pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Good

Reading: James 3: 9-12

Verse 11: “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring”?

James wants us to be consistent in our Christian walk. He encourages us to be faithful all if our days. But this is not the behavior that he always sees exhibited. We too struggle with this so today’s passage applies well to life as a Christian in 2018. Truth be told, it applied well in 407, 1268, 2001… and will apply well in 2047, 2206…

James uses some good examples to follow up his main point. We do use the same tongue to praise God and to curse our fellow men – “who have been made in God’s image”. We cannot love the Creator and hate His creation. That is as crazy, James says, as expecting fresh water out of a salty spring or figs from a grapevine. If in nature none of this occurs, then how can it occurs in us, the masterpiece of God’s creation?

If we are striving to live a Christian life, I do not think we want to intentionally cause harm to others. We do not wake up in the morning looking to curse at and fight with others. But we are imperfect beings living in a broken world. We will cross paths with people who hurt or wrong us or others. Satan causes greed and jealousy and pride and… to drive a lot of people’s decisions. Into all of this we are called to be light and love. When we are hurt or wronged, we are to handle it with grace and love and forgiveness. When we stand against injustice or bias or prejudice… we are to do do with peace and understanding and empathy. We are called to walk alongside those who are hurting and broken, bringing a burst of joy and mercy and compassion.

Sometimes it is hard. In those moments we must really search deep within the other to find the Creator. We must be patient and must persevere to find that which God created and seek to draw that out. There is good within all of us, just as there is evil. As followers of Jesus Christ may we work to be and bring forth the good in us and in the world.

Lord, give me patience when I want to react and perseverance when I want to just give up. Give me mercy when I want to judge. Give me grace when you just want to condemn. Most of all, give me eyes to see you in all and a heart to love as you love. In His name, amen.

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Circle

Reading: Psalm 123

Verse Two: “Our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy.”

There is a perseverance in today’s Psalm that we would do well to model.  There is a confidence in God that we would do well to emulate.  There is a deep trust in God’s faithfulness that we would do well to hold fast to.  There is a humble plea for God’s mercy that we would do well to lift up over and over each day.

A circle shows unity, wholeness, togetherness, belonging.  When one sits in the circle in certain communities, one has voice, standing, worth in that community.  As we gather around a person in need of prayer and lay hands upon them, they are surrounded by the circle yet in it as we connect through our touch.  As we circle around a loved one in the hospital bed as they cross over to Jesus, we circle them in prayer and hold hands to connect together in love, support, and prayer.  In youth group and other gatherings at the church, we form a circle, hold hands, and lift our communal prayers to God.  In the circle, we are one with each another and one with God.

We can also draw circles around things.  We circle dates on the calendar that are significant and important.  We circle things in ads at Christmas time, indicating what we would value as gifts.  We can also circle God in our prayers.  This is what the psalmist means when he writes,  “Our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy.”  Just as the slave looks to the master and the maid looks to her mistress, we too lift our prayers and fix our gaze on the One who is our God and King.  We too look to God and circle Him with our prayers.  We pray over and over and over as we circle God with our prayers for mercy or healing or guidance or forgiveness or…

As we circle God with our prayers, we are seeking unity and connection.  As we circle God with our prayers, we are persevering in what we desire; we are trusting in God’s love and mercy and care.  This day may we pray through as we circle God with our prayers, becoming one with God as we pray.


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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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Persistence

Reading: Luke 18: 1-8

Persistence is almost a lost art.  Society is so fast-paced and we desire instant gratification.  We have information at our fingertips that comes as soon as we type into our smart phone’s search engine.  We can watch the television show or movie of our choice practically anywhere at any time.  We can call or text or message someone whenever no matter where they are around the world.  Now, now, now.

Yet at times we do demonstrate perseverance and persistence.  If it is something we really want.  When I was in high school and wanted a guitar, I saved and saved, persistently, until I had enough to buy that guitar.  I did the same thing, sacrificing along the way, so I could buy that engagement ring.  People will still persevere today if it is for something they really want.

These things are true in our prayer life as well. We can be as persistent as the widow if it is something very important to us.  We can pray and pray and pray for that new job or that acceptance to that college or for the healing for ourselves or someone near and dear to us.  We can pray like the widow when we find ourselves or someone we love in an ‘unjust’ situation.  Yet in all of these things, we still want God to act quickly.  But we will persevere in some of our prayers.

When we are persistent in our prayers, it builds up our faith.  Persistent prayer reminds us of our reliance and dependence on God.  It reminds us of God’s sovereignty over all of creation.  But our persistent prayer should not be just for the really big things.  Yes, we should pray fervently for the desires of our hearts and for justice, nut we should persistently lift all thing, big and small, to God.  There is nothing too small and nothing too big for God!  May we pray all things into God’s presence.