pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Prayer for Disciples

Reading: John 17: 6-19

Verse Eleven: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”.

In the moments before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being arrested, Jesus offers this prayer for the disciples. He knows what lies ahead for Himself and the impact His death and resurrection will have on His followers, so He prays for them.

This prayer begins with thanks for the relationships that He has developed with these disciples. Jesus is thankful for the opportunity to pour into them and to help them know that He was sent by God. Through these three years together, the disciples have witnessed Jesus living amongst and loving fully all kinds of people.

In the first half of verse eleven Jesus acknowledges that it is time for Him to leave the world. The disciples will remain in the world and will be charged with continuing the building of the church. In the second half of verse eleven He prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one”. He is praying for these disciples who are no longer of the world to be protected by God. He is also praying for unity. Jesus knows the trials and persecution they will face. Unity with God and with Jesus and with each other will carry them through all the world can throw at them. They will each remain protected and in unity up to the time of their death.

In the bigger sense, Jesus is also praying this prayer for all of the believers who come after the disciples. He is praying it for you and for me. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are not of this world any longer. Our home is in heaven. Our lives here are but a mist compared to eternity with Jesus. But in the meantime, we do have a role to play. Jesus sent the disciples and He also sends us into the world. In unity with God and Jesus and each other, may we too faithfully go out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear this message of hope and love. May we share it well.

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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!


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Evidence

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Verse Seven: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.

Paul writes to us from a prison cell.  He has been arrested and sent off to Rome to stand trial for proclaiming the gospel.  There is plenty of evidence to convict him.  If Christianity was suddenly made illegal, would there have been enough evidence in your life this past week for you to be arrested?

Paul is writing during a time of persecution – not only for himself but for the church in general.  The Romans and the Jews are both hostile to the church, yet it continues to grow.  The same is true today on both levels.  In general, society is hostile towards the church.  In some places the hostility is negative opinions and maybe some relatively light consequences of standing for your faith.  In other places the hostility includes violence and hatred and even death.  Yet, even in these places where being a Christian can mean death, the church grows.  Why?

The church grows and always will grow for one simple reason: Jesus has the power to change lives.  This is the undeniable fact of faith.  This is one of the “unsearchable riches” that Paul writes of.  It is that ‘thing’ that a faithful follower has that causes someone to say, ‘I want some of that’.

In verse six Paul writes of our inclusion into the family of God.  This includes all people of all nations and opens us all up to the promises found in Christ.  Paul then goes on to write, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power”.  This is true of all believers.  God’s grace is a gift, freely given to all who call on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  It is the power of God through the Holy Spirit that works in us to justify and sanctify us.  In this process of being made right with God and of becoming more and more like Jesus that we find ourselves as Paul did, servants to the gospel.  It is by humbly serving God with our time, prayers, presence, gifts, and witness that we accumulate evidence of our faith.  In that sense, may we be as guilty as possible!


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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.