pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Missionaries

Reading: Mark 6: 6b-13

Verses Twelve and Thirteen: “They went out and preached that people should repent… They drove out demons… anointed… and healed”.

After a period of watching Jesus in ministry, the disciples are empowered by Jesus and are sent out two by two. Jesus is beginning to train them to be His replacement. Full of faith in Jesus, “they went out and preached that people should repent… They drove out demons… anointed… and healed”. The disciples are able to model the ministry of Jesus. They preach the gospel news of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They encounter the demon-possessed and they drive out the demons. They anoint people and heal them of their illnesses and diseases. In all these actions, the disciples are restoring people to wholeness and into faith in Jesus Christ.

Each of these actions drew people to Jesus, depending on their need. These three things continue to be at the core of the ministry of the church. The sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ is still the central activity of the church and of all followers of Christ. This is usually the first step. Belief often leads then to restoration of the person – body, mind, and soul. It is through faith in Jesus that we all find healing.

The sending of the twelve (and later the sending of the 72) establishes the idea that all believers are sent out into the world to be Jesus to the lost, the lonely, and the hurting. Some are sent someplace on the other side of the world and some are sent right next door. All of us are sent. This passage also contains a reality. Although all believers are sent, not all non-believers are ready to receive. Some will not welcome us as we come in the name of Jesus. We offer Jesus as best we can and then we move on. Remembering that we once were lost too, we trust that other believers will follow as God continues to work at saving the whole world.

We go forth today, into our day and into our world, willing missionaries sent with the power of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. May we ever be faithful missionaries of the gospel. May our words and actions bring healing and wholeness, leading others to Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Reading: Matthew 21: 33-41

Verse 40: When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants?

Jesus is teaching in the temple courts.  He is in Jerusalem and each day people gather around Him to hear His interpretation of the scriptures and to hear the stories He likes to tell.  Others are there to listen for a way to trap Him or to catch Jesus in a blasphemy.  He is aware of both aspects of the crowd.

This day Jesus tells the story of the landowner who plants a vineyard and builds a wine press and watchtower.  Then he rents the vineyard out and goes on a journey.  Harvest time comes and he sends for his share of the crop.  But the tenants beat and stone and kill those who were sent.  The landowner sends a bigger group, but the results are the same.  AND then the tenants do it again when he sends his very own son to collect.  Then Jesus asks them a question: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants”?  The answer seems obvious.

At this point, most everyone in the crowd has the same answer.  Most of us would give the same answer too.  But Jesus’ stories always seem to have an edge or twist to them.  There are probably a few in the crowd besides His twelve disciples who are wary – they know there is more to the story.  But for now, for today, the story ends here.

When we consider the story, are we thinking we are more like the owner, like those sent, or like the tenants?  At times we certainly think we are the owner.  We look at our life and our possessions and our talents and think they are all ours.  At times we can see ourselves as those who are sent.  We try and share the good news but are rejected and/or abused.  And at times we are the tenants – living for self, disregarding all else.

Jesus is also framing larger questions too.  The first is who really owns the ‘vineyard’?  The second is who is the son that is finally sent to re-establish the correct relationship between owner and tenants?  And the third is, what is our response to the one who is sent?  From these perspectives, the story takes on new meaning and depth.  From here we must consider how we see and relate to God, how we see and relate to Jesus, and what role we are or should be playing in the vineyard.


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Beautiful Feet

Reading: Romans 10: 14-16

Verse 16: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.

Paul has just built his case for what one must do to be saved: believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord”.  In verse 13 Paul writes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  It is a faith that is offered to all people.  This echoes Jesus’ commission to bring the good news to all nations.  God’s love and saving grace are for all peoples in all places.

Today’s passage shifts to some realities that make most Christians a bit uncomfortable.  In our minds, yes, we all know that the Great Commission applies to all followers of Jesus Christ.  We are all called to proclaim the good news.  Today, Paul gives us a series of questions to consider.  First, how can anyone call on someone they do not believe in?  If one does not believe in Jesus then they will never experience salvation.  This is a matter of great eternal consequence.  It is imperative that all people have the opportunity to call on Jesus for salvation.

Paul then asks how one can believe without hearing of Jesus Christ.  It is indeed very hard to believe in someone you have never heard of or understand.  So all must hear the good news and come to understand what Jesus offers.  Then Paul asks how someone could hear without someone else speaking.  Again, if we do not tell others the good news of Jesus Christ then it is very unlikely that they will hear.  Paul then says that we each must be sent in order to tell.  Jesus’ parting words to all of us was to go and make disciples of all nations.  We are sent.  Each Sunday we close worship with a benediction – a reminder to the people of God to go out and bring Jesus to the world – to go forth to love and serve the Lord our God.

Paul closes with these words: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.  He is quoting from the prophet Isaiah, who lived hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth.  Isaiah’s statement remains true.  The good news is still the good news.  All need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Do you want beautiful feet today?


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Loved That Much

“For God so loved the world…”  Just by prompting you with those six words, you probably can finish the verse.  For those that have even just a few years of church, these are familiar words.  But not to everybody.  After Tim Tebow wore ‘John 3:16’ on his eye black in the national championship game a few years back, over 90 million people googled it.

It is a powerful verse.  It is the gospel message in a nutshell.  On a communal level, sometimes the message is hard to fathom.  When one sees all of the violence, hatred, abuse, prejudice, injustice… in the world, it is hard to understand how God could love this world so much as to send His only Son into it.  But that is just how much He loves this broken world.

Then I think about this verse on a personal level.  When I consider how long I have known and been in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and look hard at my life some days, I think, ‘Even me?’  In spite of all the times I fail to do what you lead me to and all of the times I sin, You still love me?  Yes He does.  God loves all of us this way.  Wow!

The reality is that God would send His Son to die for just one of us.  He loves each of us that much.  But God sent Jesus to all of us – for each and every person who lives or has lived from the time Jesus walked the earth until the time He returns in glory.  For God so loved this broken, hurting, fallen world so much that He sent His one and only Son to save this world.  He loves the world that much.  He loves you and me that much.  Thanks be to God for His great love!!

Scripture reference: John 3: 16-17


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Filled to be Emptied

Jesus calls us to believe in the light so that we can become the light ourselves.  Darkness is powerful – only the light can overcome it.  After teaching the people all day, Jesus takes some time in solitude to pray.  It is a hard week ahead.  Even the Son of God needs to spend time alone with God in order to face what lies ahead.

Psalm 71 begins with the encouragement to take refuge in God.  In the midst of the trial and adversaries that surround all around the psalmist, they seek refuge, protection, and safety in time alone with God.  There is the admission that we cannot manage on our own but need time alone with God to find the strength and the ability to face the day or week ahead.

In both of these cases and in our case too our enemies pursue us.  The messages of the world shout out things to chase after and interests to develop that are not the things of God.  These things and people in our lives will challenge our faith.  And like Jesus and the psalmist, we too must take time alone with God.

Today, where will you find the time to be alone with God?  Where will you go to hide from the world as you seek help, protection, and love from God?  It is important to make sure we are full of His presence before we go out into the world to be the light and love that dispels darkness and fills it with Christ’s presence.  After being filled up, go out and give it away.

Scripture references: Psalm 71: 1-14 and John 12: 20-36


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We Are Not Alone

When Moses encounters God in the burning bush he has some questions for God.  When we meet God in our own particular circumstance and we sense that God has a task or mission for us, we too have our own questions.  And maybe we ask the same two questions that Moses asked.

Moses first asks who is he that God should send him to Pharaoh.  Often, when we feel that God is leading us somewhere, ask the same basic question ‘ “Me? Are you sure?”  We seek two things with this question – reassurance that God is indeed choosing us because we have the gifts and talents to accomplish this mission and, secondly, that He will be with us.

His second question seeks to define who God is.  Jesus asked the disciples the same question – “Who do you say I am?”  It is important to know who we serve and to whom we belong.  Much like us when we go forth to share the good news or to serve, Moses wants to be able to tell them who sent him.  We do not go on our own.  We go in and through God.  He is a steadfast and true God.  We do not go alone.

Scripture reference: Exodus 3: 1-15