pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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I Am Sending You

Reading: Matthew 10: 1-23

Verse 16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to “drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease”.  In this passage today, they are being sent to fellow Jews.  Jesus calls these the “lost sheep” – tying back to why He had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9:36.  The twelve are first to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and then to heal diseases, raise the dead, and drive out demons.  The authority Jesus gives them to perform miracles will lend credence to the message they bring.

As we go out into the world, we go for the same reasons.  We go to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we work to heal a broken world.  Each of us who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior has a story to tell that will be good news for others.  Each of us can love and serve others too.  We may not be able to work miracles, but by caring for basic needs and by giving of our time and talents we do bring healing.  It is through our loving acts of service that we too gain footing to share Jesus with the lost.

Jesus warned the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”.  There is a defenselessness that comes to mind with this statement.  It requires trust in the Shepherd.  He goes on to advise them to be on guard against men.  Jesus warns them that persecution is going to be a part of the journey.  He also tells them that the Spirit will be with them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  And then Jesus encourages them, stating that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  Keep the faith, I am with you.

We too are sometimes sent to people or places that make us feel like sheep among wolves.  We too must trust into the lead, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit.  In those uncomfortable or outside our comfort zone times, if we keep the faith the Spirit will give us just the right words to say as well.  May we be like the twelve, trusting He who sends, going forth to share the good news and to bring healing to our broken world.  May our light draw others in to Jesus Christ – the One who saves.

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Suffering Servant

Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-9a

Verse 9a – It is the sovereign Lord who helps me.

Today’s reading is one of the four servant songs we find in the book of Isaiah.  It is a writing open to some interpretation in terms of who the suffering servant is.  In context, it could be Isaiah himself, whose life experiences certainly encompassed the content of this passage.  The words could also represent the people of Israel – off in exile in a far away land, living amongst pagan people.  Both Isaiah and the Israelites would feel weary and would desire to hear the word of the Lord to gain strength and courage.  Both would face trial and persecution and would choose to endure these things in order to stay true to their faith.  Both would hold onto hope in God to see them through and to vindicate them in the end.

Years later we encounter another suffering servant: Jesus.  He too would live a life that included all of the things Isaiah wrote about.  So as the early church read this passage, they connected it to Jesus.  Jesus would rely on God alone for strength and courage; He would often face trial and persecution; and, He would maintain faith in His Father, who would, in the end, vindicate Him.  There are many parallels between the ‘characters’ that we can read into this Isaiah passage.

There are also people today who read this passage and connect to it themselves.  They can see their lives in the words of Isaiah.  There are also others who can look back over their faith journey and recall times when they were under a heavy load and God gave them strength.  They can look back and see how God led them through a trial or time of persecution.  We have all clung to God as we prayed for direction and courage and strength to face what lay ahead.  Wherever we are in the story – may we go to the Lord our God, trusting in the words of verse nine: “It is the sovereign Lord who helps me”.  Thank you God for your unfailing love.


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Cry Out, Trust

Reading: Psalm 31: 9-15

Verses 14… 15… and 16: I trust in you O Lord… my times are in your hands… save me in your unfailing love.

Reading verses nine through thirteen one cannot help but to think of Jesus at the end of His earthly life.  His last days certainly contained distress, sorrow, anguish, affliction, contempt, slander, and plotting against Him.  These last days were certainly a trial and struggle for the human side of Jesus.  They would have been for us as well.  Probably moreso.

Each day in our world, there are people who live through these emotions and experiences on a regular basis.  There are places in our world where Christians are persecuted and where life is very difficult because of their faith.  Those living in such conditions need our daily prayers.

There are some in our country that will face trials today because of their faith.  There is the young person whose faith is challenged by the new pressures and pulls of college life.  There is the new believer whose faith is foreign or counter to their family’s belief system.  There is the middle schooler who experiences taunts each day because she prays over her food in the cafeteria.  There is the Dad who just lost his job.  There is the young couple who just lost a child.  This is only a sampling.

Perhaps we are one of those listed above.  Regardless, we all have struggles and trials that we face.  While most of ours and even those listed above pale in comparison to those Jesus faced, they are still very real and front-and-center for us.  They are significant because they affect our lives and our faith.  Just as the psalmist did, just as Jesus did, just as those in foreign land do, just as all other faithful disciples before us did and do, may we too place our hope in God.  May we too cry out, “I trust in you O Lord… my times are in your hands… save me in your unfailing love”.  All like all of these, may His “face shine on you”.


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Trust

Reading: Luke 21: 10-19

Today’s passage really lays out what is ahead one day and makes it clear that God will be present through it all.  The reading opens with a view of a grim future that evokes connections to Revelation.  We do not know when, but we do know that the world will be in rough shape with all the earthquakes, famine, violence, and so forth.

Then Jesus steps back and makes it personal.  Jesus speaks of a time of persecution and trial for the believers.  Believers will be persecuted and arrested and put on trial.  Why?  So we can witness to our faith.  It is interesting that we will not be rescued from the trial by our carefully thought-out arguments.  Jesus even says not to prepare any.  He says, “Trust”.  Do not worry – “I will give you words and wisdom”.  Do not rely on your own skills and knowledge and rhetoric, but only rely on your faith.  Just like the Holy Spirit filled Peter and John when they were on trial before the Sanhedrin, so too will the Holy Spirit fill each who trusts fully in Jesus.

This message of trusting in God holds true for all believers in all times.  We need to remember this because we know that in this life we will face times of trial.  There will be difficulties.  There simply will be.  Jesus encourages us in how we approach and walk through these times.  The first thing we must do is trust in God and not in ourselves.  Once we acknowledge our absolute need for God, then we fully open ourselves up to God’s presence to work in our lives.  In this way we will bear witness to our faith in a world that doubts and questions.  By trusting fully in God we demonstrate that God is absolutely in control.  By living out a peace that passes understanding we bear witness to God.

God is faithful and God is loving.  When we trust fully in God, we experience these things.  There will be pain and hurt in this life, but when we hold fast to our faith in God, we retain a hope greater than anything in life can defeat.  May we trust fully in God, knowing our eternity rests securely in God’s loving hands.


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In Peace

Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1: 1-4

“Grace and peace to you” is how Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonians.  In our churches, during our worship services, many of our congregations practice something similar in our times of greeting or the passing of the peace.  We are reminded, through these practices, of our love and fellowship with each other and with Christ.

At the time Paul wrote this letter, the church was growing.  But is was also facing persecution and abuse from the much larger, non-Christian, segment of Thessaloniki.  Hence, Paul’s words of encouragement to persevere.  Persecution and abuse may not be the words we would use today, but there is definite conflict with the larger society outside the church.  The messages of the world and the messages of the church often run head-on into each other.  At times this means saying “No!” to or disagreeing with the messages of the world.  Inadvertently, at times this will draw negative attention and sometimes it will draw conflict.

We usually end our services by sending forth the congregation with a blessing of peace and some words of encouragement as we go back out into the world.  Often these words include reminders to share it bring Christ’s love out there with us.  As we bring our faith out into the world, God’s peace is a good thing to bring along.  As we ourselves face trial or persecution, it is a good thing to have along.  As we enter alongside another struggling in life, it is a good thing to share.

Paul notes that the church is growing.  A church in the midst of a culture that was largely non-Christian is growing.  It was growing because the believers were living out their faith in the world outside the walls of their church.  The same principle works today.  Christ’s love is attractional.  It draws us in.  It will draw others in as well.  So go forth in peace, being the light and love of Jesus Christ in a broken world.  Go forth to love and serve the Lord.


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Good, Heaven, Life

Reading: Colossians 1: 15-23

“Christ is the firstborn over all creation… He was before all things… All things were created by Him and for Him… And He is the head of the body, so that in everything He might have supremacy…”  These are powerful words that remind us of who Christ is and God’s intent for Him.

To bow to Christ, to give one’s life to follow Him, to declare Him the Lord and Savior of one’s life, all require a choice on our part.  That choice is part of the free will that God gave mankind.  From the time that sin and evil entered the Garden, making has had the free will to choose good or evil, to choose heaven or earth, to choose life or death.

One does not have to surf a media source for too long to find evil rearing its head in the world.  Warfare here, persecution of someone there, violence in the streets here, the shooting of police officers there.  These acts of violence and hatred, plus the evil that we deal with ourselves, are not God’s intent for His children.  He did not create us to be sinful but evil and sin and temptation are a part of this world, so we encounter these things.  For each of these acts of violence and evil, and for the temptation we face personally, there is a remedy.  But to find the remedy we must be willing to look at the root causes that lead to these acts and to sin and then to address these causes and triggers.

“God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things”.  All things.  God desires to reconcile all to Himself.  God desires to draw all people to Him.  “…and making peace by His blood, shed on the cross”.  The key to helping the lost choose good, heaven, and life is to share the love of the cross with them.  It is what allows us to daily choose Christ.  May we be love in our homes, at our jobs, in our whole life, so that all around us may come to know the love of the cross.


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Bring God’s Presence

The psalmist expresses the belief that God has given Israel the land and will assure their possession of it.  He acknowledges that evil will come in from time to time but that God will ultimately restore good to the people.

In America we live in the general belief that our country is secure, almost impenetrable.  We feel like no other country could invade and topple us.  9/11 and events since have brought home the fact that we are vulnerable to attack but I think most see these as isolated events.

In other parts of the world warfare and living in fear are the norm.  In some countries, war or civil war has been almost constant.  Daily children are left as orphans and property is taken or destroyed.  In some countries, parents worry daily about their children being abducted or drafted into the militia.  In some places, religious intolerance and persecution forces Christians to live in secret and to fear exposure.

In our country people live in poverty, many on the streets or in shelters.  Others live with a feeling of insecurity and some segments of our society live with injustice and oppression.  For many here and abroad, the world is a tough place.  For many, they question God or they do not even know His presence.

The psalmist reminds us and the afflicted that God will surround those who trust in Him like mountains.  How reassuring.  But many do not know God.  This day may we pray for all who suffer and for all who do not know God’s love and protection.  And may we be moved to do all we can for those God places before us this day.

Scripture reference: Psalm 125