pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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The Light of God

Reading: 2nd Corinthians 4: 5-6

Verse Five: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”.

In Jesus we receive the fuller revelation of God. In Jesus we get a witness to the love of God for humanity. In Jesus, God in the flesh, we witness what it looks like to love each other as God loves us. Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we welcome His light to shine in our hearts, illuminating the path to walk as we follow Jesus in our daily lives. This light is the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Just as it was when Moses encountered God in the Old Testament, this light is the goodness and love of God shining out into the world.

It is the light of Jesus Christ inside each of us that shines out into the lives of all we meet. It is the light that guides us to preach and serve. Paul writes, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”. There is both words and actions in how we share our faith with others. With words we seek to share the good news if what Jesus has done for the world and what He has done in our lives. In those words we proclaim Jesus as the Lord of our lives and we invite others to do the same. We seek to do the same as we serve those we encounter each day. Through acts of piety and mercy we invite others into a relationship with Jesus. In doing these things we become the fuller revelation of God to others. We bear witness to the love of God for humanity. We testify to His love with our love. All of this is said and done “for Jesus’ sake” – to bring glory to God.

This idea of sharing our faith by both words and actions begs the question: to whom do we go? We are commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all people. We are sent to the rich and the poor, the lowly and the esteemed, the educated and the illiterate, to those like us and to those who are different from us. Herein lies one of the greatest challenges of our faith. It is easy to share the love of Jesus with our fellow believers. It is even relatively easy to share Jesus when with a group serving at the local mission, for example. The difficulty comes in those moments when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable, in those situations when we encounter someone who is different than us. Even then – especially then – the light of God that shines in us must be shared. May we be willing to let that light shine out into the world. When we do we will find that it illuminates something familiar as we see the face of Christ in the new friend that we have met. It is then that His glory is revealed. May we be willing today and every day.

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Preach

Reading: 1st Corinthians 1: 18-25

Verse 23: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”.

Paul is writing of Jesus’ crucifixion. As Christians we see Jesus’ obedience and submission to the cross as the supreme sign of love. Jesus walked the path to the cross out of love for God and for us. He suffered and died so that we can experience the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. This is the lens through which Christians see the crucifixion.

The Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ day, however, see the crucifixion much differently. The Romans used crucifixions as deterrents. The torture and pain and humiliation were intentional reminders that told all who witnessed a crucifixion that they did not want to do whatever that person did. The cross came to represent guilt, shame, weakness, and death. It is in this context that verse 23 makes perfect sense: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. Of course the idea of the Messiah going to the cross is a stumbling block and is foolishness.

Our sad reality is that it remains so for people today. Some think that there had to be another way – a better or more humane way to achieve the same end. Some stumble over how a loving father could allow their son to suffer this way. Some do not see or cannot take in the incomprehensible and awesome love that is revealed in this act. The depth of love is too much. For some, this is the stumbling block. Others get the love but wonder how they could ever be worthy of a relationship with a God who loves this much and is this good.

What is the proper response to all of this for a Christian? It is the same as it was for Paul: we preach Christ crucified. Through our witness and through how we live out God’s love, we preach the transformative and all-encompassing love of God in Jesus Christ. We preach that Christ died once for all and we are clear that all means all. We preach about how Jesus has and continues to transform us over and over. We preach about those mercies that come new every morning and about how they never stop coming because His love is never-ending too. As we preach the good news, we help others past their stumbling blocks and we dispell the foolishness so that they too can enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior. May it be so. Amen.


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Sharing the Good News

Reading: 1st Corinthians 9: 16-23

Verse 22: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”.

Paul had a very strong commitment to the gospel. He felt an amazing drive to share the good news of Jesus Christ with as many as he could. In today’s passage we get a glimpse of his commitment and drive. Paul opens by sharing why he preached the gospel. He is “compelled” to preach because he was personally chosen by Jesus. Paul even says, “work to me if I do not preach”. He has been entrusted with this wonderful gift and he almost cannot comprehend what it would be like to not preach Jesus. He even sees his reward for following his call to preach as the opportunity to continue to preach. In Paul preaching the gospel we find a man doing a “job” that he absolutely loves.

Paul transitions in verse nineteen to the “how” he preaches the gospel. He opens by saying that he became a “slave to everyone”. In a time when a slave was totally bound to ones owner, this was a big statement. But this is how Paul saw himself and his commitment to share the gospel. In the same way that Jesus met people right where they were at to minister to them, so too does Paul. To the Jew, he preached like a Jew. To the gentile, he preached like a gentile. To those who are weak, he became weak. Paul used words and illustrations that were familiar to whatever person or audience he was preaching to so that they could better connect to his message. In the same way, Jesus often used parables centered around sheep, fishing, and farming because they were the primary economic activities of Israel.

Paul draws to a close with this statement: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”. Paul is willing to do anything for the chance to share the gospel. You and I might not be the evangelist that Paul was, but each of us has been gifted by God with experiences that we can share and use to help bring others to Jesus Christ. How have you been uniquely gifted to share the good news? Paul concludes our passage today with these words: “I do all the this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in it’s blessings”. We too will be blessed when we share the good news of Jesus Christ. May we each find opportunities today to bring Jesus to another.


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Compassionate Love

Reading: Jonah 3: 1-5 & 10

Verse Ten: “He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened”.

Today we pick up the story of Jonah part way through.  Jonah has already been told to go to Nineveh, fled the other direction, been tossed into the sea during a fierce storm, been swallowed by a fish, prayed to God, and was vomited on to dry land.  This is Jonah 1 and 2 in a nutshell.  Our passage today begins with God speaking a second time to Jonah, instructing him to go to the great city of Nineveh to give a message which calls for their repentance.

Nineveh is a great city with over 120,000 residents.  Our passage tells us that it takes three days to visit the city.  We also learn that it is a city of wickedness.  God calls Jonah to go to save the city from destruction.  This is the first indication of God’s compassionate love.  God desires for the city to turn from its evil ways.  God’s compassionate love is also shown to Jonah as God is willing to tell him a second time to go to Nineveh.  God could have let Jonah drown and found another messenger.

Jonah goes to Nineveh and preached, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be over turned”.  The people believe God and a citywide fast is declared by the king.  The people also put on sackcloth as a sign of their repentance.  The king led the people to do this in hope that God would be compassionate and would relent.  In verse ten we read, “He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened”.  God delivered the second chance that He wanted to give the city.  The story does not end here either.  God still has some work to do with Jonah.  Even though God’s purposes for Nineveh have been completed, God still loves Jonah and goes on to show that.

In the continuing work that God does with Jonah we come to see that God not only gives Jonah a second chance, but also a third…  God does not give up on Jonah.  He continues to bring Jonah along, ever shaping him into who he was created to be.  This is a beautiful thing about our God.  He continues to do the same thing for each and every one of us.  In His great love, God works and works and works to help us along our Christian walk.  He never gives up on us.  It is a beautiful thing.  Thanks be to God for His never-ending compassionate love for you and for me.


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Big

Readings: Psalm 126 and Isaiah 61: 1-4 and 8-11

Key verses: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. (Psalm 126:5) and “The Spirit of the Lord is on me… to preach… bind up… release… proclaim…” (Isaiah 61:1)

In our Advent study this week we are looking at humility – at having the mind of Christ spoken of in Philippians 2.  One of the men in our Tuesday morning study said humility is thinking less of yourself so that you could think more of others.  Humility is an active practice.  These profound thoughts fit well with the humble servant hood that Jesus modeled and calls us to follow.  Our world is certainly in need of more humble servants.

Both the bigger world out there and many people’s lives are filled with hardship and suffering and trials.  There is plenty of oppression and abuse of power, lots of violence and other senseless actions, many struggling with addictions and unhealthy relationships, and a host of other issues.  Individuals we know face some of these issues as do whole groups in our communities.  There are lots of people in lots of places who would love to live into this verse: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”.

As humble servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to help those in need to do just that.  It is what Jesus did and what He calls us to do.  For all who follow Jesus, we live into the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”  When we read on, we find the “why” – to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken, to bring freedom to the captives, to release prisoners from all that binds them, and to proclaim God’s blessings on all.  These are big words and big ideas.  But guess what?  We serve a big God.  We serve a God who wants to work in and through us – just like He did with Jesus – to see all these things to come to be.

Sometimes we don’t see God big enough.  Sometimes we fail to dream and other times we fail to trust.  Sometimes we doubt.  Into all of this God speaks through the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  May we serve a big God, trusting that all things are possible when we call on the One who can do all things.  Amen and amen.


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Harvest Fields

Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38

Verse 38: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.

Jesus spent most of His three years of formal ministry being out and amongst the people.  Our opening line reminds us how Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching, preaching, and healing.  He spent time in the synagogues, but He also spent a great deal of His time outside the walls of the church building.  When we think about all of the stories of Jesus that we find in the Gospels, not too many actually take place in the formal church setting.  This is our first lesson today.

As Jesus spent time with people, as He saw the crowds, “He had compassion” for the people.  Jesus saw the people and their need for a Savior.  Matthew writes that they were “harassed and helpless”.  We too are called to the last, the least, and the broken.  These are the harrassed and helpless of our day.  We are called to also offer compassion as we feed, clothe, visit…  We are called to offer what we can to those in need.  But moreso we are called to share our faith.  Verse 36 ends with, “like sheep without a shepherd”.  To not know Jesus is to wander through life, bouncing from one thing to another in our search for contentment and satisfaction.  Only through knowing Jesus Christ do we find peace and hope in this life.  Jesus had compassion on the people, loved on them, and gave them all He had to offer as He served among them.  This is our second lesson.

Our passage ends with, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field”.  Jesus is encouraging the disciples to go out into the harvest fields.  In the very next verse, 10:1, Jesus sends the 12 out to do what He has been doing: to teach, preach, and heal.  When I think about my community, I see harvest fields.  There are many who do not know the love and grace that Jesus Christ offers.  They have never heard the good news.  Relatively speaking, yes the workers are few.  My prayer is to be sent out into the harvest fields.  My hope is to share the faith I profess with others today.  May it be so.


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Preach and Testify

Reading: Acts 10: 34-43

Peter opens today’s passage with an important statement, with one of the significant learning and understanding shifts in the early, early church: “God does not show favoritism”.  It is a shift away from a small, select ‘chosen people’.  Instead, Peter tells us, God is willing to accept all who fear God and who do what is right.  When the church came to understand that God is for all, the whole world became the mission field.  It was not just throughout Judea that they were called to bring the good news, but out into the entire world.  People of all races, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, religions, ecenomic classes, social classes… must hear the good news.  This philosophy of accepting and welcoming all is the essence of Jesus’ ministry and is foundational to many of our churches today.

Peter then goes on to give a brief summary of Jesus’ ministry: bapitzed by John, anointed with the Holy Spirit, did good and healed, died on a cross, rose from the dead.  After the resurrection, Jesus returned and commanded “us” to preach the good news and to testify that all who call on Jesus as Lord will receive forgiveness of sins.  Again, Peter chooses words like ‘everyone’ and ‘all’ – anyone is welcome to hear the good news, to profess Jesus as Lord of their lives, and to receive forgiveness of their sins.

In the last few verses of chapter eleven, the people Peter was preaching to are overcome by the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, and are baptized in the name of Jesus.  The power of God entered that situation and welcomed some new members into the family.  The command to preach and Testify is our command as well.  To tell the good news and to share the story of what Jesus has done in our lives is our great commission as well.  We accomplish this call with words, actions, deeds – whatever it takes for others to come to know Jesus Christ.

Today, may all of us who call on Jesus as Lord share the good news of Jesus Christ with any and all we meet.