pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Redemption

Reading: Ruth 3: 1-5

Verse 1: “My daughter, should I not try and find a home for you, where you will be provided for”?

Our passage today opens with Naomi expressing concern for Ruth. Naomi says to Ruth, “My daughter, should I not try and find a home for you, where you will be provided for”? Ruth has shown deep dedication to Naomi, leaving her own land to follow Naomi home to Israel so that she can care for and provide for her. Both are widows when they arrive in Israel. Naomi realizes that Ruth is young enough to remarry and knows that this would bring security to her future. Based upon her past actions and loyalty, Naomi probably felt assured that Ruth would continue to care for her.

Boaz, the man Naomi identifies as a good potential husband, is family. There is family there with closer ties, but Boaz has demonstrated kindness and good character towards Ruth already. They first met when Ruth was gleaning in his fields along with his servant girls. He shows her favor and is familiar with her story. Naomi identifies Boaz as a “kinsman redeemer” – a term for a relative who rescues a family member from trouble or a difficult situation. His invitation to continue to work in his fields and the instructions to his men to leave extra stalks for her indicate that he is stepping into this role.

Naomi suggests that Ruth go to and lie down at Boaz’s feet. She lies in the this place as a sign of respect. Servants would often sleep at the feet of their master. Uncovering his feet was also cultural and symbolic. In doing so, Ruth let Boaz know that she was there and she was using the customs of the day to nonverbally ask him to share his coverings with her. Culturally this was a right that the servants had. Symbolically she was asking him to provide for her. Boaz would go on to redeem her as his wife.

In our passage Ruth continues to show love for Naomi through her obedience. She also trusted that God would continue to guide and bless her. Ruth’s faithfulness to both God and her family are models that we can follow. In doing so, she finds redemption. She is restored to new life. This day, may we take the opportunities that God provides to offer love and care to the other, opening their eyes to the redemption that God offers to all.

Lord, may Ruth’s model of love and care be my way of living too. Help me to open others eyes to the redemption that you offer. Amen.


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This Cycle

Reading: Hebrews 9: 11-14

Verse 14: “The blood of Christ… cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God”.

The writer of Hebrews references “the blood of goats and calves” that were used to be made right again with God. The Israelites had the same understanding of sin that we do as Christians – sin is wrong, it leads to death, it must be atoned for. To restore our relationship with God we must confess our sins and repent of that behavior or attitude. The offering of a sacrifice would represent a “cost” for the sin. Who or what “pays” the cost is where our understanding splits from the Jewish understanding of atonement.

In our modern culture we continue to do the same thing as we seek to deal with our sins and the guilt that comes along with them. If I say or do something to hurt my wife, for example, I might bring her flowers or chocolate. If I say or do something to injure a relationship at work, I would feel like I should do something to make up for my “sin”. We still feel a need to atone for our sins.

Jesus was the atonement for the sins of the world. It is through His own blood that He attained “eternal redemption”. It is through the same blood that Jesus can “cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death”. Instead of being stuck and dead in our sin, His blood washes it away. Instead of remaining separated from God because of our sin, Jesus removed our sin and the guilt and shame, allowing us to re-enter our relationship with God “so that we may serve the living God”. Through our earthly redemption we can again live out our faith daily, loving God and loving others.

Praise be to God – our redemption is not just earthly. Just as Jesus entered heaven, His eternal redemption, we too may one day join Jesus in eternity. Our earthly journey draws us ever closer to the image in which we are created – God’s image. As we mature in the faith, we become more and more like our Creator. Through the continuing cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption we are being sanctified. We are being made more and more like Christ. As this cycle continues, it works in us to grow our love of God and neighbor. Thanks be to God.

Holy One, thank you for being the atonement for all of my sins. Thank you for being my way, my truth, and my life. Amen.


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The Last First

Reading: Mark 10: 28-31

Verse 28: “We have left everything to follow you”.

The opening and closing lines of our passage really point out the counter-cultural nature of our faith. Peter declares, “We have left everything to follow you”. Culture today says more is better and bigger is better yet. Our society elevates the wealthy, the powerful, the supremely athletic, and the most beautiful. They have “it” and have climbed to the pinnacle of success. Culture tells us that these things are the goal for all people.

The call to discipleship is a call to the opposite. Instead of us wanting it all, the gospel asks for all of us. The call invites us to step into God’s upside-down way of thinking that places ourselves far from the focus, looking first to God and then to neighbor.

When we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see what this truly looks like. Jesus stood on the side of the woman caught in adultery – convicting all there of their own sins first and then offering mercy and grace to the one who was last. Instead of avoiding the sinners, the tax collectors, the Samaritans, the children, the lepers, the blind… Jesus engaged them, knowing that God’s kingdom includes those that society devalues and overlooks. The same healing, redemption, and restoration that Jesus offered when He walked the earth is still offered today. It is offered through all who will place self after God and neighbor.

Jesus assures the disciples that the reward will come – not in the ways that the world evaluates success, but in the abundant life that God has planned in the coming age. As we let go of pursuing wealth and status and popularity, we will be able to be all in as we work to bring God’s upside-down kingdom to reality. Our passage closes with Jesus saying, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first”. This is a radical thing we are being called to – considering first the orphan and the widow, the broken and the hurting, the sinner and the lost. May we be willing to give our all for those who are seen as last, elevating them as God does, to first.

Lord, help me to surrender all to you, all for Jesus. Give me a servant’s heart to see the last first, sharing with them the love and hope of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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God’s Possession

Reading: Ephesians 1: 3-14

Verse Four: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”.

Today’s passage is a great reminder of the good news we find in Jesus Christ. It begins with verse four, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”. Since forever we have been chosen to be in Christ. Because of His love we were “predestined” for adoption into the family of God. To me that does not mean that I or anyone is chosen for heaven and is guaranteed a place in heaven no matter what. I believe that God has a plan that is best for each of us. If I am living in accordance with God’s will, I will walk that best path. But I don’t always chose well. Sometimes I go down road B. Even then God still loves me and, through the Holy Spirit, goes back to work to get me back on that best road. It may take running me through several forks in the road, but God always remains at work to bring all of us into His will. To end up on that best path – the narrow way – is God’s intent for all people.

When we do sin, verse seven reminds us: “we have redemption through His blood”. The forgiveness of our sins is a free gift to us. God’s grace is “lavished” upon us, given at no cost to us. Yes, to give His blood Jesus paid a high price. Out of His great love for you and I, Jesus was willing to be the sacrifice. Redemption and forgiveness are ours if we are willing to humble ourselves, to confess our sins with a repentant heart, and to allow Jesus to make us into new creations. Saving each of us is part of God’s plan. It is His “good pleasure” to “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus Christ”. The redemption of all of creation is God’s ultimate and final plan.

The passage concludes with our promise. Once we place our trust and hope in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are marked with a seal: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a “deposit” within us that guarantees our inheritance into eternal life. Once we confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are saved. This becomes our forever status. Once we enter into this personal relationship with Jesus, we are God’s. We will stumble and we will sin, but we are convicted by the Holy Spirit each time and we are led to confess and repent. Each and every time we experience grace and forgiveness and redemption. We are forever God’s possession. Thanks be to God for His great love. Amen.


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Full Hope

Reading: Psalm 130: 5-8

Verse Seven: “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption”.

Today’s passage centers around waiting. For most of us, waiting is hard. Even the most mundane waiting is hard. After only a few minutes in what we feel is a slow moving check-out line, we are looking left and right to see if there is a faster line. As the light turns green we wait at least a nanosecond before honking at the stationary driver in front of us. We live in an instant gratification, get it done yesterday world. It is hard to wait.

The psalmist writes, “I waited for the Lord, my soul waits”. I do not read any anxiousness or any agitation in this statement. For the psalmist it seems normal to wait for the Lord. The second half of this verse explains why: “in His Word I put my hope”. The Word of the Lord is steadfast and true. It revives the soul. It is sweeter than pure honey. These are but a few of the reasons that we too should put our hope in God’s Word.

As the Psalm continues, watchmen wait for the morning. They stand atop the Wall steadfastly waiting for the sun to peek up over the horizon. They wait with patience and hope. Although they can do nothing to hasten the sun’s rising, they wait trusting that the sun will rise another day. It is this same trust that we are called to have in the Lord. God is as faithful as the sun rising each day.

Verse Seven reads, “Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption”. God’s love is an unfailing love. It is a love that always endures and always gives. It is a love that offers mercy and forgiveness that we do not deserve, given without price. In this love we do find full redemption. In this love we are made new every morning. In this love we are reconciled to the Lord over and over and over. This is a love that we can trust. It is a love that we can place our hope in. Thanks be to God for this love and hope.


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Day by Day

Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13 to 5:1

Verse Fourteen: “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us”.

Our passage today begins with Paul quoting from Psalm 116 – a great Psalm that praises God’s presence with and care for us. This Psalm is just one of many, many examples of God’s faithfulness to humanity. It is with confidence that Paul writes, “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us”. We too trust and live into God’s presence in our lives and into the love and compassion that find witness to in the scriptures and that we experience with our own lives.

The promise of eternal life that we read of in verse seventeen is a wonderful promise. At times, it brings us comfort and strength. At times, this promise brings great hope. While all of this is true and the promise remains for a who have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we live now in the present. Paul goes on to write of the grace that is causing joy to overflow. This is what we experience from the promise in our day to day lives. We receive strength in the trial, comfort in the pain, course for the journey, redemption after the stumbles, forgiveness to share with others. All of these and more are the ways we experience God’s living presence with us in the daily walk of life. Paul speaks of this, writing, “Therefore we do not lose heart”. God is always with us. We do not lose heart.

The last section in today’s passage does remind us of our mortality. Paul concedes that “outwardly we are wasting away” and we are. But we also know the second half of the sentence to be true: “yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. Each and every day God is with us, renewing us. Therefore we fix our eyes on the unseen, on Jesus. He is the eternal. He is our hope. He is our salvation. His living Spirit is with us all the time. Jesus is our all in all. Thanks be to God for His love revealed to us in and through the life of Jesus, the model of faith that we follow. Each day may He renew our body, mind, and spirit so that we can faithfully walk in God’s abiding presence. Amen.


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Testify

Reading: 1st John 5: 6-13

Verse Eleven: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”.

John writes of testimony today. He is not writing of the kind of testimony someone gives in court, but more of a testimony or accounting of an event that we would give our friends. Court is concerned with the hard, cold facts. John is writing about the testimony that we can “feel” and “know” in our hearts. In verse ten John writes of the testimony concerning Jesus: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart”. Although we still have not gotten to the testimony itself, John makes an important point: we must believe in Jesus to have this truth.

Belief is an important part of faith. It is even an important part of receiving someone’s testimony in court. If, for whatever reason, we do not believe the testimony of a witness, it does not matter how many titles or accolades come attached to their name. Much of our life and decisions and relationships are based on a degree of how we “feel” it what we “sense” about something or someone.

In verse eleven, John reveals the testimony for us, writing, “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”. God’s free gift is eternal life through the Son. It is a wonderful gift. One finds this eternal life in a relationship with Jesus. When one comes to faith in Jesus, this testimony is “known” in the heart. John goes on to write, “He who had the Son has life”. Belief in Jesus comes with trust that He conquered sin and death. Jesus’ victory over the grave allows us to claim eternal life, just as He did. Jesus’ victory over sin allows us to claim redemption and new life each day. In these claims we find courage to face each day and the hope that allows us to live without fear of death. We begin to truly live life when we know that Jesus leads us through this life and calls us to life beyond our earthly existence.

Once we know the Son, we too can testify to these truths so that all can live in Jesus’ light and love. May we share what we know in our hearts with those living in darkness and despair, so that all can know the hope of His Son.


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In Peace

Reading: Luke 2: 22-40

Verses 29-30: “You now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation”.

In our passage from Luke, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to do all that the Law prescribes.  He is presented, named, circumcised, consecrated, and redeemed.  As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph obediently do as they should.  After they return to Nazareth, we assume they continue follow all of the Law.

In the midst of the ordinary, Mary and Joseph encounter the extraordinary.  In the middle of doing what all good parents of little Jewish baby boys do, something happens that did not happen to any of the other babies.  Long before this day, Simeon and Anna had begun their vigil.  Both were intimately connected to the Holy Spirit and both were very devout and righteous people.

Simeon was promised by God through the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.  Simeon clings to this hope year after year.  Then one day he is “moved by the Spirit” and he goes to the temple.  Simeon knows right away that Jesus is the one.  He speaks words about Jesus that amaze Mary and Joseph.  Anna spent all of her time in the temple courts, day and night, praying and fasting.  She too is drawn to Jesus.  She too knows that He is the one.  Anna also tells Mary and Joseph about Jesus and that He will be the “redemption of Jerusalem”.  Simeon utters these words that I am sure Ana felt as well: “You now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation”.  They have seen the One and they depart in peace.

All people have a need for Jesus in their lives.  Some know it yet deny it.  Some search but can’t quite come to find Jesus.  Others find Jesus and become like Simeon and Anna: filled with the Holy Spirit, content in finally knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior, able to rest into His peace.  Once we’ve found Jesus, we too echo Simeon’s words.  We come to know Paul’s words too, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God that we find in Jesus Christ.  For our hope and for our redemption, we say thanks be to God today.  Amen!


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Extraordinary

Reading: Luke 2: 22-40

Verse 22: “Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”.

Has something surprising happened when you did not expect it?  Can you remember a time when your routine was interrupted by something extraordinary?  When we are faithful, sometimes God shows up in the most unexpected or in the unlikeliest of ways.

On the last Sunday of each month our church has been offering a free meal to the community.  We have had some guests from the community but we’re not getting much response.  Our outreach meal was mostly feeding about 30-40 people from our church.  After six months of meals, I prayed for guidance and direction and was questioning if we should continue the meal.  Then God sent Alma.  She connected the offer of free food with the segment of our community with such a need.  For the December meal we fed over 120 people, most of them a direct result of Alma’s efforts.  God made things happen in an unexpected and surprising way.  Thanks be to God!

The time came for Mary and Joseph to present their child in the temple.  As was according to the Law, they went to the temple and took with them the needed sacrifice.  They were doing what thousands and thousands of devout Jewish parents had always done.  It was a simple trip to and from Jerusalem, maybe do a little shopping while we’re there kind of trip.  But as they are in the temple, God sends not one but two special people to speak about their son.  God suddenly bursts into the ordinary of life.

Our fellowship meal had become a monthly meal where people from our church gathered to eat, fellowship, and spend time together.  Although not really what it was designed for, it was a good thing that was happening.  And then Alma happened.

This is Mary and Joseph’s story too.  Travel, arrive, circumcise, present, offer sacrifice, … and then Simeon happens.  He tells them that Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many.  And then Anna happens.  She tells them that this child will be the redemption of Jerusalem.  God bursts in and Mary and Joseph are amazed.

Where is God going to burst into your life and your world in extraordinary ways?  Are you looking?  Are you praying?  Is the Spirit within you willing?  May the Lord our God do amazing things this day in our lives!


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Reason to Praise

Reading: Psalm 105: 1-11 and 45b

Verse Four: Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

The Psalm begins with encouragement to give our thanks to God and to sing our praises to Him.  In singing our praises, the psalmist instructs us to “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  For the Israelites, God had acted in mighty and dramatic ways.  As a people, they have many touchstone moments when God has actively intervened.  In most cases, these are positive experiences that are remembered and celebrated.  Sometimes these are national events like the Exodus story and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  Sometimes they are personal stories – like the story of David and Goliath.  These moments all recall God’s love for His chosen people and their response is to praise and worship God.

On occasion they are stories of correction and sometimes of consequences for poor choices or ungodly living.  Noah and the flood and the periods of occupation and exile are key reminders of what happens when the people stray from God and His love.  Yet each of these stories had a silver lining because in the end the people return to a God who continues to love them anyway.  This realization also leads to the praise and worship of God.

As we fast forward to 2017, we are also the people of God.  As we look back over the last 10, 20, or more years of our own faith journeys we too can see the God we love at work in our story of faith.  We too can “tell of all His wonderful acts”.  There are moments when God has moved and we have been led to our own promised land or when we have slayed our own Goliaths.  Our faith has grown in these times.  And there are our times of wandering in the dessert and times when Satan’s temptations did lead to sin.  In these times, God never gave up or abandoned us. We too remained loved and cherished by God.  We found redemption and came back into the great love of God.  God’s love always remains constant.  What a reason to praise!  All of these experiences, both the good and the bad, remind us to always “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”.