pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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I Am Sending You

Reading: Matthew 10: 1-23

Verse 16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to “drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease”.  In this passage today, they are being sent to fellow Jews.  Jesus calls these the “lost sheep” – tying back to why He had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9:36.  The twelve are first to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and then to heal diseases, raise the dead, and drive out demons.  The authority Jesus gives them to perform miracles will lend credence to the message they bring.

As we go out into the world, we go for the same reasons.  We go to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we work to heal a broken world.  Each of us who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior has a story to tell that will be good news for others.  Each of us can love and serve others too.  We may not be able to work miracles, but by caring for basic needs and by giving of our time and talents we do bring healing.  It is through our loving acts of service that we too gain footing to share Jesus with the lost.

Jesus warned the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”.  There is a defenselessness that comes to mind with this statement.  It requires trust in the Shepherd.  He goes on to advise them to be on guard against men.  Jesus warns them that persecution is going to be a part of the journey.  He also tells them that the Spirit will be with them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  And then Jesus encourages them, stating that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  Keep the faith, I am with you.

We too are sometimes sent to people or places that make us feel like sheep among wolves.  We too must trust into the lead, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit.  In those uncomfortable or outside our comfort zone times, if we keep the faith the Spirit will give us just the right words to say as well.  May we be like the twelve, trusting He who sends, going forth to share the good news and to bring healing to our broken world.  May our light draw others in to Jesus Christ – the One who saves.


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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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Therefore Go

Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Verse 19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus came and stood among the believers one last time.  In that crowd were people with a range of faith.  Some were fully sold out and were ready to go and do anything Jesus said to do.  Some were simply full of doubt – was this really Jesus?  Does He really expect me to do this?  The bulk of those there that day in Galilee as followers of Jesus Christ probably fell somewhere between these two extremes.  And in reality, that is where most of us live out our faith lives each day.

It is important to note that Jesus did not talk to the group of believers and then call aside the few that were on fire to give the commission to.  He did not pull aside Peter, James, and John and give them special instructions or powers.  This same inclusiveness is seen on Pentecost when the Spirit falls on ALL believers.  So Jesus said to the whole crowd, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.  He said it to the doubters and skeptics and those new to the faith as well as to those who would give their lives for the gospel.  Jesus was building up a community of faith, not a group of church leaders.  Jesus knew that the people would be won to Christ one heart at a time.  Therefore, it will require all of the believers to bring the good news to all nations.

That day in Galilee, there were certainly some names we know present.  But there were dozens and dozens there whose names we will never know.  All there that day were commissioned.  Why?  Because all who were there knew the love of Jesus and that is all one needs to share Jesus with others.  That is why the commission falls to us as well.  All who know the love of Christ in their hearts are called to go and make disciples so that all nations can be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This day and every day, may each of us seize the opportunities we have to share the good news of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


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New Life

Reading: Acts 2: 1-21

Verse Four: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The believers were gathered together in one place.  The city was full of Jews from all over, coming to celebrate Pentecost – the giving of the Law.  When all was just right, God sent a mighty wind to unite these two disparate groups for one purpose: to grow the church.  For each of the believers there is a physical sign of God’s presence: tongues of fire appear and come to rest on each of the believers.  All are to be used in the building of the church.  It is not just the job of the disciples.  It is the commission of all believers to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Next, all of the believers experience a spiritual sign of God’s new presence in them.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit that now dwells in each of them, they begin to “declare the wonders of God” in many different languages.  Each speaks fluidly in a language they do not know.  Talk about an affirmation that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Between these two signs there is no doubt that they have been forever changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They each have new life through the Spirit.

The process of new life through the profession of Jesus as Lord continues to this day.  Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus begins the process.  It initiates the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and it creates in us a new person – born of the Spirit.  We too feel a physical change accompanied by a spiritual change.  We are transformed into a new creation.  It is through this process that each follower of Jesus Christ is joined with the one body, the church universal.  As this body we join together in the commission to share the good news of Jesus Christ to transform the world.  Blessings today as we live out our faith.


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Ends of the Earth

Reading: Acts 1: 6-14

Verse Eight: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth.

In His last words to the disciples, Jesus promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit and reminds them that they will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.  This last part is a restatement of the great commission.  Although Jesus does not tell them how to accomplish this task, He does let them know that the Holy Spirit will bring them power for the task.  In addition, Jesus has spent the last three years training the disciples.  He has shown them by His own example and He has sent them out on their own – like on-the-job training.  Although the disciples probably do not realize it, Jesus has been preparing them to take the good news to “the ends of the earth”.

Verse eight reads, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to… the ends of the earth”.  His is what the disciples would soon go on to live out.  It is what God intends us to experience too as followers of Jesus Christ.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus we too come to a point where we make the decision to follow Jesus.  We profess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.  At this point we receive the Holy Spirit and our lives begin to be led by the power of the Spirit.  But in our humanity, we wrestle with the Spirit for control.  We question and sometimes even ignore the voice and nudges of the Holy Spirit.  But as we spend time in the Word, as we develop a deeper prayer life, and as we grow in our love of God, we become better followers.  We become more disciplined and our following improves.  The Holy Spirit gains more voice and power in our lives.  Soon enough we become like those first disciples, bearers of the good news, heading out to the “ends of the earth” with the gospel message.

Wherever we are on our journey to share the good news of Jesus Christ, may today provide us with opportunities to grow in our discipleship and in our love of Jesus Christ.


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All

Reading: 1 Peter 3: 18-22

Verse 18: Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

During His time on earth, Jesus ministered to all who came or called out to Him in faith.  To all who demonstrated faith in Him as the Messiah, Jesus offered healing and restoration.  For some it was physical, for some it was emotional, and for some it was spiritual.  Jesus me all who came to Him in faith wherever they were at and gave of Himself all that He could.  It’s just who Jesus was and is today.  “Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.  This verse speaks of the Jesus we know throughout the Gospels – the One who simply came to love us as His own.  Jesus continues to love us each day.

Although His body was killed, He was “made alive by the Spirit”.  The Spirit is for us the essence of Jesus.  In life, Jesus set an example for us to follow.  We read His words and the stories about him in the Bible and we are called to go forth to live a life that follows Jesus.  We too are to offer healing and restoration to a broken world.  Ultimately that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus.  The Spirit leads and guides us in bringing others to Jesus.  The nudges, the whispers, the shoves – these are all Jesus saying, “Go – do what I did.  Love one another”.  It is through this that others will meet Jesus themselves.

As the Spirit leads us out into the world, we all go with the same mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  As we share Jesus with the world, the world will come to know Him.  The waters of baptism will wash over new believers to welcome them into the family of God.  The waters of baptism begin our journey into Jesus and eventually all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior will be “saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

We are all the unrighteous.  Jesus died for all.  The only one who was pure and without sin took on sin for our sake.  He did it for all so that all can one day be saved.  This is good news indeed.  May we go out and share this good news today so that others may begin their journey with Jesus too.


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Reflecting His Glory

Reading: Acts 17: 22-28

Verse 24: … the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands.

Today’s passage finds Paul in Athens.  He is there doing what he always did: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  But Athens is not Jerusalem.  It is the center of the Greek world and has overlays of the Roman world as well.  Centuries of philosophers have sat in the Aeropagus and argued and debated all aspects and facets of life.  They have covered mortality and religion, ethics and justice, their own existence and the meaning of life.  Paul observes that the culture is very polytheistic.  They worship many different gods.  Paul takes all of this into account as he begins his sermon this day.  He begins by sharing the observation that they are very religious and then turns to the “unknown god” statue.  Paul goes on to proclaim the unknown god to be the God of all creation.  He even quotes a couple of Greek philosophers to help his case.  Paul is using a piece of the dominant culture to win over his audience.  We too have an opportunity to do this as well.

Where will you find yourself coming up against non-believers today?  Will it be at work?  At lunch?  Out on your walk?  And will they be worshipping an unknown god?  As we consider all of this, we also must how we could do that Paul did – use some of today’s popular culture to tie back into our God and our faith.  Maybe it is by working with integrity and honor and finding success on God’s terms.  Maybe it is by being gracious and by practicing Good listening skills while at lunch.  Maybe it is by noticing the person on the street and by taking a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus for them.  There are many ways to meet people where they are at and to bring our faith into the situation.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead!

But maybe you are not quite here yet.  Maybe today’s passage speaks to your own ‘unknown god’.  Is it parked in the garage?  Does it sit on a large lot?  Is it kept safe in a vault?  Or is it fragile and rests upon the opinions of others?  At times it can be easy to worship idols.  So maybe our challenge today is to identify our idol and to begin to let it go.  Paul stated, “the Lord of heaven and earth​… does not live in temples built by human hands”.  Are we living or acting as if God did live here?

Wherever we find ourselves in today’s passage, may we strive for our life to reflect His glory, “for in Him we live and move and have our being”.