did not come from the Gentiles. It came from those proper religious folks who would not go there themselves. Jesus experienced this kind of rejection too. He ate with the sinners, touched the lepers, healed on the Sabbath. Oh the things Jesus would do to love another.

That’s what this passage is calling us to. It is so easy to love those like us, those that fit the same boxes we fit. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”. For Jesus, the “you” was universal. Ours should be as well. But be prepared – some will ridicule you for ministering to that people or in that neighborhood. Some will reject you because you love and accept those kinds of people. Do not worry – Jesus was rejected too. To those who accepted Jesus, he was life. That is what brought praise to God.

I close with Paul’s closing: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Prayer: Oh God! Fill me with that hope, joy, and peace. Fill me so much that I overflow. Use me today as you will, O Lord my God. Amen.


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Doing Much, Together

Scenario 1 – Load up all of your home into a U-Haul.  Place all of the neighborhoods in your community on a big roulette wheel.  Spin the wheel to find out where your family will now be living.

Scenario 2 – You get paid once a month and it is the 23rd.  You are out of money and the credit cards are maxed.  You are cooking the last food in the house for dinner tonight.  Tomorrow you will take the car title down to the loan place.  Try to figure out how you’ll catch up next month.

In the first scenario, are there places where you really hope the spinner does not stop on?  What makes you not want to live in certain areas of town?  In the second scenario, have you ever had to put something essential on the line just to put food on the table?  Ever had to choose between food for the kids and heat for the house or gas for the car?  These are real choices real people have to make every day.

God pleads the case of the poor.  In Proverbs we are earned not to exploit the poor.  How broad should our definition of ‘exploit’ be?  Should it include ‘ignore’?  In many places in scripture we are instructed on how to care for those in need.  It is our call to do all we can.

When we are able to donate a few cans of food at church, we must because if we don’t then someone will have less.  When we are able to teach a class on budgeting and sound finances, we must because then someone will not have to go to the loan place.  When we are able to advocate for better housing and safer streets, we must because then others start to have a chance.

Individually we cannot do it all.  But we can all do something.  Together we can do much.  What will you do today to help another in need?

Scripture reference: Proverbs 22: 22-23


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He Is Calling

The message of the gospel is for all people.  In His role as the Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for all of the ‘sheep’ in the world.  In today’s reading Jesus says there are sheep in the ‘other flock’ as well.  They too must become part of our flock.

Society has changed over the last fifty years.  For the most part we have lost the neighborhood church or parish.  Most people drive in to the church from their homes in neighborhoods spread out all over town.  In our community people drive past several other churches on their way to their church.  Often people are drawn to a church by denominational ties or because of a friend or family member who already attends that church.

One of the negatives to the community churches that dominate today is the reality that most churches have lost touch with their actual neighbors.  Churches in general minister to the flock that is already inside the walls but struggle to connect with the ‘other flock.’  Those outside the walls of the church physically and spiritually are the ones Jesus seeks too.

As followers of Jesus we are called to a mission and purpose.  We are called to share the love and light of Christ with the lost sheep, many of whom are our neighbors.  The message of the cross is too powerful to keep to ourselves.  As the sheep already in the flock, we know the voice of the Good Shepherd.  Can you hear His voice calling us to reach the least and the lost?  Can you hear His voice calling us outside the walls of our churches and into the lives of the ‘other flock’?  Can you hear the call to share the good news?  He is calling.  Will you follow?

Scripture reference: John 10: 15b-18