pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Sharing Our Story

Reading: Acts 2: 5-21

Verse 17: “In the last days, I will pour out my Holy Spirit on all people”.

In the opening chapter of Acts, Jesus ascends to heaven and the disciples choose Matthais to replace Judas, once again bringing the number of disciples to twelve.  Just before ascending, Jesus tells them that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and that they will be “my witnesses… to the ends of the earth”.  Acts 2 opens with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.  It enables the followers of Jesus to speak in other languages.

In today’s passage,they speak in the languages of all those Jews who have come to see what the violent wind meant.  It meant come and hear the good news of Jesus Christ – at least that’s what God purpose for it was!  Amazed and perplexed by what is happening, they asked one another, “What does this mean”?  This was a totally new experience for everyone involved.  Some question what is going on, forcing Peter to stand up to offer an explanation.

Peter connects back to the Old Testament scriptures and to the prophet Joel.  Peter is using what they are familiar with to help them understand what they just experienced.  Peter is an excellent evangelist.  Evangelism 101 tells us that if we want to share Jesus Christ with another, we should first get to know their story.  Jesus also usually followed this basic pattern as well, often getting to know another’s needs.  So we are in good company if our first step of evangelism or mission is to begin to form a relationship with the other.  Peter has a basic relationship with his audience, being a Jew himself.  Sometimes this is the case with us too.  When we share our faith story with someone we know, we usually know some of their story.  In these cases, we can tie our story into their story.

In Acts 2, that is what Peter does.  He uses Joel’s prophetic words to explain what has just happened there that day in Jerusalem.  Joel predicted it, the Jews know the prediction, and now they have witnessed it being fulfilled.  Peter connects the dots to show how God is at work in the world and in their lives.  When we have the chance to share our faith story, we too must connect the story of what Jesus has done in our lives with the vision of what He could do in the life of the one we are ministering to.  This day, may we seek an opportunity to be a witness to our faith, opening the door for another to take a step of faith.  May it be so.

Prayer: Lord God, help me to find opportunity today to share my faith.  May my story connect with another, helping them to step towards a relationship with Jesus Christ, your Son.  Amen.


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Fill Us, Holy Spirit

Reading: Acts 2: 1-4

Verses 3-4: “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost Sunday in many of our churches. It is thought of as the birthday of the church. Two different groups were gathered in Jerusalem for two different reasons. The disciples of Jesus were gathered, waiting for the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit. Jews were also gathered, there to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. This annual festival fifty days after Passover was known as “Pentecost” in Greek. These two groups would be gathered under one roof as the loud noise, sounding like a “violent wind”, draws them together.

For the disciples who were gathered, they experienced something extraordinary. In verses 3-4 we read, “… tongues of fire… came and rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”. With a tangible and very visible sign, that which Jesus promised arrived. The gift that will teach and remind also gives the gift of speaking in many different languages. This remains one gift that the Spirit gives to those who follow Jesus.

I am currently at Annual Conference – the yearly gathering of United Methodist churches. My Annual Conference consists of the UM churches in South and North Dakota. Last night we had our “Celebration of Life in Ministry” service. In worship we celebrate the ministry of those no longer with us. We celebrate those who have graduated and those becoming provisional members and those being ordained as elders or deacons. It is a wonderful night of celebrating ministry. It begins with a welcome from a clergy from another denomination. Last night it was an Episcopal priest that our Bishop met while visiting the Standing Rock Reservation. This special guest represents our ties as the larger body of Christ, together under “one roof” as the Bishop put it in his message. Near the end of worship our Bishop always invites those whose hearts have been warmed, those perhaps feeling a call to ministry, to come forward.

As the Bishop prepared to give the benediction, the Episcopal priest asked to speak. He spoke of how our two denominations are close – Methodism was “birthed” by the Episcopals. And he spoke of how his heart was full and was warmed by this movement of the Holy Spirit among us and in our hearts. He spoke of how we are under one big roof – drawn together by God. Yes, God was once again at work in a very tangible and powerful way, speaking once again into our hearts. This day I look forward to having the Holy Spirit speak in my heart once again. May it be so for you as well.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for filling my heart as well last night. Thank you so much for loving us so much that you work on being in relationship with each of us. Fill me up again today, Lord. Amen.


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Pentecost People

Reading: Acts 2: 1-11

Verse Four: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them”.

The holy day of Pentecost has gathered Jews from all over the known world into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is also home to the newly formed church that follows Jesus. God uses a very loud sound, something that sounded “like the blowing of a violent wind”, to bring these God-fearing Jews and Jesus-loving Christians together in one place.

As the Jews hear the sound, they are drawn to find the source of this strange phenomenon. At the same time, the Christians are anointed with what appears to be “tongues of fire” that come to rest on each of them. The fire represents the Holy Spirit. It is a physical sign of a spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit is the gift that Jesus promised in Acts One. With the promise of the gift came a responsibility: “you will be my witnesses”. As the crowd of Jews arrives, the believers “began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them”. The believers are witnessing to their faith in the languages of the crowd that is now arriving. People from all over the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ in their native tongues. They were “utterly amazed”.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we too have been blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and have received the same charge to be witnesses. The same power that the original Pentecost believers had is also in us. The Holy Spirit will help us to speak to the non-believers that are all around us as well. If we are willing to allow the Spirit to be at work in our lives, to lead and guide us, we too will have opportunity to witness to those who do not know Jesus Christ. We may not speak in exotic or foreign languages, but the Holy Spirit will enable us, giving us the words of life that a non-believer needs to hear to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This action of the Holy Spirit is just as amazing as the work done that first Pentecost long ago.

To this day we remain Pentecost people. We are people filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. May we faithfully use the gift that God has given each of us to speak words of love and words of hope to our world in need. Holy Spirit, lead us each and every day. Amen.


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Holy Spirit Speaking

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Six: “When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language”.

Jesus had been out there in the public eye during His ministry. Yes, He was a regular in the temple and synagogues, but most of His ministry was spent out in the world. In the days since Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the disciples have gotten a bit bolder but they are still relatively quiet about spreading the good news. And then Pentecost happens.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. More properly named “Shavuot”, it occurs fifty days after Passover and celebrates the end of harvest season. Also known as the “Feast of Weeks”, this holy event drew pilgrims to Jerusalem from all over the world. This is why the list of places in verses nine through eleven is so long.

The Holy Spirit, the gift that Jesus has promised, arrives large and loud. No more quietly spreading the good news. With a “sound like the blowing of a violent wind”, the Holy Spirit enters the house where the believers have gathered. We assume that the group numbered about 120 or so. Tongues of fire fall on each one and they begin speaking in many languages. The noise of the Holy Spirit’s arrival drew a large crowd of Jews and these people from all over the world hear the Word of God proclaimed in their own native tongues. The Holy Spirit allowed ministry to happen. Peter goes on to preach to the crowd and about 3,000 are added to their number that day. The church grows by leaps and bounds as the Holy Spirit moves the church out into the wider world.

This same Holy Spirit wants to be at work in our lives as well. This same Holy Spirit wants to speak through you and me to draw others to Jesus Christ. This same Holy Spirit will give us the “language” we need to use to share the story of Jesus, the good news, with all we meet. Holy Spirit, pour out upon all of us today, allowing each of us to be used to speak the hope and love of Jesus into the lives of the unsaved and the hurting. Use us today, O Lord.


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New Life

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Four: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The believers were gathered together in one place.  The city was full of Jews from all over, coming to celebrate Pentecost – the giving of the Law.  When all was just right, God sent a mighty wind to unite these two disparate groups for one purpose: to grow the church.  For each of the believers there is a physical sign of God’s presence: tongues of fire appear and come to rest on each of the believers.  All are to be used in the building of the church.  It is not just the job of the disciples.  It is the commission of all believers to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Next, all of the believers experience a spiritual sign of God’s new presence in them.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit that now dwells in each of them, they begin to “declare the wonders of God” in many different languages.  Each speaks fluidly in a language they do not know.  Talk about an affirmation that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Between these two signs there is no doubt that they have been forever changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They each have new life through the Spirit.

The process of new life through the profession of Jesus as Lord continues to this day.  Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus begins the process.  It initiates the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and it creates in us a new person – born of the Spirit.  We too feel a physical change accompanied by a spiritual change.  We are transformed into a new creation.  It is through this process that each follower of Jesus Christ is joined with the one body, the church universal.  As this body we join together in the commission to share the good news of Jesus Christ to transform the world.  Blessings today as we live out our faith.


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Pentecost Ripples

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

On the day of Pentecost the Spirit came and began to fill the hearts of the believers.  Like a stone that is thrown in a lake, the ripples spread slowly but steadily out from the center, out from Jesus, out from Jerusalem.  The power of the Holy Spirit is shown in how far those ripples went: to the ends of the earth.  As His followers today we continue to be a part of this motion; we continue to go out and faithfully follow the Holy Spirit, bringing good news to all the corners of our world.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit entered in a new way.  With this new entrance, God began a new creation.  God is all around us.  Jesus the man came and lived among us.  The Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of each of us.  This is a different relationship, a different dynamic.  Like the ripple in the water, the Spirit is inside of us, seeking to radiate out in all directions.  The infinite love of God dwells in the heart of each believer, making them a new creation.

On the day of Pentecost, those first disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to change the world almost immediately.  The Word of God was spoken and many were baptized and came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  On this day of Pentecost, the Spirit continues to fill the hearts of all believers, old and new, eager to move in and through them.  On this day of Pentecost, may we too be filled with the breath of God, allowing the Holy Spirit of God to move in and through us.


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The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Reading: Romans 8: 14-17

At Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit changes us in two ways.  First, with the daily presence of the Spirit in our lives, the connection to God is constant and direct.  It allows the Spirit of Jesus to be in each of us all of the time.  So as He was in the Father and the Father was in Him, so are we in the Father and the Father is in us.  It is because of this new connection that we live as heirs in the kingdom and, as such, are now God’s children.  As Christ’s brothers and sisters, we are now able to share both in His glory and in His suffering.  Our identity is now in Christ.  We become bound to Him, not to the things of this world.  We pursue Christ, not power or wealth or fame.

The second change is in our connection to one another.  With the daily presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are connected to one another as well.  We are brothers and sisters together in Christ.  The importance of this relationship cannot be overstated.  As we continue on our journey of faith, we walk together.  Instead of feeling alone, isolated, or scared, we feel fellowship, bonds of love, and encouragement.  Instead of stumbling in our sin and wondering how we will get back into a right relationship with God, there is a hand of a brother or sister reaching out to help us to get back on track.  Instead of looking around and worrying about what others think of us, we are surrounded by the community of the faithful, who know we are all broken and sinful, yet love us unconditionally anyway.

Once we enter into the family of God, our future is secure.  We no longer worry about the things of this world.  We no longer chase after things that do not last.  Our goal and our focus become growing in our faith and in our relationships, both with Christ and with one another.  Each day becomes a gift back to God, seeking to honor and bless Him in all we do.