pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Thanks and Gifts

Reading: Matthew 14: 13-21

Verse 19: He gave thanks and He broke the loaves… the disciples gave them to the people.

This morning is the last day of a middle school youth mission trip.  We have spent the past week in a large city.  We have learned about poverty and homelessness.  We served food to men and women in need.  We sorted and stocked food in a free pantry.  We worked in a gigantic warehouse sorting and packing food that goes to many agencies who feed people.  We spent two afternoons at a large thrift store sorting about anything you can imagine and preparing it for resale.  The profits all go to people with disabilities in the state.

Through all of these acts of service, we learned about the great need that exists in our world.  It exists in many of our communities and maybe even in our own neighborhoods.  Prior to this trip our youth were unaware of the poverty many face each day.  Yes, they new some lived with very little.  But learning that some parents must choose between paying for their child’s field trip at school and putting gas in the car so they can go to work was a new reality for our youth.

Jesus lived a life of compassion.  He spent time in and among the poor and needy of His day.  They needed Him most.  In our passage today, He begins by healing many.  Then He feeds many.  We read, “He gave thanks and He broke the loaves… the disciples gave them to the people”.  There are two important lessons in today’s passage.

First, Jesus gave thanks for the gifts that God has given Him.  Second, the disciples used the gifts Jesus gave them to also be a part of this miracle.  In faith and trust, they were part of the feeding of the thousands.  Our group learned the first lesson well this week.  We are going home to nice houses with an excess of food, clothing…  We do not know true want.  We are truly thankful for the many, many gifts that God has given us.  We began to learn the second lesson this week as we saw how God can use each of us to make the world a better place by sharing His love as we serve others.  It is a great gift that we have to offer.  This day, what will we offer to meet another’s physical or emotional or spiritual need?  May we remember that gifts that God has given us, may we be truly thankful, and may we seek to share them each day for the building of God’s kingdom here on earth.


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Pleasing God

Reading: Ephesians 5: 8-14

Verses 8 and 10 – Live as children of the light… and find out what pleases God.

Paul opens this passage with a statement that is true at times: “you were once darkness”.  Before accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we were in darkness.  Once we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we live in the light.  But I don’t think we are ever fully free from the darkness.  We do not dwell there, but we visit from time to time.  We all have moments when the light does not shine, moments or even seasons, when we say or do things that are definitely not holy or godly.  The light within us rises up and shines and brings conviction as our sins are exposed and become visible.  This leads to repentance and a return to living in the light.  Living as children of the light is a daily effort.  It is only through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit that we begin to have a chance.  Coupled with the support, love, grace, encouragement, accountability… from our communities of faith, we can live a life as a child of God – pleasing God and bringing glory and honor to His name.

What can one do to please God?  First, it begins with our individual lives being pleasing to God.  This means honoring the two great commandments: love God with all we are and love neighbor as Christ first loved us.  It means being Jesus’ hands and feet, it means being a servant to all, it means placing the needs of others above our own needs.  Second, we shine the light out into the world.  We allow others to see Christ’s love in us.  They experience and meet Jesus Christ through us.  This draws others in to His love.  At times, the light will shine into other’s darkness.  In these moments, we cannot turn away.  Sometimes the darkness that gets exposed is in those we meet.  It is scary to step out of the dark.  As children of the light, we must take their hand and guide them on their journey of faith.  And sometimes the light shines on injustice or poverty or prejudice or oppression or …  We cannot turn away from these either.  As children of God, we must stand against all forms of evil and darkness.  We must be present here too, always working to advance God’s kingdom here on earth.

This day and every day, may we”live as children of the light”, bringing God all the honor and glory that He is due.


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Shine

Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Today is Epiphany!  Just as the wise men appeared to reveal and celebrate the birth of Jesus, so too do we arrive today, celebrating the gift of Jesus in our lives.  Like the wise men, we too are called to reveal Jesus to the world.  The star led the way for the wise men.  Today, the light of the Son of Man leads the way for you and me.  The light of Christ guides our path and illumines our decisions.  We need the light.  So too does a world living in darkness.

Verse one begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come”.  Yes indeed!  Jesus Christ has come and His light is in our hearts.  Verse two continues, “the Lord rises upon you, and His glory appears over you”.  God is present in us, His glory waiting to be revealed through us.  Our call as disciples of Jesus Christ is to take the light of Christ out into the world with us.  This verse reminds us that God is present with each of us and that His glory will appear over us as we live out our faith in the world.

The world can be a dark place.  Many people struggle with darkness in our world and in all of our communities.  For some, the struggle is with homelessness or poverty or prejudice or abuse or discrimination or injustice or addiction.  For others the struggle is with pride or control or possessions or position or ego or self-centeredness.  The world can be a dark place when we struggle with these issues.  There is great need in our world for the light of Christ.

We are each that light.  We each carry Christ in our hearts.  Can you see that light within you shining out into a dark world?  Can you see yourself being the light for just one person in need of God’s love?  We are called to arise and shine!  This day, this day of Epiphany, may we each shine God’s light into the world, bringing honor to Christ the Lord!


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Equality, Justice, Blessing

Reading: Isaiah 2: 1-5

God has always intended to rule the whole earth.  On the one hand, God is fully in control of all things.  God is capable of ‘making’ anything happen.  God gave mankind free will.  At times we make poor decisions and select bad choices.  Nations could still function today by following God’s ways.  In it how our country began and those ideals of equality, justice, and freedom remain the basis of our governing principles and laws.  In general, peace and order are still the norms of the day.

Yet in places here and in pockets there, many are not ‘living the American dream’.  In places, there is no sense of hope.  There is no clear vision of how life could be any better than ‘this’.  There is not a path out of poverty and oppression.  Systems are established that continue dependence and reliance on the system itself instead of teaching people a new or different way.  An example of this would be the high recidivism rates in our jails and prisons.  People complete their sentence and the system wishes them well but quietly wonders when they’ll be back.  In too many systems we offer a ‘hand out’ but do not offer a ‘hand up’.  It is simply easier this way.

As people of God, we are called to stand against and to work to right wrongs, to fix injustices, and to help end oppression.  We are called to speak truth to those in power to bring voice to those without power.  Some of us are called to be in places of power, to help change come from within.  And sometimes we work with individuals within systems to walk alongside people who are in poverty or homelessness or prison.  Change is possible – both for the individual and for the systems.  May we each, as followers of a Jesus who loved all without question and who saw all as worthy, follow that lead as we work for equality and justice and blessing for all people.


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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


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A “Can Do” Day

In my current church setting, we are a ‘downtown church.’  Those in need call and stop in on a fairly regular basis.  Our outreach center next door does a wonderful job meeting needs and providing services.  There and at the church itself we meet people and form relationships with some.  It is a neat thing to see those relationships grow and develop.

One of the realities is that the poor – both financially and in spirit – are near every church.  It could be the family down the street or gravel road.  Maybe the dad lost his job and they are struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.  Maybe the weather wasn’t so good this year and the crop just did not pan out like they had hoped.  We just don’t know unless we are involved and engaged in the world around us.  Teresa of Avila said, “Yours are  the eyes with which Christ looks with compassion on this world.”  None of us has to look to far to find someone in need of a little compassion.

Oh for a few million dollars!  The reality is that we cannot help everyone and fund every need.  We cover a rent when we can, give out food or warm clothes when we can, and so on.  Once in a while we are blessed when we can meet a holy need too.  So we go on, as John Wesley said, doing all the good we can in all situations we can when we can.  May we each be blessed with a ‘can do’ moment today!

Scripture reference: Matthew 25: 31-46